Mets Merized Online » Akeel Morris http://metsmerizedonline.com Tue, 03 Mar 2015 03:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 Akeel Morris Is On The Fast Track http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/akeel-morris-is-on-the-fast-track.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2015/01/akeel-morris-is-on-the-fast-track.html/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:34:49 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=172888 Morris - Akeel

Mets farmhand Akeel Morris is someone you should keep a lookout for. After a rocky season at Kingsport where he went 0-6 and posted a 7.98 ERA in 38.1 innings, the 2010 10th round pick rebounded extremely well and was lights-out in 2013 and again in 2014.

By lights out, of course, I mean absolutely dominant. In 2013, pitching for the Short Season Brooklyn Cyclones, he went 4-1 while posting a 1.00 ERA. In 45 innings he allowed just 29 hits and struck out 60 batters. He started 3 games before he was moved to the bullpen, where he was extremely effective, finishing 7 games and saving one.

As impressive as the 1.00 ERA and the 12 K/9 are, his 2014 season was worlds better. He pitched for Single-A Savannah, and once again went 4-1. However, this time around, he posted an inhuman 0.63 ERA. In 57 innings, he allowed a mere 19 hits and struck out 89. He walked 22 batters, which brings his WHIP to a minuscule 0.719. This season, he didn’t start any games, coming in from the ‘pen exclusively in 41 games. He finished 28 of them and saved 16.

With all of these huge power arms we’ve been hearing so much about, such as Syndergaard, Montero, and Matz among others, it’s easy for some to get lost in the fray. We have a surplus of young potential closers on the team; Mejia, Parnell, Black, and Familia, but there is another one waiting in the wings. Morris is already on the 40-man roster as a 22-year old, and if he can continue to be this dominant, it shouldn’t be long until we see him pitching at Citi Field.

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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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Mets Minors Report: Reynolds Remains Hot In Vegas, Gant Nearly Perfect Again http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-minors-report-reynolds-remains-hot-in-vegas-gant-near-perfection-again.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-minors-report-reynolds-remains-hot-in-vegas-gant-near-perfection-again.html/#comments Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162515 MiLB: April 28 - St. Lucie Mets at Tampa Yankees

Last Night’s Quick Scores

Prospect Pipeline

  • Cory Mazzoni tossed six innings, allowing one run on five hits, with five strikeouts to earn his second win for Vegas on the season.
  • Matt Reynolds, who doubled in his second at bat to extend his current hitting streak to nine games, also launched his third Triple A home run on the season. He has seven multi-hit games in his last nine games and finished Sunday 4 for 5, run scored and three RBI’s.
  • Andrew Brown launched his 18th home run on the season for Vegas.
  • Anthony Seratelli was 2 for 4 with two runs scored, a double and a RBI in 51′s victory. He currently has seven game hit streak with four multi-hit games in the span.
  • T.J. Rivera was hitless in four at bats to end his 10 game hit streak. In his last 10 games he is hitting .415 (17 for 41).
  • Darrell Ceciliani was 2 for 4, with a run scored in Bingo’s loss and extended his hitting streak to six games and has six multi-hit games in his last 10 games, batting .395 (15 for 38) in that span.
  • Steven Matz  took the loss on Monday and dropped his record to 4-3, as he threw six innings, allowing an unearned run, while walking one and striking out seven batters.
  • After his eight game hit streak was snapped on Saturday, Brandon Nimmo is hitless in his last six official at bats
  • Jared King had his fourth straight two hit game in St. Lucie’s loss. King finished 2 for 4 and a RBI.
  • John Gant, looking for his 11th win on the season, had to settle with a no decision. He tossed seven shutout innings, allowing one hit and two walks, striking out eight batters.
  • Akeel Morris threw 2/3 of an inning, walking one and striking out two to earn his 12th save of the season. Morris also has a 0.74 ERA.
  • Michael Conforto hit his second home run in as many days, scoring the only run in Brooklyn’s loss. He finished 2 for 4 and is currently batting .364 (21 for 58) on the season.

Prospect Spotlight

Savannah’s John Gant was perfect through six innings on Sunday and finished the game allowing just one hit through seven innings, striking out eight batters and lowered his ERA to 2.55. This was the second time in three starts on the season that Gant flirted with a no-hitter through six innings. For the season the 6’3″ right hander is 10-5, with 102 K’s thru 113 innings.

Tweets From The Farm

I guess Michael Conforto has a new nick name and if he continues to produce, it may actually stick with him.

(Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Tampa Yankees)

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Nimmo, Matz, Cecchini Among 14 Mets Prospects Selected To FSL & SAL All Star Teams http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/nimmo-matz-cecchini-among-14-mets-prospects-selected-to-fsl-sal-all-star-teams.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/06/nimmo-matz-cecchini-among-14-mets-prospects-selected-to-fsl-sal-all-star-teams.html/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:00:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=157631 brandon nimmo

The Florida State League and the South Atlantic League announced the rosters for their respective All Star games and the Mets are well represented in each game.

In the FSL, the St. Lucie Mets will send infielders T.J. Rivera and Dilson Herrera, outfielder Brandon Nimmo, catcher Cam Maron, and pitchers Randy Fontanez, Matt Koch, and Steven Matz.

The South will face the North in the All Star Game at McKechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., on Saturday, June 14 at 7:05 p.m.

In the SAL, the Savannah Sand Gnats will be represented by infielders Jeff McNeil and Gavin Cecchini and pitchers Dario Alvarez, Robert Coles, Miller Diaz, Kevin McGowan and Akeel Morris.

Also, Sand Gnats manager Luis Rojas will join the mix and lead the SAL Southern Division all star team.

The SAL All-Star Game will be held on Monday, June 16 at L.P. Frans Stadium in Hickory, N.C.,- the home of the Hickory Crawdads.

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Mets Farm Report: Bowman Strikes Out 11, Dykstra Homers In Vegas Rout http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/mets-farm-report-bowman-strikes-out-11-dykstra-homers-in-vegas-rout.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/04/mets-farm-report-bowman-strikes-out-11-dykstra-homers-in-vegas-rout.html/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 16:21:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=153619 matt-bowman

LAS VEGAS 6, RENO 0

Veteran southpaw Dana Eveland took the ball for the 51′s on Thursday night as they topped the Aces. The 30-year old lasted just five innings, but held his opponents scoreless while striking out six and walking a couple. Las Vegas took the lead in the fourth inning thanks to a two-run double off the bat of Wilmer Flores, followed immediately by a two-run shot by Allan Dykstra that cleared the center field wall. The 51′s would tack on another run in the inning on a Juan Centeno single. Flores would add an RBI triple in the seventh frame. Matt den Dekker and Eric Campbell combined for five hits. Dykstra is now batting .429 for the season.

NEW HAMPSHIRE 1, BINGHAMTON 4

Matthew Bowman was absolutely brilliant on Thursday, pitching seven scoreless innings and only surrendering four hits. He also struck out 11 Fisher Cats and walked only one on his way to a victory. Through two starts, the 22-year old righty is now 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA. Offensively,Darrell Ceciliani led the charge, going 3 for 5 from the leadoff spot with a double and two runs scored. Matt Reynolds also pitched in with three hits of his own, while Matt Clark drove in two.

ST. LUCIE 6, FORT MYERS 1

Not to be outdone by Bowman, lefty Steve Matz also went seven innings for the win for St. Lucie. The New York native struck out six batters and walked one, while scattering just two hits. The offense finally broke through in support of Matz in the 6th inning, when catcher Cam Maron hit a two-run single that scored Brandon Nimmo and Brandon AllenT.J. Rivera notched two hits on the night, including a double. No other Met had more than one hit, while Nimmo was held hitless.

