Mets Merized Online » Minor League Stuff http://metsmerizedonline.com Mon, 22 Dec 2014 22:13:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 Who Is LHP Sean Gilmartin? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/who-is-lhp-sean-gilmartin.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/who-is-lhp-sean-gilmartin.html/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 14:17:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172193 Sean - Gilmartin

Anticipating the Rule 5 Draft can be like looking ahead to a trip to the dentist for an enthusiast of minor league baseball.  Inevitably, players you have watched perform their trade, and, perhaps, even gotten to know a little when attending games at venues like Binghamton’s NYSEG Stadium are on the block, possibly lost to another franchise.  To the minor league aficionado, the Rule 5 Draft is a time of foreboding, a time of dread.

Rule 5 dread and foreboding turned to loss for me this winter when two Met pitching prospects I had come to admire Logan Verrett and Greg Peavey were gobbled up in the draft.  Both were critical pieces of the Binghamton baseball revival over the last two summers, Verrett going 11-5 in 2013, and Peavey, a pitching ace, amassing a stellar 11-3 campaign with a 2.90 ERA in the B-Mets championship season last summer.

I was especially distraught learning the Mets had lost Peavey.  Greg is a standup guy I got to know somewhat last summer, a guest on the ‘All About Binghamton Baseball’ summer segment on my Tip-Off radio show.

But, the Rule 5 draft is a two-sided coin.  On one side comes the hard felt loss of promising guys like Verrett and Peavey.  But, with the other side of the coin comes gain, as baseball teams add other prospects with promise and possibility they pilfer from opposing franchises.  For the Mets this winter that guy is Sean Gilmartin, a left-handed pitcher who last played in the Minnesota Twins organization.  So, who is this guy Sean Gilmartin?

At 24 years of age, Sean Gilmartin has already experienced many of the highs and lows that come with playing baseball.  Gilmartin grew up in Encino, California, a celebrated baseball star at Crespi Carmelite High School drafted in 2008 by the Padres in the 31st round.  A kid who admittedly thought of little else but playing professional baseball, Gilmartin made the choice to forego a shot at the pros to attend college at Florida State.

It was a wise choice by the young left-handed pitcher, because it was at Florida State where Gilmartin’s baseball credentials blossomed.  Almost immediately Gilmartin became an impact player for the Seminoles.  A two-way star who played in the outfield when he wasn’t on the mound, Gilmartin became a ‘Friday night starter’ at Dick Howser Stadium for the Seminoles.

The Friday night starter on a college baseball team is reserved for a team’s ace, a trusted arm expected to bring home a win in the first game of a weekend three game series boosting the possibility of the home team taking the series.  Friday night starters also get to pitch in front of their school’s biggest crowds increasing the visibility and interest of the baseball program on campus.

Gilmartin handled the pressures that come leading a famed Division I baseball staff well his freshman year going 12-3 with a 2.24 ERA.  The lefty ace suffered from the sophomore slump in his second campaign struggling with a 9-8 record, but never lost his status as the Friday night man indicating how much respect he had gained for the Florida State coaches.

It was Gilmartin’s junior season as a Seminole that would accelerate his baseball career.  The long legged left-handed ace was nearly unhittable going 12-1 with a 1.83 ERA and an impressive 0.94 WHIP.  Gilmartin finished second in the ACC in strikeouts trailing the league’s MVP, Danny Hultzen, a second overall selection by the Seattle Mariners in the 2011 baseball draft.  Hultzen, who missed all last season with a torn labrum, rotator cuff and anterior capsule, is making a pitching comeback that should see him back on the mound this season.

Gilmartin, too, went high in the 2011 draft, picked in the first round, 28th overall, by the Atlanta Braves.  Long respected for finding pitching talent, it’s noteworthy any time a pitcher is selected in the first round of baseball’s draft by Atlanta.  Braves scouts considered Gilmartin a quality left-handed pitcher with a great make-up and excellent pitch ability.  They were impressed with the Florida State ace’s maturity and competitiveness on the mound.

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The Braves put Gilmartin on a speedy track through their minor league system with Gilmartin reaching their Triple-A team in Gwinett in his first year in the pros.  But, Gilmartin never really caught on bouncing back and forth between Double-A and Triple-A with the Braves during his first two seasons as a pro.  When the Braves were looking for added catching depth in the off-season last winter, they shipped Gilmartin to Minnesota for Ryan Doumit.

Splitting time between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester, Gilmartin put up the best pitching stats of his professional career in 2014.  Gilmartin started 26 games going 9-7 with a 3.71 ERA and a 1.297 WHIP.  Gilmartin’s strikeout numbers jumped, the lefty starter averaging 8.2 K’s per 9 innings with a SO/W ratio of 3.02, both the best in his pro career.

But, when the Twins shaped their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft, they decided to leave Gilmartin unprotected.  The Mets jumped at the chance to add another left-handed arm to their pitching possibilities.  Here’s what General Manager Sandy Alderson had to say about the addition.  “There’s not really pronounced splits, so we don’t look at Gilmartin strictly left-on-left.  But, we like his athleticism.  We like his makeup.  He’s got a chance to pitch against righties and lefties.”

Alderson may have liked the multiple possibilities that come with Gilmartin.  A starting pitcher his entire career, Gilmartin could provide a left-handed possibility in the starting rotation if Jon Niese was moved in the off-season.  And, as a former starter and someone with decent pitching splits, he could become a long reliever/spot starter on the Mets staff.

Gilmartin also could be used to face that one left-handed batter late in a game.  Gilmartin pitched 23 1/3 innings against left-handed batters in Triple-A last year compiling a 0.75 WHIP, allowing no HR’s, and fanning 27 batters against just 3 BB’s.  Left-handed Triple-A batters hit only .190 against him last season.  It’s the multiple use possibilities of a guy like Gilmartin that probably drew attention from the Mets.

As a kid, Gilmartin lived for baseball and modeled his pitching style after three stellar left-handers Tom Glavine, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.  That’s probably where Gilmartin developed his fluid, almost effortless pitching delivery.  In some respects when he’s at work on the hill, baseball scouts report it almost looks as if Gilmartin is simply playing catch with the catcher’s mitt.

“I try to simplify things as much as possible,” Gilmartin told the Orlando Sentinel when he was first drafted out of Florida State.  And, wherever he’s pitched, Gilmartin has been lauded for his maturity and poise on the mound.  When asked about his ability to stay within himself and not show frustration when things don’t go as he intended on the hill, here’s how Gilmartin put it.  “You can’t play the game that way.  Baseball is a very failure-oriented sport.  You have to know how to handle it.”

Gilmartin’s pitching philosophy is built around commanding his pitches.  He has a four pitch repertoire to use in various situations.  “The aspect of the game I am constantly working on is commanding all four of my pitches and being able to have the confidence to throw them in any count at any part of a baseball game,” Gilmartin told the Sentinel when he was just entering the pros.

Unlike the cadre of young power arms in the Met system, Gilmartin depends more on finesse, on pitching smarts, guile, and cunning to get professional baseball batters out.  Gilmartin has a plan every time he goes to the mound with some well rounded options at his disposal.  His fastball sits in the 87-91 mph range and runs in somewhat on right-handed hitters.  Great command of the pitch both inside and out makes it a steady pitch selection for Gilmartin.

The change-up, a deceptive pitch thrown from the same arm slot as his fast ball and arriving at home plate at 79 or 81 mph, is Gilmartin’s bread and butter pitch.  The change has great arm side fade and drop, and Gilmartin throws it at any count.

A high 60’s/low 70’s curveball has a significant break and 12/6 drop.  Gilmartin throws the pitch consistently for strikes and uses it primarily against right-handed hitters.  Against left-handed batter’s Gilmartin prefers to use his slider, a developing option with sharp, late break.

Gilmartin’s success lies with his ability to keep hitters off balance by mixing his pitches and commanding the strike zone.  Gilmartin has to hit his spots to be effective.

A former number one draft selection, great athleticism, a left-handed pitching option, and maturity beyond his years make Sean Gilmartin a great gamble as a Rule 5 pick for the Mets.  Expect the Mets to provide Gilmartin with every opportunity to prove he can help the big league team this spring.

