Triple-A Year In Review: Las Vegas 51s

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The Mets wanted their farm teams to experience winning in the postseason. So New York was judicious with September 1st call-ups, opting to promote only infielder Josh Satin and pitcher Erik Goeddel from the Triple-A Las Vegas roster, and bringing some additional players from Double-A Binghamton, like Juan Centeno and Dario Alvarez.

For the Binghamton Mets, the goal was accomplished as they capped off a sweep of the Richmond Flying Squirrels with a dramatic walk-off win to take the Eastern League Championship on September 12th. Las Vegas did not fare as well.

It’s always a bit of a shock when a team is dominant all season and then goes out in the first round of the playoffs. However, as we all know, anything can happen in a short series.

Las Vegas was evenly matched up with Reno in the PCL Division Series playoff, but fell to the Aces three games to one. The two teams had exactly the same record at 81-63 for the season, tying them for most wins in AAA with Syracuse in the International League.

Playoff disappointments aside, overall, 2014 was a great season for the 51s. PCL Manager of the Year, Wally Backman kept his team playing well and in first place in their division despite the fact that his players were being frequently called up to fill holes on the big club.

eric campbell

LAS to LGA Shuttle

There were a total of 24 players shuttling back and forth, to and from the Mets this year, including 15 who started the season in Las Vegas.

Let’s look at a few of them and see how they fared.

Eric Campbell:  Infielder/Outfielder Campbell was hitting .355 with 3 HR, 15 doubles and 24 RBI, in 33 games with the 51s before getting his first call to the big leagues in May. While playing pretty much every day in Vegas, Campbell was called up to be a role player, coming off the bench, making the occasional start, and playing several different positions. He experienced success right away, collecting his first RBI in his MLB debut with a sacrifice fly against the Phillies on May 10th. Campbell collected his first major league hit the next night, and his first home run 10 days later. He was 6 for his first 12 at bats. With limited playing time, Campbell was successful both starting and as a pinch hitter. He was hottest in June and July hitting for a .345 average during that period. He played all infield positions, left and right field, but got most of his playing time at third, capably filling in for David Wright when he was out due to injury.

Jacob deGrom: Right-handed starting pitcher deGrom was 4-0 in seven starts for Las Vegas with a 2.58 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 38.1 innings before he was called up to the Mets on May 13th. He made his first Major League start on May 15th at Yankee Stadium, tossing seven strong innings, giving up one run and striking out six, but took the loss because of the lack of offense from the Mets. DeGrom started out his MLB career with a tough-luck 0-4 record as he gave up three runs or fewer in five of his first seven starts. He earned his first win on June 21st in Miami going seven shutout innings, walking three and striking out seven. After a short stint on the disabled list (DL) in August due to rotator cuff tendinitis, deGrom picked up where he left off. The rookie pitcher has an 8-6 record and a 2.68 ERA in 20 starts, fanning 134 in 134.1 innings. He has a WHIP of 1.14 having walked only 40 batters and is often mentioned by analysts in Rookie of the Year talk. On Monday night he broke the Mets record and tied the major league record by fanning the first eight batters he faced.

Matt den DekkerThe centerfielder had a .269/.326/.421 slash line when he received his first call up to the Mets on May 26th. But he really heated up when he returned to the 51s on June 18th by batting .334/.407/.540 by the time he received his second call up to the Mets on August 8th. All he did during his two stints in Vegas was lead the team in batting average, doubles (31) and triples (7), hit eight home runs, score 70 runs and steal nine bases. At the time of his most recent call up, den Dekker’s .334 batting average led the PCL. He was awarded the 2014 Mayor’s Trophy, a team award voted on by the fans. His defensive prowess should be noted as well. Known for his speed and ability to close quickly on a ball in center, den Dekker has primarily played left field in New York, with former 51 Juan Lagares a fixture in center. He has made only two errors on the year, with eight outfield assists for the Mets. It has been mentioned more than once that a Mets outfield of den Dekker, Lagares and teammate Kirk Nieuwenhuis could be the best defensive outfield in the history of the franchise.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis: Nieuwenhuis is one of the most traveled of all 51s players this year. He has been called up to the Mets on three separate occasions. In Las Vegas, he started the season 4 for 4 against Fresno, including a home run and two runs scored and was batting .310 at the time of his first call up to the Mets this season. Playing mostly off the bench in New York, Nieuwenhuis has only 92 at bats so far, and is hitting .250 with three home runs and 14 RBIs. He finished his AAA season with a .265 average in 211 at bats, slugging 11 home runs and driving in 32.