GREENVILLE 4, SAVANNAH 0

Robert Gsellman pitched fairly well, but it wasn’t enough as the Sand Gnats were shut out by the Drive. Gsellman pitched five innings, limiting the damage to just one run despite walking three batters. He also struck out five in the losing effort. The SAL Pitcher of the Week Akeel Morris came on in relief of Gsellman, tossing two scoreless frames while striking out a pair, but walking three. The Savannah offense was nowhere to be found, mustering just five hits in total– and not a single extra base hit. Two of those hits came off the bat of third basemen Jeff McNeil, while Jared King and Stephan Sabol each contributed a hit. Dominic Smith‘s struggles continued as he went 0 for 3 and struck out twice. His batting average has now dropped to .154 on the season. Shortstop Gavin Cecchini, who has been hot of lately, also failed to reach base in four attempts.

PLAYER OF THE NIGHT

For what may have been the most dominant pitching performance by a Mets prospect this season, former 13th round pick Matthew Bowman has earned player of the night honors. Bowman has been brilliant thus far in 2014, pitching to a sub-1.00 ERA and sporting a 15 to 2 strikeout to walk ratio.

Check out Mets Minors On Deck for Friday’s probable starters.

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2013 Organizational Review: Brooklyn Cyclones http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/2013-organizational-review-brooklyn-cyclones.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/02/2013-organizational-review-brooklyn-cyclones.html/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 16:05:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=147345 cecchini

Normally, the lower levels on the minor leagues serve the purpose of developing young players fresh out of the June MLB draft and to get them accustomed to life in professional baseball.

But for the Brooklyn Cyclones, making the playoffs has basically been a perennial feat.

However, the 2013 summer short season ended without a postseason berth for the Cyclones for just the fourth time in the team’s 13-year existence.

It is important to note though that the team has now finished at or above .500 (38-37) in all 13 of its seasons, making the Cyclones one of only four teams in affiliated baseball – the Arizona League Giants, the Elizabethton Twins and the New York Yankees – to never finish below .500 since 2001.

Right from the start of the summer, it seemed the Cyclones just couldn’t find their rhythm. Though it’s by no means an excuse, the weather certainly didn’t cooperate at MCU Park in Coney Island the first few weeks.

Almost every home game, the Cyclones were forced to wait out one or even two rain delays. And in games where there were no weather delays, Brooklyn wound up playing a number of extra-inning games, including a marathon 16-inning game.

Manager Rich Donnelly continuously said, “That’s baseball, there is no clock,” in response to questions about how to deal with the delays and extra-inning games. But he did say that the start of this season was the strangest given the circumstances in all his years in professional baseball.

Despite not getting off to a great start, the Cyclones began picking up their game and were in the playoff hunt right until the end of the season. That’s all you can ask of a young team finding their way.

Mets’ great Lee Mazzilli’s son, second baseman L.J. Mazzilli, led the Cyclones with a .278 batting average. He sat above .300 for most of the summer, but a hand injury late in the season caused him to cool off down the stretch. He also led the team in RBI with 34.

Mets’ 2012 first-round draft pick, shortstop Gavin Cecchini, had a solid all-around season. His bat was a bit cool to start the year, but once he returned from a high ankle sprain, he was red hot offensively. He rattled off a 16-game hitting streak and began spraying line drives all over the field. He finished the year hitting .273.

But for Cecchini, his strength is his defense, and he showed that this summer. He has a great arm and gets to a lot of balls with his range. His glove can carry him to the next level, but he’ll have to maintain a steady bat.

After an extremely cold start, right fielder James Roche rebounded to take some strides offensively. He led the team with five home runs and displayed good power to the gaps. But he must cut down on his strikeouts to be considered a legitimate prospect.

Miller-Diaz Brooklyn Eagle

While the Cyclones’ offense was streaky, the pitching really held its own this summer. Starting pitchers Miller Diaz (2.03), Rob Gsellman (2.06), Carlos Valdez (2.58) and John Gant (2.89) all recorded an ERA under 3.00. Diaz, Gsellman and Gant were each named to the All-Star team.

Diaz led the staff with seven wins and 87 strikeouts. He sometimes had trouble putting batters away, which led to some high pitch counts, but the talent is there.

Gsellman seemed to be the hard luck pitcher on the staff, as he barely received any run support. But he still pitched well enough to be able to make an impact at the next level next season.

Akeel Morris, who struggled in extended spring training, really impressed the Mets’ brass, so much so that Jeff Wilpon ventured to MCU Park to check him out. With a fastball sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, Morris could have a future as a big-league reliever.

It seems he still considers himself as a starter, but he thrived in a long-relief role this summer. He finished 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

Other relievers John Mincone and Johnny Magliozzi found success in the closer’s role. Mincone was named an All-Star after posting a 1.47 ERA and six saves, but a lower back injury ended his season early. Magliozzi stepped right in and saved nine games with a 1.17 ERA.

Though the Cyclones’ season did not continue deeper into September, the team still accomplished what it set out to do at the beginning of the season: provide an entertaining quality of baseball to an area of Brooklyn that was hit hard last fall during Hurricane Sandy.

The “Meaningful Mondays,” in which a portion of each ticket sold went to local charities aiding in Sandy recovery, were a nice touch to help the surrounding communities still in need from the superstorm.

For the 13th consecutive season, the Cyclones led the New York-Penn League in attendance.

It was a fun summer at Coney Island, and we’ll hopefully be seeing some of these faces at Citi Field in the near future – especially some of the talented young pitchers to go along with the already-talented crop of pitchers the Mets are developing.

(Photos: Brooklyn Eagle, MiLB)

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MMO Exclusive: Akeel Morris, Big Time Fastball, Big League Dreams http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mmo-exclusive-akeel-morris-big-time-fastball-big-league-dreams.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/01/mmo-exclusive-akeel-morris-big-time-fastball-big-league-dreams.html/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 22:13:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=140629 akeel morris

In the tenth round of the 2010 draft, the New York Mets added right-handed pitcher Akeel Morris to the organization. The then 17-year old out of St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands was bursting with potential, however raw it may have appeared. The 6’1”, 170 pound hurler came equipped with an electric fastball, curveball, and change combination that he used to strike out a high rate of batters for the Brooklyn Cyclones this year.

In 45 innings pitched, Morris had a 1.00 ERA with a 1.156 WHIP, 12.0 SO/9 and a 4.6 BB/9. We even wrote about Morris’ past performance here at Mets Minors.

“I would usually work off of my fastball, and when I get my good fastball going and I’m hitting spots, I’ll use my changeup. “I was mainly using my fastball, changeup and changing speeds with those two pitches,” he says.

A combination that led him, despite serving primarily as a closer and pitching in a significantly fewer number of innings, to the ninth spot on the NYPL strikeout leaderboard.

After spending one year with the GCL Mets in 2010, Morris advanced to Kingsport for the next two seasons, before being promoted to Brooklyn in 2013, his first season out of rookie ball, and his first taste of the glimmering lights of New York.

“It was really great, I had a lot of fun. It was my first time actually being in front of a crowd, a consistent crowd.“ He continues, “It was really exciting for me and I liked the crowds.”

“Actually having to sign all of those autographs every night, was exciting too, along with the interviews. People always say it’s like a little taste of the big leagues playing in Brooklyn and I think it lived up to that. It was actually a little taste of it, and it was a lot of fun,” says the pitching prospect.

