Mets Merized Online » William Li Wed, 30 Jul 2014 23:45:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Effectively Using Fringe Prospects Thu, 19 Jun 2014 14:38:35 +0000 kitk nieuwenhuis

Path Of A 4A Player

Every organization carries a number of players who are referred to as Quad-A material. From early on, many are deemed for this generic role. Typically, they are selected in the middle rounds of the draft and produce well enough at every level to advance to Triple A. They arrive at the final level, a level where hitters lose their confidence as quickly as they lose sight of a breaking ball that was never thrown in Double-A. It is at this level where a young man can smell the major leagues from the residual odor that his veteran and called up teammates walk around with.

At this last stage before the spotlight of the majors, these players are still considered prospects. If you subtract a year or two from their age, they may even jump up to rank in the club’s top 5 list. But for now, they are a borderline prospect that will have to prove they belong, yet again. Their manager motivates them by telling the hopeful young men that  ”you are one hot streak from a call up. Repeat what you did in AA and the front office will start throwing your name around”. So they do what they have done their whole career, and they keep on hitting without missing a beat.

eric campbell

Mets Career Minor Leaguers

In the Mets organization, we have two players of this mold, Zach Lutz* and Eric Campbell who have been on and off teammates in the minor leagues for seven seasons, eight to include this campaign. Lutz (3B) was drafted as a 5th round pick in 2007 and Campbell (1B) was drafted as an 8th round pick in 2008. Both have followed the classic formula below for being a 4A player entering 2014.

(Many skills * good) + (zero skills * great) + (perform at every level) + (visit the DL at inopportune moments)

So what do you do with these players that knock on the major league door every year, players who you are not ready to count on but at the same time you do not want to bury in triple A again? Well, you know for sure that these fringe players will not receive a starter’s playing time so I believe the first step is identifying the players who can accept a role on the bench.

You need hitters who have spent the last decade playing every day to adjust to sitting on the bench 90% of the game and still be sharp when their number is called. The same goes for fringe pitchers who must be ready to spot start, come out of the pen as long relief and not lose their confidence being yanked back and forth from the majors and minors.

Beyond the mental perseverance is an even more important factor, how a player can fit into the team’s needs, particularly off the bench. Personally, I believe that flexibility in filling for multiple needs (position, defense, speed, power, platoon, etc) is the defining trait of a useful bench player.

One month into his 2014 debut, Eric Campbell has looked like a solid call up, showing not only timely hitting but defensive versatility. But as much as Mets fans are riding high on Campbell, we only have to look at the short lived Josh Satin honeymoon to be reminded how thin the ice these callups are walking on. Satin played quite well in limited duty last year but was quickly exiled after a slow start this season. In 2014, he was demoted after just 34 plate appearances, roughly equivalent to what a starter receives in 7 games.

But this is the nature of being a low profile prospect. Every AB, every play in the field can be your last in the majors. The Mets will continue to play guys like Campbell, Matt Den Dekker and Andrew Brown sparingly, as they should. You have to earn your playing time. Daniel Murphy did it, John Maine did it and Dillon Gee did it. But just as a fringe player should focus on being productive off the bench, the organization must be wise in picking the right players out and putting them in positions to succeed and not hoping for them to become full time solutions.

A player such as Eric Young has plus plus speed and is a proven base stealer. He should get into a game daily as a pinch runner or pinch hitter and receive starts based on opposing pitchers, defenses and ballparks. But the minute you expose him to unfavorable matchups, his weakness as a hitter becomes unprotected.

The goal for your 4A player is to become a reliable bench option, any playing time beyond that must be earned, not in the span of 10 ABs or 15 innings but over the course of a season. Daniel Murphy worked his tail off to not be fighting for a bench spot right now and Dillon Gee performed time and again so that he no longer takes ten hour bus rides with the AAA team.

There is a valuable place on every major league team for fringe players. Don’t shy away from them but don’t over rely on them.

