It’s been a good week for Jake Mangum.
The Mets' No. 22 prospect received his first promotion to Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday and collected four hits in his first seven at-bats at the Minors’ highest level. Mangum opened the year with Double-A Binghamton and batted .283 with a .353 on-base percentage in 31 games before getting the call.
A fourth-round selection in the 2019 Draft, Mangum had a storied career at Mississippi State, where he collected 383 hits in four seasons with the Bulldogs, which is an SEC record and the fourth-most in NCAA history. He was drafted by the Mets after his junior season in 2018 as well, as a 32nd-rounder.
The Flowood, Mississippi, native wasn’t expected to be picked as high the following year, but the Mets allocated nearly all of their Draft bonus pool money to their first three selections -- Brett Baty, Josh Wolf and Matt Allan. At that point, New York was limited to college seniors for Rounds 4-10, and Mangum was at the top of their list.
Now 26 years old, Mangum won a championship with Brooklyn in his first professional season in 2019. He went back to the Cyclones to start the 2021 season but was quickly promoted to Binghamton.
Mangum’s first full season was cut short by an injury but he managed to bat .294/.342/.459 at Double-A and finish the year with nine total homers – four more than he had throughout his college career. He also made enough of an impression to be named an MiLB Organization All-Star and the Mets’ best defensive prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Just days before his promotion, Mangum discussed his start to the season in Binghamton with the top three Mets prospects -- Francisco Álvarez, Baty and Ronny Mauricio -- and the hitters who have helped inform his approach at the plate. Mangum also explains the lore of Dudy Noble Field and his turn as a YouTube talk show host during the pandemic for the latest Prospect Q&A.
MiLB.com: You've gotten off to a good start to the season -- what's been working for you?
Jake Mangum:I spent roughly 90 percent of the season last year in Binghamton, so I'm really used to it. April was tough, it was my first April of pro ball, believe it or not. I got Drafted in 2019, and I can say that was my first April of pro ball. Cold weather is no joke, but it was a good learning experience. I learned a lot late in April a couple different ways to help you in the cold weather. Just to kind of make sure the body is right and make sure you're seeing the ball well. That was a big learning experience for me and I'm definitely going to be able to take that into the next couple of years of baseball. May rolled around, weather is getting warm. It's a lot easier to hit in 70 degrees.
MiLB.com: Between Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio, your team is getting a lot of attention. What do those guys do that makes them so special?
Mangum: They do things that the average player just can't do. They're able to hit balls harder than most human beings are able to. They're really young, man. They're really talented and they're going to continue to grow and learn the game and I can't wait to see it. I've lived with Baty now for two years. He's just a Grade A human being. Álvarez is just a special human being. And Ronny, man. I'd say all three of those guys are great dudes off the field that you can cheer for and root for.
MiLB.com: You're obviously no slouch at the plate yourself. How did you develop your approach to hitting?
Mangum: It's 'see ball, hit ball.' In college, I knew my role. My role in college was to get on base and help our team win. In college, the No. 1 priority is to win every single baseball game between the lines, and that's what we did a lot in college. I get to pro ball and I realize quickly that Minor League Baseball is a lot more for development. So, when 2020 got canceled, I was like, 'Alright, I finally have time to put on some weight that I've never been able to put on.' Because in college, it's year round. It's fall ball, you get a three-week break for Christmastime and then you're right back into the season. In pro ball, you get these long offseasons that are great. So, before COVID hit I worked hard, but when it was like, 'Alright, no season. Let's keep going.' So I was able to spend a year and a half working on my game and hitting balls harder. Look, I'm a doubles hitter. I'm a gap-to-gap hitter that still plays the game hard and plays the game fast. I'm a center fielder that can track stuff down and get on base for the big boys.
MiLB.com: The approach you've described is similar to others in the organization, like Brandon Nimmo or Jeff McNeil. Is there somebody that you look up to when you are watching other hitters to inform your own approach?