 

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Winter Ball Update: Puello Breaks Out, Flores Unstoppable http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/winter-ball-update-puello-breaks-out-flores-unstoppable.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/winter-ball-update-puello-breaks-out-flores-unstoppable.html/#comments Mon, 22 Dec 2014 01:23:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172150 cesar puello john munson

All statistics are for the week ending Friday.

Cesar Puello finally got some playing this week and he did not disappoint, in fact he broke out. He went 11-25 with 4 home runs, 8 RBI and also had 3 stolen bases. Puello has all the tools to be successful, he just needs consistent playing time.

Wilmer Flores isn’t letting all the Tulo talk affect him and continued his strong winter going 8-26 with a HR and 4 RBI. His overall winter line is now at .309/.356/.456.

*** This just in: Flores is already off to a big follow-up week, hitting two homers on Saturday and another one tonight. In the two games he had five hits, five runs, and six RBI. Hat tip to John Dreker.

 

Xorge Carrillo just will not stopping crushing the baseball, the supposedly defensive minded backstop went 7-16 with 3 doubles and 3 RBI. Boosting his winter league line to .283/.350/.522.

T.J. Rivera had another quiet week going 2-14 with only one RBI, however he is still hitting over .300 this winter.

Johnny Monell had a solid week going 4-11 with a double and 2 runs scored.

Jon Velasquez made two appearances, throwing 1.1 innings of scoreless ball and picking up a save.

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MMO Exclusive: Mets Prospect Kyle Johnson Looks Back on Championship Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-kyle-johnson-looks-back-on-championship-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-kyle-johnson-looks-back-on-championship-season.html/#comments Sat, 20 Dec 2014 05:21:57 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172121 mets - kyle johnson

Outfielder Kyle Johnson was a key part of the Binghamton Mets run to win the 2014 Eastern League Championship. Kyle played in 103 games and hit .259/.344/.384 with 25 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 home runs. He also stole 12 bases and had 14 outfield assists while playing all three outfield positions.

Kyle was drafted in 2012 by the Los Angeles Angels in the 25th round out of Washington State University. In his first full professional season in 2013 he batted .289/.385/.393 with 44 stolen bases and only struck out 89 times. On June 25th, 2013, he was traded to the Mets for outfielder Collin Cowgill who had been designated for assignment.

Kyle is a versatile outfielder who plays the game hard and has a knack for putting the ball in play in big spots proven by his .313/.423/.450 line with RISP last year. He also enjoys hitting from the leadoff spot where he batted .272/.354/.413 last year. He was nice enough to answer some questions for us about his season, so lets jump right into them:

Michael: First off just wanted to thank you for taking your time to answer some questions and congratulate you on being part of the EL Champions! What was it like to be part of a championship team? What was so special about this Binghamton team?

Kyle: The special part about our team was we had a core group of guys that didn’t move.  We had a great pitching staff, who knew how to compete.

Michael: For fans that haven’t seen you play how would you profile your own game?

Kyle: I take pride in my defense. Wherever I am in the outfield, I know I can make a play that will positively affect our team. With such a long season, some days the bat won’t show up, but I know my defense will always be there. Good defense and base running. Offensively, I do what I can to get on base. I take pride in scoring runs. Setting myself up for other guys to knock me in.

Michael: When on the road where is your favorite city/stadium to play?

Kyle: In the Eastern League, I really enjoyed Maine. Their atmosphere is something special. They have a unique field, plus the series were tough.

Michael: What do think you need to improve on to get to the Major League level?

Kyle: More consistent at the plate.  I’d have a month of .360 then a month of .220.  Just need to stay consistent for all 142 games.

Michael: What is life like for a Minor Leaguer when you are on the road?

Kyle: It’s tough. Long bus rides, get in late. But it’s all part of it. Makes you appreciate this game and the opportunity to continue to play. It’s fun going to different cities and parts of the country. You get to see a lot of the USA that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen. That’s one of the greatest treats of this game. I’ve been to every state now beside the Dakotas all because of baseball.

Michael: One last question,  what are you doing this offseason to prepare for the upcoming year?

Kyle: I spent the off season so far in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where I grew up. I train at Ultimate Athlete, a local gym in the area. I have my hitting coach there who I have worked with for the past seven years. Primary goal is to create a more consistent swing. I had hot months and cold months this year, working to stay more consistent. I am heading to Puerto Rico to play for a month or so. Best way to practice is by playing, and I’m extremely excited for the opportunity.

Michael:  Glad I got a chance to talk to you! Hope to see you at Citi Field soon!

Kyle: Hope so too, going to work as hard as I can to get there.

Michael: Thanks again from everyone at MetsMerized Online!

Unfortunately for Kyle the Las Vegas outfield will probably be stacked with the likes of Nimmo, MDD, Ceciliani, Allen, Castellanos, etc next season. Tough not to root for a guy who works hard and is dedicated to making himself better. Everyone loves an underdog story and guys like Dillon Gee have proved it can happen!

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MMO Fan Shot: Should Kevin Plawecki Be Traded? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-fan-shot-should-kevin-plawecki-be-traded.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mmo-fan-shot-should-kevin-plawecki-be-traded.html/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:27:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172018 kevin plawecki

An MMO Fan Shot by Bill Tourjee

The Mets #1 position player prospect in MLB’s rankings, catcher Kevin Plawecki, continues to be mentioned as a possible trade chip. But should he be made available, even if the trade returns a high-end SS or prospect?

It would be safe to say that most GMs prefer to trade from positions where they have the most depth. In the Mets’ case, that would probably be pitching, 2nd basemen (Murphy, Flores, Herrera, Mazzilli), shortstops (oddly enough, they’re down there:: Reynolds, Cecchini, Rosario, Ramos) and outfielders (Nimmo, Conforto, den Dekker, Puello, Nieuwenhuis). But catchers? When Juan Centeno was claimed off waivers by the A’s, and Cam Maron was selected in the Rule 5 draft, it pretty much wiped out any positional depth we had at catcher and left Plawecki as the only prospect who may be ready to step onto the big stage.

Look for one other notable catcher in the Mets system. When you finally reach Kingsport – keep going. Imagine a season where the team is in the hunt and Travis d’Arnaud goes on a long DL stint. You want to replace him with a catcher who can both call a game and hit better than his weight? In the middle of the season, that will cost you two of your top 20 prospects, and maybe a starter, too.

The Mets are obviously pleased with Anthony Recker’s performance and he’s expected to return as the team’s primary back-up catcher. Most Mets fans remember Recker’s memorable home runs this past season, which always seemed to come at critical moments. What wasn’t as memorable was his 36.6% strikeout rate, and the fact that he couldn’t lay claim to the starting job even when d’Arnaud was demoted mid-season. Or, to press the issue, his .197 lifetime average. Despite these shortcomings, Recker is a quality back-up receiver, deserves his contract and comes across like a good guy to have in the clubhouse – but he may still not be the Mets’ best option.

D’Arnaud’s injury history is well-documented and won’t be recounted here, but only the most optimistic would bank on his giving the Mets 140 games a year for the next several years. If (or when) he has another injury, should his potent bat go on the DL with him?

Enter Plawecki, whose skill-set is very close to d’Arnaud’s. He’s a contact-first, linedrive hitter with a low strikeout rate (12% in minors) who, unlike Recker, can consistently advance runners when not driving them in. His defense seems comparable to what’s projected for d’Arnaud, giving the Mets two young, good-hitting receivers who will be under team control for many years. What more could a team ask for? What other MLB team currently has such a double threat behind the plate? Would the Cards have liked a good hitting catcher when Molina went down in the postseason?

There is even a possibility that Plawecki could play 1st base as a right-handed complement to Lucas Duda. Think of the flexibility it would give a manager in late innings. Would egos collide if two young stud catchers competed for innings? Plawecki has already stated he‘d be fine sharing the catching duties with d’Arnaud, and d’Arnaud has the security of being the GM’s prized acquisition (a “difference maker”) in the R.A. Dickey trade. Besides, what’s wrong with competition? If one is going to fold under the pressure it’s better to find out during the regular season than in the middle of the playoffs.

Finally, even a good catching prospect like Plawecki is not going to bring a Starlin Castro or Addison Russell to Citi Field unless a Syndergaard or a Montero disappear along with him. That’s a huge gamble for the Mets when they don’t know whether their prized new shortstop can thrive in a pressure cooker like the Big Apple. Too many players perform best with the type of laid back fan base and press corps you’ll find in most other baseball cities.

