Michael Paez is learning on the job which is common for a novice. However, the New York Mets fifth selection in round 4 of the 2016 Major League Amatuer Draft is not a novice when it comes to baseball He has the credentials to prove why he was a valuable pick.
The shortstop, now playing second base for the Mets Brooklyn Cyclones affiliate was a coveted pick and immediately reported to the Cyclones days after helping Coastal Carolina University win an NCAA 1 Baseball Championship.
But the transition from college ball to the pro level has not been easy. Paez is learning to adjust his swing which has not made the hits come easy. So in many ways, he has become a novice again though the Mets organization knows it will be a matter of time before the adjustments show results.
The Cyclones are struggling in their quest to make the playoffs in the short-A season where home games are played at MCU Park on the boardwalk in Coney Island. But, Paez stays in the lineup batting way under .200 and handles the transition at second base with no flaws.
Eventually this swing that produced a lot of home runs on the college level will adjust to getting the hits and get on base. So, Paez keeps working hard and making the adjustments but it may take a few more years.
“He’s struggling strictly because his college program teaches a hitting approach I never heard of before,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “Collapse your back side and uppercut the baseball. Their program accepts the strikeout but led the nation in home runs.”
And Paez, was one of those home run leaders with 31, which led his conference. Gamboa, a coach and manager with over 38 years in the game, in his third year with the Cyclones, is aware that Paez is patient, though frustrated with good instincts to adjust.
Paez went hitless in four at bats, and a struck out swinging as Brooklyn lost to the rival Staten Island Yankees. The home crowd at Richmond County Stadium had a good share of Cyclones fans which have made this minor league rivalry as good as the big league version that the Mets and Yankees have each year.
“I feel fine,” Paez said outside the small visiting clubhouse area. “I been hitting the ball hard. I got to keep working at it. Feel better at the plate and cant get frustrated. You have to look at it. Can’t control where the ball goes and got to keep going.”
For a 21-year old, and one of many Division 1 players the Mets picked in the June draft, that means this will be a process. Paez will play out the season and continue to adjust working with hitting coach Sean Ratliff and former Mets all-star Edgardo Alfonzo,
Gamboa said about the adjustment, and it does not mean to downgrade the Coastal Carolina approach or Paez: “ All is know is the hitting style that Paez brought to pro ball is something to me that will only work in slow pitch softball. The ball is coming down at you so you have to swing up to square it up.”
And for any ballplayer, adjusting the swing is also taking a mental approach at the plate. Gamboa is seeing that progression and on this night, Paez squared up in two at bats.
“Swing adjustment program and other half is the mental problem,” said Gamboa. “He’s literally trying to hit it in the air. His mind is telling him when to start and coaches are working on the shorter swing. He’s getting to it too quick.”
And that means, what Paez learned in college ball is not going to make it on the professional level. With the short season of four months as the New York Penn is structured, that defines maybe more than two years before Paez makes the proper adjustment with the swing.
But, Paez will continue to learn in the remaining few weeks of the season and if it happens, in the playoffs. Then in the winter it will be conditioning and working more on the adjustments because this is a learning process and major transition.
It does not mean the Mets made a wrong pick. The organization believed that Paez was a valuable pick because the natural shortstop has a quick bat and good hands.
“If you saw my first game you see my swing transform to where it is now,” Paez said. “It depends on the player but what I’m doing now is a lot better and quicker getting the barrel on it.”
Gamboa said about the struggle, “We don’t think anything of it. When we signed him, (Paez) this is pretty much what we expected.”
The barrel of the bat and approach was better against the Yankees. And a reminder, this is professional ball and the learning process of the minor leagues.
Comment Rich Mancuso: [email protected] Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/ Rich Mancuso