Herrera's ascension fuels Mets' stars

Mets' No. 8 prospect goes from Florida State League to big leagues

Dilson Herrera slugged 10 of his 13 homers after his promotion to Double-A Binghamton. (Will Bentzel/MiLB.com)

By Robert Emrich / MiLB.com | December 4, 2014 10:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Today, continuing with the New York Mets, we're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball.

With the big league club notching its highest win total since 2010, it comes as no surprise that the farm system continued that success, posting the third-best winning percentage in the Minor Leagues, with a composite .550 mark. The organization was so successful that only one club, the DSL Mets 2, finished with more losses than wins.

With numbers like those, it's no surprise that three of the organization's nine affiliates reached the playoffs, with Binghamton taking home the Eastern League title for the first time in 20 years.

The honors weren't just limited to those on the field, as the fans thought the Mets were deserving of the MiLBY for best farm system. Of course, team success at the Minor League level is nice, but developing players is what's most important, and the Mets are doing a good job there, too. Here are the Mets Minor Leaguers who performed best in 2014.

Mets Organization All-Stars 

Catcher -- Kevin Plawecki, Binghamton (58 games), Las Vegas) (43 games): Making the jump to the upper levels of the Minors, Plawecki slugged a career-high 11 homers, drove in 64 runs and posted an .825 OPS. Even more impressive, the 23-year-old catcher bested his previous year's mark with a .309 batting average.

"We were really pleased with the year he had," said Paul Depodesta, the club's vice president of player development, said. "Spent the first half of the year in Double-A and didn't really miss a beat, then went up to Triple-A and continued to perform very well. For a guy that was drafted just in 2012, we're extremely pleased with how quickly he's made it through the system. He's continued to make progress offensively and defensively. Offensively, we're starting to see some of the power that we always believed was there. Defensively, he's a strong receiver and his throwing is starting to get better. "

First baseman -- Allan Dykstra, Las Vegas (117 games): After winning Eastern League Most Valuable Player honors in 2013, Dykstra followed that up with a nearly identical campaign in 2014. The California native compiled a .280/.426/.504 slash line, finishing fifth in the Pacific Coast League with a .930 OPS. Dykstra, who signed a Minor League deal in November with Tampa Bay, ranked fourth in the organization with 16 homers and 74 RBIs.

"We thought he had every right to be in Triple-A in 2013, we just didn't have regular at-bats for him," DePodesta said. "He had already proved himself at that level [Double-A] in 2011 and 2012. I don't think we were terribly surprised when he went to Triple-A and continued to perform well. He's always hit and he's always been productive."

Second baseman -- Dilson Herrera, St. Lucie (67 games), Binghamton (61 games), New York (18 games): After spending all of 2013 at the Class A level -- most of which was in the Pittsburgh organization -- Herrera went from the Florida State League to the Major Leagues in just four months. Along the way Herrera was third in the organization with a .323 batting average and fifth with 71 RBIs. It appeared that the jump to Double-A at the age of 20 didn't faze him either, as Herrera compiled a .967 OPS in 241 at-bats with Binghamton, more than 200 points higher than his OPS with St. Lucie.

"I'd say he exceeded our expectations," he said. "We were excited about him when we traded for him the year before -- thought he had a good chance to go to Double-A at some point during the course of 2014, but I don't think any of us imagined he'd be as productive as he was when he got to Double-A and then be able to make the jump all the way to the big leagues. It was a huge year for him and he had a great, great year. We have very high hopes for him."

Shortstop -- Matt Reynolds, Binghamton (58 games), Las Vegas (68 games): After a tough 2013 campaign in which he posted a .635 OPS, Reynolds put together a big 2014, leading the organization with a .343 batting average while playing at the upper levels for the first time. Reynolds compiled a career-high .859 OPS, while hitting a career-high six homers and plating 61 runs, also a personal best.

"He went to our offseason training program and he also did some things with his swing to make it shorter and more compact last winter," DePodesta said of Reynolds, who turned 24 on Wednesday. "It was a combination of all those factors. He certainly showed he can handle the pitching out there and had a tremendous year for us."

Third baseman -- Brian Burgamy, Binghamton (121 games): Out of organized baseball since 2007, Burgamy signed a Minor League contract with the Mets for 2014 and made the deal seem like a bargain. The 33-year-old infielder slugged a career-high 23 homers, leading the organization, and finished second with 76 RBIs. Burgamy finished third in the Eastern League with 71 walks and fourth with an .880 OPS.

"I think we were hoping for a veteran presence with some of those young hitters that we not only had there but that we were expecting to have there," he said. "Someone who had a good approach and someone who had some power; someone who could be a stabilizing force to that team, and Brian certainly did that."

Outfield

Andrew Brown, Las Vegas (103 games), New York (19 games): Brown returned for a second tour of duty in the Mets organization and proved to be one of the more dependable bats in Las Vegas, slugging 21 homers, driving in 69 runs and drawing 71 walks. The 30-year-old batted .283 while ranking ninth in the Pacific Coast League with an .892 OPS.

"Big power, aggressive hitter, can really do damage to the ball, pretty good defender in the corners -- he's a dangerous hitter and he showed it when he was in the Majors," DePodesta said. "When he gets a hold of them, it doesn't matter which ballpark he's playing in, they're gone. He's certainly a guy who deserves to be playing in the Majors."

Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie (62 games), Binghamton (65 games): Highlighted by DePodesta before the start of the season as a potential breakout candidate, Nimmo proved him right with a big year, setting career-highs in nearly every offensive category. The 2011 first-round pick batted .278 with 10 homers, 51 RBIs and an .820 OPS. Nimmo was also second in the organization to Herrera with 96 runs scored, racking up 199 total bases and stealing 14 bases in the process.

"I think, given his age and plate discipline, we felt like he had a real foundation for success, and as he continued to move through our system and sort of gained strength, he was going to take off," DePodesta said. "That's exactly what happened this year. I think the most encouraging thing about this year was that, not only did he have a big year and continued that success, he not only maintained his plate discipline, it actually got better. While his power went up, his strikeout rate went down.


More on Nimmo and other Mets Organization All-Stars on the blog »


"He was actually quite good against lefties in the Florida State League and struggled a little bit with it in Double-A and I think that will be the next step for him, conquering those upper-level left-handers," continued DePodesta. "He's made dramatic strides in that part of his game. He's always had that great strike zone, and now he's 21 years old, he's coming into some of his strength, and I think as that continues to happen he's going to hit for more power."

Matt den Dekker, Las Vegas (93 games), New York (53 games): The 27-year-old returned to Las Vegas after a tough stint in the big leagues in 2013 and tore it up, batting .334, a mark that would have led the Pacific Coast League had he qualified for the batting title. He also smacked 31 doubles in 335 at-bats.

"I think with Matt, a big part of it has been consistency. I think he's gotten more and more consistent with each year," said DePodesta. "I think with each level he's shown while he has to make an adjustment, he's capable of doing it, and after his first 100 at-bats he's taken off. He's such a good athlete, he has power, he can really run, a plus defender -- so once he gets comfortable at whatever level he's at, it lets the tools take over. I think that's the biggest thing with him, comfort at that level. When he does that, he's been much more consistent and productive."

Utility -- T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie (61 games), Binghamton (54 games): A utility player in the true sense, Rivera saw time at all four infield positions in 2014. Despite the nomadic defensive existence, Rivera put together his finest season, establishing personal-bests with a .349 batting average and an .834 OPS. The New York native led the organization in average and ranked third in 75 RBIs as well.

"T.J. has just always hit," DePodesta said. "He just has a knack for barreling the baseball. Wherever we put him he's been productive with the bat. He's the kind of guy who doesn't have power, speed or anything like that, but every time you look up this guy just gets hits. He's an interesting guy for us."

Right-handed starting pitcher -- Marcos Molina, Brooklyn (12 starts): Entering 2014 without a start above the Gulf Coast League under his belt, Molina went and flat-out dominated the New York-Penn League, leading the circuit -- and the organization -- with a 1.77 ERA while tying for the league lead with seven victories. The 19-year-old also paced the circuit with 91 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP all the while allowing just two home runs all season.

"He's a guy we obviously like an awful lot," DePodesta said. "We felt like he was going to throw hard one day. He's an incredibly good athlete and has a good feel for the baseball. He attacks with his fastball. Over the last two years, his fastball has continued to jump in velocity. This year he made big strides in understanding his own stuff and how to limit damage and went out and had a good year. I think he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation guy -- mid-90s fastball, secondary stuff is solid now. Very excited about him." 

Left-handed starting pitcher -- Steven Matz, St. Lucie (12 games), Binghamton (12 games): Matz continued to show why the Mets' faith in him is justified, as the 2009 second-round pick notched career-highs with 10 wins, 131 strikeouts and most importantly, 140 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old was second in the organization in ERA at 2.24, ranked second in strikeouts and tied for third in wins, all the while making the jump to Double-A, where he excelled in the postseason as well, allowing four runs while notching 16 strikeouts over two starts.

"I think the two things for me that stand out are one -- he's very mature for his age in terms of his work ethic, his competitiveness. Talk about a guy who rises to the occasion -- every big game this guy is just nails. What turned out to be the championship game at Double-A, he's got a no-hitter going. When it's on the line, he gets that much better. The second thing is he can really pitch with his fastball. Guys just don't square it up. That foundation with attacking guys with the fastball -- that's going to serve him well in the big leagues and why I think he's awfully close to the big leagues."

Relief pitcher -- Akeel Morris, Savannah (41 games): Not just the best reliever in the Mets system in 2014, Morris was one of the best in the Minors, as the fans voted him their choice for the Top Relief Pitcher MiLBY. It was a well-deserved honor, as the 22-year-old right-hander put up numbers that would look right at home in a video game. Morris was 16-for-17 in save chances, limited South Atlantic League hitters to a .103 batting average, allowing just 19 hits in 57 innings pitched, and posted a miniscule 0.63 ERA. With 89 strikeouts, Morris averaged more than two whiffs an appearance, giving the defenders behind him a rest most nights.

"The stuff was there, plus fastball, plus-plus changeup -- it's devastating," DePodesta said. "It's hard to pick up, it's a 15-mile per hour differential. In previous years he didn't have a lot of experience -- we just wanted to give him mound time. I think his hits against... they were like video game numbers."

Robert Emrich is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobertEmrich. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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