Given their depth at the position at every minor league level, the Mets are capable of bringing up a new promising shortstop prospect every year for the next four years. In the meantime, they could very well lay claim to the best catching tandem in the majors – IF they don’t trade Kevin Plawecki.

I was born and raised in Upstate NY and now reside in CT. My folks were from Brooklyn and we adopted the Mets when they arrived in 1962. They have been one of my life’s greatest passions. Even in their darkest days they always give us a sliver of hope.

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This Fan Shot was contributed by MMO reader Bill Tourjee. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 25,000 Met fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to FanShot@MetsmerizedOnline.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.

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Baseball America: Thor, Matz Leads Mets Top 10 Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/baseball-america-thor-leads-mets-top-10-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/baseball-america-thor-leads-mets-top-10-prospects.html/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:32:53 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171973 noah syndergaard

Baseball America released their Mets Top 10 Prospects today and they project a bright future for the Mets.

All seven of the Mets’ domestic affiliates finished at .500 or better in 2014, giving New York a cumulative .568 winning percentage that led all organizations. They point out that the system has finally begun to see some position players move up to the higher levels and closer to an MLB debut.

Here are the top ten:

1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP – Not only did the Mets neglect to call up Syndergaard in 2014, as they had Zack Wheeler in 2013 and Matt Harvey in 2012, they bypassed him entirely to call up Las Vegas rotation-mates Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero during the first half of the season. That won’t be the case in 2015, not after Syndergaard joined the 40-man roster in November. He threw a career-high 133 innings in 2014 and could be good for 150 or more in New York this year. Syndergaard profiles as a No. 2 starter with two plus pitches, an average third and at least average control.

2. Steven Matz, LHP – Matz throws with the kind of velocity (93-95 mph), looseness and direction to the plate that makes scouts drool. He can rear back for 98 mph when he needs it, earning him double-plus grades for his fastball. Matz throws a plus changeup in the mid-80s that features plus sinking action and impressive separation from his fastball. Matz profiles as high as a No. 2 starter in a rotation because he throws two plus pitches, an average third and has average control. He could begin 2015 at Triple-A Las Vegas and supply lefty balance to the Mets rotation in the second half.

3. Brandon Nimmo, OF – Nimmo has added muscle since signing, steadily increasing his power output with experience. While he is more of a gap hitter now, scouts project him to develop above-average power because of his advanced hitting approach and strong lefthanded swing. He will hit for average with his all-fields approach, frequency of hard contact and willingness to attack first-pitch fastballs.

4. Dilson Herrera, 2B – Short and compact, Herrera incorporates his hands and lower half adeptly in his swing, projecting to hit for a high average with frequent hard contact, a middle-field approach and bat speed to spare. He ranked fourth in the minors with 169 hits in 2014, thanks to a quick, repeatable swing. The Mets love Herrera’s makeup and work ethic, which factored in their decision to call him up in August, though he probably will begin 2015 at Triple-A Las Vegas while he waits for regular at-bats in New York.

5. Kevin Plawecki, C – Plawecki has hit .307/.379/.453 in full-season ball the past two seasons, with strikeouts just 11 percent of the time. That sort of bat control speaks to his strong hands, all-fields approach and ability to handle varied pitch types, which will allow him to hit for average in the big leagues. While he’s more of a gap hitter, he can pull the ball for power and will reach double digits for home runs. While he doesn’t offer the power-and-arm strength profile that teams favor from catchers today, Plawecki has feel to hit, on-base ability, moderate power and the defensive chops to play every day. Mets rookie Travis d’Arnaud hit well in 2014, but his defensive struggles could one day create an opportunity for Plawecki to start.

6. Amed Rosario, SS

7. Michael Conforto, OF

8. Rafael Montero, RHP

9. Marcos Molina, RHP

10. Gavin Cecchini, SS

BA says the signing of Michael Cuddyer indicates that Sandy Alderson believes the rebuilding phase is over and that it’s time for the team’s streak of six losing seasons to end.

“Pitching and defense have brought the Mets to the cusp of contention. While seven NL clubs allowed fewer runs than New York in 2014, Mets pitchers allowed 3.81 runs per game, the franchise’s lowest rate since 1990. They didn’t rely on soft stuff and chicanery either, not with a strikeout rate of 8.0 per nine innings that ranked third in the league.”

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Syndergaard and Matz Top Sickels’ Mets Top 20 http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/syndergaard-and-matz-top-sickels-mets-top-20.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/syndergaard-and-matz-top-sickels-mets-top-20.html/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:29:47 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171940 steve matz

Here are the New York Mets Top 20 Prospects for 2015 as comprised by John Sickels of Minor League Ball.

1. Noah Syndergaard, RHP, Grade A-: Age 22, 4.60 ERA with 145/43 K/BB in 133 innings in Triple-A, 154 hits. I don’t think there is anything wrong with Syndergaard that getting out of the PCL/Las Vegas won’t cure. Velocity continues to increase, curve continues to improve, just needs to prove that minor health issues aren’t precursor to anything major.

2. Steven Matz, LHP, Grade B+: Age 23, 2.24 ERA with 131/35 K/BB in 141 innings between High-A and Double-A. Great story on Tommy John recovery, power lefty arm with good command, fastball well into the 90s now. Terrific complement to Syndergaard.

3. Dilson Herrera, 2B, Grade B+: Age 20. He’s just 20. Hit .323/.379/.479 with 13 homers, 23 steals, 47/96 BB/K in 524 at-bats in High-A/Double-A. His reputation is growing but if anything he may still be under-estimated.

4. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 21, hit .322/.448/.458 in High-A but just .238/.339/.396 in Double-A. I love Nimmo’s on-base abilities and overall approach, but I am hesitant to go full-bore B+ or higher at this time due to serious platoon split problems. For now I have Herrera ahead, which is likely a minority view. That should be seen as praise for Herrera, not any disrespect towards Nimmo, who is one of my favorite prospects.

5. Kevin Plawecki, C, Grade B: Age 23, hit .309/.365/.460 between Double-A and Triple-A. Just a solid all-around prospect, not deadly against base runners but otherwise very skilled on defense, not a big home run hitter but should maintain solid average and OBP with gap power. Great backup for Travis d’Arnaud, can start if necessary. He would also make attractive trade bait.

6. Rafael Montero, RHP, Grade B

7. Michael Conforto, OF, Grade B

8. Marcos Molina, RHP, Grade B-

9. Amed Rosario, SS, Grade B-/Borderline B

10. Jhoan Urena, 3B, Grade B-

11. Gavin Cecchini, SS, Grade C+

12. Dominic Smith, 1B, Grade C+

13. Cory Mazzoni, RHP, Grade C+

14. Robert Whalen, RHP, Grade C+

15. L.J. Mazzilli, 2B, Grade C+

16. Cesar Puello, OF, Grade C+

17. Wuilmer Becerra, OF, Grade C+

18. Jack Leathersich, LHP, Grade C+

19. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP, Grade C+

20. Casey Meisner, RHP, Grade C+

Here are some comments on the overall system, which he’s extremely high on.

“The big strength is pitching. Noah Syndergaard is one of the top pitching prospects in the game. Steven Matz is another Top 50 pitching prospect and his success is a testament to the efforts of the rehab staff, coaches, and his own work ethic in coming back from a difficult Tommy John recovery.”

Rafael Montero still looks like a solid prospect to me, and there is a large group of Grade C+ types who could be fourth/fifth starters or sound relief options. The Mets have done a particularly good job discovering solid arms for reasonable bonuses in Latin America, but they’ve found talent at the college and high school levels as well.”

“The lower level pitcher with the greatest potential is Marcos Molina, who took a giant step forward and dominated the New York-Penn League in ’14. We need to see how he responds to a larger workload, but he could top this list next year.”

Sickels believes the position players could look even better if Dominic Smith and Gavin Cecchini can live up to their first-round draft status. “Perhaps that won’t happen,” he says. “But Latin American products Amed Rosario and Jhoan Urena will transition to full season ball in 2015 and provide more depth should the early North American draftees fail.L.J. Mazzilli and Matt Reynolds provide up-the-middle depth possibilities from the college ranks. Even enigmatic Cesar Puello could still turn into an interesting player.”