He’s an aggressive presence on the mound and it shows in his approach to opposing batters. This is a big factor in his high rate of strikeouts, although it occasionally comes at the cost of a few too many walked batters.

“I don’t feel any pressure, while on the mound, because when the adrenaline kicks in, I’m just ready to compete and all that’s in my head is to stay within myself and do well,” says Morris.

akeel morris

Scouts have criticized him for his “extreme” levels of exertion when throwing a pitch, claiming that this could limit his durability and hinder his pitch control. While these issues may claim to project future problems, there doesn’t seem to be any current indication of it’s effect.

“I feel like in games that I’ve started this year, I could have kept going. I pitched up to five innings but that’s just because of the pitch count.  I feel like I can go deeper into games as a starter, and durability wise, I feel healthy and I don’t think that should be a problem,” says the right-hander.

Like all developing pitchers, Morris does have areas that could use improvement.

“I want to be able to control my fastball much better,” he says. “My goal is to keep throwing more strikes, and that’s what I really push for.”

“This off-season I’ve been getting stronger and trying to really emphasize repeating my mechanics and repeating every pitch I throw, whether it’s a fastball, curveball, or changeup, this way my mechanics don’t change.”

Morris even video tapes himself training to send it to coaches for them to critique. He is constantly working to improve and the strides he’s made only seem greater once you consider when he was actually put on the mound.

“I actually played shortstop until I was about 16 years old and then I began pitching,” says Morris.

In case you forgot, he was drafted as “raw” talent primarily for his potential at the age of 17.

Just four years after being drafted, five years after becoming a pitcher, and Morris is dominating much of his competition, accumulating a 1.00 ERA and striking out an average of 12 batters per nine innings.

Even with these accomplishments in mind Morris isn’t satisfied.

“Right now I feel like what needs the most work is improving my mechanics and really consistently getting a good spin, and keeping my curveball down in the zone,” says the fireballer.

The desire to improve, combined with his hard-nosed attitude on the mound has given him the potential to produce into a true big league talent. An aggressive approach and the confidence to produce in any situation are traits valuable to any big league club. And even as he climbs the minor league ladder, Morris doesn’t plan on being shaken any time soon.

“When I get on the mound, I feel like, I shouldn’t be nervous and I try to get in a zone where I’m just thinking that, it’s just baseball.  I’ve been playing this game all my life and that’s what it is, just a game, so I just try to keep it as simple as that,” says Morris.

We want to thank Akeel for his time and wish him a great season in 2014… LGM

Presented By Diehards

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Brooklyn Cyclones Season Recap Q&A http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/brooklyn-cyclones-season-recap-qa.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/brooklyn-cyclones-season-recap-qa.html/#comments Tue, 24 Sep 2013 13:02:38 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=129941 brooklyn-cyclones copy

I hope you all enjoyed my coverage of the Brooklyn Cyclones this summer. I certainly did!

It was great to meet and interact with many of the team’s recent draft picks to see what’s in store for the future. And of course, Rich Donnelly is an awesome baseball mind, so it was great to hear his perspective each night.

Below is a Q&A between myself and the MMO staff discussing the Cyclones’ season. It may be a bit early to tell if some of this summer’s Cyclones will soon be playing at Citi Field, but a few certainly have some potential for down the road.

1. After following and covering the Brooklyn Cyclones for our sites this season, you got to see and talk to many of the players and the coaches as well. What I’d like to know is what were your overall thoughts on the relationship between the players and coaches. Was there anything in particular you could share with us about that particular dynamic and the role it plays in the player development process. 

With many of the Cyclones fresh out of college, having a coaching staff that is involved is vital to a young player’s success. That was exactly the scene in Brooklyn.

Manager Rich Donnelly, pitching coach Marc Valdes and hitting coach Bobby Malek are great with the young guys. Donnelly in particular has now been in this role for a few seasons, and while he’s focused on winning, he understands that his main responsibility is to prepare his players for the next level. Donnelly sometimes got to MCU Park at 10 a.m. for a 7 p.m. game, which shows his tireless dedication. He routinely talked to his players during batting practice to help with any adjustments or to just see how they were doing.

That’s the type of atmosphere that works in the low minor leagues, and Donnelly again did his part in fostering the environment for his players to be successful. Though the team missed the playoffs this season, a few of this summer’s Cyclones already seem like they can be primary contributors at St. Lucie or Savannah next season.

 

2. Which 2-3 players were you most impressed with this season and do you foresee them as future contributors at the big league level. Tell us a little bit about them and what stood out the most to you.

I was very impressed this summer with Robert Gsellman, John Mincone, L.J. Mazzilli and Gavin Cecchini. I liked how Gsellman could go deep into games, which is usually a rare feat among short-season Single-A pitchers. This was his third year with the Mets organization, so Brooklyn likely wasn’t his primary destination, but he pitched very well, which allowed him to get the call for starts in Savannah and St. Lucie later in the summer. He’s still only 20, so let’s keep an eye on him the next few seasons.

John Mincone could be a big-league contributor someday, but he really has to stay healthy. Both his summers in Brooklyn were cut short due to injury. But when he’s on the mound, the lefty has looked great, as evidenced by his back-to-back selections to the NYPL All-Star Game.

L.J. Mazzilli had all the hype from being Lee Mazzilli’s son, and L.J. did a fine job in his first professional season. He pretty much batted over .300 all summer, but a thumb injury late caused his average to slip to .278. He even showed a little bit of pop and played a nice defensive second base. It’s still a bit early with him as well, but an offensive-minded second baseman is always a plus.

As for Cecchini, he got off to a very cold start offensively and then suffered a high ankle sprain. But once he came back healthy, he was on fire with the bat. He actually hit into much tough luck, as often he’d rocket a ball right at a defender. Even so, to finish at .273 from where he started the season is very impressive.

But most impressive about Gavin is his calm demeanor and his glove. Defensively, he made a few big-league-type plays and showed he already has great arm strength. It’s that defense that can carry him to the next level and beyond. He will need to hit, and he must be sure to try to avoid long slumps. He’s only 19, so he definitely is in this team’s plans somewhere down the line.

 

3. On the flip side, were there any prospects that gave you some pause or concerns about their future as a major leaguer?

Seventh-round draft pick Matt Oberste had a bit of a rough go of it this summer. I have to say, he did come up with a few big hits, but his .208 batting average and 56 strikeouts may force him to remain another summer in Brooklyn. He went through a few long hitless streaks, which shows he did not quite master the baseball art of making adjustments.

 

4. Which pitchers had the best fastball, curveball and slider?

The best fastball on the team was split between Akeel Morris and Johnny Magliozzi. The ball just explodes out of Morris’ hand, and we’ll get to him in the next question, but Magliozzi, who is listed at a generous five-feet 10-inches, could really bring it from the closer’s role. He took over after Mincone went down with injury and wound up picking up nine saves.

Lefty reliever David Wynn had the best curveball on the staff. It sat in the high 70s-low 80s and had plenty of bite.

All-Star Miller Diaz relied on his slider for his out pitch this summer. He got plenty of strikeouts on the pitch but also plenty of foul balls. Donnelly said after one game that Diaz’s pitch counts were elevated since he had trouble putting guys away.

Finally, John Gant had the team’s best change-up. He really had his change working in a memorable performance this summer when he threw a one-hitter and faced the minimum. He’s a tall, lanky guy with a good fastball, so having that change-up is a great change of pace for him.

