Prospect Pulse: The 2012 Buffalo Bisons
And now for your amusement, Part 4 of the four part mini-series exclusive, right here on MMO. The internet place where baseball imagination runs rampant! First we brought you Part 1, which seemed like a good place to start, but it was so long ago that I forgot what it was about, so here’s the link: The 2012 Savannah Sand Gnats. Then we brought you Part 2, which makes perfect sense since it followed Part 1, I even remember a little bit of it: The 2012 St. Lucie Mets. We then followed those up with a real shocker, get ready for it…. Part 3: The 2012 Binghamton Mets. Now, to complete this royal flush of minor league mental gymnastics, I proudly announce, with no further adieu, what you’ve all been waiting for, and the envelope please……
THE 2012 BUFFALO BISONS
Rob Johnson (C) – The 29-year-old, righty-swinging Johnson has been on the AAA express since 2007, playing with Seattle until 2010, and then with San Diego last season. In 649 career AB’s, he is a lifetime .197 hitter in the bigs, with 8 HR’s and 58 RBI’s. He will battle against Mike Nickeas for the back-up job to Josh Thole in ST, and then will fight for playing time with Lucas May at Buffalo.
Lucas May (C) – May (pictured) is a veteran who has seen some time in the big leagues as well, getting 37 AB’s with Kansas City in 2010. Now 27, the right-handed hitter finds himself in a battle for playing time as the Bison back-stop, with Johnson. Last year May spent time with Omaha, and Reno in the PCL, and hit a combined .238 with 10 HR’s and 44 RBI’s, in 248 AB’s.
Dock Doyle (C) – The Bisons more than likely will not have the luxury of carrying a third catcher, but if they need to add one there would be no better choice than Dock Doyle. Wouldn’t you just love it if one of these days the Mets had a catcher named Dock Doyle? How cool would that be? I mean, wow. I can just hear Gary, “…and Dock Doyle is heading to the mound to try and settle down Little Pelf….” A lefty hitter who will play next season as a 26-year-old, Dock has been an ‘organizational’ guy since the 2008 season. Last year as a back-up for St. Lucie he hit .296 in 71 AB’s with 2 HR’s and 11 RBI’s.
Allan Dykstra (1B) – A solid 2011 season at AA Binghamton earns Dykstra the call-up to AAA, and he steps in to receive the bulk of the playing time at first base. Last year the 6’5″ lefty-swinger hit 19 HR’s and drove in 77 at Bingo, while hitting .267 in 390 AB’s. The only real hole in his game is the hole in his swing, which caused him to strikeout 131 times. He did however walk 69 times to give him an OBP of .389, hello Mr. Alderson! Dykstra is an intriguing prospect if he can cut down on the K’s he could become a force.
Reese Havens (2B) – Yes, one of the top second base prospects in all of baseball will be playing for the Bisons this year, IF he can stay healthy. All indications are that the spate of injuries that have hampered Havens are now behind him, and that we can look forward to our first good look at the player in spring training games coming up. A healthy Havens could progress quickly, and be in Citi before the end of the year, but right now I’ll take a full, healthy AAA season from him any day.
Jordany Valdespin (SS) – Valdespin (pictured), the top shortstop prospect in the system until further notice, will be trying to put the finishing touches on his game while playing at Buffalo this year. There is one big thing standing between him and the big leagues. Himself. If he were to show some humility, and obey his coaches and managers, the distance to Citifield would be much less. He has been a disciplinary problem each season so far and, at age 24 now, that selfish trend needs to stop. He also needs to work harder on his defense which is borderline terrible, and ditto his base-running. Should he take care of business, the bright lights are not that far off.
Zach Lutz (3B) – This will be the sixth minor league season for Lutz as a Met farmhand. In the first five, he has never made it through an entire season. A crippling injury of some kind or other has him averaging 53 games played each season of his pro career. Lutz will turn 26 this season, and his star is quickly fading. There is no question that this guy can hit. But this season he has to stay on the field and have a big year in order to remain on the 40-man roster, and in the organization. How do I know that time is running out for Lutz? Because the Mets just signed an 800-pound gorilla who plays the same position.
Matt Tuiasosopo (3B) – Meet the 800-pound gorilla. Of course, I’m joking. He’s nowhere near 800 lbs. But he is the gorilla standing in the corner and if Zach Lutz doesn’t stay healthy yet again, the Bisons will have Tuiasosopo ready to step in. Last year playing for Tacoma in the Pacific Coast League, the RH hitter hit .226 with 14 HR’s, and 77 RBI’s in 439 AB’s. For his major league career, in 193 AB’s Matt has a lifetime batting average of .176, with 5 HR’s and 15 RBI’s.
