After a disappointing first two months of the season, the 51s made a late run in June, at one point winning seven straight games.
They’ll enter the second half 42-48, eight games behind first-place El Paso.
With 90 games in the rearview mirror, the coaches sounded off on the players who took the biggest step in the first half and who to watch for in the second:
Who took the biggest step in the first half?
Manager Tony DeFrancesco
DeFrancesco named two pitchers, one who earned his first major league call up and one who is still with the 51s.
Reliever Tim Peterson was the 51s’ most consistent reliever in the early months of the season.
As of Wednesday afternoon, he had a 2.93 ERA in 12 games with the Mets after posting a 3.64 ERA in 24 games with the 51s.
“Peterson, I think he’s a guy that was labeled as an organizational guy, competing for a Triple-A job in spring training. Wasn’t invited to major league camp and all of a sudden he’s a big part of the bullpen now,” DeFrancesco said.
He also mentioned Matt Purke, who after a rocky start to the season seemed to settle in.
“I think Purke, you watch his success over the last month and a half, he’s a guy that’s really improved his command and his offspeed,” DeFrancesco said. “Been pounding the zone consistently.”
Pitching coach Glenn Abbott
Purke was the first name pitching coach Glenn Abbott mentioned, too.
Abbott pointed to both Purke and starter Drew Gagnon, who started his first major league game on Tuesday for the Mets. Gagnon was sent back to Las Vegas on Wednesday.
“He’s worked hard on his delivery, getting command of his pitches and it’s really showing too. The last month he’s been so much better, he’s getting better all the time. I really see him making a lot of improvement,” Abbott said of Purke. “Gagnon’s another guy that’s made a lot of improvement, just not making mistakes. The mental part of the game, staying focused, better pitch-to-pitch. Both those guys have done a really good job that way.”
Hitting coach Joel Chimelis
Among hitters, Chimelis pointed to outfielder Matt den Dekker, who is hitting .286/.336/.524 on the year and was called up by the Mets on Wednesday.
“I think the biggest change has been den Dekker. Physically he made a change with his lower half and with his bat angle and the results spoke to themselves,” Chimelis said. “I mean he was struggling early on, he made those adjustments again with his lower half and his bat angle and he took off from there. He’s been driving the ball and having really good at-bats.”
Who is one player to watch for in the second half?
DeFrancesco immediately pointed to first baseman Peter Alonso, the Mets’ No. 2 prospect.
Alonso was hitting .314 with 15 homers in Double-A before a June promotion.
Since arriving, he had an impressive three home-run game but has otherwise hit to the tune of .171/.330/.368 with more than a strikeout per game.
“That’s the guy that we’re banking on here. He’s definitely one of the top prospects here,” DeFrancesco said. “He’s got the first base job that he’s going to be competing for in the future. I think if he puts together some games he’s going to have some confidence and playing in Vegas, he should be able to (put) up some big numbers.”
Abbott again pointed to Purke and Gagnon, expressing hope that both would get a major league shot just days before Gagnon’s came.
“I think Purke would be one to watch in the second half. I look for him to do well, have a good half. I hope he throws good enough where he gets to go to the big leagues, not be with us that long but we’ll just have to wait and see,” Abbott said. “Both those guys, him and Gagnon both I’d like to see them get an opportunity.”
Zach Borenstein was the team’s lone All-Star and a mainstay in the 51s lineup. He hit .249/.351/.489 with a team-leading 19 home runs and 61 runs batted in, but there’s still room for improvement as strikeout numbers remain high.
“I think Borenstein, if he can be a little bit more consistent with his timing at the plate, I think he can really do some damage but that’s the biggest thing is trying to get that consistency with his timing because he has plenty of power and I like watching him play,” Chimelis said. “He plays hard and he gives 100 percent, but again if he’s consistent …that I think he can really take off. Even though he’s doing OK, I think he can do a little bit better.”