 

5. Which position players showcased the best power and the best speed?

Alex Sanchez and James Roche displayed some good power. Sanchez hit some monstrous home runs, which is very difficult at MCU Park. Roche meanwhile led the team with five home runs and went through a stretch where it seemed like all his hits were for extra bases.

As for speed, Patrick Biondi took care of that category. He led the Cyclones with 17 stolen bases while only being caught four times. He dealt with a wrist injury, but still, he’d come in late in games to pinch run even when he couldn’t hit.

 

6. What did you think of Akeel Morris’ season? Do you see success in the cards for him as a reliever or as a starter?

From how Rich Donnelly spoke early in the year about Morris, he must have really have had a rough go of it in extended spring training. Morris was apparently walking a ton of batters, which came back to bite him.

But all summer, Morris threw the ball extremely well. He settled into a piggy-back role with lefty Dario Alvarez, but in conversations with him, I could tell that he wanted to be a full-time starter.

But frankly, I see his value as more of a late-inning reliever or even a closer based on his ability to strikeout opposing hitters. His small frame also would suggest that he could be better suited as a reliever. Either way, he’s just another talented pitching prospect to keep an eye on in the Mets’ system.

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Brooklyn Cyclones Season Recap http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/brooklyn-cyclones-season-recap.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/brooklyn-cyclones-season-recap.html/#comments Fri, 06 Sep 2013 12:45:04 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128653 Normally, the lower levels on the minor leagues serve the purpose of developing young players fresh out of the June MLB draft and to get them accustomed to life in professional baseball.

But for the Brooklyn Cyclones, making the playoffs has basically been a perennial feat.

However, the 2013 summer short season ended without a postseason berth for the Cyclones for just the fourth time in the team’s 13-year existence.

Cyclones get the win (Photo by Jim Mancari)It is important to note though that the team has now finished at or above .500 (38-37) in all 13 of its seasons, making the Cyclones one of only four teams in affiliated baseball – the Arizona League Giants, the Elizabethton Twins and the New York Yankees – to never finish below .500 since 2001.

Right from the start of the summer, it seemed the Cyclones just couldn’t find their rhythm. Though it’s by no means an excuse, the weather certainly didn’t cooperate at MCU Park in Coney Island the first few weeks.

Almost every home game, the Cyclones were forced to wait out one or even two rain delays. And in games where there were no weather delays, Brooklyn wound up playing a number of extra-inning games, including a marathon 16-inning game.

Manager Rich Donnelly continuously said, “That’s baseball, there is no clock,” in response to questions about how to deal with the delays and extra-inning games. But he did say that the start of this season was the strangest given the circumstances in all his years in professional baseball.

Despite not getting off to a great start, the Cyclones began picking up their game and were in the playoff hunt right until the end of the season. That’s all you can ask of a young team finding their way.

Mets’ great Lee Mazzilli’s son, second baseman L.J. Mazzilli, led the Cyclones with a .278 batting average. He sat above .300 for most of the summer, but a hand injury late in the season caused him to cool off down the stretch. He also led the team in RBI with 34.

Mets’ 2012 first-round draft pick, shortstop Gavin Cecchini, had a solid all-around season. His bat was a bit cool to start the year, but once he returned from a high ankle sprain, he was red hot offensively. He rattled off a 16-game hitting streak and began spraying line drives all over the field. He finished the year hitting .273.

But for Cecchini, his strength is his defense, and he showed that this summer. He has a great arm and gets to a lot of balls with his range. His glove can carry him to the next level, but he’ll have to maintain a steady bat.

After an extremely cold start, right fielder James Roche rebounded to take some strides offensively. He led the team with five home runs and displayed good power to the gaps. But he must cut down on his strikeouts to be considered a legitimate prospect.

While the Cyclones’ offense was streaky, the pitching really held its own this summer. Starting pitchers Miller Diaz (2.03), Rob Gsellman (2.06), Carlos Valdez (2.58) and John Gant (2.89) all recorded an ERA under 3.00. Diaz, Gsellman and Gant were each named to the All-Star team.John  Gant (Photo courtesy Brooklyn Cyclones)

Diaz led the staff with seven wins and 87 strikeouts. He sometimes had trouble putting batters away, which led to some high pitch counts, but the talent is there.

Gsellman seemed to be the hard luck pitcher on the staff, as he barely received any run support. But he still pitched well enough to be able to make an impact at the next level next season.

Akeel Morris, who struggled in extended spring training, really impressed the Mets’ brass, so much so that Jeff Wilpon ventured to MCU Park to check him out. With a fastball sitting in the low-to-mid 90s, Morris could have a future as a big-league reliever.

It seems he still considers himself as a starter, but he thrived in a long-relief role this summer. He finished 4-1 with a 1.00 ERA.

Other relievers John Mincone and Johnny Magliozzi found success in the closer’s role. Mincone was named an All-Star after posting a 1.47 ERA and six saves, but a lower back injury ended his season early. Magliozzi stepped right in and saved nine games with a 1.17 ERA.

Though the Cyclones’ season did not continue deeper into September, the team still accomplished what it set out to do at the beginning of the season: provide an entertaining quality of baseball to an area of Brooklyn that was hit hard last fall during Hurricane Sandy.

The “Meaningful Mondays,” in which a portion of each ticket sold went to local charities aiding in Sandy recovery, were a nice touch to help the surrounding communities still in need from the superstorm.

For the 13th consecutive season, the Cyclones led the New York-Penn League in attendance.

It was a fun summer at Coney Island, and we’ll hopefully be seeing some of these faces at Citi Field in the near future – especially some of the talented young pitchers to go along with the already-talented crop of pitchers the Mets are developing.

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Mets Minors: Top Underrated Pitchers In The System http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/top-underrated-pitchers-in-the-mets-system.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/09/top-underrated-pitchers-in-the-mets-system.html/#comments Wed, 04 Sep 2013 14:00:17 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128530 With pitchers Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard rising through the minor leagues and dominating along the way, the hype surrounding those at the top has blocked out some of the performances of lesser-known prospects, even with a fanbase as critical and attentive as the Mets’. Last week, Vinny took a look at some of the most underrated hitters in the Met system. Let’s take a look at some of the most underrated pitchers in the organization.

