DOWNEY -- When he grew up, Gabriel Llanes wanted to do what his father did.
In Llanes’ case, this meant being a professional baseball player because his father, Pedro, who goes by Pete, was the Baltimore Orioles’ first round draft pick in 1984. Albeit he was not a first round selection, the younger Llanes can at least say he is on the same path.
Selected in the 15th round of the 2014 MLB Draft by the New York Mets, the Downey native saw the opportunity and decided it would be a good time to transition to pro ball -- out of high school.
“Coming out of high school, I was dead-set on going to college just because you never know with the draft. In high school, my senior year, I really thought I was going to Fresno State. But then the opportunity arose and I took advantage of it.
“I’m definitely big on trying to make my dreams come true,” he added. “Taking that next step from high school directly into pro ball was definitely big for me.”
Drawing interest from Long Beach State and San Diego State, Llanes had been committed to Fresno State. But as he went 6-4 with a 0.92 ERA his senior year at Downey High School, apparently, he also caught the attention of professional teams.
Llanes said his parents had a major influence on his decision to sign with the Mets organization and as the June draft approached, his father started telling him more about the pro ball experience. Llanes liked what he heard, hence why he is in the Mets system.
“It was definitely more of an instincts thing,” he said. “Obviously, the Mets are a big organization, a great organization. I had the opportunity to come out and play, so I’m taking advantage of it.”
In his third professional season, Llanes has become an anchor in the Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets Short-Season A affiliate) rotation. Thus far, he is 4-6 with a 3.41 ERA in 12 outings (11 starts) this summer. Looking at the stats, it has been his most successful year of his pro career.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I get to come out here and play baseball every day. It’s definitely living the dream,” he said.
At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Llanes is more of a finesse pitcher than one who overpowers the opposition. He has struck out just 33 batters in 68.2 innings this year, but he has walked just eight men in the same span.
Throughout his pro career, command has been Llanes’ best asset. It may seem ironic since his father walked more batters (198) than he struck out (161) in his pro career.
While his command might be where he wants it, Llanes is taking his time with the Cyclones to work out other parts of his game that might not be as sharp.
“Right now, I’m taking this opportunity to work on perfecting my mechanics,” he said. “I’m definitely working on helping out my slider. It’s definitely been the worst part of my game, so I’m definitely trying to improve that.”