*At the time of writing this article, Zach Lutz was with the Las Vegas 51s. His contract has since been purchased by the Rakuten Eagles. 

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Early Look Into The Second Half Rotation Wed, 02 Apr 2014 13:44:20 +0000 USATSI_ bartiolo colon by brad barr

This is undoubtedly one of my favorite times of the year. I get to retire my big coat and not look at its depressing hues of gray that I have been wearing daily for the past three months. I have the luxury of enjoying one or two weeks of fresh air before my nose is greeted by the arrival of allergy season, but most of all, I find a new way to give myself (false) hope in the upcoming baseball campaign.

I visit this site daily in hopes of hearing about or discussing something new that is related to blue and orange. And with the common topics having been kicked around more than a pair of flip-flops that are falling apart, I can’t help but think about the second half of the season already. In particular, the starting rotation in August and September.

With seven starters available in the early part of the season, the Mets should not have many rotation decisions to make until June. If one of the top five is injured, they get replaced by #6 and #7, which appear to be Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lannan, respectively. And in a worst case scenario where injuries leave you with Jenrry Mejia, Dice-K and Lannan as your 3-5 starters, the trio should be able to carry you into June when it would financially make sense to bring up Rafael Montero and/or Noah Syndergaard.

But why be pessimistic to start the season? I want to think of an exciting scenario, ideally after the All-Star break, when we have pitchers at each level, from Savannah to Las Vegas banging on the doors for a promotion.

In this scenario, the Mets have the original seven starters as well as newbies Montero, Syndergaard, and deGrom ready to pitch at Citi Field. For reality’s sake, let’s say of the ten total starters, two are injured and one is performing so poorly, he is no longer considered for a rotation spot. That still leaves SEVEN pitchers to fill in five slots. So let’s go ahead move deGrom to the pen, as relieving is likely his ultimate destination anyway, and we are now down to six pitchers for five slots…or do we have another option?

syndergaard montero

Could the Mets just go with six starters for the remainder of the season? On a team where the top of the rotation is usually significantly better than the bottom half of the rotation, it would not make sense to reduce the number of starts that your #1 and #2 make – but it doesn’t look like that would apply to the Mets in our situation.

A six man rotation could be beneficial by

  • Giving the team the ability to evaluate another starter for next year.
  • Limiting innings gives more recovery time between starts for injury prone pitchers.
  • Limiting innings for younger pitchers helps build their arm strength or keep them from reaching their innings cap.
  • Another bonus is that pitchers who have an extra day of rest increase their effectiveness.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Half of our personnel is not built for the grind of a full season and the other half has never even been through a full big league campaign. Here are the two groups and their injury history plus workload ability.

The disabled list veterans:

  • Colon – He’s been throwing baseballs since before the Stegosaurus became extinct from our ecosystem.
  • Niese – Anyone who successfully acts surprised if he lands on the DL is more Oscar-worthy than Leonardo.
  • Matsuzaka – Two years removed from Tommy John but looked very good this spring.
  • Mejia – Jenrry knows the MRI guy on a first name basis. His career high in IP was in 2012 when he registered 108.2 innings.

The youngsters:

  • Wheeler – Career high in IP is 168 between Triple-A Vegas and the Mets last year.
  • Montero – Career high of 155.1 innings in 2013.
  • Syndergaard – Career high of 117.2 innings in 2013.

The biggest argument against a six man rotation would be the usage of an extra roster spot at the expense of a bench or bullpen player. But would the benefits of a sixth starter outweigh the loss of a utility glove and bat? If the Mets have seven/eight starters in July and none of them get traded then this is an interesting proposition to consider, additionally it’s definitely not a bad problem to have.


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Jordany Valdespin’s Trade Value Mon, 02 Dec 2013 03:17:27 +0000 jordany valdespin

We are a few weeks away from the winter meetings and while the talk around the Mets have revolved around who we should be acquiring, it is equally important to make quick and effective decisions on the players that will better serve us with another team’s uniform.