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Winter Ball Update: Flores Stays Hot, Carrillo Has Big Week http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/winter-ball-update-flores-stays-hot-carrillo-has-big-week.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/winter-ball-update-flores-stays-hot-carrillo-has-big-week.html/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 00:31:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171729 Wilmer-Flores

Here’s how the Mets have fared at Winter Ball over the last week:

Wilmer Flores had a nice week going 7-21 with a homer, 4 RBI and 3 stolen bases. He played SS in all five games and batted cleanup in four of them. He’s batting .310/.370/.452 for the season in 42 at-bats.

Gonzalez Germen got into two games and pitched 2 scoreless innings. Have to wonder is he loses his 40 spot when the Mayberry signing becomes official.

Johnny Monell was 1-6 with a solo HR and 3 walks.

Jon Velasquez made only one appearance but pitched a clean inning for the save.

T.J. Rivera is apparently human after all as he was only 2-14  with 3 RBI this week.

Xorge Carrillo continued his great season going 5-14 with a HR and 3 RBI.

Cesar Puello can’t seem to get playing time and only pinch ran twice this week but did steal a base.

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Rule 5 Draft: Mets Select LHP Sean Gilmartin, Lose 5 Players Including Logan Verrett and Cam Maron http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mets-select-lhp-sean-gilmartin-in-rule-5-lose-5-players-including-logan-verrett-and-cam-maron.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mets-select-lhp-sean-gilmartin-in-rule-5-lose-5-players-including-logan-verrett-and-cam-maron.html/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 18:22:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171624 Sean - Gilmartin

1:00 PM Update:

Mets selected no players in AA phase of Rule 5 Draft, but in addition to losing Logan Verrett in the MLB phase, they lost Greg Peavey, Cam Maron, Juan Carlos Gamboa and Randy Fontanez in the minor league phase.

 Mets Select LHP Sean Gilmartin, Lose RHP Logan Verrett

In the major league phase of today’s Rule 5 Draft, the Mets selected LHP Sean Gilmartin from the Minnesota Twins with the 14th overall selection.

Gilmartin, 24, was a first round selection of the Atlanta Braves in the 2011 draft. Prior to the 2012 season, Gilmartin was rated the Braves 5th best prospect. He was traded to the Twins after the 2013 season to the Twins for catcher Ryan Doumit.

In 2014, Gilmartin split time between the Twins’ Double-A affiliate the New Britain Rock Cats, and the Triple-A affiliate the Rochester Red Wings. He compiled a 9-7 record with a 3.71 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 26 starts. My guess is that he will compete for a spot as the second lefty out of the Mets bullpen in Spring Training.

The Mets lost RHP Logan Verrett also in today’s draft, who was selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the 28th overall selection.

Verrett, 24, was speculated to be taken in today’s draft, so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In 2014 for Triple-A Las Vegas, Verrett pitched to an 11-5 record, with a 4.33 ERA and 1.370 WHIP with a 6.6 K/9. Verrett did not rank in the Mets Top 20 Prospects entering this season.

Any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the team’s 25-man roster for the entirety of the season. If the selecting team does not wish to keep a player on its 25-man roster for that time period, it must offer him back to his former team for $25,000.

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Mets Could Lose Multiple Players Including Logan Verrett In Rule 5 Draft http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mets-could-lose-multiple-players-including-logan-verrett-in-rule-5-draft.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/mets-could-lose-multiple-players-including-logan-verrett-in-rule-5-draft.html/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 20:35:26 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171513 Logan Verrett is quite the talented young pitcher.

Sandy Alderson told reporters that he expects to lose multiple players in the Rule 5 Draft, particularly during the minor league portion.

Joel Sherman adds that the Mets are expected to lose RHP Logan Verrett during the MLB portion of the draft.

Verrett, 24, went 11-5 with a 4.33 ERA and 1.370 WHIP for Triple-A Las Vegas last season. In 162 innings pitched he walked 34 and struck out 115 batters.

Among Las Vegas starting pitchers with 10 or more starts, only Rafael Montero (3.60) posted a better ERA in the hitting friendly PCL.

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When Will Nimmo Make His MLB Debut? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/when-will-nimmo-make-his-mlb-debut.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/when-will-nimmo-make-his-mlb-debut.html/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:00:50 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171351 brandon-nimmo

J.J. Cooper of Baseball America had a glowing assessment when a reader asked him the following:

When do you think Brandon Nimmo will make his MLB debut? Do you see him as a top of the order hitter?

Nimmo was one of the best players in the Florida State League during the first half of the 2014 season. He struggled after a midseason promotion to the Eastern League, but much of that decline could be attributed to less luck when he put the ball in play–his power numbers and strikeout rate were roughly in line with what he did in the Florida State League, but he went from hitting .401 when he put the ball in play in the FSL to posting a .283 BABIP in the EL.

Nimmo has made significant strides in the past two years by adding strength. He now can sting the ball when he works himself into hitters counts, and he has the knowledge of the strike zone to get into those hitter counts. He might not ever have enough power to fit as a profile corner outfielder, but he’s shown scouts that he should be able to stick in center field, where his on-base skills and gap power both would play well.

As far as an ETA, Nimmo could put himself in position for a call-up to New York with a strong first half. He’s not going to push Juan Lagares out of center field, but he could play left field in the short term. His arm won’t really play in center field.

Cooper looks at Nimmo as a top of the order hitter for now, but expects that eventually he can grow into a middle of the order hitter as he continues to fill out.

In an interview with MMO’s John Bernhardt last month, Sandy Alderson said that Nimmo will most likely begin the season at Triple-A Las Vegas despite spending a little less than half a season at Double-A in 2014.

“There are several qualities that I think distinguish Brandon. One is his commitment to excellence, if you will. He’s a tremendously competitive individual. He takes his preparation very seriously,” Alderson told us.

Sandy also told us that Nimmo began to show flashes of the power he was projected to have when the Mets drafted him with their top pick in 2011.

“He has grown physically very impressively over the last couple of years through offseason workouts. He has an approach that’s very consistent with what we try to promote, which is selectivity at the plate. Being aggressive with good judgment, I guess, is how we look at it — getting a good pitch to hit. If anything, at Binghamton, I think he began to demonstrate a little more power, which we think he has. There may be a little trade-off between his discipline at the plate and his ability to turn on the ball, but I think that’s something that’s coming. He’s a very committed guy.”

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Paul DePodesta Weighs In On Several Mets Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/paul-depodesta-weighs-in-on-several-mets-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/paul-depodesta-weighs-in-on-several-mets-prospects.html/#comments Sat, 06 Dec 2014 22:25:34 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=171233 kevin plawecki

MiLB.com recently published an article ranking the Mets organizational all-stars by position The article included analysis from the Mets Vice President of Player Development, Paul DePodesta.  Here is what he had to say about the Mets top prospects.

Kevin Plawecki: “We were really pleased with the year he had,” said Paul DePodesta, the club’s vice president of player development, said. “Spent the first half of the year in Double-A and didn’t really miss a beat, then went up to Triple-A and continued to perform very well. For a guy that was drafted just in 2012, we’re extremely pleased with how quickly he’s made it through the system. He’s continued to make progress offensively and defensively. Offensively, we’re starting to see some of the power that we always believed was there. Defensively, he’s a strong receiver and his throwing is starting to get better. ”

Dilson Herrera: “I’d say he exceeded our expectations,” he said. “We were excited about him when we traded for him the year before — thought he had a good chance to go to Double-A at some point during the course of 2014, but I don’t think any of us imagined he’d be as productive as he was when he got to Double-A and then be able to make the jump all the way to the big leagues. It was a huge year for him and he had a great, great year. We have very high hopes for him.”

Matt Reynolds: “He went to our offseason training program and he also did some things with his swing to make it shorter and more compact last winter,” DePodesta said of Reynolds, who turned 24 on Wednesday. “It was a combination of all those factors. He certainly showed he can handle the pitching out there and had a tremendous year for us.”

Brandon Nimmo: “I think, given his age and plate discipline, we felt like he had a real foundation for success, and as he continued to move through our system and sort of gained strength, he was going to take off,” DePodesta said. “That’s exactly what happened this year. I think the most encouraging thing about this year was that, not only did he have a big year and continued that successm, he not only maintained his plate discipline, it actually got better. While his power went up, his strikeout rate went down.

