Might as well jump in!
Brooklyn fans are eager to see Mets fourth-round pick David Thompson, who led the nation in home runs and runs batted with the Miami Hurricanes, at the hot corner for the Cyclones.
Readers of this column know that scouts base their projections on potential as opposed to results, but why was such a prodigious slugger still available in the fourth round?
Well, it could be because of his two surgeries — one on his throwing arm and the other to remove a rib — but manager Tom Gamboa says he’ll be able to figure it out after he watches the kid between the lines for a couple weeks.
“I had to go see Darryl Strawberry play two games before I saw him make contact with a ball,” said Gamboa, who was a scout for 10 years and a National Crosschecker who would watch the top 200 prospects in the country. “He kept striking out. But he had a fantastic body, a fantastic bat. You saw a guy that could run like a deer.”
Gamboa added that he once wasn’t impressed by a pitcher who threw a perfect game.
“The best pitching performance I ever saw, I didn’t put the guy on my draft list.”
The pitcher struck out 19 of 21 batters faced, but Gamboa saw a player who was physically mature at 18 years old and not going to get any bigger.
“I couldn’t project it getting better because it was like I was looking at the finished product.”
This isn’t to say that Thompson, who got his first at bat for the Cyclones last night, wasn’t a good selection by the Mets, and Cyclones fans will get to find out first hand once he gets here.
The Cyclones and the hated Staten Island Yankees took turns spoiling each other’s home openers, with the Cyclones winning on Friday night in Staten Island, and the Evil Empire of the New York Penn-League winning at Coney Island on Saturday.
Brooklyn starter Gaby Almonte lost the home opener, giving up eight runs (six earned) but impressed the coaching staff. After a 12-inning game the night before, Almonte gave up six runs in the third, but shutout the Yankees in the fourth and fifth to save the bullpen a bit of extra work.
The pitchers are on a 90-pitch limit, although they are allowed to finish an at-bat that started under the 90 mark.
Credit Gamboa and pitching coach Dave LaRoche (whom readers of this column will remember for famously striking out Gorman Thomas with his LaLob) with giving their catchers and pitchers a lot of leeway, allowing them to call pitches, as opposed to calling pitches from the dugout. LaRoche, a former All-Star with the Cleveland Indians, joked that he already had his Major League career, so if a Cyclone pitcher gets hit hard, it will be with pitches that the catcher himself is calling.
Michael Bernal has gotten off to a hot start, with two home runs, eight runs batted in and a game-winning hit in the first week of action. Pitch selection has been something Gamboa is stressing, although Bernal’s last at-bat of an 11–4 loss to Tri-City resulted in a strikeout on three pitches.
“Through these first five games, I’ve liked all his at-bats, even when he struck out,” Gamboa said. “But the last at-bat is the only one so far that he’s just completely thrown away.”
Fan-favorite Edgardo Alfonzo has been the third-base coach under Gamboa. If the Mets infield defense doesn’t improve, perhaps the former All-Star should consider a comeback.