FLUSHING, N.Y., September 23, 2019 – The New York Mets today announced the winners of the 2019 Sterling Awards, emblematic of the top minor league performers in New York’s farm system. This season, the Mets recognized the top hitter, pitcher, defender, baserunner and coach in their minor league system. Additionally, a hitter and pitcher from the Dominican Summer League (DSL) were honored for their standout seasons.
Mark Vientos was the Hitter of the Year; LHP Kevin Smith was named Pitcher of the Year; Andrés Giménez was the Mets’ Defender of the Year; and Sam Haggerty was the system’s top baserunner. In the DSL, Freddy Valdez was named the top hitter and RHP Ronny Rincones the top pitcher. David Davalillo, the Gulf Coast League Mets’ manager, was named the Mets Minor League Coach of the Year.
STERLING METS MINOR LEAGUE HITTER OF THE YEAR: MARK VIENTOS (INF)
Obtained/Scout: Mets second-round pick in 2017/César Aranguren
Vientos, the Mets’ second-round pick in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, spent his first full professional season this year with Columbia (A), batting .255/.300/.411 and setting career-highs in runs scored (48), hits (106), doubles (27), home runs (12) and RBI (62). At just 19 years old, the Miami native was one of the youngest hitters in the South Atlantic League this season; only seven of his 451 plate appearances this season came against pitchers younger than he was.
His .411 slugging percentage ranked 12th in the South Atlantic League, his 62 RBI were the 11th most in the league and his 27 doubles placed him 10th in the SAL. He was named one of the Mets’ prospects of the year by MLB Pipeline.
STERLING METS MINOR LEAGUE PITCHER OF THE YEAR: LHP KEVIN SMITH
Obtained/Scout: Mets seventh-round pick in 2018/Tommy Jackson
Smith, 22, led all Mets minor leaguers with 130 strikeouts during the 2019 campaign. The southpaw from Dunwoody, GA, made a career-high 23 appearances this season, all as a starter. He posted a 3.15 ERA (41 earned runs/117.0 innings), good for the third-best mark among all Mets minor league arms.
He averaged 10 strikeouts per 9.0 innings overall as he split his season between St. Lucie (A) and Binghamton (AA). He advanced to Double-A in July, where he posted a 3.45 ERA (12 earned runs/31.1 innings) in his final six starts of the year, allowing three runs or fewer in five of his six outings for the Rumble Ponies. Overall, he allowed more than three runs just three times in 23 starts.
STERLING METS MINOR LEAGUE DEFENDER OF THE YEAR: ANDRÉS GIMÉNEZ (INF)
Obtained/Scout: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2015/Hector Rincones and Robert Espejo
For the first time in his four-year career, Giménez appeared solely at shortstop, where he handled 402 of his 413 total chances this year, his best rate yet in four seasons in the Mets system. Giménez has shown improvement in his defense each of the last four years, rising from a .948 fielding percentage in his age-16 season to his .973 percentage this year in his age-20 campaign at Binghamton (AA).
Giménez also made strides in other aspects of his game, leading the organization in steals (28) for a second-consecutive season and setting a career-high mark with nine home runs. The infielder finished the year as the Mets’ third-ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, as well as the No. 93 overall prospect in the majors.
STERLING METS MINOR LEAGUE BASERUNNER OF THE YEAR: SAM HAGGERTY (INF/OF)
Obtained/Scout: Acquired by the Mets from Cleveland along with RHP Walker Lockett on January 6, 2019 in exchange for C Kevin Plawecki/Jon Heuerman (Cleveland)
Acquired last offseason, Haggerty earned his first major league call-up at the conclusion of the minor league season, thanks in large part to his ability to create stress for opposing pitchers on the basepaths. He played the majority of his season with Binghamton (AA), but also saw time at Brooklyn (A) and Syracuse (AAA).
He legged out six triples, tied for the most by any Mets minor leaguer this year. The University of New Mexico product was successful in 23-of-27 stolen base attempts (85.2 percent). His 23 steals were the second-most in the organization this season. Over the last three years, he has produced 24 triples and stolen 98 bases while being caught stealing just 24 times.
At the major league level, Haggerty has primarily been used as a pinch-runner. He scored his first major-league run on September 6 vs. Philadelphia.