League legacies: The Brooklyn Cyclones players who have made history in the major leagues

brandon nimmo Mets Cyclones
A whopping 99 players from the Brooklyn Cyclones have made it to the major league since 2001.
AP Photo/John Bazemore

New York City’s history is filled with high-powered baseball stars: Babe Ruth, Derek Jeter, Tom Seaver, David Wright, and many more.

But where do all those stars get their start? For most, it’s the minor leagues, and for some, it’s right here in Brooklyn, with the Brooklyn Cyclones

cyclones at maimonides park
Nearly 100 Cyclones players have gone on to careers in the major league. File photo by Paul Frangipane

The Cyclones, the High-A affiliate of the New York Mets, arrived in Coney Island in 2001, filling a baseball-related void that had existed in the borough since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. 

In the 23 years since then, a whopping 100 members of the Cyclones have gone to the major leagues — the most recent, Michel Otañez, just made his debut with the Oakland A’s on June 10. 

“Not only are we affiliated with one of the biggest franchises in baseball, not too many minor-league teams are playing in quite an environment like Brooklyn in New York City,” said Justin Rocke, play-by-play commentator for the Cyclones. “They’re getting sort of a taste of what it’s like to be in the big leagues … before they even get there.”

The early years

The first two Cyclones players who made it to the major leagues, and to the Mets, were infielder Danny Garcia and outfielder Matt Watson, who made their debuts at what was then Shea Stadium just ten days apart in September 2003. 

Dozens of their teammates followed, being signed to teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, the Kansas City Royals, and the Chicago Cubs. 

cyclones field
The Cyclones landed in Coney Island in 2001. File photo by Paul Frangipane

Scott Kazmir

After he was drafted to the Cyclones by the Mets in the first round in 2002, pitcher Scott Kazmir quickly showed he was ready for more and, after just one season, was promoted to the Mets’ AA team, the Binghamton Mets. 

In 2004, Kazmir made his major league debut with the Tampa Bay Rays at just 20 years old. The pitcher was a standout part of the team and holds pitching records to this day — two decades after he started with the team. 

Kazmir went on to play for six other MLB teams — including the Oakland Athletics, the Houston Astros, and — in a full-circle moment from his origins in Brooklyn, the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2021, the pitcher played on the U.S. baseball team at the summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Daniel Murphy

daniel murphy
Daniel Murphy helped lead the Mets to the World Series in 2015. Photo courtesy of slgckgc/Wikimedia Commons

After two seasons as an infielder with the Cyclones, Daniel Murphy was called up to the Mets in 2008. In his first game in the major leagues, Murphy hit a single against the talented pitcher Roy Iswalt and managed a tricky catch, helping to land a double play against the Houston Astros.

In 2015, in what would turn out to be his last season with the Mets, Murphy helped lead the team to the World Series, broke team legend Mike Piazza’s record for the most home runs hit in the postseason, and was named Most Valuable Player in the National League.

Later that year, Murphy signed with the Washington Nationals, and played there and with several minor league teams before retiring from professional baseball in 2023. 

Ike Davis

Ike Davis, one of the top college baseball players in 2008, joined the Cyclones that same year — and proved to be an intimidating defensive player. He brushed up his batting skills with the St. Lucie Mets in 2009 and debuted at Citi Field in 2010, where he hit a single at his first major league at-bat. In his rookie season, Davis hit 19 home runs and earned 73 runs overall, ranking high among all the rookies who debuted in the National League that year. 

Legacies live on

“They’ve all had their impacts in different ways, we’ve incorporated a lot of it into different aspects of the ballpark,” Rocke said.

Photos of former Cyclones players who went on to the majors are hung up all over Maimonides Park, he said, and they regularly give away bobbleheads and other merch that commemorate their former players — like an upside-down Ike Davis “bobble-leg” depicting the player’s signature over-the-railing catch. 

Those giveaways draw fans to line up around the gate and around the block as they jostle for a piece of baseball history. 

Cyclones players also often have the opportunity to practice with Mets players at Citi Field — and for Mets players to come watch the Cyclones, scouting for talent.

“There’s a higher chance to make a name for yourself at the minor league level with us as opposed to somewhere else because it’s Brooklyn, it’s New York City, it’s a big market, and this is where they hope to end up,” Rocke said.

Today’s best Mets

mets lindor and alonso
New York Mets players Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso celebrate during a 2023 game. AP Photo/Rich Schultz

Some of the Mets’ top players today came up through the Cyclones.

Brandon Nimmo

Outfielder Brandon Nimmo was ranked in the top 50 prospects when he was drafted by the Mets in 2011. He joined the Cyclones the following year, and hit two grand slams in a single season with the team.

Nimmo kept advancing through the Mets’ minor league system until he finally debuted in the majors in 2016. With a batting average of .266 and 94 career home runs, Nimmo is the team’s starting center fielder in the current season.

Pete Alonso

One of the best-known names in baseball right now is Pete Alonso — the 29-year-old Mets first baseman. Alonso, of course, also first played with the Cyclones after the Mets signed him for a whopping $909,200 in 2016. 

After an amazing first season, Alonso was chosen for the league’s All-Star game. In 2019, he made it to the majors, debuting as the starting first baseman for the Mets on Opening Day. That June, he broke the Mets rookie home run record, which had been set by All-Star Darryl Strawberry way back in 1983. 

In 2024 — after signing a $14.5 million, one-year contract with the Mets — Alonso hit his 200th career home run. 

Francisco Álvarez

The most recent Cyclones player to make it big was Francisco Álvarez in 2022. Alvarez, a catcher, played with minor-league Mets teams in Florida and Tennessee in 2019, and split the 2021 season between the Cyclones and the St. Lucie Mets. Even though the season was split, Álvarez at the time held the Cyclones’ single-season and career home run record — hitting a whopping 22 home runs in 84 games. 

He was called up to the Mets in September 2022 — and was the youngest player to play in the majors that year, at just 20 years old. In his first game with the Mets, Álvarez hit a massive 439-foot home run and, like Alonso, broke an old Darryl Strawberry record when he hit three home runs across two games. 

Francisco Alvarez
Francisco Álvarez was called up to the Mets in 2022. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

This spring, Álvarez injured his hand and returned to the Cyclones on a rehab assignment. On June 4, he caught all nine innings of the Cyclones’ first ever no-hitter. 

The future

The 2024 Brooklyn Cyclones have a bright future ahead of them. Some “highly-regarded” prospects, like Brandon Sproat and Nolan McClean, played on the team this season before moving on to the Mets’ AA team in Binghamton, Rocke said. 

Six of the Mets top-rated prospects are playing down in Coney Island right now: third baseman Jacob Reimer, pitchers Jonah Tong, Calvin Ziegler, and Raimon Gomez; and outfielders Wilfredo Lara and Nick Morabito.

Gomez is the oldest of the top Cyclones prospects at 22 years old, and is expected to be a “dominant” pitcher as he continues to recover from a severe injury and Tommy John surgery. Morabito, at just 21, has a .310 batting average — higher, even, than Alonso’s was when he was with the team. 

“There’s a lot of guys who fans can come out and see and say ‘I’ll be seeing these guys in the major leagues before long,” Rocke said. “You get to see major league talent at a minor league ball park. You can’t ask for more.”