  • Miller Diaz- After bouncing around the Mets’ Rookie Ball affiliates for parts of four seasons, Diaz is having a breakout season for Low-A Brooklyn. The hard-throwing righty has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. He doesn’t have good enough control to stick as a starter, but he has the tools to be a very good relief pitcher down the road. This year, he has a 2.01 ERA in Brooklyn, striking out 11.8 batters per nine and walking 4.3 in 62.2 innings. His ERA and WHIP are both among the league leaders and Diaz’s 82 strikeouts leads all NYPL pitchers.
  • Chris Flexen- Flexen has put up gaudy numbers for Kingsport this season. In his first full year, the 2012 14th-round pick has a 2.09 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 8.1 batters per nine and walking just 1.6. He has already tossed two complete game shutouts this season, and currently sits fourth in the Appalachian League in ERA. He has a decent low-90s fastball and secondary pitches, but his most impressive trait is his control, likely the reason the Mets took a flier on him in last year’s draft. Maybe this year’s dominance is a result of repeating Kingsport, but it’s certainly a promising sign when any young pitcher is competing for the ERA crown in his league while walking so few batters.
  • Matthew Bowman- Bowman, a 2012 13th-round pick, has already made quite an impression in his year and a half of professional pitching. The soon-to-be Princeton graduate (he will finish his degree this fall) is armed with four average pitches, with a changeup that could be above average eventually, and superb control. He has consistently gotten hitters out at every level he’s pitched, going form Brooklyn, to Savannah, to St. Lucie in one calendar year. This season, he has a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts with 116 strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and 35 walks (2.5 BB/9) in 127 innings. He is undersized at 6’0″ and less than 170 pounds, which may eventually force him to move to the bullpen, but Bowman could become a suitable back-of-the-rotation pitcher or middle reliever and make his debut sooner rather than later.
  • akeel morrisAkeel Morris- After blowing up last season with Kingsport, watching his ERA balloon to almost eight, Akeel Morris practically fell of the prospect map. A 10th-round pick out of the Virgin Islands in 2009, Morris had a solid first two seasons in professional ball, posting a combined 3.32 ERA between the Gulf Coast League and Kingsport, striking out over ten batters per nine innings. The big concern, however, was his control. In each season, he was walking well over six batters per nine, something that was going to catch up to him sooner or later. Although he brought his walk rate down to 5.2 in 2012, he fell apart, finishing with a 7.98 ERA in 38.1 innings. This season, Morris has flipped the script, putting up unbelievable numbers for Brooklyn mostly as a “piggybacker,” a long relief pitcher that comes in after a starter and is put on regular rest. Morris has brought his walks down further (4.6 BB/9), and has improved his already-incredible strikeout numbers. In 45 innings, he has 60 strikeouts (12.0 K/9), giving up only 29 hits (5.8 H/9) in the process.
  • Steven Matz- Anytime you get a lefty throwing in the upper 90s, heads are going to turn. Matz, 22, was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft. It took quite a while for him to actually get on the mound, as Tommy John Surgery delayed his arrival, and when he did arrive, we only got a short glimpse of what he could be last year with Kingsport. Even in a short time with Kingsport, however, earning a spot on the Baseball America Hot Sheet before going down with injury. He finished te year with a 1.55 ERA in six starts. This year, he has come back fully healthy and has been fantastic for Savannah. In 21 starts, he has a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts (10.2 K/9) and 38 walks (3.2 BB/9) in 106.1 innings. Although his numbers may be boosted by the pitcher-friendly Grayson Stadium, he still has a 3.38 ERA on the road. With his stuff, he’s a keeper. You may not hear much about Matz now, but if he keeps this up, he will shoot up top prospect lists very quickly.

Check out more great information on the Mets’ minor league system over at MetsMinors.net.

Also make sure to follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst

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Eighth Inning Rally Sparks Cyclones’ Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/eighth-inning-rally-sparks-cyclones-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/eighth-inning-rally-sparks-cyclones-win.html/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 04:29:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=127174 It was hockey jersey night at MCU Park in Coney Island Wednesday evening, and the Brooklyn Cyclones waited until well into the third period – also known as the bottom of the eighth inning – to wake up from a game-long drought and earn a 3-1 victory over the Hudson Valley Renegades.

The win moves the Cyclones to 27-26 and just one game behind the McNamara Division-leading Aberdeen Ironbirds, who defeated the Staten Island Yankees Wednesday.

With Jeff Wilpon in the house, the Cyclones got off to an extremely slow start offensively. Shortstop Gavin Cecchini beat out an infield single in the first inning, but the Cyclones did not have another hit until the bottom of the eighth.

Gavin Cecchini (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Gavin Cecchini (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Brooklyn pounded out a season-high 16 hits in Sunday’s win over the State College Spikes in the last game before the All-Star break, but the team managed just four hits in this one.

Cecchini’s single extended his hitting streak to 12 games – the longest hitting streak in the New York-Penn League. The Cyclones’ all-time record for a hitting streak is 17 games by Lucas Duda in 2007.

“I’m not really worried about the hit streak,” Cecchini said. “I’m just taking good swings, getting my pitch and helping the team win. That’s all the matters.”

Lefty Dario Alvarez took the hill for the Cyclones and was very effective over his six innings of work trying to avoid a third straight loss. However, the one unearned run he allowed in the top of the fourth inning looked liked it would hold up until the Cyclones rallied late.

In that inning, Renegades’ All-Star catcher Oscar Hernandez skied a pop-up right out in front of home plate. Several Cyclones converged, but a lack of communication forced third baseman Juan Gamboa into a dive.

The ball skimmed off Gamboa’s glove and trickled up the first-base line, allowing Hernandez to advance to second. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Renegades’ left fielder Granden Goetzman.

The Cyclones couldn’t muster any sort of offensive attack until the bottom of the eighth, when center fielder Patrick Biondi led off the frame with a bloop single to left. Second baseman Ismael Tijerina laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, but Renegades’ first baseman Ben Kline could not handle the throw and everybody was safe.

In an obvious bunt situation with Cecchini at the plate, Renegades’ pitcher Rick Teasley errantly threw a pick-off throw to first base, allowing both runners to advance. With two strikes on him, Cecchini lined a change-up to center field for the game-tying sacrifice fly.

“Whenever you have two strikes and runners in scoring position, you at least want to put the ball in play, and that’s what we did tonight,” Cecchini said. “We made them play, and we came out with a win.”

“That was a heck of an at-bat…two strikes…if he (Cecchini) strikes out there, we’re in trouble,” Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly said. “He hit the ball solid and drove in the tying run. That was a great at-bat by a young kid.”

After an intentional walk to first baseman Alex Sanchez and a single by right fielder James Roche loaded the bases, a Teasley wild pitch gave Brooklyn the lead. Designated hitter Matt Oberste plated the third run with an RBI single that caromed off the third base bag.

Righty Akeel Morris picked up the win for the Cyclones in relief. He’s now 3-0 on the year and has shown signs of dominance. He allowed no hits and only one walk in three scoreless innings, and he’s thrived all season in a long relief role.

“As long as I’m pitching good, that’s all I want to do,” Morris said. “One of the biggest things I’ve tried to do this year is to be more aggressive.”

“He’s (Morris) been pretty darn good all year,” Donnelly said. “He has two plus strikeout pitches. He has a 93-94 fastball, and he has a really good change-up. Sometimes that light bulb goes on and off they go. He has a chance to go…93-94 out here, in the big leagues that will work too. Ask Matt Harvey.”

The Cyclones now have 22 games left this season, and it’s gearing up to be a tight race to finish. The team’s hitting has been inconsistent all summer, but if Brooklyn can continue its string of solid pitching performances, the team will be in the mix the entire way down the stretch.

The Cyclones are back in action Thursday night, with Dawrin Frias getting the start in Hudson Valley at 7:05 p.m.

Click here to view the complete box score from this game.

