PORT ST. LUCIE – Jake Mangum grew up in a family of footballers and he tries to bring the mentality of the sport to the baseball field.
“Just play every game like it’s my last,” Mangum, an outfielder who reached Double-A Binghamton last season, said Tuesday at the Mets’ minor league camp. “I’m sure anyone who’s ever seen me play for any period of time would agree that if it’s a groundout for the pitcher, I’m going to give you my best effort to be the first.”
Mangum’s father, John, played nine NFL seasons with the Bears as a defensive back in the 1990s after a college career in Alabama. An uncle, Kris, played tight end for the Panthers, and Jake Mangum’s grandfather, John, played defensive tackle for the Patriots in the 1960s.
Jake Mangum quit playing football early in high school to focus on baseball. The 25-year-old’s first breakthrough at the professional level came last year, when he cut .285/.337/.454 with nine home runs and 47 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 84 games for High-A Brooklyn. and Binghamton.
Earlier this week, Mets director of player development Kevin Howard mentioned Mangum as the player — beyond the organization’s top six or seven prospects — he’s most looking forward to watching this spring.
“He’s been here two months at the compound; no one is going to top him,” Howard said. “He has a lot of natural abilities. I really think he’s a guy that people have underestimated and I think he’s going to emerge as one of those top seven guys before the end of the year.
At Mississippi State, Mangum was drafted three times. The first call came from the Yankees in the 30th round of the 2017 draft. Mangum returned to school and was selected by the Mets in the 32nd round of the ensuing draft. Mangum again returned to school and after his senior year was selected in the fourth round by the Mets in 2019.
“I wasn’t too shocked to come back for my senior year,” Mangum said. “It hurt me, of course. I didn’t necessarily want to, but I was certainly grateful for my fourth year at State. I’m very grateful [the Mets] caught me in the fourth round. That’s very nice of them and I hope I’ve made them proud so far.
Mangum struggled in 53 games for Brooklyn in 2019, but dedicated the following spring and summer — the pandemic wiped out the minor league schedule — changing his swing.
“I had a great college career, but that wasn’t what pro teams were looking for,” Mangum said. “It was a very slap-the-ball, get-on-base approach, and a lot of people never thought I would ever turn into a professional hitter. I’m grateful that during the short 2019 season in Brooklyn, I didn’t have the year I wanted.
“Last year, at the beginning of the year, I showed signs of hitting harder in the balls, but I didn’t have the right approach. I’m grateful to the Mets, in mid-July they sat me down, they said, “We love what you’re doing, it’s here now, but how can we change that approach?” And every time I change that approach now, it’s great.
Nick Plummer and Khalil Lee are outfielders on the 40-man roster ahead of Mangum in organizational depth. Whether Mangum starts this season at Binghamton or Triple-A Syracuse, it’s clear he could be in the conversation at some point if the Mets need an outfielder.
It probably doesn’t hurt Mangum’s case that he shares Mississippi State as his alma mater with manager Buck Showalter. Other members of the organization with roots in Mississippi State include prospects JT Ginn, Cole Gordon and Rowdey Jordan and area scout Jet Butler, who signed all four players.
“[Butler], everyone he brings seems like the right person, not just good baseball players… he’s able to find the right guys for the organization, the clubhouse, just who are all trying to fight for the same thing, to win championships if we can get there,” Magnum said. “And Buck Showalter is a legend. Its name speaks for itself. »
New York Post