And now, the moment you’ve been anxiously awaiting! Welcome back for Part 3 of our four-part series the 2012 Mets Long Season Minor League Roster Preview. If you missed the first two chapters there is a link to them at the bottom of this page. With just over three weeks left to go before the start of spring training, where will the Mets Top Prospects be playing this year? Well several will be at AA. Let’s find out who they are. So without further adieu, it is with great pleasure that I present to you:
The 2012 Opening Day Roster of the Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League.
Kai Gronauer (C) – Kai was supposed to be the number one catcher at AA last year, and he was when the season started. Actually he was one of the top catching prospects in the organization heading into last year. Unfortunately most of his 2011 campaign was wiped out due to a severe hamstring injury suffered early in the season. He missed a couple of months with the injury and when he came back, he was unable to get on-track. If Gronauer is healthy next year, he will have to fend off an attack against his starting job by a couple of younger players coming up behind from A-ball. Gronauer’s defensive abilities are outstanding, but his good health and his bat will need to be evident this spring, if he is to fight off the challengers.
Juan Centeno (C) - One of the challengers for playing time will be Centeno, who had a good season as the back-up at St. Lucie last year. In 157 AB’s he batted .318 with 1 HR and 11 RBI’s. The Mets then sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he got in another 47 AB’s, and hit .234. The lefty-hitting Centeno is a good defensive catcher, and for his minor league career has thrown out 38% of would-be base-stealers.
Francisco Pena (C) - The other challenger would be last season’s starter at St. Lucie, Francisco Pena. After missing the entire 2010 season with a foot injury, last year was supposed to be the year that cemented Pena’s status as a prospect. Instead, he cemented his status as a disappointment, by hitting .223 with 5 HR’s and 37 RBI’s in 319 AB’s. 2012 will be Pena’s 6th season in the Mets system and to call it a make-or-break year for him would be an understatement.
Jefry Marte (1B) - I am going out on a limb and predict the Mets will decide to move Marte across the diamond to first-base next year. As much as anything this will enable them to move Wilmer Flores to third-base, and he can still co-exist in the same line-up as Marte. If they don’t, and Marte remains at 3B once he gets to Binghamton, then the player I list here at 3B, would start at 1B instead.
Robbie Shields (2B) - Like Pena this year might very well be the last opportunity for Shields who has been injured nearly every season, and has failed to be able to stay on the field. Although he missed a major portion of 2011 with back problems, assuming he’s healthy he would have the inside track on the 2B job at AA, but if he is injured again, it could be the end-of-the-line.
Sean Kazmar (SS) - A minor league veteran picked up by the Mets as a free-agent this winter, the 27-year-old Kazmar offers experience and depth around the infield. He should fill in adequately until Danny Muno arrives sometime towards the end of the season.
Eric Campbell (3B) – The aforementioned player who will go to first-base if Marte gets stationed at third. He should hold down the position until Flores arrives from single A. Campbell is coming off a very poor year at Binghamton in which he batted .247 with 4 HR’s and 46 RBI’s in 405 AB’s. He needs to turn things around this season, to remain with the organization.
Michael Fisher (INF) - The switch-hitting infielder will turn 27 before the season starts, but he has been doing an excellent job filling in wherever the Mets have needed him the last two seasons since joining the organization. At AA next year he will provide insurance for the infield corners, and can also play 2B or DH if he is needed there. Last year while at Binghamton Fisher hit .290 in 200 AB’s, with 3 HR’s and 24 RBI’s. The rest of last season he spent with the AAA Bisons where he batted .259 in 251 AB’s with 4 HR’s and 21 RBI’s.
Rylan Sandoval (2B) - Sandoval also had a very disappointing 2011 as the second-baseman at St. Lucie, he hit .224 with 8 HR’s and 35 RBI’s in 313 AB’s. If and when the inevitable injury knocks out Robbie Shields, Sandoval slots in at second-base.
Sean Ratliff (LF) - Ratliff returns after a lost season in 2011 in which he underwent multiple surgeries on his right eye to reattach his retina after being struck by a foul ball during spring training. In a recent interview with MMO, Ratliff explained that he is optimistic he will be ready to play by the start of the season, and he expects to pick right up where he left off at the end of 2010. A 6’3″ lefty hitter with good speed and plus home run power, Ratliff needs to reinstate himself as one of the top outfielders in the system.
Matt den Dekker (CF) - Den Dekker returns to Binghamton where he played the last half of 2011. He had a pretty rough first go-round in the Eastern League, and needs to slaughter a few demons there before he proves he is ready to battle AAA pitching. In 272 AB’s he hit .235, but did somehow manage to hit 11 HR’s, which definitely made people take notice. But with an unfathomable 91 strikeouts in those 272 AB’s, it is quite obvious which demon needs to get slaughtered first.