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Mets Minors: Montero, Syndergaard, and Flores Preview The Future http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/mets-minors-montero-syndergaard-and-flores-preview-the-future.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/mets-minors-montero-syndergaard-and-flores-preview-the-future.html/#comments Mon, 05 Aug 2013 12:02:03 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=126473 wilmer flores ready

  • So not only did Wilmer Flores play third base again — but he took Michael Wacha deep for his 15th home run of the year. Flores is approaching relatively impressive numbers for a full season of play (20 HRs, 100 RBI, .300+ average) and yet is still being kept down in Triple-A. The fact that he’s now gotten two consecutive starts at third feels like the ultimate tease, while all signs have pointed to him not being called up. In fact, our reader Kevin emailed me asking about the likelihood of Flores being called up and questioned the choice of Mike Baxter over Flores or Jordany Valdespin… and that’s a pretty good damn question.
  • Speaking of Valdespin, he picked up two more hits last night to bring his PCL average up to .466. He or Flores would’ve made sense as call-ups over Mike Baxter, especially since we lost an infielder and Baxter plays…well, the outfield. In a recent interview before Wright’s injury, dePodesta stated that we had a “full major league infield” and that there were “three other guys who could use ABs at first base.” Honestly, I can only hope that Flores taking reps at third means he’ll be called up within a week, because there’s really nothing else for him to do at Triple-A besides hit the 100 RBI mark. The organization is definitively against Valdespin at this point, so he’ll be lucky to see time with the MLB team in September…
  • Sticking in Las Vegas, Rafael Montero dazzled with eight innings of one-run ball while allowing just four hits. The key, however, was zero walks — just like the Montero we saw in Binghamton. A low walk rate really feeds Montero’s dominance and shows that he is fearless in attacking the strike zone. He followed up two quality starts with perhaps his best showing so far in Triple-A.
  • Noah Syndergaard set the tone for the Mets MiLB pitching earlier in the day with five shutout innings — and he was removed after just 66 pitches, so they are blatantly trying to restrict his innings. His stuff was so good, however, that he probably could’ve gone eight or even nine under regular circumstances, as he allowed just two hits. As I mentioned while recapping his performance yesterday, Travis d’Arnaud caught the start, and they showed amazing chemistry.
  • Daniel Muno had a great game behind him with three hits, including a triple and a home run. He’s now batting .259.
  • Rainy Lara was average yesterday, giving up four earned runs in seven innings of work, and took the loss because of it. His ERA jumped to 3.13, which is still pretty solid. Kevin Plawecki picked up a hit and RBI in the game to keep his average at a smooth .323, while Kyle Johnson picked up a pair of hits on his own.
  • The normally reliable Beck Wheeler had a moment of weakness for Savannah yesterday, as he gave up three earned runs and saw his ERA jump to 1.96. He was working in relief of Seth Lugo, who struck out 10 batters over six innings and allowed just one run off two hits.
  • L.J. Mazzilli hit his first professional home run as part of a two-hit performance for Brooklyn yesterday, so congrats! In sadder news, Akeel Morris saw his scoreless streak shattered.
  • The K-Mets were demolished in a 17-1 blowout, but there’s always a game the next day…

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Walkoff Sac Fly Gives Cyclones Extra-Innings Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/walkoff-sac-fly-gives-cyclones-extra-innings-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/07/walkoff-sac-fly-gives-cyclones-extra-innings-win.html/#comments Thu, 04 Jul 2013 04:03:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=123769 DSCN4583

It really should have been Johan Santana dangling left arm night based on his injury history with the Mets, but instead Wednesday night at MCU Park in Coney Island was Johan Santana bobblehead night.

And the Brooklyn Cyclones did not disappoint, as the team scratched out a 2-1 victory over the Staten Island Yankees in 10 innings to improve to 6-11 on the year.

Brooklyn had lost four straight games and seven of their last eight before Wednesday night’s win. But it seems every game features either a rain delay or extra innings – or in this case both. Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly said he hasn’t seen anything like this in all his years in baseball.

“I think we’ve only had one clean game where it’s just a nice game,” Donnelly said. “You win or lose, and you go home. We’re the night raiders. I haven’t seen David Letterman in two weeks.”

After enduring an 11-minute rain delay in the first inning, Cyclones’ lefty starter Carlos Valdez settled in nicely to throw six innings of three-hit ball while surrendering no runs. But his team could not score him a run as he was tagged with a no-decision.

The Cyclones got a bit of scare in the bottom of the first when last year’s Mets’ first-round draft-pick Gavin Cecchini suffered a high ankle sprain sliding into third base. To make matters worse, he was caught stealing on the play to end the inning.

Brooklyn took the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning by manufacturing the game’s first run. Cecchini’s replacement Juan Gamboa led off with a bunt single, and L.J. Mazzilli drew a walk. Yankee’s pitcher Caleb Smith balked, and Cyclones’ left fielder Jared King followed with a sacrifice fly to center.

But the Yankees struck right back with an unearned run in the top of the seventh off Cyclones’ reliever Akeel Morris to tie the game at one.

The Cyclones started their game-winning rally with one out in the tenth when center fielder Patrick Biondi drew a walk. Gamboa then doubled inside the third-base bag to put the winning run 90-feet away.

The Yankees’ decided to intentionally walk Mazzilli to create a force and instead pitch to first baseman Matt Oberste, who had been 0-for-4 up until that point.

Oberste lined a ball to shallow left field, but given Biondi’s speed, Donnelly had to take a gamble in sending the runner. Donnely said that Biondi is the only runner on his team that he would have sent in that spot.

The throw from Yankees’ left fielder Mikeson Oliberto beat Biondi, but the Cyclones’ speedster was able to make an acrobatic slide around the tag to arrive home safely for the Brooklyn win.

“I saw the catcher go to the right, and he actually got back to the plate as I was sliding, so I popped up and hopped over the tag and was able to do it,” Biondi said.

“I give props to Biondi for being fast and tagging up,” Oberste said. “He did a great job. He made a great slide and luckily the throw was a little bit off.”

The win was Brooklyn’s second walkoff victory in extra innings this year. The team, however, continues to struggle with men in scoring position. After a 1-for-14 performance Tuesday night, the Cyclones were 0-for-6 with men in scoring position in this one, with both runs coming via the sacrifice fly.

It’s tough for a team to practice improving in clutch situations, as this is mostly determined by the players’ mental approach.

“It’s very hard to simulate anything in practice in baseball because the pitcher’s not out there,” Donnelly said. “In basketball, you can have a full-length scrimmage. In football, you can have a scrimmage, and it’s real. In baseball, you can simulate all day and all night, but the pitcher isn’t throwing 98 miles an hour.”

The Cyclones head down to Aberdeen, Md., for the holiday weekend to take on the Ironbirds in a three-game series. They’ll return home Sunday to host the Lowell Spinners.

Click here to view the complete box score of this game.

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Dominant Relief Work From Akeel Morris Gives Cyclones’ Second Win http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/dominant-relief-work-from-akeel-morris-gives-cyclones-second-win.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/06/dominant-relief-work-from-akeel-morris-gives-cyclones-second-win.html/#comments Sat, 22 Jun 2013 12:08:52 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=122825 Many of the old-time baseball clichés are often true, and that’s why we keep using them. In Friday’s contest between the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Aberdeen Ironbirds, “good things happened when the leadoff man got on base.”

The Ironbirds – the Single-A short-season affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – had leadoff hits in four of the first five innings to take a 2-0 lead, but the Cyclones caught fire late en route to a 4-2 victory at MCU Park. The Cyclones evened their season record to 2-2.

Cyclones’ righty reliever Akeel Morris entered the game with Brooklyn trailing by two runs in the top of the sixth. He proceeded to throw 3.2 innings of scoreless baseball, retiring the first seven hitters to face him in a row. Seven of the 11 outs he recorded were via the strikeout as he picked up his first win of the season.

“My mindset was just to pitch and give my team a chance to win,” Morris said. “I wanted to pound the strikezone and trust my stuff and let it do the rest.”

Cyclones get the win (Photo by Jim Mancari)

Cyclones get the win (Photo by Jim Mancari)

“Mo (Morris) is guy that earned his way on this team in spring training,” said Cyclones’ manager Rich Donnelly. “He establishes his fastball; he has a great change-up. Most of his strikeouts were on change-ups. Then he turned tables on them and got strikeouts with his fastball.”

From the sixth inning on, the Cyclones’ bats also woke up after recording just four hits in the first five innings. Brooklyn pounded eight hits over its final three frames for a total of 12 in the winning effort.

