I decided to shoot down to Port St. Lucie for a few days and take in a few minor league games and intra-squads. I wanted to catch some the new players I haven’t had a chance to see yet and also check out how some of our top prospects were progressing.
Joe asked me to share some of my notes, quotes and observations because he wanted to give the readers here a glimpse of what’s to come and give you a feel for what I look for when I’m observing the players or just talking to the coaches or any front office personnel that may also be there – casually observing and making mental notes like myself.
So, I just came back from Florida, and boy, this will not likely be the first or last time I’ll ever say it, but a sunburn has never been more welcome.
Anyway, on to some baseball. I spent most of my time on the backfields, just watching the players, and I was excited for the pre-game drills to end and for the games to start. I spent a lot of my time talking to Benny Distefano, the St. Lucie hitting coach about our times in Brooklyn. He is an amazing guy and always keeps everything so fresh and fun. You can really see from his coaching how he’s excelled. He introduced me to Ryan Ellis, the St. Lucie manager, who is also pretty cool. Best of wishes to both of them at St. Lucie this season.
My first report came on Friday about Michael Fulmer, who I was glad to see up and about and walking around so soon after surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee. He’s going to be fine and is on a timetable to return in about a month and a half.
I also spent a lot of time watching the kids on the field for Groups 3 and 4 (St Lucie and Savannah coaching staffs). I asked one coach (who wasn’t Benny or Ellis) about his players on the Savannah side. He told me that these players won’t be playing for Savannah, which means Group 3 is more likely Savannah, and Group 4 are all extended spring training guys. This coach also gave me a little information on German Ahmed Rosario, our top international signee last year. More to follow about this exciting prospect in a full length feature later this week.
I also talked to a front office official, who gave me information on some of the players, organizational philosophy and overall operations.
I watched Brandon Nimmo hit batting practice Sunday morning, where he was lacing many hits the other way. It was so free and easy. During my conversation with the official I said how I thought he did greatly in Brooklyn, to which he agreed.
“He’s a great player, had a good year, considering the circumstances of playing absolutely beyond his age. A lot of people really give Nimmo bad connotations because he’s raw. A writer told me the other day that he might have to move to a corner outfield spot, but he also told me his ceiling could be a .280 – 290 hitter, with 20-25 home runs. I said, hey, I’ll sign up for that any day”
I asked him about Cecchini next, and what they thought of him after drafting him.
“He’s a really good guy, so much makeup, a great player. His floor is definitely utility infielder, but we think he’ll make it as a big league shortstop, and a great one too. We drafted him so highly because he’s very advanced, and a good leader. For his potential, it’s way too early to tell.”
As he said that, a run was coming in on the home side, and Cecchini stepped at home signaling to the guy at third to come racing in. I asked him about his assignment,
“We aren’t sure yet, he [Cecchini] may start in extended, or we might have him in Savannah to start out and push him down to extended. It’s a possibility to start getting him some at-bats early.”
He brought up Vicente Lupo
“He’s a great kid, great story, didn’t do too well the year before last (2011) but bounced back to have the highest OPS ever in the Dominican Summer League. He’s someone to look out for.”
With minor league assignments, I asked him about whether or not they take spring training into consideration.
“Most of the time our minds are already made up: 95% of our assignments are made even before spring training begins. If someone really surprises us? Yeah, we might pencil them in, but usually our minds are already made up.”
He brought up development, with the Gulf Coast League team that was gone briefly.
“It was pretty difficult for us. We had so many players in camp, and not enough assignments for all of them. Not enough players got into games, and at-bats. We’re glad it’s back for us, especially with our players, and the draft coming in.”
Big thanks to the official for this information.
I made some notes during one game I watched. It was Group 1 vs. Group 2 in intrasquad games. Group 1 is mainly Buffalo and Binghamton combined, and Group 2 seems to be only St Lucie.
Lineups (essentially) were:
Group 2 (Visiting)
SS Daniel Muno
RF Joe Bonfe
3B Josh Satin
RF Cory Vaughn
LF Cesar Puello
DH Reese Havens
Things to note:
None of these players batted in any particular order.
Havens smoked a double the other way.
Alonzo Harris singled in the first against Wheeler and stole a base.
Wheeler had trouble bunting in his first at-bat, and pretty much gave away the out. But in his second at-bat he laid down a successful bunt. The Mets put a heavy focus on their pitchers at the plate.
Cory Vaughn has some mean power, hitting a pitch down the right field line foul, that would have been a no-doubter had it stayed fair.
Wheeler made Aderlin Rodriguez look silly on a slider in the first, and then hit him in the 4th on a 95 MPH fastball.
EVERYONE behind the plate was saying “Wow” over and over again, and reiterating his incredible velocity.
Many other pitchers were watching.
His velocity from word of mouth and behind the gun was 94-98.
One official also said to me, “We’ve seen him touch 99 and 100 as well.”
He was popping the glove in warm-ups.
Goeddel was 89-94
I left after Wheeler was done pitching after the fourth inning.
Final Line 4 IP, 2 Hits, 3 K’s 1 HBP
I told him the next day that he was great, and that I was such a fan.
I watched a bit of the Group 4 game against the Cardinals, essentially opting out of watching Daniel Murphy play in Group 3’s game. These are all players that are headed to Extended Spring Training. I wasn’t really there to keep score, and wanted to catch a glimpse of all the new kids in town. Some of whom will be included on a follow-up piece on German Ahmed Rosario.
I can describe Branden Kaupe as a stocky guy, small, but big muscles.
I watched Juan Urbina, who struggled. I took a look at the gun to see how hard he was throwing, which was ranging from 86-90, sitting around 88. Someone close by said “He’s a little frustrating, he ranges from 82-94”. He also threw a curve in around 73-76 miles per hour.
I saw pone particular pitcher and wondered to myself who it could be. It was Christian Montgomery, a High School pick from the 2011 draft. He looked as though he had a very heavy fastball, and really strong frame. I didn’t grab any gun readings, but he’s a player to look out for this year in short season ball.
I saw Gavin Cecchini hit a ball to the track in right center, which was caught. Seems as though there is more in-game power than what is expected.
I’ll have some more for you later as gather my thoughts and compose some more detail and analysis for you. Thank you for reading.