Marcos Molina: “He’s a guy we obviously like an awful lot,” DePodesta said. “We felt like he was going to throw hard one day. He’s an incredibly good athlete and has a good feel for the baseball. He attacks with his fastball. Over the last two years, his fastball has continued to jump in velocity. This year he made big strides in understanding his own stuff and how to limit damage and went out and had a good year. I think he has a chance to be a top-of-the-rotation guy — mid-90s fastball, secondary stuff is solid now. Very excited about him.”

Steven Matz: “I think the two things for me that stand out are one — he’s very mature for his age in terms of his work ethic, his competitiveness. Talk about a guy who rises to the occasion — every big game this guy is just nails. What turned out to be the championship game at Double-A, he’s got a no-hitter going. When it’s on the line, he gets that much better. The second thing is he can really pitch with his fastball. Guys just don’t square it up. That foundation with attacking guys with the fastball — that’s going to serve him well in the big leagues and why I think he’s awfully close to the big leagues.”

Akeel Morris: “The stuff was there, plus fastball, plus-plus changeup — it’s devastating,” DePodesta said. “It’s hard to pick up, it’s a 15-mile per hour differential. In previous years he didn’t have a lot of experience — we just wanted to give him mound time. I think his hits against… they were like video game numbers.”

Hat tip to MMO reader Bo Beck for the link.

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A Championship Season: Looking Back http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/a-championship-season-looking-back.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/12/a-championship-season-looking-back.html/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 05:24:56 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170986 Pedro-Lopez

Any discussion about the Binghamton Mets 2014 Eastern League Championship should start with B-Met manager Pedro Lopez. After setting a franchise record for regular season wins and taking the Eastern League’s regular season championship then falling in the first round of the championship playoffs in 2013, Lopez got a taste of championship baseball and was hungry for more. Adding to Lopez’s appetite was the fact the Winter League team he managed following the 2013 season, the Criollos de Caguas, won the championship of his homeland in Puerto Rico.

For as long as there has been baseball, baseball fans have questioned the judgment of the in-game decisions made by managers. Most likely, when evaluating the total scheme of things, the impact of those managerial calls is somewhat exaggerated. But, there is little doubt of the direct value a baseball manager has on the mindset and chemistry of his team and their style of play. Successful baseball managers can motivate the troops over the length of a long season and maintain a positive clubhouse.

This year, it is here were Pedro Lopez excelled. From day one, Lopez publicly stated his goal – six more wins. Lopez fully expected his squad would finish in first or second place in the Eastern Division of the Eastern League and would then need six more wins to bring home the EL title. Lopez was right. When the B-Mets qualified for the summer this fall, Lopez became the first Binghamton skipper to ever take his teams to back-to-back playoff appearances.

And, Lopez voiced his ‘six more wins’ goal over and over to anyone and everyone who would listen and never retreated from his lofty stance no matter the obstacles his team faced. Pedro Lopez’s extreme confidence in his team and dogged pursuit of his goal had much to do with the B-Met success this summer.

Lopez showed unblinking faith in the professional baseball players on his squad. The B-Met manager seemed to know how to find situations best suited to help his players find success. And, Lopez had an amazing capacity to adapt on the fly. With his team sizzling hot in the middle of the season last summer, he lost one-half of the position players in his starting line-up. The B-Met skipper integrated several prospects called up from Port St. Lucie into his system without his team missing a beat.

Managing the bullpen is a Pedro Lopez strength. Lopez carves out relief roles, and has effectively developed dependable closers in each of his last two seasons in Binghamton. In the B-Met championship season, Lopez got quality work from Jon Velasquez and Cody Satterwhite, two reclamation pitching prospects taken off the baseball scrap heap by the Mets. In addition to matching relievers with roles, Lopez spreads the innings providing adequate innings amongst his cadre of relievers.

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Watching Binghamton games over Lopez’s three seasons as the B-Met skipper it was easy to notice his growing confidence. In his first season in Binghamton, I sometimes found myself feeling Lopez was trying to force the action of the B-Met offense. Eager to move runners around the base paths while coaching third base, Lopez would often run the home team out of potential run scoring innings. More and more in recent seasons, Lopez has seemed willing and confident to allow the run production to develop from inside the batter’s box.

There is no question, Pedro Lopez has the ear of his B-Met players. Former Binghamton Triplet star, major leaguer pitcher and the official scorer for the Binghamton Mets in each of their 23 seasons, Steve Kraly is impressed with what he sees of Lopez. Here’s what Kraly told Lynn Worthy who covers the B-Mets for the Binghamton Press and Sun. “The key that I feel of what Pedro has done is he reached the players, and they believe in him. The way he is handling his kids is like a father and son.”

Kraly ranks Lopez with the best of the best managers he has observed over his long association with baseball. “I put Pedro up with managers even when I played for the Triplets. They made you believe in yourself.”

It’s not difficult convincing Binghamton Met baseball fans that when it comes to managing a baseball team, Pedro Lopez is something special. During Lopez’s three-year stay in Binghamton the B-Mets have won 237 games and lost only 188. That’s a .560 winning percentage, the second best of all managers in B-Met history. Only current Toronto Blue Jay manager John Gibbons logged a better winning percentage winning games at a .577 clip in his only season as the B-Met skipper in 1998. The 237 wins also make Lopez the winningest manager in B-Met history. The Lopez win total surpassed John Tomargo’s 225 wins in Binghamton.

Lopez’s 2013 B-Met team set a regular season franchise winning mark with 86 victories earning Lopez the Eastern League Manager of the Year honors. Lopez became the third B-Met manager so recognized joining Gibbons and Steve Swisher. As mentioned previously, Lopez is the only B-Met skipper to lead Binghamton teams to back-to-back Eastern League play-off appearances. And, of course, Lopez’s 2014 B-Mets won their first Eastern League title in 20 years.

So, what does Pedro Lopez think about all his baseball success in Binghamton. “The best way I could put it is, it just kind of shows the type of players that we’ve got.” Modest as always.

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Prospect Pulse: Dilson Herrera, 2B http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/prospect-pulse-dilson-herrera-2b.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/prospect-pulse-dilson-herrera-2b.html/#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 19:17:25 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170771 Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 11.50.49 PM dilson herrera

Dilson Herrera had perhaps the most impressive season of any Mets prospect this year. Herrera batted .323 with 13 home runs, 71 RBI and 23 steals while playing second base for High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. He was a major force in the B-Mets lineup in the second half with an outstanding .340/.406/.560 slash line. What makes his performance even more impressive is the fact that he was one of the youngest players in the league at just 20 years old.

General Manager Sandy Alderson recently spoke with MMO about Herrera and he was also very encouraged by his performance. Here’s what he had to say:

“We’re very happy with his progress. I mean, it was phenomenal last year really coming from Port St. Lucie through Binghamton and up to the major league club. It was tough for me to make the decision to bring Dilson up to the major leagues knowing how important he had been to Binghamton. I think I called [B-Mets owner] Mike Urda and said, ‘Look, I really apologize, but this is really what we need to do.’ And he was the right guy at the time. We had some playing time because [Daniel] Murphy was down.

“Herrera has surprising power for his size. He runs well. He’s very athletic. Turns the double play. I think he’s going to get more consistent defensively. He’s got pretty good hands and moves laterally well. We were impressed with him during his time with us. He had very good at-bats. I think he hit three home runs. So he’s got some real potential. And we were very happy with him during the course of his time with us, and he’ll come to spring training.

“You know, our middle-infield situation over the next couple of years is probably going to be in a little bit of flux. So he’s got an excellent opportunity.”

It will be interesting to see how Sandy Alderson approaches the second base situation going forward. Given the Mets depth at the position, I would not be surprised to see him make a trade at some point. The Mets have a lot of options with Herrera, Daniel Murphy, and possibly Wilmer Flores. There is also L.J. Mazzilli in the minors, who is receiving a lot of praise of late.

However, I think the best move right now is for Herrera to start the season in AAA. The Mets already have a solid hitter at second base with Murphy, so there is no urgency to rush his development. While Herrera flashed a lot of potential during his September call-up, his performance was uneven and he still needs more time in the minors to refine his skills. He made several costly errors in the field, and batted only .220 despite hitting a few impressive home runs. However, his potential is undeniable.

