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Rumble Ponies, Patriots ride the Subway Series

Top Mets, Yankees prospects meet up in Eastern League semifinals
September 22, 2023

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. -- It’s been 23 years since the last Subway Series led to the ultimate trophy. While the next one may still be some time away as both the Mets and Yankees made moves toward the future this season, fans of both organizations had a chance to glimpse what

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. -- It’s been 23 years since the last Subway Series led to the ultimate trophy. While the next one may still be some time away as both the Mets and Yankees made moves toward the future this season, fans of both organizations had a chance to glimpse what that might look like Thursday night, just about an hour outside of New York City.

As the Double-A affiliates of both clubs -- the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Mets) and the Somerset Patriots (Yankees) -- clashed in Game 2 of the Double-A Eastern League semifinals at TD Bank Ballpark, there was no shortage of prospect power on the field.

Thirteen of the Yankees' Top 30 prospects are currently at the Double-A level -- including No. 1 prospect Spencer Jones (MLB No. 73), Trey Sweeney (No. 9) and breakout catcher/first baseman Ben Rice (No. 23).

On the other side, 11 of the Mets' Top 30 prospects are at the Double-A level -- including the organization’s top three: Luisangel Acuña (MLB No. 38), Drew Gilbert (MLB No. 52) and 2022 first-rounder Jett Williams (MLB No. 78).

Although the majority of the players on the field Thursday night weren’t even alive during the 2000 World Series, the moment at hand -- and the potential future implications -- were not lost on them.

“It’s so cool," Rice said. "It’s the Subway Series! It just adds that little extra edge to it. It makes everyone a little bit more excited about what’s on the line here. It’s not just about advancing to the Championship Series, it’s Yankees vs. Mets and it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Rice missed more than two months of the season early on, but he made the jump from High-A Hudson Valley to Somerset after a rehab stint with Single-A Tampa in July. He has hit the cover off the ball since. The 24-year-old slashed .327/.401/.648 with 16 home runs over 48 games with the Patriots, while also improving his receiving and throwing skills behind the dish and showing the versatility to also handle first base.

“It’s something that the player development and people in this organization stress,” Rice said. “We really want our guys to get high-pressure, high-stress situations in their Minor League career, so when they get up to the Bronx, it’s not the first time that the lights are shining a little brighter.”

“We’ve got a lot of good baseball players here that love to win, so I think that’s the most important part,” Sweeney added. “Any high-pressure situation is good experience. You want to keep putting yourself in uncomfortable situations so that you’re good in that moment and you’re used to it.”

Hitting third for the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate was Jones, who jumped to the top of the team’s prospect rankings after MLB Pipeline’s midseason re-rank. The imposing 6-foot-6, 235-pound Vanderbilt product became the second straight Yankees first-round Draft pick to homer in his full-season debut (Sweeney did it last year).

“I know a lot of these guys love playoff baseball and there’s nothing like being exposed to it early. It’s extremely valuable,” Jones said. “Seeing the guys who were here last year and made it [to the big leagues] now is something you can look at and be like, 'OK, so there’s a chance for me to go out and play and do that.'

“For me, personally, it’s like I’m just going to go out and play baseball. It wasn’t that long ago that I wasn’t even playing on my college team (due to Tommy John surgery in 2020), so that puts a chip on my shoulder.”

In the Mets’ dugout, a foursome of newcomers led the way for Binghamton. Acuña was acquired at the Trade Deadline from Texas as part of the Max Scherzer deal. Gilbert and No. 22 prospect Jeremiah Jackson were also Deadline acquisitions -- Gilbert from Houston in the Justin Verlander trade and Jackson from the Angels. Williams was New York’s first-round selection last year, having climbed three levels of the Minors this season en route to being named the 2023 Mets Minor League Player of the Year.

“For me, it was one of my goals to end the year in Double-A, but now that I’m here, I just kind of want to go out and have fun and play my game,” said the 19-year-old Williams, who hit his first Double-A homer in Game 1 of the semifinals. “These high-intensity games just bring out the best in you. It’s awesome. You know, this is meaningful baseball, they have a really good team over there and we have a really good team too.”

“At the end of the day I’m not where I want to be yet, so you try not to think too much of it. But you’d be lying if you didn’t say your goal was to make it to the big leagues, right?” Gilbert added. “But I’m looking forward to keep playing ball with the Mets.”

Jackson has found his footing since joining his new organization, slashing .264/.344/.457 with 11 extra-base hits over 37 games with the Rumble Ponies.

"To win a championship is a lot of teamwork, a lot of preparation, everyone buying in and doing what they’re supposed to do," Jackson said. "Everyone knows about the rivalry, you know, the two New York teams. It definitely adds to it. The Mets-Yankees never really get along and the crowd is always in it when we play, pumps everybody up, gets us going.”

This round of the Subway Series, tracking prospects heading toward the possibility of a future big league version, went to the Mets as Binghamton swept Somerset in the best-of-3 series.

Rob Terranova is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.