Prospect Pulse: The 2012 St. Lucie Mets

An article by posted on January 20, 2012

Welcome to Part 2 of our four-part series, the 2012 Mets Long Season League Roster Preview. Today we bring you the 2012 roster of the St. Lucie Mets, of the advanced-A, Florida State League. The response to Part 1 was absolutely outstanding! Lot’s of nice comments, good questions, and valid suggestions. And not one person told me what I could do with my preview! Thank you readers!

I would like to say something though. I wanted to bring a mathematical equation to your attention. It is this: 4 teams x 25 spots = 100 jobs. The Mets seem to have ordered a little too much minor-league merchandise, and they now find themselves in the rather bizarre position of having too many players to fill a finite amount of places. It’s kind of like having a coupla dozen cool pairs of sneakers, and only two feet. Or playing a big game of “musical chairs.” Because of this, I have obviously had to overstock these rosters a bit too. Keep in mind though that with the coming of spring you can be sure of several things, and one of them is: players get hurt, players get sore arms, players under-perform, and jobs open up. So having two 5-man rotations at St. Lucie, that you have to combine into a single 5-man rotation at St. Lucie, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d like to apologize in advance, however, if I left out one of your personal faves, these things can happen.

So it is without further adieu, that I proudly present:

The 2012 St. Lucie Mets

CATCHERS

Albert Cordero (C) – As the catching tandem of Cam Maron and Jeff Glenn move up to Savannah in 2012, last years Savannah back-stops likewise move up to St. Lucie. Cordero had a very good season last year, coming on stronger as the season progressed, and showing very rapid development at the plate. Basically Cordero learned to stop swinging at garbage and to hold off on pitches out of the zone. He began to wait for that one good pitch to hit, and it worked. At the end of May, he was hitting barely above the “Mendoza line,” when he decided to make the change. He worked at being more selective at the plate, and the improvement was immediate. In June his slash-line climbed to: .274/.333/.355, then in July: .311/.344/.433, and in August: .359/.412/.495. For the year his totals were: .286 BA, in 385 AB’s, with 6 HR’s and 44 RBI’s. At the same time, Cordero is a very promising catcher defensively. Last year he was 24/36 in the CS/SB dept., good for a 40% CS rate.

Blake Forsythe (C) – The other half of the catching duo will be Forsythe, who had a disappointing year at the plate at Savannah in 2011. In 370 AB’s, the former 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft, hit a pedestrian .235, but with 24 2B’s, 4 3B’s, 9 HR’s, 43 RBI’s, and a .395 SLG%, which shows he does have good natural power. The main problem for Forsythe is his strikeouts, there are way too many of them. Last year he whiffed an appalling 123 times, and simply must close the holes in his swing before he will be able to thrive at the upper levels. Defensively, Forsythe has made great strides in his game and is good defensively at blocking and receiving the ball, but can still use some improvement on his throwing game. Forsythe is a tireless worker, usually the first to arrive at the ballpark each day, and shows good leadership qualities, the kind you like to see in a catcher.

INFIELDERS

Joe Bonfe (1B) - Although a natural third-baseman, Bonfe is adept at playing first-base, and has even taught himself to play outfield, to increase his value. A good clutch hitter, Bonfe will give St. Lucie manager Pedro Lopez a lot of flexibility with his corner infield positions. That will be very important with the impending promotion, to AA, of third-baseman Wilmer Flores at some point during the first half of the season. At such a time Bonfe can either stay at 1B while someone like Richard Lucas will take over at 3B, or Bonfe can slide over to 3B and a player like Sam Honeck, or Travis Ozga can play 1B.

Wilfredo Tovar (2B) - Tovar had a real solid season last year for Savannah, playing mostly shortstop, but also playing a good number of games at 2B. He is actually a much better second-baseman defensively, so I have him penciled in to start there. Last year for the Sand Gnats, he hit .251, in 491 AB’s.

Danny Muno (SS) - I have been asked if Muno is ready for Advanced-A ball, and I think yes, definitely. He is a very well equipped player who comes from a 4-year, major college program that won the National championship when he was a freshman starting shortstop. He has played off-the-hook so far in his professional career, including smacking NYPL pitching around like a playground bully. I don’t think the difference between the NYPL and the SAL is all that huge, and he will not be challenged by playing in Savannah. St. Lucie will be his landing spot and he should team very nicely with Tovar. In a recent interview with MMO, Muno discussed his drive and motivation: “I plan on being in the big leagues someday in the near future and I need to work on all the little things in baseball everyday, and I particularly need to work on the mental game.”

