Prospect Pulse: The Left-Handed Pitchers
In the on-going endeavor to compile as many stats, and as many lists as possible regarding our beloved Amazin’s, here is the NY Mets 2012 Top Ten Left-Handers in the farm system, list. In previous posts I have identified areas of weakness in the farm system at the positions of catcher, and shortstop. Here is another area that desperately needs some upgrading: left-handed pitching. Let’s hope the front office is up to the task.
1. Darin Gorski - Gorski’s breakout season in 2011 has been widely documented and blogged about. The just turned 24-year-old, went from being a complete nobody, swinging to-and-fro between the Savannah rotation and bullpen in 2010, to the “ace” of the FSL Southern Division Champion St. Lucie Mets in 2011. How did he do it? Easy. Improved command on all his pitches, particularly a greatly improved change-up. Since Gorski’s fastball is normally in the high 80′s, topping out at 89-90, He has had to rely much more heavily on his off-speed pitches as he continues to climb the ladder. For the year, he went 11-3 with a 2.08 ERA, in 139 IP. His K/BB ratio was 140/29 and the Florida State League hit only .212 against him. This season was a very promising step, and his excellent development was rewarded when Gorski was named Mets Minor League Pitcher of the year for 2011. He should start next season in the AA Bingo rotation.
2. Juan Urbina – The 18-year-old son of former big leaguer Ugueth Urbina, has been taking baby steps since coming stateside before the 2010 season. It was hoped he would show some positive development this year at Rookie Level Kingsport, but it was an up and down season in which Urbina struggled with his command. His last five starts showed some positive signs when he went 3-1. Although he got bludgeoned in the one loss, the three wins were all pitched in dominant fashion, and glimpses of his awesome talent could be seen. In the three wins at seasons end, he combined for 17.2 IP giving up only 2 ER’s on 14 hits. He had a 15/4 K/BB ratio for the three games as well. Definitely a long-term project, with the talent there at this point, it’s as much a matter of physical maturity as anything else for Urbina, who will probably remain in extended ST next year, and open the season with Brooklyn.
3. Robert Carson – Originally drafted by the Mets out of high school with the 14th round pick of the 2007 draft, the 6’3″ Carson has now amassed over 450 minor league innings for the Mets. Despite this, his development has stalled. Carson who throws in the low 90′s, is coming off two very difficult years during which time he has struggled with command problems and as a result has been hit very hard. Splitting 2010 between St. Lucie and Bingo, he went a combined 8-11 with a 5.67 ERA, in 135 IP. What was alarming was his K/BB ratio of 99/56. Constantly falling behind in the count, resulted in the high number of walks, and caused him to come in with a fastball that was inevitably hit hard somewhere. His 166 hits surrendered and opponents batting average of .308 further attest to this. His 2011 season was more of the same. In 128 IP at Bingo, he went 4-11 with a 5.05 ERA, his batting average against went to .299, and his K/BB ratio had room for improvement at 91/55.
But the Mets know that you don’t give up early on a big strong lefty, who is still only 22 years-old, and can throw in the 90′s, so they have sent him to the Arizona Fall League in the hope that a strong showing there could help him refine his mechanics and restore some of his confidence. In two games at Peoria so far, Carson has thrown 3.1 IP, 1 walk, 1 strikeout, 6 hits and 2 earned runs. He should reach AAA in 2012, and may very well be pitching out of the pen.
4. Josh Edgin – Not many relievers had a better year on the farm than Edgin. The 6’1″, 24-year-old who was the 30th round selection of the 2010 draft, split the year evenly between Savannah and St. Lucie. In 66 IP, he went 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA, 27 saves, 44 hits allowed, a K/BB of 76/23, and opposing players managed to hit only .189 off him. Edgin could move very quickly through the system, but the true test will be how well he makes the significant jump to AA next year. If everything continues to go smoothly, he could be pitching at Citi in the not-too-distant future.
5. Jack “The Rocket” Leathersich – The 5th round pick in this years’ draft, Leathersich barely got his feet wet in professional ball. But the 12.2 IP he did get in left quite a lasting impression on the FO and the fan-base. Although a starter in college, “The Rocket” worked exclusively out of the ‘pen for the Clones in 2011. He gave up 6 hits and 1 run for an ERA of .071. Opponents hit only .136 against him, and his K/BB ratio of 26/3 is truly mind-boggling, albeit for a very small sample size. I have the 21-year-old penciled into the starting rotation at St. Lucie, to begin the 2012 season, and hopefully he will continue to create excitement when he toes the bump.
6. Eric Niesen – This guy has really struggled with his command, being a typical young lefty with a “live” arm, he suffers much the way Carson has. They both throw hard, Niesen touching the mid-nineties with his heat, and like Carson, he frequently would fall behind in the count and either lay a cookie right in there to get mashed, or he would walk the batter. Niesen’s numbers are very ugly for his career, but they don’t mean a lot. If he can harness his command, the distance to Citifield will get much shorter very quickly. He has the “stuff” to be successful in the majors, but whether he can turn the corner in his development is the big question. Last year he worked hard with St. Lucie pitching coach, Phil Regan, and Niesen believes he is finally on the right track. With Niesen now 26 years-old, let’s hope so.