Rafael Montero: Right-hander Montero started the season at Las Vegas, going 4-1 with a 3.67 ERA before being called up to make his major league debut in the Subway Series along with deGrom. Montero made his first start against the Yankees on May 14th, pitching six innings, giving up three runs and striking out three. He made four starts for New York before the return of Mets starters sent him back to Las Vegas. He also spent about a month of the season on the DL due to a strained left oblique, making rehab appearances in St. Lucie and with the Gulf Coast Mets. Montero’s second call up to the Mets came on August 12th when deGrom went on the DL, and he took a loss against Washington. Montero pitched well enough to win in his next start against the Cubs, going 7.1 innings and giving up only one run, but left trailing. The Mets scored to tie it in the bottom of the inning, but ended up losing the game. Montero returned to the 51s to slot into their playoff rotation. He made one start in the playoffs and got a no-decision in the only game won by Las Vegas in the Division Series against Reno. Montero was called up by the Mets to finish the season and finally earned his first major league win on September 10th against Colorado at Citi Field. He pitched 5.1 scoreless against the Rockies, striking out seven and walking four.

Wilmer FloresAfter starting the season in New York, Flores had two stints in Las Vegas before returning to New York for good at the end of July. His early season play resulted in a slash line of .307/.360/.500 at Las Vegas and earned him a return trip to New York on May 8th.  However, returning to New York just as Ruben Tejada hit a hot streak limited his playing time. He returned to Las Vegas in late June and during his final month in AAA this year, Flores went on a tear hitting safely in 22 straight games with a batting average of .378, seven home runs and 29 RBI during that stretch. Included in this were five straight games in which he homered, collecting six total home runs and 15 RBI from July 3rd to July 6th (which included a double-header).  Flores completed his time at AAA with a slash line of .323/.367/.568 and a total of 13 homers and 57 RBI. Given more playing time with the Mets lately, Flores had a seven game hitting streak from August 29th to September 6th, during which he hit .392. He is currently hitting .236 with four home runs and 22 RBI at the big league level, but his promise of more consistent offense, combined with more power, has been evident during his time in Las Vegas.

Travis d’Arnaud: Though d’Arnaud was intended to stay in New York all season, early struggles at the plate (a slash line of .180/.271/.273 with 3 HR and 9 RBI) led the Mets to send him to the 51s in early June. The move paid off big as d’Arnaud raked during his short stint in Vegas, hitting .436 and slugging six home runs and eight doubles in 15 games, helping the 51s go 10-5 during that stretch. He returned to New York with a renewed confidence and an improved approach at the plate resulting in a slash line of .282/.339/.495 with 10 HR and 31 RBI since his return.

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Cashman’s Own

Of course, those who have yet to experience their first call-up to the show made up the majority of the 51s roster, and led the way to a second PCL Southern Division Championship in as many years. Let’s have a look at some of those who made a big impact in Las Vegas this year.

Allan DykstraInfielder Dykstra played his first year at AAA in 2014 after spending all of 2013 in AA Binghamton. He tied the team lead for games played this year with 117. He hit .280, with 16 HR and a team-leading 74 RBI. He also had 23 doubles, three triples and 62 runs scored. Dykstra was selected to represent the 51s and the PCL in the AAA All-Star Game and won the Home Run Derby on July 14th at Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, North Carolina. Dykstra started the season with a five game hitting streak, and rolled out three more equal streaks during the year with 22 multiple hit games. In the final game of the playoff series against Reno on September 6th, Dykstra’s 3-run home run kept the 51s in the game before they ultimately fell by a score of 7-3.

