New-look Cyclones hope to end drought
A bushel of prospects and returnees highlight Brooklyn’s 2019 roster.
It’s been six summers and counting since the Brooklyn Cyclones qualified for the New York-Penn League playoffs, an extended drought for a franchise that reached the postseason in all but three of its first 12 campaigns on Coney Island.
But with each season, hope is renewed for the Baby Bums, who missed out on the four-team tournament for NY-Penn supremacy by just a half-game last year despite being tied in the loss column with the league’s wild card winner from Auburn.
The 40-35 finish represented Brooklyn’s best record since it posted a 42-34 mark in 2014.
It also marked a massive 16-win improvement over the team’s franchise-worst 24-52 record in 2017.
If the Cyclones manage to break through and return to the top of the McNamara Division this summer, something they haven’t accomplished since 2010, it will likely be due to the fresh bushel of newly minted Mets who arrived on Surf Avenue ahead of Friday night’s season opener vs. Staten Island at MCU Park.
Fifth-round hurler Nathan Jones of Northwestern State is the highest selection from this month’s MLB Draft to be assigned to Brooklyn.
The 22-year-old right-hander out of Shreveport, Louisiana, finished his four-year career with the Demons ranked fourth in strikeouts with 223.
The first player from the Southland Conference picked in last week’s draft, Jones had a hint that the Mets were interested in taking him in the middle rounds, but literally jumped out of his seat at home when he was officially picked.
“It was crazy,” Jones said on the school’s website. “My family and I were sitting there watching, and they called my name. Everyone’s still going nuts.
“It hasn’t set in yet,” he added. “I’m in shock. It’s crazy how everything can change — going from being nobody to constantly working hard to be the best you can be. Seeing it pay of a little bit and getting rewarded for it is surreal.”
Bobby Barbier, Jones’ manager and former pitching coach at Northwestern State, was equally enthused about Jones’ selection.
“I’ve said it before, Nathan’s probably the hardest-working pitcher I’ve been around,” he said. “He deserves every bit of what he’s got and what he’s made himself into. He’s the model that shows you can really work yourself into a prospect. He did that. I’m very proud of Nathan and glad he represents Northwestern State.”
Sixth-round pick Zach Ashford of Fresno State could be patrolling the Cyclones’ outfield this summer after the 5-foot-10, 180-pound prospect batted a sizzling .381 last season with the Bulldogs, ranking second in the Mountain West conference.
The Clovis, California native led the league in runs scored (67) and on-base percentage (.488) as a senior, earning him Third Team All-America honors from Baseball America.
Also making the team’s preliminary roster were seventh-round pick Luke Ritter from Wichita State and ninth-round selection Joseph Genord of South Florida, both infielder who can likely pick up a thing or two from Brooklyn manager Edgardo Alfonzo, arguably the best second baseman in Mets history.
Returning from the 2018 squad that just missed the playoffs is right-hander Yeudy Colon, who earned NY-Penn All-Star honors a season ago by going 4-4 with a minuscule 1.95 ERA out of the Brooklyn bullpen.
Angel Manzanerez, a shortstop who batted .274 in 27 games with Brooklyn a season ago, is also back, as is veteran Cyclones outfielder Jose Medina, coming off a year in which he amassed five homers, 16 doubles and 32 RBIs in 54 games here.
Another notable returnee is outfielder Anthony Dirocie, who played 44 games for the Cyclones a summer ago.
While the Mets are still negotiating deals with their most prominent picks from the draft, first-rounder Brett Baty, second-rounder Josh Wolf and third-round selection Matthew Allan, the current crop of Baby Bums will be busy continuing the franchise’s storied rivalry with Staten Island this weekend.
After hosting the Baby Bombers on Opening Night Friday, the Cyclones will head across the Verrazano Bridge for a Saturday evening rematch.
Brooklyn will then kick off a two-game set vs. Aberdeen at MCU Park Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
This, That and the Other Thing: There will be a couple of tri-state area players here in Brooklyn this summer as well. Catcher Phil Capra, who spent last season at Rookie-level Kingsport, played collegiately at Wagner College on Staten Island. Also, infielder Gavin Garay, who attended JFK Catholic in Westchester County, will be on the squad when it begins Season 19 on Coney Island. … Those attending the Opening Night festivities along the legendary boardwalk should plan to stick around till the end of the game as the Cyclones announced a special fireworks display immediately following the contest.
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