Wilmer Flores (3B) - This should only be temporary. I fully expect Flores to be promoted to Bingo, sometime during the first half of the season. Starting 2012 at St. Lucie represents the second year in a row for Flores to be in sunny Florida. Before that starts to resemble a stagnating prospect, the Mets will want to get him the heck out of there, as soon as possible. Flores just needs to show that he has mastered the Florida State League, and he will be moved up to Binghamton to replace the “seat-warmer” that will be occupying the 3B position there until Flores arrives.

Richard Lucas (3B/DH) - Lucas’ development has been agonizingly slow, but he seems to have turned the corner last year at age 22, and had a career year at Brooklyn. In 250 AB’s he hit .300 with 6 HR’s, 41 RBI’s, and an OPS of .857. Next season he will work on his tan, and maybe DH a little, while he waits for the call-up to AA. Not his call-up, Flores’ call-up. Then Lucas can move right into the line-up at 3B in St. Lucie, for the remainder of the season.

Travis Ozga (1B) - Ozga is a switch-hitter, who has been up and down between St. Lucie and Binghamton and should slot in well to this roster which is mostly right-handed. A bat like Ozga’s will be necessary to DH, spell Bonfe at 1B, and pinch hit.

Luis Nieves (2B) A reliable performer from last season at Savannah, Nieves should find himself on the St. Lucie roster, to fill in much the same way again.

OUTFIELDERS

Cory Vaughn (LF) - Vaughn starts his first full season in the Florida State League after joining St. Lucie last year at mid-season. His first go-round in the FSL wasn’t a good one, and Vaughn would be best served if he used this winter to forget all about last season. Fighting a nagging injury, he batted 210 times for St. Lucie, hitting just .219, with 9 HR’s and 29 RBI’s. With luck, 2011 was just an aberration, and we’ll get to see Mr. Vaughn bust out in 2012. If he does he should be a pretty quick call-up to AA, if he continues to languish as he did last year, it will be a long season for him.

Darrell Ceciliani (CF) – When your game is predicated on speed, and you pull a hammy real bad, you got a big problem. That is pretty much what happened to the start of Darrell’s season last year. And even after he returned in May, he wasn’t the same player for much of the first half. But as the year wore on, the real Ceciliani began to re-emerge, and by the stretch-run to the play-offs, he was, at times, carrying the team. At years’ end the best hitters on the Savannah squad were Joe Bonfe, Ceciliani, and Alonzo Harris. Ceciliani is a top-of-the-order lefty-hitter with good gap power, who flies around the bases. In CF he covers a lot of ground and is a gritty, hard-nosed performer. He could be moved up to AA during the year, particularly if Captain Kirk gets called up to the bigs at some point. That would probably mean a promotion to AAA for Matt den Dekker, followed by a move of Ceciliani up to Bingo. Funny how that works.

Gilbert Gomez (RF) - This guy needs to play. At the end of last season he showed that the Florida State League would be a very satisfactory playground for him in 2012. He plays very well with the other kids. If you haven’t heard of Gilbert Gomez, remember the name, he is going to explode onto the scene this year. RF will be his at St. Lucie as we get to see what he is capable of doing over a full season.

Javier Rodriguez (OF) - I really don’t see the 4th outfield spot as being a very sexy position at St. Lucie in 2012. The three starting outfielders, barring injury, should be securing a ton of at-bats, and they won’t be getting removed for defense either. Since the DH will more-than-likely be an infielder, the 4th outfielder will not get much playing time. But you need to have somebody, and since Javier is being seriously pushed from behind by a whole gaggle of outfielders that were brought into the system during last years draft, he finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

Alonzo Harris (LF) - Harris had a very solid year at Savannah hitting .270 with 4 HR’s and 28 RBI’s. He should be a useful role player on this season’s St. Lucie squad.

STARTING PITCHERS

Cory Mazzoni (SP1) - After throwing 115 innings at North Carolina State in 2011, the Mets did not want to give Mazzoni a heavy workload once they signed their 2nd round pick. Instead they had him pitch a few innings out of the bullpen, just so he could get a taste of professional ball, before shutting him down until spring. Mazzoni throws hard, mid-90′s, and it will be nice to see where he is at with his secondary stuff this season. I look for Mazzoni to log 130-140 innings this year as one of the anchors of the rotation.

