Despite a slow start to his 2019, a bit of northern comfort is helping 16th-ranked Mets prospect Will Toffey continue to settle in since coming over to the organization at the Trade Deadline last season.
Starting the year at Binghamton, where he landed after being acquired from Oakland in the Jeurys Familia deal, the Massachusetts native has found himself in a unique situation of added convenience this season.
One of five New England natives on the Rumble Ponies, the third baseman is cherishing the bond the group has and embracing the oddity of the situation.
"It's definitely special that there are five New England guys playing Double-A professional baseball," Toffey said. "You don't see that really anywhere. I'd be hard-pressed to think that there's five New England guys in other organizations, let alone the same team. It's definitely cool to rehash high school memories. It's nice to have New England guys here."
Indeed, Binghamton tops all of Minor League Baseball with their haul from the six-state region, which includes fellow Massachusetts products Dario Pizzano and Patrick Mazeika (Mets No. 27 prospect), alongside Connecticut natives Joe Zanghi and Michael Gibbons.
"It's almost like a family that we've created," Zanghi said. "Being Northeast guys, we joke about it and have fun with each other, because we're kind of few and far between. It's definitely a special bond that we all have."
2019 MiLB include
For Toffey, this makes a big difference when it comes to handling the rigors of Minor League Baseball.
A fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2017, the 24-year-old is still getting his feet wet in his second full season of professional baseball, so having creature comforts goes a long way in allowing him to just go out and do his job on a daily basis.
"Comfort is such a huge thing in this game, and routines. Knowing places, knowing schedules, knowing ballparks -- all that stuff is really helpful in being consistent over a 142-game schedule," he said. "That aspect of finding comfort in the little things is what's nice about coming back here."
The typical Northeast spring weather has wreaked havoc on the Rumble Ponies' early schedule, postponing five games and suspending one, which is not conducive for any player trying to find a rhythm. Such has been the case for Toffey, who has hit .105 over Binghamton's first five games, though one of his two hits was a home run and he has driven in three, scored four times and walked seven times while playing clean defense at third base.
"He's always focused," Zanghi said. "Every pitch, he is ready. He wants to have the ball hit to him. He wants to put a good swing on the ball. I see him working hard every day. I think he has a really great future ahead of him."
One last bonus for Toffey and company in playing for Binghamton is the fact that there are three New England teams in the league, bringing them closer to family and friends.
And what's better than a little home cooking in all its forms?
"It's definitely nice for my parents," said Toffey, whose family lives in Barnstable on Cape Cod. "They just have a four-hour drive to get to some of these games here, instead of a six-hour flight across the country."
Mass attack: Sticking with New Englanders, Massachusetts product Rhett Wiseman has taken well to Double-A pitching in his debut at the level. The Harrisburg outfielder has slugged his way to the top of the league leaderboards in home runs (eight), OPS (1.561), slugging (1.132) and total bases (43). He is also second in RBIs (15) and tied for second in doubles (three). Wiseman opened his time with the Senators by hitting safely in his first seven games of the season and 10 of his first 11, including five multi-hit efforts.
Bulldog mentality: Akron reliever James Karinchak has been nearly spotless out of the 'pen in his first four appearances, allowing one walk over 3 2/3 no-hit innings. Even more impressive, the No. 30 Cleveland prospect has recorded all of his outs via whiffs. That's 11 strikeouts in the right-hander's first 13 matchups (one walk and a catcher's interference). Karinchak, who struck out 81 batters over 48 2/3 innings last season, has done well to get misses, forcing 20 swinging strikes thus far this year.
Finely tuned: After posting an 0.82 ERA in six appearances with the big club during Spring Training, top Red Sox pitching prospect Darwinzon Hernandez rolled that right into his first start of the season. The 22-year-old left-hander struck out 10 in five scoreless innings, opening by punching out the side in the first, all on swings and misses. Boston's No. 4 prospect also got three swinging strikeouts in the third and two more to close his night in the fifth. The 10 K's tied a career high, and Portland pitching struck out 17 in total versus Reading that evening, the Sea Dogs' highest total since April 5, 2013 against Trenton.