I caught up with Mack Ade of Mack’s Mets for a Q&A about the Savannah Sand Gnats the other day. Mack was nice enough to answer a whole lot of questions about the Mets farmhands that passed through Savannah this past season. Which players are going to advance to St. Lucie next year? Which players will stay back in Savannah? Which ones are prospects? And which are suspects? Keep reading to find out what Mack had to say!
Petey: We are talking today with Mack Ade of Mack’s Mets, the longest running, most comprehensive, and simply the best, Mets blog specializing in the minor leagues, on the web. Hi Mack, I feel like I’m in the company of greatness! You must have heard I was beating the bushes looking for people to interview for MMO. Thanks for agreeing to let me fire some questions your way. Your blog, Mack’s Mets, is one of my favorites. It is the place to go for anything Mets minor league, interviews, insights, and great links to other neat stuff (including the occasional, latest Petey Pete blog!), it’s all there, and when MLB draft time gets close your coverage and informative analysis of the players is second to none. What was it that led you to start Mack’s Mets in the first place?
Mack: Well, I started it after an early retirement from the broadcast industry, after a brain injury that cost me a large portion of my short term memory. The doctors told me that reading and writing would help bring things back and prevent more from being lost. I was a Mets fan, so, I decided to start a blog on my favorite team. I also did a little research and saw that no one was writing exclusively on the minor league affiliates so… and the rest you can figure out.
Petey: OK now it gets tougher, put on your thinking cap Mack. Since you get to see way more Savannah Sand Gnats games than any of MMO’s readers or staff, I’d love it if you could give us scouting reports on a trio of pitchers who had pretty good seasons for the Gnats this year. The intriguing prospects I am referring to are RHP’s Taylor Whitenton, the South Atlantic League ERA leader from 2011, (5-5 2.49), Johan Almonte, (8-8 3.91), and Gonzalez Germen, (7-7 3.93). Give us an idea of what kind of stuff they throw, and can you see any, or all three of them cracking the St. Lucie rotation next year?
Mack: To be honest with you, all three of these have to show me a little more next season. Mike Antonini (2.71), Angel Calero (2.56), Mark Cohoon (3.82), Robert Carson (3.21), Kyle Allen (3.45), Eric Beaulac (2.95)… get the picture? Whitenton throws a 89-91 MPH fastball, 81-83 MPH changeup, and slurvy, mid-70′s curveball. Definitely impressed the league, but this is A-ball. Needs to develop more velo. Almonte is another of those 1000s of low-90s guys. Throws a slider and a change-up and his good games are based on successful mixing of three sub-plus pitches. Frankly, I was real high on Germen when he played in Latin America, but he has been very inconsistent stateside. I don’t see any of these making a pro rotation someday.
Petey: Two guys who pitched last season for the Gnats have been used as both starters and relievers in their professional careers. I am referring to LHP Chase Huchingson, and RHP Ryan Fraser. Do you see these players settling in the bullpen or the rotation some day?
Mack: Hutch is an interesting find. Never was drafted. Hit .236 in school as an outfielder and pitched with an 8.36 ERA. Pitched well as a starter but there were too many on the team. Moved to pen and continued to dominate. A 6-5 lefty that keeps the ball down. Where do you pitch him? Fraser was the Cyclone closer in 2010 but was converted to a starter last season because he simply hadn’t thrown that many pitches… his entire life. There doesn’t seem to be any room for him, either in the Savannah or St. Lucie 2012 rotation, so I expect him to be in the Lucy pen.
Petey: I just thought of two more pitchers I want to get your impression of: RHP’s Erik Goeddel who unfortunately spent some time on the disabled list last season, but came back to finish strong down the stretch and in the post-season. And Greg Peavey who went 6-2 3.12 ERA before heading up to St. Lucie. Can you give us your impressions of them?
Mack: I like both, but they remind me of so many others that have come through here. Peavey was an original Yankee draftee. Sits in the 92-94 range, but came to Savannah as a two-pitch starter. Was programmed to add a curve which hurt his Sally stats. Hitters ground out a lot here. Goeddel is a little slower than Peavey but has great stuff. Originally was a reliever but faired well as a starter in 2011. He will come back to Savannah in April.
Petey: How about these relievers Mack? First the guy everybody’s been buzzing about, the man who simply refuses to give up any runs, and he’s a lefty reliever besides, Josh Edgin, can you profile him for us? And Ham Bennett another lefty in the pen, put up some outstanding numbers in his own right, what is he all about on the mound?
Mack: Edgin is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. Late rounder, nothing to scream about in school. Comes to Savannah, doesn’t get a single out in his first outing… his ERA the next day was infinity… and then doesn’t give up an earned run for almost the entire season. He continued his mastery at Lucy and I think he’s the real deal. He’s a power lefty that sits in the low-90s, with sink. J.P. thinks he could be ready next year, but that’s what they said about Eddie Kunz and Roy Merritt. He’s old enough, but I have him in Queens in 2013. Bennett is a completely different pitcher. First of all, he looks like Errol Flynn.. ¾ slot, a power pitcher who’s fastball sits 88-90, and hits 92. A decent curve. The fastball is his go-to pitch. He’ll throw it at you until you hit it. Local SC boy. Braves fan.