The player at the top of this list would be Jordany Valdespin, a potentially useful part but currently the outcast of the organization. There is no secret that he has irked many of his teammates and members of the front office on multiple occasions, which is why, no matter how much he may hit next year, it would not be worth the stress of forcing your manager and teammates to work with a landmine.

This brings me to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero to be their second baseman for the next four seasons. If they are willing to give Valdespin a chance to redeem himself, he could conceivably become a quality backup at both middle infield positions.

On the LA roster are two names that I believe should be available (this is just purely my intuition). The first is 2B/SS Dee Gordon, whose name has been bought up before and the second would be 1B/OF Scott Van Slyke.

Gordon has fallen out of favor with the Dodgers as he has not hit much over the past two seasons in part time duty. He has great footwork and a strong arm but has played poorly in the field as well and was most recently demoted to be primarily a pinch runner during the Dodgers playoff run. He has one minor league option remaining.

Scott Van Slyke is a power right handed hitter who has arguably put up the best numbers in all of Triple A for the last three seasons, yet most sources from last year listed him as a C/C+ prospect. I am perplexed at how low his value is and how he is labeled as an AAAA player based on a sample size of 180 ABs over irregular playing time and two call ups. Van Slyke also has one minor league option remaining. Here is an interesting piece detailing Van Slyke’s career from Hardball Times.

Gordon can compete with Ruben Tejada and provide Collins with an option against tougher right handed starters while Van Slyke could do the same for Ike Davis or Duda against the tougher lefties while playing some outfield as well. Both players have elite potential in one specific tool (Gordon – speed, Van Slyke – power) and both are areas that the Mets can use help in.

Finally, I would also like to throw Josh Satin‘s name into the mix. I could see the Dodgers being very interested in doing a one for one, Van Slyke for Satin swap. The reasons being that their OF is full and 1B is manned by Adrian Gonzalez so their ability to effectively use Van Slyke is greatly reduced. However, Josh Satin, who is a Los Angeles native, has shown the ability to be useful off the bench, not only as a pinch hitter but also at multiple positions. Based on what we saw from Satin last year, I think he will have a fruitful career where he is most valuable as an utility player with potential to be a serviceable every day second baseman.

I am crossing my fingers that even if the Mets cannot work out a deal with Los Angeles for Andre Ethier, that they can at least work together to swap some players that both sides can use more effectively.

*Also, giving credit where due. A quick search shows that user Captain America previously suggested a Valdespin for Gordon trade.

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Are the Oakland A’s a Potential Trade Partner for the Mets? Tue, 12 Nov 2013 20:32:42 +0000

There are two general managers in today’s game that pioneered the incorporation of the moneyball concept into the Major Leagues. One of them was a former marine who was the first to adopt into the then little known Bill Jame’s philosophy of advanced statistics, while the other was a one-time elite outfield prospect whose hobbies include breaking bats, throwing chairs and analyzing sabermetrics in his spare time. Neither of them cares about what you think.

Alderson is the former and the teacher of the latter, the Oakland A’s Billy Beane, and if there is another GM in the game that values third party input less than Sandy, it would be his protégé running the A’s.

Last winter, they worked together to swap reserve outfielder Collin Cowgill for third base prospect Jefry Marte. The move was low risk for both as Oakland was sporting a crowded outfield with the acquisition of Chris Young while the Mets gave up a marginal prospect with the upside of a replacement player. Cowgill was designated for assignment and was on a different team before the weather warmed up, while Marte put together a pedestrian year for Oakland’s Double-A affiliate.

This year, I think there is a chance for them to make a more impactful move. On the Mets end are two first basemen (Davis and Duda) with less popularity in Queens than Miley Cyrus at a proper etiquette class. Yet both have displayed enough potential that they may interest Oakland who has a need at the 1B/DH position.