Logan VerrettVerrett didn’t start 2014 as the tall right-hander from Texas that everyone expected to be watching, but he definitely made people take notice. After a 12 win year in AA Binghamton in 2013, Verrett took the next step forward, leading Las Vegas in wins, and innings pitched, going 11-5 over 162 innings and 28 starts. He struck out 117 while only walking 34, resulting in a WHIP of 1.37. Verrett went at least five innings in all but two of his 28 starts, and never walked more than three in a game. Verrett was recognized as the big cog in the 51s starting rotation and was chosen Most Valuable Pitcher by the coaching staff.

Noah SyndergaardAll eyes were on Syndergaard this spring, many expecting his rise to emulate that of Zack Wheeler’s last year. This would’ve seen the 22 year-old making his debut with the big club sometime in May or June. But Syndergaard was able to focus on the here and now, building a good complete season at Las Vegas and furthering his development. He appeared in the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break, pitching a scoreless ninth inning to close out the victory for the USA team. The Mets opted not to call him up in September when the playoffs ended, which allows Syndergaard to reflect on his complete body of work at AAA during the winter. He has some nice numbers to reflect on as he posted a 9-7 record for the 51s, with a 4.60 ERA, striking out 145 in 133 innings over 26 starts.

Matt ReynoldsAfter hitting .355 in 58 games at AA Binghamton, shortstop Reynolds was promoted to AAA Las Vegas on June 19th. He didn’t miss a beat, hitting .429 (12 for 26) in his first eight games. He ended the season hitting .333 with five home runs, 16 doubles, and 4 triples, driving in 40 in 68 games since his promotion. With the shortstop situation in New York still in flux, Reynolds made his case that he deserves to be in the conversation for next year. Matt also won the organizations Sterling Award for his outstanding season in Triple A.

Kevin Plawecki: Catcher Plawecki arrived in Las Vegas just after Reynolds on June 26th, having hit .326 with six home runs and 43 RBI in 58 games with the B-Mets. He played 43 games with the 51s, hitting .283 with 5 HR and 21 RBI. He hit safely in 28 of the 43 he played, including eight straight, and had 11 multi-hit games, including a 4-4 performance with two home runs on August 27th during the last regular season home game for Vegas. Plawecki’s home run in game one of the playoffs a week later helped his club get their lone victory over Reno. Plawecki also represented the 51s in the MLB Futures game. The catcher won the organizations Sterling Award for his season in Double A.

Chase BradfordBradford, a Las Vegas native, became a mainstay in the 51s bullpen as the season went on. He pitched to a 3-2 record with a 3.52 ERA and earned five saves in eight opportunities. He struck out 41 in 46 innings over 34 appearances.

daniel muno

Honorable Mentions

Many other 51s players contributed solid, and in many cases clutch, performances to help Vegas capture their 2nd straight Division Championship. Infielder Daniel Muno tied with Dykstra for the most games played with 117 and hit 14 home runs and drove in 62, scoring a team leading 74 runs.

Infielder/Outfielder Brandon Allen also slugged 14 home runs and was selected for the Community Service Award by the 51s front office.

Outfielder Andrew Brown, working around two stints with the Mets, led the team with 21 home runs and was named team MVP by the coaching staff.

Infielder Josh Satin appeared in 100 games, hitting .289 with nine home runs, 27 doubles and 49 RBI before being promoted to the Mets on September 1st.

The New York Mets formally renewed their Player Development Deal with Las Vegas for two more years, so there is much more exciting Mets minor league baseball to look forward to at Cashman Field through at least 2016.

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About Jennifer Nieves 7 Articles

Jennifer was born in Queens, NY, grew up on Long Island, and now resides in Las Vegas, NV. A lifelong Mets fan, she has a Master’s degree in writing from BYU and loves to write about baseball for MetsMinors.net and Metsmerized Online. She has season tickets for the Las Vegas 51s and thinks the Mets moving their AAA team to Vegas is the best thing ever. Follow her on Twitter: @jennyfir