Mangum: I really like [Mariners infielder] Adam Frazier, man. He's always been someone that -- he played at Mississippi State before me, I loved his approach in college. He hit zero home runs in college and now he's an All-Star in MLB. He's a guy a lot like me, who had to learn how to hit the ball a little bit harder. And he did that. It comes with age, it comes with hard work, but I love the way Frazier goes about his business and how he works.
MiLB.com: Putting on some more muscle showed up with the nine homers last year. Besides getting physically stronger, how do you find the power stroke?
Mangum: Just small things, here and there. I can break down hitting with you all day but the big thing is to just work hard. There's no cookie-cutter swing or how to swing and what to do. But what I truly believe is, whatever is going to help you most, go with it full speed and just believe in it. Everyone hits differently, so there's no correct answer how to do it.
MiLB.com: The final press conference you did after the 2019 College World Series was pretty famous when you told coach Chris Lemonis that he'd bring the first title to Mississippi State. What was it like to see him do it the next season?
Mangum: We were playing the Richmond Flying Squirrels at Richmond. Me and my college teammate [and fellow Mets prospect] Cole Gordon were in the same locker room, we were able to watch the last inning together, so we were real thankful for that. I was so happy for the university. It's the best fan base in the country. They deserved a National Championship and we finally got to bring one home for them. I hate that I wasn't part of the team, but I'm happy they were able to do it quickly, the year after we left.
MiLB.com: Now, I've never been to Starkville ...
Mangum: It should definitely be on everyone's bucket list. I'll say that. If you're a baseball fan, going to Dudy-Noble for a Saturday night baseball game should be on your bucket list.
MiLB.com: What is it about Dudy-Noble?
Mangum: No matter who we play, our fans will give them hell for nine innings. But, after the game, they'll meet them, wish them luck and say God bless.
MiLB.com: During the pandemic, you ran 'The Jake Mangum Show' on YouTube with some pretty big guests like Pete Alonso and Ben McDonald. What was that like for you?
Mangum: When you're a senior sign, you don't make any money and you have a couple business opportunities with some people that were willing to advertise on the show, I was able to make some money. But it was something fun. During the pandemic, I wanted to do something productive. Who knows? If whenever I'm done playing, if I ever want to do TV or broadcasting, that was a great start. It was a fun experience. I got to meet a lot of cool people. I got to pick the brains of a lot of cool people that really know what they do and do it well. It was a really cool experience.
MiLB.com: Anything from that experience still stand out?
Mangum: Everyone I interviewed was different. They all have different things I picked up on. The biggest thing I'd say was, they all believed in themselves, whatever they did. I'll say that.
MiLB.com: What was the contact like with the Mets, considering they drafted you twice?
Mangum: The area scout for the Mets was Jet Butler. He played at Mississippi State. I'm very close with him. He's a dear friend of mine and I'm very thankful for him for believing in me, JT Ginn, Cole Gordon and Rowdey Jordan. JT got traded [to Oakland in the Chris Bassitt deal], but that's four drafted off the same Mississippi State team. That was a special experience, but man, I'm so thankful for Jet Butler. He's a great guy.
MiLB.com: You said in that famous Omaha press conference, 'baseball is like life in that what matters is how you respond.' How do you view that philosophy as a professional?
Mangum: Billy Eppler said at camp, he had a great quote, he said, 'Your road to the show will have a lot of pain in it.' And it comes and goes, but there's also a lot of beautiful things in this game in the Minor Leagues. I've made some of the best friends of my life in the Minors. Some great chemistry. Great experience was winning a championship in 2019. It was a special experience. There's a lot of good and a lot of bad, man. That's just kind of how life rolls sometimes. No matter what happens, get up, keep attacking each day, have a good attitude and be ready to go.
MiLB.com: You mentioned playing in Brooklyn, which I'm sure was a very different type of place for you. What was that experience like?
Mangum: Brooklyn was a different experience from Mississippi, man. But I enjoyed the city. It's very unique. A lot of great stuff in the city. Brooklyn was a great time. We won the championship, so there's not much complaints there. Took some getting used to, but hopefully I'm able to experience it again at Citi Field.
MiLB.com: What does a successful 2022 season look like to you?
Mangum: Play every game like it's my last, and let the rest take care of itself.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.