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MMO Exclusive: Mets Prospect Akeel Morris Reflects On Breakthrough Season http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-akeel-morris-reflects-on-breakthrough-season.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mmo-exclusive-mets-prospect-akeel-morris-reflects-on-breakthrough-season.html/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:22:42 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=169606 Morris - Akeel

The beginning of last week I had just finished reading an email from Mets pitching prospect Akeel Morris. He had kindly consented to doing an interview with me for MMO. I then went into the MMO Interview Archives, and way back on page 16 or 17, I found the first interview I did with Akeel when he was toiling as an 18-year-old in the rookie league and I was surprised to see it was over three years ago… Wow, time sure flies when you’re young, and a Met, and are living the baseball life.

In those three years Morris has come a long way. He utterly dominated the South Atlantic League this past season, was selected to the  All-Star team, pitched in the play-offs, and led the SAL in Saves, strikeout rate, WHIP, ERA, total and strikeouts for a reliever. In recognition of his achievements, Morris received the prestigious Sterling Award, given by the Mets Organization to the best player at each minor league level.

Last week, the Mets even made the decision to add Morris to their 40-man Major League roster. That speaks volumes about what the Mets think of this talented right-hander.

When drafted by the Mets in the 10th round in 2010 out of Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, Akeel was just a raw, untested young pitcher with a very live arm. In our previous interview he explained that he was working on repeating his delivery and his overall command.

It seems to have worked out pretty well so far because in 2014 , while closing games for Single-A Savannah, Akeel led the league in Saves (16), ERA (0.63), WHIP (0.72), and K/9 (14.1). Yes that last stat is a real eye-opener, 14.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His 89 K’s in 57 innings was so far out of the ordinary that the closer with the next highest strikeout total in the league had 66 K’s in 58.2 innings.

So here we go… Let’s check in with this exciting young man and see what he has to say about his truly incredible season  Enjoy…

Petey: Hi Akeel, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for all of us at MMO, all the readers will really enjoy hearing from you.

After your amazing season this year in Savannah, there is a great deal of buzz about you in and around the organization not to mention the rest of baseball. How do you feel about the year you just had now that you have had a little time to decompress?

Akeel: The year I had personally was for me a great accomplishment. To see what I could do in a full season, the competition level and just moving up and being successful at every level for me is an accomplishment. I’m happy about that and excited to keep moving up and challenges, and challenging better hitters. So that really was an accomplishment for me personally. About the baseball world, it was a really great year, for me to make the All-Star team and post-season All-Star team, and the Sterling Award. On top of a great season that was even more than I could have asked for.

Petey: Well all those awards and accolades were well deserved my man. It is great to see your hard work and dedication paying off like that. Are you going to play any winter ball?

Akeel: No I’m not going to play any winter ball.

Petey: I went back in the MMO archives to find the interview you and I did before and I was shocked to see that it was just over three years ago, October 2011! A lot has gone down since then. It seems things really started to roll when you were switched to relief, that was the beginning of 2012 I think?

Akeel: Yeah I was put in a piggy-back role in 2012 so I was coming out of the bullpen. Yeah so you could say I started relief in 2012. And 2013 I was with the Brooklyn Cyclones. I wasn’t on a full relief schedule there, the appearances were just as much but I was out of the bullpen. I was on a starter’s schedule but I was piggy-backing as well. But yeah this year in Savannah was the first full year in the bullpen. Doing back-to-back outings, that was a big difference. You’re on a throwing program everyday, and you got to pitch that night. You have to learn how to pace yourself and how your arm is feeling going into the game and stuff. It was also a learning experience for me coming out of the bullpen.

Petey: Yeah and if you’re facing the same team two nights in a row you have to be able to show them something different right?

Akeel: Exactly. So it was definitely a learning experience.

Petey: Was there a moment when things really started to ‘click’ for you, and did that help your confidence?

Akeel: Confidence-wise, when I’ve got my good stuff, on most nights consistently like that I kinda got a feel for. I know what I gotta do to have this and this, and you’re not going to have it every night. But when you can have it on most nights that’s all you can really ask for, and you have to battle it the other nights. I got a feel for how I need to be, what I need to be, and what I need to do, to have my stuff be effective most nights, you know? I guess that’s what really ‘clicked’, learning about myself.

Petey: That’s really cool man. So how would you describe your mindset when you are entering a game as a closer? How is it different from starting a ball game?

Akeel: Yeah, it’s definitely different, I mean as a closer or even late in a ball game, you’re going to come in when the game is tied or most likely when your team is up and your like okay, they play nine innings, you’ve got to shut it down. No free passes, no anything. You don’t want to give them any momentum, you know? It’s really just like shut it down, shut it down, that’s all you’re really thinking.

Petey: Being aggressive.

Akeel: Yeah. Basically that’s a simple message in my head, I got to shut it down, go right after these guys. Don’t give them any free passes.

Petey: Is there any ritual or mental prep you do in the bullpen before coming in with the game on the line?

Akeel: Mental preparation, I mean that’s gradual throughout the game. As the later innings come buy I start to get a little more locked in. I start to move around in the bullpen, even as the the game is close in the eighth inning sometimes I just sit around and it’s about mentally locking in. When the whole process really starts for me is before I get on the mound to warm up. Sometimes you don’t have as much time but it doesn’t feel like that once you mentally prepared yourself. So that’s what works for me.

Petey: When we did our last interview for MMO we discussed your pitches at the time. I would imagine they have come a long way since then. Back in 2011 this what you said on the subject:

“As of now I’m throwing a fastball, curveball and a change up. My fastball is usually low to mid 90′s, it peaked at 96 this season. My curve is mid to upper 70′s, and change up is upper 70′s to low 80′s.”

What kind of speeds and movement is your fastball exhibiting these days?

Akeel: My fastball has been sitting at 93-95 mph this season, topped out at 97. Most people tell me it has like a downhill plane, most times it has life to it. Sometimes my catcher will tell me it looks like it’s coming down and looks like it’s going to hit the ground, but it just rides out and it reaches the catcher. So it kinda looks like it’s downhill, downhill, downhill, but it somehow rides out to the plate. So I don’t know how to explain it, that’s what he told me.

Petey: Wow, it sounds like the pitch has natural rise or carry but you’re keeping the ball down in the zone as well.

Akeel: I guess so yeah something like that.

Petey: That’s a four-seam fastball?

Akeel: Yeah I throw a four-seam fastball.

Petey: How bout your change-up? The last time I talked to you it was something you wanted to focus on.

Akeel: The change-up has been really great. Sometimes I keep it down and there’s not as much movement, but it’s so much slower than my fastball and it looks so much like my fastball too, it’s hard for hitters to pick it up. And sometimes it’s even better when it has that drop-off to it. Sometimes it just drops off the table and they swing over it. And sometimes it doesn’t even have that much movement but it’s so slow they don’t see it and can’t put a good swing on it.

Petey: And your arm-speed? It’s the same as with the fastball?

Akeel: Yeah my arm speed is the same.

Petey: That’s awesome. Now what about your breaking pitches?

Akeel: I throw a slider. The slider has really come along a lot more this year. I started throwing it last off-season and at the beginning of this season I didn’t throw it as much. But when the second half came I started to bring it out and throw it, and it really started to develop a lot more. I even got a feel for it where I was throwing the slider even more than my change-up at times. And I love that feeling because I didn’t even have to depend on the fastball/change-up combination. I could go fastball/slider combination and when I mixed it in with the change-up too, it was even a lot better.

Petey: Yeah and the results from this last season certainly attest to that. Say Akeel, what are some of the things you hope to accomplish in your development this upcoming season? Do you set any goals for yourself?

Akeel: This upcoming season I would really like to get better control of my slider. Like be able to throw it for a strike more often. I would throw it for a strike at times but most times I’d throw them a slider it would break outside the zone and they would swing over it or they would take it. But it was more for them to see the pitch. So if I can throw it for strikes more often that’s what I really want to do.  So basically just develop the slider some more.

Petey: Are you able to throw the slider when you are behind in the count?

Akeel: Yes I’ve thrown it in various different counts and I feel that’s a big thing about pitching too. I feel whatever pitches you have you need to be able to throw it in any count. So yeah I have been working on that and I have thrown it in different counts.

Petey: Is there any one coach, or coaches that have helped you significantly since joining the Mets organization, in regards to your development?