Cesar Puello (RF) - OK, I can finally have a little fun with one of these write-ups! Even though 2011 was a slightly off-year for Puello just like almost everyone else on this roster, he did show a great deal of growth, is still very young, and solidified himself as a top Mets prospect. He will be looking to have that break-out year in 2012 that the entire Mets nation has been waiting for. Last season Puello was playing in the Florida State League as a 20-year-old, and he started out struggling, and continued to struggle until July. On July 1st he was hitting .235, but then got hot and hit .297 with 5 HR’s and 17 RBI’s for the month. In August he continued to hit well batting .333 and cutting way down on his strikeouts for the month. There would be no point in sending him back to single-A, and this is the year the Mets hope to see Puello spring-board to the next level.
Pedro Zapata (LF) - If Ratliff is not ready to go at the start of the season, Zapata would fill in for him until he is ready. It is exactly the kind of test that Zapata needs so the Mets can assess what they have in him. He is 6’4″ and 24-years-old, and has never played above A-ball. He is very fast, but only plays LF. Last year in 452 AB’s at St. Lucie, he batted .292 with 36 SB’s and was only caught stealing 6 times. That’s it for the good stuff. Now the not-so-good-stuff. More of a slap-hitter, in those 452 AB’s he only hit 3 HR’s, which gives him 5 for his entire career (he hit two in 2010 as a 22-year-old), before 2010 he had zero. His K/BB ratio was 86/23, not good enough for a table-setter. Unfortunately for Zapata, he is running out of time, and there’s still such a long way to go.
Rafael Fernandez (OF) - An extremely versatile defender who can play any of the OF positions makes Fernandez a perfect choice for the 4th outfielder. The lefty hitting 23-year-old played mostly at Savannah last year with just 32 AB’s at St. Lucie, but he also played at St. Lucie in 2010, when he hit .300 in 200 AB’s. His overall numbers in 2011 were: .265, with 65 runs, 122 hits, 24 2B’s, 12 3B’s, 6 HR’s, 67 RBI’s, 70 walks, and a whopping 130 strikeouts, in 460 AB’s. He also stole 21 bases and only got caught 4 times. If not for those strikeouts, he would be a prospect. Until he cuts the K’s way down, we’ll just be talking about him as a 4th outfielder in AA-ball.
Zack Wheeler (SP1) - So much has been written about this 22-year-old righty already. All I’m going to say is that it is a foregone conclusion that Zack will be anchoring the B-Mets rotation next season. With his talent and advanced skills, he will be making Eastern League hitters look quite ridiculous I would imagine.
Darin Gorski (SP2) - Gorski arrives in AA to prove to all the skeptics that 2011 was no fluke. In an interview with MMO just before Christmas, when asked about making the jump to AA, the 24-year-old south-paw had this to say: “That is what I have been told, everyone talks about that jump and I am excited to see what all the fuss is about. As far as I am concerned regardless of what level you are at the game never changes. Pitches that get guys out are still going to get guys out you just need to limit your mistakes as you go. You continue to work every day to be the best you can when you get out there and that means limiting mistake pitches, if you can do that you can get guys out and that is the name of the game.”
Scott Moviel (SP3) - After an uneven performance in 2011, Moviel needs to have a strong start to keep the Mets faith in him. Should he struggle at AA and have to be sent back to St. Lucie again, it will represent a serious setback for the big right-hander. In a recent interview with MMO, Moviel talked about his confidence heading into 2012: “I know that wherever I end up all my job will be, is to do my best, compete, have fun, and finish the season with improvements that will get me into a big league Mets uniform! My focus next season is as always repeating my delivery and throwing strikes with all of my pitches. As to the jump from High-A to AA, all I know is you have to throw strikes and challenge hitters with all of your pitches and success will surface.”
Greg Peavey (SP4) – Peavey, a right-hander, split the 2011 season between Savannah and St. Lucie going a combined 11-6 with a 3.48 ERA over 24 GS and 137 IP’s. His K/BB ratio was a very good 108/26. The 23-year-old Peavey just needs to continue to miss bats as he climbs to the next level of the minors.
Kyle Allen (SP5) - Although still only 22, the right-handed Allen will probably only get one more chance to start, after the two miserable seasons he has had in a row. 2011 was supposed to be a comeback season for him, his second at St. Lucie, after a rotten 2010 there in which he went 6-8 with a 5.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 53/54. But in 2011, still at Lucy, he regressed even more going 6-11 with a 6.28 ERA, and a K/BB of 74/59. If he starts out in 2012 the same way he has the last two seasons he will be sent to the bullpen (probably in St. Lucie), to try and straighten himself out.
Brandon Moore (SP6) - A 50-game suspension from the start of the season will keep Moore on the shelf until June at the earliest. Last year he led the Binghamton staff in GS (25), IP (133), Wins (10), and strikeouts (105).