Oakland’s current first baseman is Brandon Moss, who put together a strong offensive campaign (30 HR, .859 OPS). However, his WAR rating was weighed down heavily by his inability to field. In contrast, A’s right fielder Josh Reddick had a dreadful year at the plate but still ended up with a higher WAR rating than Moss.

Brandon Moss 505 .256 .337 .859 30 2.2
Josh Reddick 441 .226 .307 .686 12 2.6

Their DH position was manned mostly by Seth Smith who is a non-tender candidate after an unimpressive season according to MLBTR. This makes me wonder if Billy Beane, who loves to buy low as much as any GM in baseball, would consider trading for Duda to be his DH or Davis to be his first baseman and slot Moss as his DH.

If the A’s do indeed have interest in either player, then the Mets can consider trading for LHP Brett Anderson. A former second round pick and top prospect, Anderson debuted with the A’s in 2009 and appeared well on his way to being a top of the rotation starter before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He returned in late 2012 and was impressive enough that the Kansas City Royals were rumored to be considering a deal involving Wil Myers for him. However, Anderson continued to battle injuries in 2013 and finished the season with a woeful 44 innings pitched and a 6.04 ERA.

His $8 million dollar option was picked up earlier this month with most speculating that he will be traded this offseason as the A’s will hold a full rotation when they presumably re-sign Bartolo Colon. If the Mets part with one half of the Double D tandem, then a swap for Anderson would be equivalent to trading for a different roll of dice for both teams, at positions that fit better with their respective needs. Brett Anderson is understandably a huge risk since he can no longer be optioned to Triple A if he falters early. My hope is that he can become serviceable and keep the Mets with a second mid rotation lefty if Niese gets hurt for whatever reason and a best case scenario of him becoming the rotation ace and worst case scenario that he is DFA’d when Montero/Thor are called up.

But Anderson isn’t the only name I am interested in. As someone who is coming around to the idea of pursuing Choo and believing the lure of playing in a highly populated Korean neighborhood is a major advantage for the Mets, I think it would be strategically beneficial for them to acquire an outfielder before negotiating with Boras as a way to increase their leverage and have a fall back option. A reasonable candidate from the A’s (if they are willing to trade him) would be Josh Reddick who appeared to have a breakout season in 2012, clubbing 32 homers while winning a gold glove. Last season, he regressed (likely due to a wrist injury) into a clone of Ike Davis at the plate but still managed to post a 2.6 WAR thanks to his superior defense.

The key to making a trade between these two teams is helped by each having multiple players that may interest the other team. In addition to filling out 1B/DH, the A’s are in market for a closer and 2B/SS as well.

Mets chips: Davis, Duda, Parnell, Black, Murphy, Tejada?, Valdespin?

A’s chips: Anderson, Reddick, Jemile Weeks

Most importantly, a Mets – A’s trade would take two GMs who do not care for convention and are willing to trade for players who do not appear to have immediate value. I believe Beane and Alderson have great respect for each other and that they can certainly find a high upside trade for both teams with the names above.

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Featured Post: Selling High & Buying Low – The Sandy Alderson Philosophy Fri, 01 Nov 2013 17:39:37 +0000 Over the last few seasons, Sandy Alderson has managed the team’s budget with an approach conservative enough to make the Republican party envious. Some love the strategy and some hate it but with each passing sub .500 season, his tactics are becoming increasingly questioned.

Most of the fan base understood the reasoning behind trading away Carlos Beltran and R.A. Dickey regardless of whether they were in favor of the trades or not. Many fans were frustrated that while prime time free agents and trade candidates were changing home addresses, the Mets were relegated to signing has-beens such as Chris Capuano, Chris Young, Shaun Marcum etc. I also would not doubt that when news of Jose Reyes taking his talents to South Beach made its ways around the Flushing faithful, a quarter of Mets nation temporarily quit their fanhood.