Valentino Pascucci (1B/DH) – Poppa Val, known to his friends as “Scooch” returns to Buffalo for a second straight year, much to the delight of Bisons fans everywhere. Scooch broke into pro ball with Vermont of the NYPL in 1999. Since then he has amassed over 4,500 minor league at-bats, and that doesn’t even include winter ball. He is a lifetime .273 hitter and has mashed 231 career minor league HR’s. Val even got a cup of coffee with the Mets last September, and used the opportunity to hit his 3rd big league dinger. He will share 1B and DH duties with Dykstra in what is shaping up to be a pretty powerful line-up.
Omar Quintanilla (INF) – Omar was just picked up this off-season to add stability to the middle infield situation at AAA, and here he is. The lefty hitter got 500 big league AB’s playing with the Rockies from 2005 to 2009, and added 22 AB’s with the Rangers in 2011, and is a .213 lifetime hitter in the major leagues.
Josh Satin (INF) – Satin is an excellent hitter, with a superb eye at the plate. He has simply raked at every level he has played, and always sports a very high OBP. Of course, the knock on him has always been his inability to play adequate defense at any one of his positions, 1B, 2B, 3B, which is why he doesn’t profile as an everyday player in the big leagues.
Juan Lagares (LF) – Lagares (pictured) exploded onto the prospect scene last year with a huge year, forcing the Mets to add him to the 40-man roster this winter or certainly lose him as a minor league free-agent. Lagares, a right-handed hitter who can also play a little bit of CF, may find himself covering center until Captain Kirk returns. Juan started the 2011 season at St. Lucie where he got just over 300 AB’s and hit .338. Once called up to AA Bingo, he got another 162 AB’s and hit .370, paving the way to Buffalo.
“Captain” Kirk Nieuwenhuis (CF) – He is likely to start the season on the DL as he rehabs from labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder last summer. I look for Nieuwenhuis to make a fast recovery however, and be back patrolling the green pastures of Coca-Cola Field by May.
Adam Loewen (RF) – The powerful pitcher-turned-outfielder, brings his act to the Mets organization. He will be battling for the Mets 25th roster spot in spring training, but the smart money says he opens in Buffalo, as the right-fielder. This was a good move by the organization picking this guy up, he is a lefty power bat that has some upside, in a system that has been challenged at developing that commodity for quite sometime.
Raul Reyes (OF) – If Captain Kirk does indeed start on the DL, I suspect Lagares shifts over to CF, and that opens up LF for the lefty-swinging Reyes. The 2012 season will be Reyes’ 7th in the Mets system, and 2011 was a career year for him. He spent most of last year at AA where he batted .292 in 367 AB’s with 12 HR’s and 50 RBI’s, before an 18-game, August cup of coffee with Buffalo. Now 25, Reyes hopes to build on his success from last year, and work his way into consideration for one of those in-season promotions to the “Show”.
Vinny Rottino (UT) - A very versatile utility player who can play any of the four corner positions as well as catch. A minor league veteran, the righty hitting Rottino will turn 32 at the beginning of the season, and brings experience and depth to five positions.
Matt Harvey (SP1) – I know I’m going to take a lot of flack for even suggesting that Harvey be sent to Buffalo to start the 2012 season, but I am certain that even if he does start the season at AA Binghamton, his stay there will be an extremely short one. Harvey was an advanced pitcher when the Mets made him the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft, out of the University of North Carolina. Although his first three starts at AA last year were rough, he made the necessary adjustments on-the-fly, and pitched much more effectively in his last nine starts there. There is an argument for sending him back to AA for another 60 innings or so, but I think it will depend on how he is throwing the ball in spring training. And I expect him to be throwing the ball very well in ST. Pitching this season a year older, and a year wiser, as a 23-year-old, I think Harvey is one year away from being big-league-ready, whether he starts 2012 at Bingo or Buffalo. Can you tell me what is such a significant difference between the Eastern League, and the International League anyway? I thought not. I mean the difference between the big leagues and AAA is huge. The difference between AA and AAA? Not so huge. To bring Harvey up to the big leagues this season would be a big mistake by the Mets, unless it is for a four-start cup of coffee at the end of the year. But to start him in AAA, let him get established there, and see what he can do over a full season and 150 IP’s, and 2013 will be looking much brighter.
Jeurys Familia (SP2) – Ditto “Family” (pictured), who has also arrived at AAA, only the path he took to get there was completely different from Harvey’s. Seven months younger than Harvey, Family will play this season as a 22-year-old. Where Harvey signed a contract at age 21, Family was 17 when he signed his first pro contract. Familia has now logged 430 professional IP’s in his career, and all that hard work is paying off in the efficiency of his mechanics, the development of his secondary pitches, and his physical maturation. What we have now is a player who like Harvey is about a year away, hopefully any big league needs that have to be filled this year can be done so with Harvey and Family remaining down on the farm.