7. Isaac Monrroy – This diminutive lefty was signed in 2009 as an IFA out of Panama. He just turned 21, stands 5’11″ and 155 lbs., and has a lot of growing to do, but the talent is there. Last year pitching for the GCL Mets, he tossed 23.1 IP out of the ‘pen, giving up 20 hits and 10 earned runs. His record was 3-3 with a 3.86 ERA and 2 saves, but the noticeable thing was his peripherals. He struck out 29 batters while only walking 4, and opponents hit .227 against him. Look for Monrroy to be on a similar path as Urbina next year, starting out in extended ST, and opening the year at Brooklyn.
8. Mark Cohoon - Although he was the 2010 Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year, the way the 24-year-old pitched this year at Buffalo, it is somewhat surprising for him to be on this list at all. Cohoon’s development seems to have been completely derailed at AAA, and the hope is that a fresh start next year will enable the young south-paw to make the necessary adjustments to succeed at the highest level of the minors, and beyond. After 9 starts at Bingo last year, Cohoon was called up to AAA Buffalo where he made another 18 starts. His combined numbers are not pretty. In 146 IP, he gave up 179 hits, including 18 HR’s. His K/BB ratio was 95/55 and opponents hit .308 against him. His overall record was 5-14 with a 5.29 ERA. The mystifying part is that he had never had any command issues before this past season. His control had always been impeccable, so perhaps a turn-around for him next year isn’t out of the question. He may not throw hard, but if he can regain his lost command, he may emerge as a bullpen option for the big club, down the road.
9. Angel Cuan – Another tiny lefty from Panana! But this one has a knack for winning ballgames. He is 22 years-old, but despite his size 5’11″, 150 lbs., he succeeds at each level he pitches. Like Cohoon, Cuan doesn’t project to be much more than a lefty reliever one day. He doesn’t throw hard either, topping out at 89, so he must rely on control and finesse, and good off-speed pitches. His best pitches are his curveball and change-up, and his arsenal was good enough for him to virtually carry the Savannah Sand Gnats into the play-offs this season, with Cuan getting stronger down the stretch. For the year he hurled 124 IP, giving up 125 hits. His K/BB ratio was 99/16, batting average against was .262, and his overall record was 10-3 with a .356 ERA. Expect Cuan to be in the St. Lucie rotation next year.
10. Hamilton Bennett – This was tough. I really had a tough time deciding on number ten as there were at least three guys who could easily be in that slot. I threw together a short list with names like Adam Kolarek, and Chase Huchingson, and Carlos Vasquez, and even the name Steven Matz briefly flitted through one of the burned-out crevices of my brain before I settled on the true, 10th Best Left-Handed Pitching Prospect in the whole darn Mets minor league system! 23 year-old, Hamilton J. Bennett. Otherwise known as “Ham”. He was the closer for the SAL Southern Division Champion Savannah Sand Gnats this season. He went 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA and 14 saves. In 54 IP he gave up only 30 hits, 1 HR, and had an opponents BA against of .166. His K/BB ratio was 56/15. Bennett should be a major contributor out of the St. Lucie pen next year and if he stays healthy could finish the year at AA.
As you can plainly see, the system is utterly devoid of left-handed pitching talent. Where are the studs? The lefty power-arms? There aren’t any. Two-thirds of these guys are still years and years away and the other three might never make it to the bigs, due to command problems. Yeeesh! We need left-handers, and lot’s of them! Everybody make it your holiday/birthday wish this year. Lotsa lefties…please Mr. Alderson!
Beginning next week, MMO will begin rolling out it’s “official” 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospects List, starting with number 20 and working up to the top prospect for 2012. Two players will be unveiled and profiled each week for the next ten weeks. You will be able to take a poll at the bottom of each post where you can vote for the player you think should be in the next slot. The first of the series, number 20, will be posted on Monday the 17th.
About the Author: Peter Shapiro
The first time I went to Shea was not for a Mets game, it was for the Beatles concert there in August of '66. My first Met game was '67, a guy named Salty Parker was the interim-manager then. My first pennant race was 1969. As a 12 year-old that summer and fall, I managed to get to the park for 3 games. The first was the beginning of the Miracle which actually started on Tuesday July 8, 1969 with a day game against the Cubs. I was there a lot in '73. I saw games 3 & 5 of the 1973 NL Playoffs against the "Big Red Machine", from the upper deck behind home plate. It was from there that I witnessed the fight between Bud Harrelson and Pete Rose, and the mayhem that ensued. And that sweet victory in game 5! I saw a couple of WS games at Shea that year against that legendary Oakland A's club. I was there in 1985 for every single game Dr. K pitched including his two 16 strikeout performances, and the day he one-hit the Cubs on an infield single and the Mets won 1-0. I loved being a Met fan in those days. Hopefully we are once again preparing to emerge from the darkness.
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