Each Cyclones’ starter, except first baseman Matt Oberste, had at least one hit.

“We hit the ball good,” Donnelly said. “It was nice to see us actually score some runs and get some RBIs. I think we had four RBIs going into tonight. We killed them tonight getting three. It’s nice to see.”

Dominican lefty Carlos Valdez made his first start of the season for the Cyclones just five days after being released from the hospital with chest pain. Donnelly was impressed by his 70-pitch gutsy performance to keep the team in the game in order for the Cyclones to eventually mount their comeback.

The Ironbirds hit some balls hard against Valdez, but for the most part, he was able to limit the damage.

Morris then came in firing, surrendering only a cheap infield hit. He recorded the first two outs in the ninth inning but then walked a batter, forcing Donnelly from the dugout. Lefty John Mincone entered the game to pick up he final out and his second consecutive save.

A bird's eye view of an Akeel Morris delivery (Photo by Jim Mancari)

A bird’s eye view of an Akeel Morris delivery (Photo by Jim Mancari)

The Cyclones got on the board in the bottom of the sixth, when third baseman Anthony Chavez laced a double into the left center field gap off Ironbirds’ starter Steven Brault. Recently-signed ninth-round draft pick and former University of Michigan center fielder Patrick Biondi then singled to center. With Janser Severino on the hill, Cyclones’ second baseman L.J. Mazzilli doubled right over the first base bag to plate Brooklyn’s first run. A passed ball two batters later tied the game at two.

The theme of scoring the leadoff man continued in the bottom of the seventh, when designated hitter Alex Sanchez singled to right. With two out, Chavez also single to put runners on the corners for Biondi.

Biondi did not waste any time as he lined the first pitch from Severino over the shortstop’s head to drive in the go-ahead run.

“I was just looking for a pitch up in the strikezone,” Biondi. “I got fastball out over the plate and put a good swing on it. I knew with first and third he (Severino) would want to throw a strike and get ahead, so I was just looking for something I could drive.”
Mazzilli later walked with the bases loaded, leading to an insurance run.

The second straight win for the Cyclones moves them to 73-38 all-time against the Ironbirds since the latter’s inception as a franchise in 2002. Aberdeen is now 0-4 this season.

The Cyclones look for the sweep against the Ironbirds Saturday evening at MCU Park. Righty Seth Lugo takes the hill for Brooklyn.

Click here to view to complete box score from this game.

 

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MMO Top 20 Prospects – #1 Zack Wheeler http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/mmo-top-20-prospects-1-zack-wheeler.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/12/mmo-top-20-prospects-1-zack-wheeler.html/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 14:57:32 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=68178

Mets RHP Zack Wheeler is more than just the Mets #1 prospect. He is more than the player acquired in the one undeniably fantastic move that Sandy Alderson has pulled off as GM so far. He is more than a very talented, 21-year-old righty with an explosive fastball and a ton of upside. He is the hope for Mets fans, that the future will be here sooner rather than later. If the cash-strapped team known as the NY Mets is ever going to play respectably good, contending baseball again, they sorely need players like Wheeler, and Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia to develop so that they can come up to the majors and contribute. Rather than come up to the majors too early so that they stagnate in their development, or worse even, never make it at all.

They could use a return to health by Johan Santana of course, but the way things are going that probably is not going to happen. But what about Jenrry Mejia? He should be back from TJS by the second half of 2012, which could mean a 2013 arrival into the rotation. Then there are pitchers right behind those guys that should someday contribute at the big league level. Players like Darin Gorski, Jack Leathersich, Domingo Tapia, and Akeel Morris, should all arrive in the next three years. But Wheeler is the lynchpin on which all else turns. Without his contribution, there is no other clear-cut choice for a future top-of-the-rotation guy.

No one in the Mets system at this time, profiles as a SP1/SP2 type of pitcher except for Wheeler. Harvey and Familia, despite being fairly advanced pitchers and throwing mid-90′s, profile as SP2 or SP3 guys at best, providing they develop better change-ups. But Wheeler is just a tic better, and here’s why.

Although fastball command is constantly worked on with every pitcher in the Mets system, and Wheeler certainly needs to continue to work on his to be successful, he has the ability to change speeds off his fastball which can be very effective against good hitters. Wheeler’s fastball is normally between 93-95, sometimes hitting 96 or 97, with arm-side run. He pitches aggressively and is not afraid to pitch inside, but when he is having trouble hitting his spots, he sometimes takes something off his fastball with the speed as low as the high 80′s.

He throws from a three-quarter arm-slot, which is very conducive to the curveball, and Wheeler throws a good one that may even be his best pitch. Like with his fastball, he needs to work on his command as he tends to throw too many curves in the dirt, but he changes speeds well, throwing it 72-78 mph, and keeps hitters off-balance. His curve has two-plain break and when it’s on, it’s very tough to hit.

His change-up is his weakest pitch by far, since he seldom throws it. It comes in at 82-84 with a little sink and late tailing action. If he threw it with more frequency he could easily make it an average pitch and it has the upside, if he can speed up his arm delivery and maintain the velocity and fade, to be an above average one.

At 6’4″ and 185 lbs., Wheeler is not a max effort pitcher but is very aggressive on the mound. He shows good balance with his delivery and repeats it well. He has broad shoulders and should add on some muscle as he fills out. There is no reason why the added strength won’t help his command, and could add some more velocity to his fastball. He clearly overwhelms hitters at high A and should definitely find himself in the Binghamton rotation to start next season. If he shows good progress, a mid-season call-up to AAA would not be out of the question.

Zack Wheeler video

This concludes our MMO 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospect list. I hope you enjoyed following along. Over the coming days I will be releasing my 2012 Mets Top 21-30, 31-40, and 41-50 Prospects lists, for those of you that can’t get enough lists and player rankings.

2012 MMO Top 20 Prospects

1.   Zack Wheeler              RHP

2.   Jeurys Familia            RHP

3.   Matt Harvey                 RHP

4.   Jenrry Mejia                RHP

5.   Brandon Nimmo          OF

6.   Kirk Nieuwenhuis        OF

7.   Juan Lagares              OF

8.   Wilmer Flores             INF

9.   Cesar Puello               RF

10.  Reese Havens             2B

11.  Cory Mazzoni             RHP

12.  Jordany Valdespin      INF

13.  Darin Gorski               LHP

14.  Phillip Evans              SS

15.  Jefry Marte                  3B

16.  Collin McHugh           RHP

17.  Juan Urbina               LHP

18.  Akeel Morris              RHP

19.  Michael Fulmer          RHP

20.  Danny Muno               INF

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MMO Exclusive Interview With Mets Prospect, RHP Akeel Morris http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/10/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-mets-prospect-rhp-akeel-morris.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/10/mmo-exclusive-interview-with-mets-prospect-rhp-akeel-morris.html/#comments Sun, 23 Oct 2011 16:22:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=63783

I was able to interview Akeel last week and he was nice enough to answer some questions for our readers. This is what he had to say:

Petey:  First of all Akeel, congratulations on a terrific season in 2011. Your development over the last two seasons has been fun to watch and you have been making great progress. Thank you so much for sharing a little of your time. The readers at Mets Merized Online will really enjoy reading about you and getting to know a little bit more about one of our future Mets. When the Mets drafted you in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Player Draft, how did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like?

Akeel:  When I was drafted, the first person I heard it from was from my mom. She was following the draft all day. I felt pretty good about it at that time because I know I had an opportunity to play pro baseball now.