Petey: Let’s move onto the hitters. New Yorkers who follow the Mets are somewhat familiar with CF Darrell Ceciliani, who broke in with the 2010 Brooklyn Cyclones in a really big way. He started 2011 hurt with a bad hammy. Once he returned to the Gnats in May, it seemed as if he was mired in a slump at the start of his season, but he gradually brought himself out of it and then put on the steam going down the stretch. What were your initial impressions of Ceciliani, when did you first start to see the real player emerge, and what were your final thoughts on his talent by the end of the year?
Mack: First of all, never look at a stat below Savannah again. They mean nothing. Half the ballplayers are 20+ round draft picks that should be finishing their college education rather than follow a dream that is never to be. The pitchers can’t find the barn and the hitters swing at anything. I could do a standup routine on great Cyclone stats. DC’s were one of the best, but his hammy went out the first week in Savannah, and, I don’t know if you ever had one of them, but they take a long time to heal. The last stage is when they feel right, but you can’t plant any weight on it when you swing. It’s a hitter’s nightmare. Great kid, very New York loud, but wary of the press. I’m going to write off 2011 and give him a push. Let’s see what he does at Lucy.
Petey: Two high profile Mets prospects had very rough years at Savannah in 2011, and they have both slid backwards on Mets prospects lists everywhere. I am referring of course to 3B Aderlin Rodriguez (.221), and C Blake Forsythe (.235). Is there a silver lining in these two clouds? Can we take any positives from what they showed this season? Were they showing any signs by the end of the year? Or do you think they have moved from prospect status to suspect status?
Mack: I started covering the Sand Gnats in 2005 when they were a Washington Nationals affiliate. It’s amazing how few A+ bats I have seen go through the Sally. This year, it was Manny Machado and Bryce Brentz. In 2005, it was Ryan Zimmerman. And in between it was Heyward and Montero. Zimmerman was easily the best Sand Gnat, but Aderlin Rodriguez is a close second, and, by far, the top Met bat ever for this affiliate. He’s much younger mentally than his young age physically, and he simply can’t catch a cold, but he’ll return to Savannah in 2012 to try and master somewhere. Wait until this kid learns plate discipline. Forsythe was a Vegas bet. He had an aberration as a sophomore in school, followed by a shit year as a junior. The Mets rolled the dice, hoping the junior year was the aberration. Good defensive, and has pop, he’s a good kid and 2012 could be his last shot as a starter (if it’s even available to him).
Petey: Two players have intrigued me for a while now, they are borderline prospects but I am wondering if you think they will continue to advance in the system, and what their ceilings could be. The first OF Joe Bonfe, was rarely used when the season began, but by the stretch run and the play-offs, it seemed as if he were the team’s best hitter. The second is C Albert Cordero, who had a terrific season hitting .286 in 324 AB’s, and in a farm system like the Mets have we can’t take any catching prospect too lightly. What did you like about these two players respective games?
Mack: Bonfe is as smart as he is nice. He came to Savannah as a third baseman, saw there was nothing open for him there, and convinced management to play him at first and the outfield. This is a Queens utility player with a big bat in the working. I like Cordero over all the other Mets minor league catchers (which, on the surface, is easy). Has great contact, can spray both gaps and has an above average arm. I have no idea how he calls the game or what the pitchers think of him. He also looks like he’s three feet two, but that’s just me.
Petey: Three youngsters were added to the Gnats roster for the play-offs, and I was wondering if any of them impressed you initially? SS Juan Carlos Gamboa, C Cam Maron, and OF-3B Dustin Lawley. In a recent interview I did with Akeel Morris, he singled out Lawley as someone who really impressed him this year. Were you able to see any of them play?
Mack: I know very little about either Maron or Lawley. I do know that Sandy and J.P. are high on Maron. Regarding JCG, the Mets may have a live one here. He’s lights out in fall ball and will play Savannah next season.
Petey: Last question Mack. What is up with OF Javier Rodriguez? Is he a legit prospect? Or another wasted high draft pick? It would have been nice to see him finally make some progress this season, but if anything he has regressed. Do you see him turning it around next year?
Mack: He was. He then signed late and started his minor league career even later. He never seems to get a decent assignment which sometimes speaks volumes about attitude and motivation. He played very quietly for Savannah and was shipped out even quieter. Don’t get too excited about his Brooklyn numbers last year because he’s far too old to be playing there. No, I’ve never directly heard anything bad about him, but the dream does look over.
Petey: Well Mack, I could go on like this for hours, but I have to walk the dogs, we really have to do this again though, it was fun. I just hope someone reads this besides you and me! Haha! Have a great Thanksgiving if I don’t talk to you! And keep up the great work!
I want to thank Mack for all the great little nuggets he provided. I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. If you aren’t familiar with Mack’s website, Mack’s Mets, then click here to check it out.