Pedro Beato (SP3) – This is “Cool Pitching Experiment 2012.” With the off-season acquisitions of Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez, Big Jon Rauch, the pleasant development of Manny Acosta and Josh Stinson, and the fact that Bobby Parnell is still here, do we really still need Beato to plug a huge hole in the bullpen? Heck no! Now is the time to see if we can tap this guy’s true potential and make a starter out of him. The only way it will work is if they commit whole-heartedly to it for an entire season. Well, with 2012 looking like a throw-away year anyway, and all these new relief guys, this is the perfect time to really see what we’ve got with Pedro.
Collin McHugh (SP4) – McHugh had a fantastic year last season at AA Bingo. He put up a record of 8-2 with 2 saves, and a team-leading ERA of 2.89. He had a 100/32 K/BB ratio in 93 IP, and only surrendered 2 HR’s, with the opposition hitting .223 against him. McHugh has an advanced repertoire of pitches and changes speed and location very effectively, while pounding the lower portion of the zone. His skills should translate very well to the next level. In an interview with MMO earlier this winter, Collin described his pitches in detail: “I’m a 4 pitch guy. Fastball (2 seam and 4 seam), changeup, curveball, and a cutter. They pretty much cover the entire spectrum from the low 90′s to low 70′s. The cutter has been a great pitch for me this season. I started working on it late last year and got more confident with it as this season progressed. It gives me a nice change of pace, especially to lefties. All of us (pitchers, I mean) are working on fastball command at all times. Without it, your ceiling comes crashing down quickly. I feel like that has been a huge key for me, getting ahead with my fastball and working from there.”
Jeremy Hefner (SP5) – The 5th rotation spot at Buffalo will probably be up for grabs between these next two veteran pitchers. With the first four rotation spots going to prospects, the last one will be filled by a veteran who will be the first one called up to the Mets should a need arise in the big-league rotation, and seeing as this is the Mets, you can be sure that need will arise quickly. The right-handed Hefner, who will be 26 by next season, was picked up as a minor league free-agent this winter, after spending the last 5 years in the San Diego Padres organization. Last year at Tucson in the PCL he started 28 games, going 9-7 with a 4.98 ERA.
Miguel Batista (SP5) – Batista is the other starting candidate who the Mets will prepare to be brought up to the majors should a need arise in either the rotation, or the bullpen. Batista pitched very well for the Mets last season at the end of the year, going 5-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 60 IP’s.
Elvin Ramirez (CL) – Ramirez was drafted by the Nationals in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, but he came up with a bad shoulder and had to be returned to the Mets. Word has it that he should be ready to go by the start of the season, and the plan for him is to pitch out of the Buffalo bullpen, potentially as the closer. Someone figured out that his high-90′s heat might translate pretty well out of the pen, and I would have to concur, let’s see what he’s got.
Chuck James (LHP) – The former Atlanta Brave was brought in this season to fill the all important “Casey Fossum” role. That’s where they fill a roster spot with some old washed up veteran who has nothing left, and who’s trying to hold onto his career with his finger-nails. I guess Fossum himself wasn’t available. James is someone the Mets are hoping can “re-find” himself. Although considering his only decent seasons happened in 2006 and 2007, I don’t see that as being very likely. But as I like to say, when intelligent words simply don’t cut it: “you never know.”
Garrett Olson (LHP) - The 28-year-old Olson (pictured), has kicked around in recent years, logging big league service time with Baltimore, Seattle, and Pittsburgh. He represents some veteran stability in what could wind up being a fairly young Buffalo bullpen.
Rob Carson (LHP) – After struggling with his command the last few years as a starter, the decision was made at the end of last year to convert Carson to a reliever full-time. At 6’4″ and 240 lbs., the big south-paw is an imposing figure on the mound, and he can bring his fastball in the mid to upper-90′s. Hmmmm not bad. Something tells me that the time may be drawing near for this big, 23-year-old lefty to come jogging out of the Citifield bullpen to face Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley.
Daniel Herrera (LHP) – Mets fans remember the diminutive lefty they got back from Milwaukee in the K-Rod trade. His soft-stuff and funky screw-ball made him rather difficult for big league hitters to get a handle on in his brief time in the bigs. But the feeling is that now that they’ve seen him, the next time he won’t be such a surprise. It will be wise to pitch him at Buffalo, and see if he continues to be able to get hitters out at this level before moving him up again.
