Jeremy Vasquez, 21, is currently playing for the Columbia Fireflies, the Mets Single-A team. He is slashing a ridiculous .343/.457/.559 with nine doubles, two triples and three home runs this season. He reached base in the first 29 games this season 32 stretching back to last season, but failed to reach base for the first time Monday.
After two successful seasons as a Florida Gator, the lefty swinger transferred to Nova Southeastern University (also in Florida) where he owned opposing pitchers to the tune of a .317/.453/.614 slash line with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 51 games. He was then drafted by the Mets in the 28th round of the 2017 draft, and in 61 games between the Kingsport Mets and the Low-A Brooklyn Cyclones, he hit .266/.368/.430 with eight home runs, 15 doubles, and 38 RBIs.
While his 2018 batting average of .343 is obviously very impressive, his .457 on-base percentage is almost more so. The best thing about it is that it’s not a fluke — this guy has always gotten on base and will continue to do so. His patience and keen batter’s eye both contribute to his 23 walks in 125 plate appearances, good for a 18.40% walk rate. For a comparison, Brandon Nimmo‘s walk rate is “only” 17.24% (10 walks in 58 plate appearances).
I got the chance to speak with the up-and-coming first baseman recently and learned a great deal about him. He is obviously an intelligent and talented ballplayer and absolutely someone we all should keep on our radar.
MMO: Jeremy, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us! Here’s a softball to start: You grew up and went to school in Florida; What was your favorite team growing up? Favorite players?
MMO: What are some of your favorite baseball memories, both watching and playing?
Vasquez: My favorite memory was getting to play with my brother my freshman year of high school when he was a senior. Also, hitting a grand slam against our rival high school that year was one of my most exciting baseball memories.
MMO: You played both first base and outfield throughout your college career, but have been solely a first baseman so far in the Minor Leagues. How have you handled the transition from the outfield to the infield, and who has helped you the most?
Vasquez: I’ve played first base my whole life so the move wasn’t the most difficult. However, working with our infield instructors they have helped me become quicker, smoother and overall a better first baseman.
MMO: You attended MLB Spring Training this season and while you only got into four games, you were exposed to many coaches and veteran players. Who was most helpful this spring?
Vasquez: Getting to go over to the Big League Spring Training games was huge for me. I got to see how big leaguers prepare for each game and how they carry themselves. Furthermore, being over there I talked to numerous amount of players with big league time but the person who has helped me the most is Pete Alonso.
From the beginning of college and beginning of pro ball, Pete has always been there to help me learn the system, what to do, how to get better, how to handle certain situations. He is a class act and a good friend.
Also, by getting to go over to the Big League games I got to talk the mental side of the game with them and that’s where I saw the biggest difference. They are all very confident and the belief they have in themselves is something I noticed from the get go. How big leaguers handle failure was eye opening to me as well because they are so professional about it and they motivated me to have that mindset also.
MMO: You were a Gator to start your college career and while you hit very well, you didn’t have much home run power, hitting just two dingers in 103 games between 2015 and 2016. Then in 2017, playing for Nova Southeastern University, you exploded for 15 homers and 49 RBIs in just 51 games and have showed similar power so far in the minor leagues. What adjustments did you make to increase your power output without sacrificing average?
Vasquez: When I was at Florida my approach and swing were completely different to how it was at Nova and is now. The reason why is because I was still learning my swing, and I still am today, but have a better idea of it. When I got to Nova they were big on staying inside the ball and driving it to all fields. Head coach Greg Brown taught me how to use my legs and upper body in a way that I have never done before.
He preaches line drives and balls driven in the gaps compared to ground balls and line drives and I believe that was the biggest change for me. I have a natural uppercut swing that allows me to elevate the ball with ease. Therefore, my approach and swing now is to stay inside the ball and drive it not up the middle but gap to gap. By doing so, that has allowed me to hit for more power and not have to sacrifice my average.
MMO: You have a .457 on-base percentage so far this season and while that is higher than your career average, it follows a trend. You’ve always been able to find a way on base while limiting your strikeouts; Can you tell us a little about your approach at the plate?
Vasquez: Like I have mentioned, my approach at the plate is never to pull. I know when I stay gap to gap with my approach it allows me to hit balls the other way and drive balls up the middle but also to stay on off-speed pitches to pull. A big key to my approach is to hit line drives and fly balls, I never want to hit a ground ball unless it’s the other way.
MMO: It is no secret that you’ve got a little competition with Dominic Smith and Peter Alonso ahead of you in the organization at first base, not to mention the guys in the bigs like Adrian Gonzalez, Wilmer Flores, and Jay Bruce. Is this something you actively think about?
Vasquez: I never think about the guys ahead of me at the higher levels. The only thing that I think about is my own day-to-day process. The only thing I have control over is how much effort I put in everyday and the attitude I have. I can’t control my competition and other people ahead of me so there is no point for me to worry about that.
However, getting to be around Dominic Smith and Pete Alonso this spring training I was able to talk to them about specific parts of the game and they were open to helping me with my questions. I believe I can learn a lot from them and I am appreciative of them for helping me.
MMO: You are mashing overall, but especially against right-handed pitchers against whom you’ve hit .388/.523/.582. Against lefties you have a .290/.343/.581 slash line, and have hit all three of your home runs this season against southpaws. Have you historically hit righties better than lefties? Is this something you’re actively working on?
Vasquez: I never look at my righty/lefty splits because some days I’ll hit lefties better than righties and other days it’s the opposite. Historically, I have handled lefties fine throughout my career. I’m not looking too much into those splits.
MMO: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me. Keep up the great work and we all hope to see you in Queens soon!