Unpopular as his moves are, I believe there is a positive angle we can all take from this. For the first time in recent memory, the Mets have a clean financial slate to work with. No Bobby Bonilla (sort of), no Mo Vaughn, no Oliver Perez, no Jason Bay. Many fans will point this out as reason enough to make a splash in the free agent waters. There are some intriguing names out there and if they are available for the right price, the Mets should not let past mistakes affect their current judgment.

However, due to a weak free agent class, I am inclined to believe that the price tags for any toys the Mets want this winter will likely not be worth the production they can receive from them. With Hunter Pence setting the market at 5 years/$90 million and Scott Boras representing both Choo and Ellsbury, Boras’ starting point for negotiations will certainly be north of $100 million.

Instead, I see Sandy Alderson continuing his march on the economical route, going after clubhouse veterans and acquiring players that may have fell out of favor with their current squads. I am a strong believer in the buy low theory - when you buy low your return could be significantly larger than your investment. A change in scenery and/or a team’s necessity to move surplus players can lead to some high potential rewards.

Here are some of the free agents Alderson’s assistants may present to him:

Rafael Furcal - SS

Coming off Tommy John surgery, Furcal missed the entire 2013 season. Known for his top tier defense before his injury, Furcal’s ability to perform on the field and at the plate is a huge question mark. Can he get play adequate defense and get on base at a serviceable .325 clip? I have not yet given up on Tejada but I am not sold on him either and Furcal may be the best option to motivate Ruben and serve as insurance for him as well.

David DeJesus - OF

(TBR team option 6.5 mil or 1.5 mil buyout) When the Cubs put Dejesus on waivers in August to shed his salary, the Nationals were the first in line on the waiver list. Figuring that contending AL teams would have interest in his services, the Nats claimed him and promptly traded him to Tampa Bay for Matthew Spann, a C/C+ prospect. Dejesus figures to be a quality 4th outfielder and may have mutual interest with the Mets if Captain Kirk or Matt Den Dekker is traded. Once again, the expectation here would be for Dejesus to provide some veteran leadership and insurance to a young outfield.

Curtis Granderson - OF

Only an injury season removed from back to back 40 HR campaigns, Granderson will hear some interesting sales pitches from just about every team. He will have plenty of offers. The Mets won’t have any advantage bidding for his services but it is not unreasonable to think that he may outperform Choo and Ellsbury next year for half the price.

John Lannan - LHSP

The Long Beach, NY native had mutual interest with the Mets last offseason after being non tendered by the Nationals. He eventually signed a one year deal with the Phillies where he pitched inconsistently throughout an injury riddled year. Before the Nats bought up and bought in their influx of young pitching talent, Lannan was their top starter in 2011. I believe he still has a chip on his shoulder for being left off their opening day rotation just a year later and I would be more than happy to provide Lannan an opportunity to make the Mets team and disperse his rage onto his former teams.

Jason Marquis - RHSP

Another New York product, I believe the Mets were also in discussion with Marquis following the 2011 season. Nothing much has changed since then. He still eats innings and he still pitches as inconsistently as the outcome on a roulette table. Considering the Mets just need to stall till June when two of Montero, Degrom, Mazzoni, Syndergaard, Verrett are ready, Marquis may be the most ideal option as he has experience working as a long man out of the pen as well.

Keep in mind, these should not be the only players that the Mets should seek this offseason, but rather players that could make sense as discount signings.

In my humble opinion, the Mets have too many question marks entering the 2014 season for any acquisitions they make to automatically elevate them to contenders. Other than David Wright, Daniel Murphy and maybe Jon Niese and Dillon Gee, the Mets really have no idea how their players will perform next year. The time to make a splash is when your team has a core that is solid, and when the circumstances allow for it. As of now, I would say neither of those apply. The Mets’ core is far from established and the market conditions are far from friendly. So for the time being, I’m in favor of Alderson being a Scrooge for just another season.

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