Mark Cohoon (LHP) – With potentially four other left-handers destined for the Buffalo bullpen, and six or seven starters ahead of him for consideration for a rotation spot, the odds are extremely long for Cohoon to even make the team. What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time Cohoon was coming off a career year in the minors where as an All-Star, he went a combined 12-5 with an ERA of 2.57 in 26 starts made at Savannah and Binghamton. He was voted the 2010 Organizational Pitcher of the Year for his efforts and everything looked good for 2011. That is, until the season started. Pitching first at Bingo, and then the majority of the year at Buffalo he went a combined 5-14 with a 5.29 ERA, in 27 starts. He needs to rebound in a big way in 2012 to keep the organization in his corner.
Dylan Owen (RHP) – Although he probably starts the year in the bullpen, Owen should see plenty of opportunities to start next year. Injuries have a way of shaking up the big-league and Buffalo rotations every year and 2012 should be no different. It is nice to have a pitcher with the quality arsenal that Owen has standing by, ready to step in as needed. In a recent interview with MMO, Owen details for us his competitive make-up, and arsenal: “My arsenal consists of a 4 seam fastball, 2 seam fastball, curveball, cutter, and a changeup. My fastball this year was around 90 to 94. My curveball is lower to upper 70′s and the cutter is usually 83-86. My method is just being aggressive at all times on the mound. Pitch backwards when I need to and also fastballs in for strikes and in for effectiveness. I don’t picture myself as a strikeout pitcher, but when I follow my plan and execute my pitches I tend to strikeout more batters.” Owen’s versatility will help him moving forward, and at some point this year he could be in the conversation for his first big league call-up.
Fernando Cabrera (RHP) – A veteran righty reliever brought in this winter to shore up the Buffalo bullpen, Cabrera has spent parts of seven seasons in the majors with Cleveland, Baltimore, and Boston. In 175 IP’s he has a lifetime big league record of 8-7 with an ERA of 5.24. In 2011 he pitched the entire year at Sacramento in the PCL, appearing in 53 games and going 4-3 with a 2.71 ERA and 9 saves. In 63 innings he had 73 strikeouts, while walking 26, and opponents hit just .216 against him.
Jack Egbert (RHP) – The 6’3″ Egbert will be 29 next season, and will help fill out the Buffalo bullpen. Last year he got 69 IP’s in at three different stops, St. Lucie, Bingo, and Buffalo. His combined record was 1-6 with a 3.54 ERA, and 5 saves, as a reliever and spot starter.
You know what? This is an interesting team. It’s got hitting and pitching, good pitching too. A deep and talented rotation, and the makings of a solid bullpen, if everything falls right. The everyday line-up is loaded-for-bear. They have a lot of firepower with Havens, Pascucci, Dykstra, Nieuwenhuis, Lutz, Tuiasosopo, Reyes, and Loewen. They also have some top-of-the-order speed guys in Valdespin and Lagares, and a good bench. They even have Wally Backman for their manager. The only thing that worries me is the infield defense could be really scary, we’ll have to see how seriously ‘Spin takes his defensive responsibility this year.
This Buffalo team is not your garden-variety Mets AAA team. Usually the Mets AAA team is a place where old minor league retreads go to die. The 2012 version actually has prospects on it. Approximately 10 legit prospects, to be more precise. Real prospects too, like Havens, and Harvey, and Familia, and Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin, Carson, Lagares, McHugh, Beato, and Lutz. This is definitely the kind of healthy balance between veterans and prospects that you want from your AAA team. Finally the rebuilding has reached the upper levels of the minor league system. Too bad team ownership is screwing the fanbase, and destroying the big league club, just so they can hang on to control of the team.
You may have noticed that nowhere on any of my minor league roster previews did I include three players: righties Chris Schwinden and Josh Stinson, and outfielder Mike Baxter. This is because I believe all three will break camp with the Mets, Baxter as the lefty-hitting outfielder/pinch-hitter, Stinson in the bullpen, and Schwinnie in the rotation. Of course, I have seen all the rumors too about the Mets eye-balling some free-agent, veteran, lefty-hitting OF types, but I’m not really buying it, are you? When the Mets find out it’s going to take $2 million to sign Rick Ankiel, suddenly Mike Baxter is going to start looking very left-handed, and completely indispensable. But if the unthinkable were to happen, and the Mets did actually bring someone else in, just pretend I did include Baxter on this list. Thank you.
Well, this concludes our MMO 2012 Mets Minor League Roster Preview, for all four long-season clubs. I hope you enjoyed the series. Please be kind to me when the real rosters come out in roughly two months, and you will able to point out to me all the roster spots I got wrong. But, just like what all successful pitchers do……. I just hope to limit my mistakes, haha!
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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