Logan Verrett (SP2) - The 3rd round pick last year out of Baylor, Verrett is another advanced college pitcher who should have no problem getting up to speed in the Florida State League next year. The 6’2″ right-hander threw over 100 innings in college last season, and then signed too late to pitch at all for the Mets in 2011. That shouldn’t hold him back this year, with a fastball in the low-90′s, and several serviceable breaking pitches, he should have no problem turning the FSL on it’s ear in 2012.

Tyler Pill (SP3) - Ditto for Tyler Pill. Advanced college righty, this time from Cal State-Fullerton last year in the 4th round. Pill pitched just a few innings out of the bullpen for Brooklyn at the end of last season, but will be “shooting from the hip,” from out of the St. Lucie rotation next year. In a recent interview with MMO, Pill described his pitches: “I throw a fastball which is about 89-93, a changeup, curveball, and a cutter. I’m not completely sure about the velocity on the off-speed pitches. I’m very comfortable throwing my fastball, curveball and changeup at any time but as far as my cutter, It still needs a little bit more work but it’s still a solid pitch.”

Ryan Fraser (SP4) - The workhorse of the Savannah rotation last year, Fraser was very consistent and reliable all season long. In 138 innings, he went 7-9, with a 3.58 ERA, striking out 90 and walking in 63. He needs to cut down on his walks, and the opportunity of working with St. Lucie pitching guru Phil Regan, will go a long way towards fixing that. In a recent MMO interview Ryan detailed his repertoire: “To break it down, I throw fastball, curveball, and change-up. Some people question my curveball and think its a slider. I would like to call it a “power slurve” if there’s such a pitch. I don’t like to know the speed of them cause it doesn’t matter as long as you get the hitters out and give your team an opportunity to win.”

Erik Goeddel (SP5) - There will be a dog-fight for the 5th rotation spot between at least two pitchers. One is the 6’3″ righty, Goeddel, who pitched a very good half-season in the Savannah rotation last year, sandwiched around ten weeks on the DL with a strained rotator cuff. Now healthy again, Goeddel should have the inside track on the job, but if he gets beat out, he could pitch out of the St. Lucie pen, or even be sent back to the Savannah rotation. In a recent interview with MMO, Goeddel detailed his arsenal: “I throw a fastball, change-up, curveball, and slider. Fastball sits around 92-93, sometimes touches up to 96, but usually between 90-94 or 95. Change is low 80′s, slider mid to high 80′s, and curve is usually 78-80. I have been working on a sinker lately, hopefully it will be ready to go for this upcoming season. I pitch to hitters based off of whatever pitches are working best that day, and I will stay with the same approach on a hitter until he proves he can hit what I’m attacking him with.”

Jack Leathersich (SP5) - Another candidate for the fifth starter spot is Leathersich who, like Goeddel, could wind up in the Savannah rotation, or even the bullpen. The left-handed Leathersich throws hard, mid-90′s out of the pen, but he has to dial it down a bit to maintain his stuff late into games as a starter. Like with the other 2011 draftee’s in this rotation, it will be very interesting to see what Leathersich can do if he starts for a full season.

BULLPEN

Ham Bennett (LHP) - An experienced closer who excelled at the job last year in Savannah, Ham will hold down the same duties in St. Lucie. In 2011, the 6’1″ south-paw went: 2-0 with a 1.83 ERA and 14 saves. In 54 innings, he struck out 56, while walking 15, his batting average against was .166, and his WHIP was 0.83.

Adam Kolarek (LHP) - An ideal lefty set-up man, Kolarek probably won’t stay at this level long. If he gets off to a good start, I expect him to be one of the first players called up when a need for a reliever occurs at Binghamton. His pitches are pretty advanced, he throws hard, and best of all, he has a very good change-up. But why don’t I let him describe it? In a recent interview on MMO, Adam detailed his stuff for us: “I mainly throw a 4-seam fastball but I am really working on my 2-seam this offseason because I really believe that it will help me moving forward. I would say my change-up is my second best pitch because I feel comfortable throwing it in just about any count or any situation. When I throw a real good one it will have some tailing movement into a lefty or away from a righty. Finally, I feel like I made a lot of progress with my slider last year and I want to continue to build off of that. I would mainly use it when I was ahead in the count and was trying to get a strike out or ground ball, but I really want to get to the point this year where I can use my slider when I’m behind in the count in a typical fastball situation.”