Akeel: Coaching-wise, I’ve been with Jonathan Hurst for two years in Kingsport, he helped me a lot, and different coaches in extended spring training. But one of the coaches who really took a lot of time out with me and worked on mechanics while I was in extended spring training day-to-day was Miguel Valdez. He was the pitching coach for short season and I mean he’d really break down my mechanics  for me to understand it and I worked on it. It took a little time but it definitely paid off to where I understand my mechanics and I can see what I’m doing wrong. And as soon as I figured that stuff out it’s been going a lot better, a lot better. So Miguel Valdez has really helped me out a lot.

Petey: You were on a very talented Savannah ball club this past season, lot’s of excellent position players and pitchers. And of course you guys made the SAL playoffs. But let’s focus on the pitching staff for a moment. As someone who watched your starting pitcher’s performances in every game, are there any that stand out for what they bring to the table?

Akeel: That’s really hard, I mean we got so much talent. Actually the starting pitching, I mean for the full year I would say, John Gant for sure. He impressed me. I mean anytime he’s going into the game your guaranteed he’s gonna go at least six innings. He usually goes deep into the ball games and he’s  keeping the score close, giving your team a chance to win. So John Gant really impressed me with his consistency and being able to do that. Other pitchers, I like Robert Gsellman a lot too but he got hurt a little bit into the season. But I mean he really pitched good, he had a good year as well.

Petey: Yeah a lot of Mets fans that follow the Mets Minor League teams are very high on those two guys.

Akeel: And also Kevin McGowan too because he had a game, he went deep into the ninth and I like when your starting pitcher is out there. His pitch count was up and he couldn’t pitch anymore in the ninth inning if he wanted to. And I had to come in and close the game, and he didn’t even want to get off the mound, he wanted to finish the game. So when you have your starters out there with that sort of fire, it pumps you up more to come in and save their game.

Petey: One more question. Now that you are a professional ‘closer’ Akeel, do you ever imagine yourself on the mound in the 9th inning of the World Series trying to preserve a one-run lead? How does it work out? Ha ha!

Akeel: Definitely, as a kid people have those fantasies, whatever scenario it is. Fortunately for me I was always pitching, since I became a pitcher that’s always been the fantasy. The World Series, last inning, game on the line and they call on you. I mean how that turns out is I’m just ready to pitch. Like I said, always in the minors to shut it down, and it goes well for me in my mind.

Petey: That’s is awesome man. Seriously Akeel, I want to thank you again for being so accommodating and taking the time to do this interview. You have always taken time out to talk to me and my colleagues at MetsMerized Online and we all really appreciate it.

Akeel: Alright man sounds good, anytime. I’m already psyched.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I hope you enjoyed our interview. Although Morris is still a year or two away from the big leagues, the fact that the Mets found it necessary to protect him from the draft this winter by adding him to the 40 man roster shows how highly regarded a prospect he truly is. I look for him to be fast-tracked all the way to AA this year. He’ll surely have a chance to get his feet wet in the Florida State League coming out of spring training, but I would be very surprised if he doesn’t wind up at Binghamton by mid-season at the latest.

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Hansel Robles Shined In Relief, Mets Took Notice http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/hansel-robles-shined-in-relief-mets-took-notice.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/hansel-robles-shined-in-relief-mets-took-notice.html/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:43:06 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166198 hansel robles

On Thursday, the New York Mets added RHP Hansel Robles to the 40-Man Roster so that he would be protected from the Rule 5 Draft in December. Since then, we’ve had quite a few readers ask us about him in the comment threads and via email. Here’s something our Binghamton beat writer, John Bernhardt, wrote about Robles a few weeks ago. It will give you a glimpse into this exciting talent and why the Mets felt it was important to protect him this week. Joe D. 

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Over the last eight weeks of the minor league season, a new name surfaced as part of the stable of New York Mets pitching prospects. Actually, to be accurate, it’s a name many Met fans already know. It’s this young pitcher’s role that changed and as a result, so too, may have his fortunes.

Hansel Robles is no stranger to Met fans who pay attention to prospects in the minor leagues. In terms of service time with the Mets, Robles reminds you of Wilmer Flores. He’s only 24, but it seems like Robles, who signed as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic, has been in the Mets minor league pipeline forever.

And, this talented young man is no stranger to some degree of notoriety over his minor league journey. In 2012 pitching in the NY-Penn League, he was nearly unhittable. In 72.2 innings on the hill, the strong righthander racked up a sterling 1.11 ERA while only allowing 47 hits and striking out 66 against only 10 walks. That was good for a ridiculous 0.78 WHIP. Robles struck out 24 percent of opposing batters and walked 3.7 percent. And, Robles counted off 22 scoreless innings and over 30 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run to close out his season.

Robles’s pitching magic seemed to ebb when he reached full season minor league play in 2013. It’s not as if it was bad, but gone was the consistent dominating performances we saw in the NY-Penn League. Compared to that, it was a rather pedestrian performance in Port St. Lucie the following season.

Entering 2014, Robles had always been a starting pitcher his minor league career and for much of last season it was no different in Binghamton. Robles had a spot in Pedro Lopez’s B-Met rotation, but was an enigma of sorts in eighteen starts, often either very effective or otherwise looking like a train wreck.

But sometime in mid July the composition of the Binghamton roster changed. Greg Peavey, Tyler Pill and Matt Bowman were elevated to Triple-A. Cory Mazzoni, Gabriel Ynoa, and Steven Matz joined the B-Met rotation. In a July 19th contest against Trenton, manager Pedro Lopez called for Robles’ services out of the bullpen. It was his first relief appearance of the season and one of only a handful during his minor league career.

Nothing in his first appearance out of the pen served as an omen of what was to come. Robles threw two innings allowing an earned run while walking one and striking out one.

His impact as a relief pitcher began to emerge on August 3rd when in his 4th appearance out of the pen, Robles struck out the side in his inning of work that day and then fanned four more in two perfect innings of relief four days later against Richmond.

Down the homestretch, Robles’ confidence soared. In fact, by the end of the post season Robles was almost emboldened when Lopez would make the call and signal him into a game. Out of the pen, Robles’s fastball jumped up several ticks on the radar gun coming in regularly between 93 and 96 miles per hour and occasionally inching even higher. A sweeping slider in the 84-87 mph range complimented the heater.

Now a lat inning reliever, Robles pounded the strike zone like he had in his NY-Penn days. His issues with yielding extra base hits almost completely evaporated. Most impressive, was the bigger the importance and the higher the stakes, the more dominating Robles became.

robles

What started out as an experiment evolved into a critical component of Binghamton’s Eastern League title run. As impressive outing followed impressive outing, by the post season, it was Lopez’s blueprint to stretch his starters to the point where he could use Robles as a bridge to his B-Met closer Cody Satterwhite. The relief duo rewarded their skipper with 11 innings of scoreless relief, a huge factor in Binghamton’s championship season.

What does it mean? Where does it lead? No one is really certain. Many unanswered questions remain. Can Robles work his relief magic for an entire season and at elevated levels of play? Are two pitches adequate to find success in a major league bullpen? (Robles is also working on a change-up) Can Robles handle back-to-back relief appearances, something he was never asked to do with the B-Mets?

For me the only no-brainer seems to be that with all the young starting pitchers in the Mets youth brigade, it is prudent to continue to develop Hansel Robles as another live arm out of the Met bullpen. Something clicked after this kid was converted to a reliever, he opened a lot of eyes in Binghamton.

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Alderson Is Optimistic About Conforto’s Defense http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/alderson-is-optimistic-about-confortos-defense.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/alderson-is-optimistic-about-confortos-defense.html/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:31:27 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170441 michael conforto Patrick E. McCarthy

When the Mets selected Michael Conforto 10th overall in this year’s draft, the main criticism about Conforto was his defense. As an outfielder in Oregon State, Conforto earned a reputation as a liability in the outfield. Since many analysts felt his defense was an issue, he was viewed as a one dimensional player.

However, it appears that Conforto’s defense is better than initially anticipated. Mets GM Sandy Alderson spoke positively about his defense as well as his offense in a recent interview with MMO’s John Bernhardt. Here’s what Alderson had to say:

“Since I arrived in New York, he’s the first first-round pick out of college that we’ve drafted. Our other three had been high school players. So I do expect that he’ll move a little more quickly. We did get him to Savannah for the playoffs late in the season this year. So I would expect that he’ll move more quickly than some of our other top draft picks have certainly.