Josh Edgin (CL) - After closing for Savannah for the first half of 2011, Edgin didn’t miss a beat upon his second half promotion to St. Lucie. His combined numbers for the year were: 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA and 27 Saves. In 66 IP’s he gave up only 44 hits, 2 HR’s, walked 23 and struck out 76. The one problem with Edgin is he has yet to be challenged. He is now 25-years-old, and until he can beat up on hitters his own age, expectations have to remain somewhat tempered. If he repeats his success at AA then he’s for real, and hopefully his remaining minor league stops will be brief ones, so he can soon reach his potential.
Roy Merritt (LHP) - Merritt enters his sixth season in the Mets system, and the third that he will pitch at Binghamton. He struggled there last season going 1-1 with a 5.26 ERA, and this year will be battling for a job with two other left-handers, for what are probably only two open bullpen spots.
Eric Niesen (LHP) - One of the other pitchers battling for a lefty bullpen spot, this season will represent Niesen’s last chance as a Met. This will be Niesen’s sixth season in the farm system, and his performance thus far has been absolutely dreadful. But the Mets love his “live” arm, and since he’s left-handed they will give him one more shot to prove he can harness his command. He did find some success for a brief period of time last year while working with pitching coach Phil Regan at St. Lucie. In 24 games covering 36 IP’s at the end of 2011 Niesen went 3-3 with an ERA of 3.00, 32 K’s and only 6 walks. The first half at AA his K/BB ratio was 22/31, so you can see how he was able to turn things around. The question is which Eric Niesen is going to arrive in Florida for ST in three weeks? If it’s the new version, from the end of last year, he will be quickly on his way to Buffalo.
Brandon Sage (LHP) - This is the player that is going to have to beat out either Niesen or Merritt for one of the two lefty spots in the bullpen. And Sage will have his work cut out for him considering how ineffective he was while at Binghamton last year. Sage has pitched pretty well for his career, while at A-ball. But now 25 years-old, he must prove he can do it at the upper levels of the system. His first go-round in AA was last year and he went 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA, in 20 IP’s. He struck out 18 and walked 13, but he gave up 4 HR’s, and the opposition hit .306 off him. He’ll need to be better next year, there aren’t too many 25-year-old pitchers in A-ball.
Brad Holt (RHP) - The perfect “8th inning guy”, at least so the Mets hope. The experimentation with Holt as a starting pitcher is over, as the Mets try and retool him into a fire-balling relief ace. If Holt is ready to embrace the role, and more importantly, if he can keep his mechanics sound, he should excel quite nicely. Best scenario: a quick start that gets him a late May call-up to AAA, and he never looks back.
Eric Beaulac (RHP) - Last season Beaulac was due to make his transition from starter to reliever. The 6’5″ righty with a propensity for throwing ground balls was barely able to make any progress though as he went down to injury at the beginning of May, and didn’t return until mid-August. For the year he only got in 30 IP’s between St. Lucie, and Binghamton, but was pitching very well at the end of the year.
Nick Carr (RHP) - Another hard-throwing right-hander who has been battling injuries. Like Beaulac, Carr missed nearly the entire 2011 season before returning in August and pitching well. When healthy Carr is one of the hardest throwers in the system. Hopefully when the bell rings on 2012 he’ll be 100% and ready to go.
Erik Turgeon (RHP) - A workhorse out of the Binghamton bullpen in 2011, Turgeon pitched a lot, but the quality wasn’t really there. He appeared in 51 games, throwing 73 IP’s, with a record of 5-4 and an ERA of 5.33, and his 91 hits surrendered caused him to have an opponents batting average of .307. This season he’ll be 25, and can’t afford to pitch again like he did in 2011.
John Church (RHP) - A versatile pitcher who was effective in 4 games as a starter, and as a reliever the rest of 2011 at St. Lucie. Church went into a slump and pitched very poorly in May and June, but he righted the ship and was effective the rest of the year, recovering to finish with a record of 5-2 and a 4.03 ERA. Church will be a big part of the Bingo bullpen next year.
Michael Powers (RHP) - The 6’3″ right-hander pitched in 6 games for Binghamton at the beginning of 2011, going 2-0 with a 3.28 ERA, but an overload of relievers caused him to be sent to St. Lucie where he pitched for the majority of the season going 6-5 with a 2.90 ERA. Like Church, Powers should be a very useful reliever for Bingo next season.
Although appearing fairly weak in the infield, the rest of the roster looks pretty solid if unspectacular. Good starting pitching, a very deep, quality bullpen, depth at the catching position, and a very talented outfield, should make the B-Mets a fun team to watch this year. The infield will of course improve, when Flores is promoted from single-A sometime in the first half. Whether or not they make the playoffs will depend on how far their starting pitching can carry them. For this to happen they will need big bounce-back years from Kyle Allen and Scott Moviel, who both struggled in the St. Lucie rotation in 2011, and for Darin Gorski to show the skeptics that he is for real.
Part 1: Savannah Sand Gnats
Part 2: St. Lucie Mets
Check back next week for the series’ 4th and final installment:
The 2012 Buffalo Bisons