Chase Huchingson (LHP) – A personal favorite of mine, this free-agent signing from 2010 should continue to pay dividends for the Mets this year. Undrafted out of college the 6’5″ lefty pitched at Savannah last year, and was incredibly effective and versatile, appearing in 19 games as a reliever, and also making 8 starts. How consistent was he? His ERA as a reliever was 1.86, and in his 8 starts his ERA was 1.77. In home games his ERA was 1.76, but on the road it went up, to 1.88. Overall he was 7-2 with a 1.82 ERA, in 84 IP’s he gave up 61 hits, while striking out 91 and walking 25. Opponents hit 2.03 off him and his WHIP was 1.02. He can pitch multiple innings in relief, be a lefty specialist, or even start, so he should be a valuable piece to the bullpen puzzle.

Angel Cuan (LHP) - Another swing-man candidate, Cuan is only 5’11″ and about 160 lbs. so there is some doubt about whether the diminutive lefty can pitch in a starting rotation for an entire season. So last year at Savannah, they limited his innings by starting him out in the pen, before moving him into the rotation for the second half. He then made 14 starts, and was one of Savannah’s horses going down the stretch, though he seemed to tire in the play-offs. Regardless Cuan opened eyes by going 10-3 with a 3.56 ERA. I expect him to be a fall-back starter either at St. Lucie, or even at Savannah, if one of the kids falter, or else he’ll be in the Lucy pen.

Ronny Morla (RHP) – A dependable righty set-up man last season at Savannah, Morla brings his act to the Florida State League in 2012. He put up some good numbers with the Sand Gnats last year: 3-3, 2.53 ERA, and 10 saves, and should fit in with all those lefties in the Lucy pen just fine.

Michael Hebert (RHP) – Another starter squeezed to the bullpen while he waits for a spot to open up in one of the crowded rotations at A level. Hebert came back from injury last season and could not find a regular starting gig. He will continue to bide his time in the Lucy pen, while he waits for that chance.

Taylor Whitenton (RHP) – Another starter who may have problems finding a rotation spot next year, despite being last years South Atlantic League ERA leader. While at Savannah, Whitenton went: 5-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 22 game starts. He doesn’t throw hard at all, but keeps hitters off-balance by changing speeds and location. He will have to keep proving himself at each level, working from the pen before he will be considered to start again.

Johan Almonte (RHP) - Another talented starter caught in the pitching log-jam at the lower levels of the Mets system. I expect Almonte to find a starting gig somewhere, after all there will be sore arms, injuries, and poor performances, so a lot can change. But if a spot doesn’t open up in a rotation, the Mets will have to find a bullpen for this guy to pitch in, he’s got too much upside to ignore.

Gonzalez Germen (RHP) – Another starter from Savannah last year, who has something you can’t teach, velocity. Dude throws hard. In 119 innings in 2011, he struck out 111 hitters while walking 35. Fringy off-speed pitches have held him back. A move to the bullpen wouldn’t be crazy.

Brant Rustich (RHP) - I fully expect Brant to make this squad and when he does it will be the “feel-good” story of the entire spring. After the long ordeal Rustich went through with his throwing arm, the diagnosis and treatment of his condition, and his rehab is complete. In a recent interview with MMO Brant describes what he went through with his health, and about how he is looking forward to pitching again: “It’s pretty simple for me. If I’m pitching this year it’s because I feel I’m going to pitch in the big leagues. If I feel like my arm can’t withstand the rigors of a big league season, I’ll go home and get another day job. However, I have a ton of confidence that I am making progress and getting better. The fact is in 2007 I almost got a call up and I wasn’t even close to my potential in my opinion because I was already battling lack of feeling, and slight arm problems then. If I’m pitching on a full season team this year, I would bet that I pitch in the big leagues someday. That’s just how I feel. I’m coming out this year as a player, not as a rehab player. I’m done with rehab, so I’m going out to spring training with the mindset on pitching, and pitching well. There is nothing wrong with me anymore, the problem has been fixed. It’s my job to go pitch the best I can and turn some heads.” Amen brother, amen. If Brant starts the season in the Lucy pen, it will only be until the weather warms up in NY, then it’s off to Bing-falo.

I can describe my feelings about this team in three words: pitching, pitching, pitching. They are absolutely loaded-for-bear, and the rest of the FSL is on notice, that the Mets are gunning for another division title, and with luck, a Florida State League Championship. Pass the Kool-Aid please.

Check back next week when I release the Binghamton and Buffalo squads. LGM!

If you missed >Part 1< click here

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