“Michael comes from a very athletic and competitive family. His father, I think, was a linebacker at Penn State. He played football there. His mother is a former Olympic athlete — a medalist in synchronized swimming. So he comes from a very athletic family. He’s a great kid, very humble and committed to the game and has interacted with fans — I think a terrific individual, and an outstanding hitter.

“A left-handed hitter, power is probably not his foremost quality. He’s got some, but he’s more of a gap-to-gap guy — high average, high on-base percentage — and a pretty good defender, which was not his reputation coming into the draft. But based on the time he spent in Brooklyn and then Savannah, our guys were very pleased with him defensively. He’s kind of an all-around player, and we do expect that he’ll move very quickly.”

If Confoto can provide solid defense from left field, it will be a great boost to his value. He was regarded as one of the best college hitters in the draft and batted .345 with an impressive 1.050 OPS during his final season in Oregon State. In his first season at the professional level, Conforto hit .330 with three home runs and a .403 OBP for the Low-A Brooklyn Cyclones.

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Mets’ 40 Man Roster After Additions and Subtractions http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mets-40-man-roster-after-additions-and-subtractions.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/mets-40-man-roster-after-additions-and-subtractions.html/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 03:47:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170342 noah syndergaard

The Mets announced that right-handers Noah Syndergaard, Cory Mazzoni, Hansel Robles, Gabriel Ynoa and Akeel Morris plus lefty reliever Jack Leathersich have been added to the 40 man roster. Additionally, Jeff Walters, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June, was removed from the roster.

Here is what the Mets 40 Man Roster looks like after all is sad and done:

Pitchers (23)

Dario Alvarez
Vic Black
Bartolo Colon
Jacob deGrom
Josh Edgin
Jeurys Familia
Dillon Gee
Gonzalez Germen
Erik Goeddel
Matt Harvey
Jack Leathersich
Steven Matz
Cory Mazzoni
Jenrry Mejia
Rafael Montero
Akeel Morris
Jon Niese
Bobby Parnell
Hansel Robles
Noah Syndergaard
Carlos Torres
Zack Wheeler
Gabriel Ynoa

Catchers (2)

Travis d’Arnaud
Anthony Recker

Infielders (8)

Eric Campbell
Lucas Duda
Wilmer Flores
Dilson Herrera
Daniel Murphy
Ruben Tejada
Wilfredo Tovar
David Wright

Outfielders (7)

Michael Cuddyer
Matt den Dekker
Curtis Granderson
Juan Lagares
Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Cesar Puello
Eric Young Jr.

The Rule 5 Draft will be held on December 11 during the Winter Meetings. If the Mets acquire any player with a major league contract between now and the draft, they’ll have to make room for him and remove a player the roster.

November 20

All MLB teams must decide by today which minor league players they will add to their 40-man rosters to protect them from this upcoming Rule 5 Draft to be conducted in December.

On Tuesday, Sandy Alderson told reporters that he expects to add 5-6 prospects to the 40-man roster and that it will be heavily dominated by right-handed pitchers.

Noah Syndergaard will head the list of players and right-handers Cory Mazzoni, Logan Verrett and Akeel Morris could all be protected as well. That leaves one or two more spots and I’m betting it will be two from a group that includes Gabe Ynoa, Jack Leathersich, T.J. RiveraDaniel Muno, and Dustin Lawley.

Remember that anyone selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on the new team’s 25 man roster all year or be returned to the original team. So the strategy is to try and protect those players who could help an MLB team right now.

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Top Minor League Performers: Matt den Dekker, AAA http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/top-minor-league-performers-matt-den-dekker-aaa.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/top-minor-league-performers-matt-den-dekker-aaa.html/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:09:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170390 matt den dekker

For the second year in a row, the Las Vegas 51’s clinched a division title under manager Wally Backman. They posted a strong 81-63 record this season, and they finished 9.5 games ahead of second place. The 51’s lineup crushed the competition with a league leading average of over six runs a game. However, the 51’s season came to a disappointing end with a 3-1 series loss in the semifinal round.

The 51’s received a lot of impressive individual performances this year, but I think Matt den Dekker’s season stands out the most. He was one of the main contributors to the 51’s lethal offense and led the team in hits, doubles and triples. His .334 averaged ranked second on the team behind only Eric Campbell. His .947 OPS was also third on the team among players with at least 100 at bats. Additionally, he provided plus defense in center field with his excellent range and glove.

I strongly considered top prospect Noah Syndergaard, but his performance was too uneven and inconsistent. Syndergaard is obviously the superior prospect, but based purely on statistical production in 2014, den Dekker had the clear edge.

2015 Role

With the acquisition of Michael Cuddyer, den Dekker will likely compete for the Mets fourth outfielder role this Spring. He should be a valuable piece off the bench as a late inning defensive replacement and a solid option as a left-handed pinch hitter. He also provides some insurance for Cuddyer, who has missed considerable time to the disabled list the past several seasons.

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Can Matz Be That Second Lefty In The Bullpen? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/can-matz-be-that-second-lefty-in-the-bullpen.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/can-matz-be-that-second-lefty-in-the-bullpen.html/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:17:51 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=170382 steve matz

Echoing what I wrote last Thursday and again this Monday, general manager Sandy Alderson said there’s a possibility that pitching prospect Steve Matz can make his debut in 2015 as a left-handed reliever in the Mets bullpen.

Alderson is very high on Matz, recently telling MMO, “”I would say Steven is probably one of the top handful of left-handed pitching prospects in the game right now.”

“He’s got an excellent fastball for a lefty, at 93, 94 mph. It can get a little bit higher than that. His breaking ball has gotten much better. And he threw some excellent changeups that night in Binghamton in that championship game.”

As for making his way to the majors as a reliever, Alderson said yesterday, “It might be a way for him to break in.”

Matz may also get the call when the Mets opt to skip a turn for Matt Harvey to conserve his innings. Along with Matz, Alderson said Noah Syndergaard and Cory Mazzoni were also options.

Given what Zach Duke (3 years, $15M) just signed for and the numbers being tossed around for Andrew Miller, it would behoove the Mets to explore Matz as that second lefty in the bullpen. If anyone can pull it off it’s him, and it’s only until we can open up a spot in the rotation for him..

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Syndergaard Early Favorite For 2015 Rookie of the Year http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/syndergaard-early-favorite-for-2015-rookie-of-the-year.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/11/syndergaard-early-favorite-for-2015-rookie-of-the-year.html/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:50:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168863 noah syndergaard - las vegas 51s

Jim Callis of MLB.com, predicts that Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard will win next year’s NL Rookie of the Year award, following the same path as RHP Jacob deGrom.

“He doesn’t have as clear a path to a regular big league role…at least not at the moment, but Syndergaard should claim a spot in the Mets’ rotation even with Matt Harvey returning from Tommy John surgery. New York could trade some pitching for some needed offensive help, and Syndergaard is too talented to send back to Triple-A for a second season.”

“Unlike most young pitchers his size, the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Syndergaard repeats his delivery easily. That gives him better command than most 22-year-olds, enhancing his premium stuff. Syndergaard regularly pitches at 95-97 mph with his fastball and can crank it up into triple digits, and the run and sink on his heater make it even more effective.”

Syndergaard will have plenty of competition in 2015 when one of the most talented rookie classes in years is set to debut.

Third baseman Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs is predicted by many to be a top contender, but Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson, Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler, Marlins starting pitcher Andrew Heaney, and Braves second baseman Jose Peraza should all be in the mix as well.

Last week, Baseball America ranked Syndergaard as the 5th best prospect in the Pacific Coast League and wrote:

Managers and scouts held mixed opinions on the physical Syndergaard, based on his performance at Las Vegas’ notoriously hitter-friendly Cashman Field. He led the PCL in strikeouts but took his lumps as well. One rival manager called Syndergaard a “good prospect, but not an accomplished pitcher right now,” while a scout from a rival organization called him “probably the best pitcher in the PCL, prospect-wise.”

Syndergaard touched 100 mph this season and pitched at 95-97 with heavy run and sinking action on his fastball, BA wrote. He adds to that a deceptive changeup for which he has feel and a curveball that flashes average. He was slowed in 2014 by injuries to his right forearm and left shoulder.

The only thing standing in Syndergaard’s way to the majors is a glut of seven starting pitchers to fill five spots in the Mets rotation. Sandy Alderson will try to chisel that number down this offseason, but Syndergaard is slated to begin the season in Triple-A regardless to work on his consistency.

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