I hope you all enjoyed my coverage of the Brooklyn Cyclones this summer. I certainly did!
It was great to meet and interact with many of the team’s recent draft picks to see what’s in store for the future. And of course, Rich Donnelly is an awesome baseball mind, so it was great to hear his perspective each night.
Below is a Q&A between myself and the MMO staff discussing the Cyclones’ season. It may be a bit early to tell if some of this summer’s Cyclones will soon be playing at Citi Field, but a few certainly have some potential for down the road.
1. After following and covering the Brooklyn Cyclones for our sites this season, you got to see and talk to many of the players and the coaches as well. What I’d like to know is what were your overall thoughts on the relationship between the players and coaches. Was there anything in particular you could share with us about that particular dynamic and the role it plays in the player development process.
With many of the Cyclones fresh out of college, having a coaching staff that is involved is vital to a young player’s success. That was exactly the scene in Brooklyn.
Manager Rich Donnelly, pitching coach Marc Valdes and hitting coach Bobby Malek are great with the young guys. Donnelly in particular has now been in this role for a few seasons, and while he’s focused on winning, he understands that his main responsibility is to prepare his players for the next level. Donnelly sometimes got to MCU Park at 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game, which shows his tireless dedication. He routinely talked to his players during batting practice to help with any adjustments or to just see how they were doing.
That’s the type of atmosphere that works in the low minor leagues, and Donnelly again did his part in fostering the environment for his players to be successful. Though the team missed the playoffs this season, a few of this summer’s Cyclones already seem like they can be primary contributors at St. Lucie or Savannah next season.
2. Which 2-3 players were you most impressed with this season and do you foresee them as future contributors at the big league level. Tell us a little bit about them and what stood out the most to you.
I was very impressed this summer with Robert Gsellman, John Mincone, L.J. Mazzilli and Gavin Cecchini. I liked how Gsellman could go deep into games, which is usually a rare feat among short-season Single-A pitchers. This was his third year with the Mets organization, so Brooklyn likely wasn’t his primary destination, but he pitched very well, which allowed him to get the call for starts in Savannah and St. Lucie later in the summer. He’s still only 20, so let’s keep an eye on him the next few seasons.
John Mincone could be a big-league contributor someday, but he really has to stay healthy. Both his summers in Brooklyn were cut short due to injury. But when he’s on the mound, the lefty has looked great, as evidenced by his back-to-back selections to the NYPL All-Star Game.
L.J. Mazzilli had all the hype from being Lee Mazzilli’s son, and L.J. did a fine job in his first professional season. He pretty much batted over .300 all summer, but a thumb injury late caused his average to slip to .278. He even showed a little bit of pop and played a nice defensive second base. It’s still a bit early with him as well, but an offensive-minded second baseman is always a plus.
As for Cecchini, he got off to a very cold start offensively and then suffered a high ankle sprain. But once he came back healthy, he was on fire with the bat. He actually hit into much tough luck, as often he’d rocket a ball right at a defender. Even so, to finish at .273 from where he started the season is very impressive.
But most impressive about Gavin is his calm demeanor and his glove. Defensively, he made a few big-league-type plays and showed he already has great arm strength. It’s that defense that can carry him to the next level and beyond. He will need to hit, and he must be sure to try to avoid long slumps. He’s only 19, so he definitely is in this team’s plans somewhere down the line.
3. On the flip side, were there any prospects that gave you some pause or concerns about their future as a major leaguer?
Seventh-round draft pick Matt Oberste had a bit of a rough go of it this summer. I have to say, he did come up with a few big hits, but his .208 batting average and 56 strikeouts may force him to remain another summer in Brooklyn. He went through a few long hitless streaks, which shows he did not quite master the baseball art of making adjustments.
4. Which pitchers had the best fastball, curveball and slider?
The best fastball on the team was split between Akeel Morris and Johnny Magliozzi. The ball just explodes out of Morris’ hand, and we’ll get to him in the next question, but Magliozzi, who is listed at a generous five-feet 10-inches, could really bring it from the closer’s role. He took over after Mincone went down with injury and wound up picking up nine saves.
Lefty reliever David Wynn had the best curveball on the staff. It sat in the high 70s-low 80s and had plenty of bite.
All-Star Miller Diaz relied on his slider for his out pitch this summer. He got plenty of strikeouts on the pitch but also plenty of foul balls. Donnelly said after one game that Diaz’s pitch counts were elevated since he had trouble putting guys away.
Finally, John Gant had the team’s best change-up. He really had his change working in a memorable performance this summer when he threw a one-hitter and faced the minimum. He’s a tall, lanky guy with a good fastball, so having that change-up is a great change of pace for him.
5. Which position players showcased the best power and the best speed?
Alex Sanchez and James Roche displayed some good power. Sanchez hit some monstrous home runs, which is very difficult at MCU Park. Roche meanwhile led the team with five home runs and went through a stretch where it seemed like all his hits were for extra bases.
As for speed, Patrick Biondi took care of that category. He led the Cyclones with 17 stolen bases while only being caught four times. He dealt with a wrist injury, but still, he’d come in late in games to pinch run even when he couldn’t hit.
6. What did you think of Akeel Morris’ season? Do you see success in the cards for him as a reliever or as a starter?
From how Rich Donnelly spoke early in the year about Morris, he must have really have had a rough go of it in extended spring training. Morris was apparently walking a ton of batters, which came back to bite him.
But all summer, Morris threw the ball extremely well. He settled into a piggy-back role with lefty Dario Alvarez, but in conversations with him, I could tell that he wanted to be a full-time starter.
But frankly, I see his value as more of a late-inning reliever or even a closer based on his ability to strikeout opposing hitters. His small frame also would suggest that he could be better suited as a reliever. Either way, he’s just another talented pitching prospect to keep an eye on in the Mets’ system.