Friday, Oct. 23, 2015 | 2 a.m.
Item from the New York Post on Thursday: With the New York Mets preparing to play in the World Series for the first time in 15 years, the cheapest seats to the team’s home games are being listed in the mid-$700 range on secondary ticket sites.
But Las Vegas residents have already seen many of the Mets’ players for less than $20 in the past few seasons.
New York’s roster is peppered with former members of the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, including several starters who will take center stage when the World Series begins on Tuesday.
Here’s a look at some of the New York players who made stops in Las Vegas.
For 51s fans who saw Syndergaard in 2014, his transformation to a postseason stud nicknamed “Thor” must seem incredible. Syndergaard had breezed through stops in Single-A and Double-A, but the 6-foot-6, 240-pound righthander struggled when he first started facing Triple-A batters for the 51s. He’d grown used to being able to simply blow away batters at lower levels with fastballs in the strike zone — up, down, middle, wherever — but that approach was poison against Triple-A hitters, who batted .293 against him in 2014. He struck out 145 batters, a Pacific Coast League high, but went only 9-7 after his rough start. Syndergaard got tougher and more nuanced, however, improving his pitch location and learning to keep hitters off-balance. In 2015, he went 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA and 34 strikeouts before being called up.
Before he joined the Mets, deGrom pitched 21 games for the 51s in 2013 and 2014. His first year in Las Vegas, he went 4-2 in 14 starts, compiling a 4.52 earned-run average in 75 innings. But he blossomed in 2014, going 4-0 in seven starts. His ERA shrank to 2.58, and he struck out 29 batters to earn his ticket to the majors.
Matz endured none of Syndergaard’s coming-of-age struggles. In Matz’s 15 appearances during 2015 — 14 of them starts — opponents hit only .213 against him, and he posted a 2.19 ERA while going 7-4. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound lefthander led the league in strikeouts and innings pitched. Drafted in the second round in 2009, Matz missed his first two season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
The Mets catcher’s time in Las Vegas was filled with highs and lows. The lows included two injuries — a torn knee ligament in 2012 that limited him to 67 Triple-A games in 2012, and a broken left foot in 2013. He was promoted to the majors later that year despite having played only 86 games in Triple-A, and he struggled. In 2014, he was sent back to Las Vegas to clear his head and regain his confidence. It worked, as d’Arnaud hit .436 in 15 games, including six homers.
To some observers, Flores is a so-called Quadruple-A player — too good for Triple-A, average at best in the majors. No question, he tore it up in Las Vegas, batting .323 in 2014 and .321 in 2013 with a combined 28 home runs and 143 RBIs while playing in 162 games. But he’s batting just .253 as a big-leaguer. Still, at one point in 2014, he slammed six home runs in five games while generating headlines like “51s' Flores hitting everything in sight.”
Lucas Duda played 18 games for the 51s during an injury rehab assignment in 2013. The Mets' first baseman hit .306 in Las Vegas that year. Reliever Jeurys Familia played in Las Vegas during 2013, throwing five innings in four appearances. He gave up just five hits, struck out four and didn’t allow a run.
Outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been a fixture for the 51s over the past three years, starting when he played 74 games in Las Vegas during 2013. He batted .248 that season with 37 RBIs, then returned for 57 games in 2014. That year, he raised his average to .265. He played 27 games this year for the 51s between call-ups to the majors, rapping 34 hits and batting .324. Nieuwenhuis is on the Mets’ 25-man roster but has appeared in only one postseason game.
Also, backup catcher Kevin Plawecki played in 22 games with Las Vegas this spring before being promoted to the Mets, and utility player Matt Reynolds was promoted to the big leagues Oct. 12 for the first time and added to playoff roster after Ruben Tejada was injured. He was with Las Vegas the entire 2015 season, batting .267 with 65 RBIs.