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NY Mets: New Zealand pitcher Elliot Johnstone’s improving command reason for optimism

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: A New York Mets batting helmet in the dugout before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 08: A New York Mets batting helmet in the dugout before a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros at Clover Park on March 8, 2020 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Mets defeated the Astros 3-1. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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The New York Mets, under the leadership of new owner Steve Cohen and acting general manager Zack Scott, have prioritized rebuilding their farm system to stockpile future assets for the next contending team. To that end, they are leaving no stone unturned as they attempt to find hidden gems in new, unfamiliar, and exotic locations.

Their search for new talent led them to the far reaches of Oceania, where Elliot Johnstone, who has shined in the Australian Baseball League (ABL), currently resides. A native of New Zealand, Johnstone is a right-handed pitcher who emerged on the scene during the ABL’s 2019-2020 season as a rookie. Johnstone played a prominent role in the Auckland Tuatara bullpen, earning the ABL Rookie of the Year honors.

The Mets took interest in the pitcher following his success with Auckland, and as a result, they believed him to possess the potential to one day develop into a contributing member of their bullpen. By signing him to a contract, the Mets are heeding the advice and accepting the recommendation of former Met DJ Carrasco, who has coached Johnstone as the pitching coach for the Auckland Tuatara.

New Zealand pitcher Elliot Johnstone gets an opportunity to play professionally for the Mets while representing a country that has never had a player make it to the majors.

There will be rapturous interest in Johnstone’s career as he begins in Rookie Ball with the Mets. Not many New Zealanders have signed contracts with MLB clubs. Johnstone is the third New Zealander currently in the league, joining fellow countrymen Kyle Glogoski (Philadelphia Phillies) and Ben Thompson (Atlanta Braves) in the minor leagues.

Johnstone will attempt to become the first New Zealander to make it to the majors. Although several New Zealanders, including Scott Campbell and Travis Wilson, have made it as far as Triple-A, neither of them made it to the majors. Campbell played for the Las Vegas 51’s. and Wilson played for the Triple-A affiliates for the Cincinnati Reds and Braves.

Johnstone profiles as a right-handed reliever with a unique delivery that creates deception. In his last minor league season, Johnstone showed significant progress in being a lockdown right-handed reliever. What was encouraging to see is Johnstone’s strikeout totals (28 strikeouts in 24 ⅓ innings), his decreasing walk totals (10 BBs in 24 ⅓ innings), and his WHIP (0.973) displayed that he is improving his command.

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Johnstone will start his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Mets with a whole country behind him. Because MLB is trying to expand its outreach internationally, Johnstone’s signing gives them one more reason to ramp up their efforts in promoting the game in New Zealand.

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