Petey:  Is there one person, a coach, a friend or family member, or even another player, who you learned the most from, or who inspired you to chase your dream of becoming a major league baseball player?

Akeel:  I wouldn’t say there was one person in particular because I learned alot of different things from alot of different people. As I was growing up my family and best friends inspired me to chase the dream.

Petey:  We have heard that you throw very hard, and your K/9 of 10.5, would seem to indicate that as well, but could you tell us a little more about your arsenal? What pitches you throw, at what speeds, and are you working on any new pitches moving forward?

Akeel:  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. Curveball is mid to upper 70′s, and change up is upper 70′s to low 80′s.

Petey:  Quite a bit of positive things happened for you in 2011, as a member of a very strong and talented starting rotation at Kingsport. You led the team in strikeouts, and were very difficult to hit, giving up only 30 hits in 51.1 IP, but also had a high number of walks with 38. What steps are you taking to cut down on the bases on balls?

Akeel:  I’m working on repetition of my mechanics. That should help alot.

Petey:  What kind of things will you do to stay in shape over the winter? Can you describe your workout regimen? Do you plan on playing winter ball?

Akeel:  To stay in shape I’ll basically do the traditional running, agility, upper body exercises, lower body exercises, and core. I don’t think I’m playing winter ball right now.

Petey:  What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player?

Akeel:  My favorite A.L team was the Red Sox and my favorite N.L team was the Mets. Favorite player was Derek Jeter.

Petey:  Is there a major league pitcher that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself pitching like someday in the majors?

Akeel:  Well, I like to see Tim Lincecum pitch. I like his dominant fastball and his curve ball and change up that he can both use as put away pitches. He’s someone I would like to pitch similar to.

Petey:  What are your goals for next season? Is there a particular club you hope to make out of spring training? Have the Mets made any indication of what they are planning for you next season, or are those things decided in ST?

Akeel:  For next season my goals are just to perform at wherever the organization decides to put me. I don’t know when or how the decisions are made.

Petey:  Pick one teammate that really impressed you with his play this year at Kingsport, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.

Akeel:  Its really hard to pick one teammate, of all my teammates, who I was impressed with for different reasons. I would say I was most impressed with Dustin Lawley for his power, speed, athleticism, and ability to play infield and outfield during the season.

Petey:  And to finish up Akeel, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?

Akeel:  Well, my favorite movies are the five Fast and Furious movies. I listen to alot of different types of music so I won’t say I have a favorite musician, and my favorite food is rice and chicken.

Petey:  Thank you so much Akeel! Mets fans everywhere will love reading this interview, and we all really appreciate you taking the time to chat. Enjoy the rest of the off-season, and we’ll see you in the Spring!

Akeel:  No problem, thanks for the opportunity.

I recently ranked Akeel Morris as the Mets #18 Prospect which you can read here.

You can also check out some of these other recent interviews conducted exclusively for Mets Merized Online: RHP Michael Fulmer - OF Brandon Nimmo - OF Cory Vaughn - RHP Chris Schwinden - 2B Josh Satin - LHP Eric Niesen.

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Kingsport Mets Team Report – Stretch Run Edition http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/08/kingsport-mets-team-report-stretch-run-edition.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2011/08/kingsport-mets-team-report-stretch-run-edition.html/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2011 17:04:01 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=57152

Entering the final two weeks of the Appalachian League season, the Kingsport Mets find themselves in a two-horse race, with the Elizabethton Twins, for the finish line, and a berth in the playoffs. One team will not make it and with 16 games left to go, the Mets are 1.0 GB the Twinkies with a record of 28-24. The Appalachian League is a short season league, consisting of ten teams, and play their season from June 21st to August 30th. The top two teams from each of the two divisions make the playoffs, and currently the K-Mets are in 3rd place. Much of the K-Mets success this year is due to a balanced hitting attack, some decent, if not great starting pitching, and a very solid bullpen. As an offense, the K-Mets are 2nd in the league in Hits and BA, 3rd in the league in Runs, and 4th in RBI’s. Here are some of the bats that have been responsible for the team’s success so far:

HITTING

Julio Concepcion - This 6’4″ 194lb. 21 year old LF from the Dominican Republic is having a very good year with the bat for Kingsport. He leads the team in BA with a .317 (11th in the league), and also in Hits with 59 (5th in the league), and he’s 3rd on the team in TB’s (80), and in RBI’s (23). Signed by the Mets as an IFA in March of 2007, the RH hitting Concepcion, who is a very raw talent, has spent the last two seasons at the GCL level. A big finish to his season at Kingsport in 2011, is very important for him to use as a springboard to the long season leagues next year.

Cam Maron - The LH hitting catcher was the Mets 34th round draft pick in 2009 out of Hicksville H.S. Cam has been on fire lately, hitting at a .371 clip over his last ten games. Over that span he is 13 for 35, with 11 R, 1 2B, 3 HR’s and 8 RBI’s. Add in 7 walks and you have a .488 OBP. As a matter of fact, Maron leads the team in walks and OBP, is 2nd on the team in BA, and 3rd in Runs. For the season, Maron is hitting a cool .316 with 3 HR’s and 17 RBI’s. In a 152 AB’s he has an outstanding K/BB rate of 29/26 (26 walks tie him for 4th in the league), an OBP of .429 (5th in the league), and an OPS of .810. Maron is considered an offensive catcher at this point in his development, but if his catch and throw skills improve, he could quickly develop into a serious prospect in the next year.

 

Greg Pron - So far the 2011 42nd round pick looks like we got a real steal, when Sandy tabbed this 6’6″ RH slugging OF from West Florida. Pron has started off his professional career in a huge way. Pron is 9th in the Appy League with a .319 BA, .385 OBP, .518 SLG and .903 OPS (On Base Plus Slugging, the combination of OBP and SLG). He leads the team in BA, HR’s with 7, Total Bases, OPS and SB’s with 6. In 166 AB’s he is second on the team in: Runs (31), Hits (53), RBI’s (27), OBP and SLG. He does have a long swing, and tends to strikeout too often as his K/BB ratio of 46/17 indicates. Pron, who has played all three OF positions for Kingsport, is an intriguing prospect, and should open the 2012 season as a starting outfielder at Savannah, long season league.

Dustin Lawley - Drafted from the same West Florida program as Greg Pron in the 19th round of this year’s draft, the 6’1″ 195lb. Lawley has shown excellent versatility by playing all three OF positions and 3B for the K-Mets. He leads the team in 2B’s (15 which is good for 4th in the league), RBI’s (32), and is tied for first on the team in Total Bases (92), this year in 178 AB’s. He is second on the team in 3B’s (3), HR’s (6) and OPS (.847), and third on the team in Hits (53) and SLG (.517), and is hitting .298. Lawley is another athletic outfielder, drafted by the new regime, whose make-up and skills should translate well to Citifield someday, perhaps as Alex would say, “in 2014!” One thing is for certain, the competition for playing time in the Savannah outfield in 2012 will be very fierce.

Yucaryburt De La Cruz - Signed by the Mets as an IFA in Feb. 2009, this slender middle infielder is more of a speed and defense guy at this stage in his career. He leads off for the K-Mets, leads the team in Runs scored with 33, and 3B’s with 4. Although he is a solid glove man, with good speed, as his .247 BA shows, there is plenty of room for improvement with the bat.

Jeff Glenn - The other half of Kingsport’s catching tandem, along with Cam Maron, Glenn was drafted in the 9th round in the 2009 draft, out of Winter Haven H.S. in Winter Haven, Fla. When Glenn is catching, Maron DH’s, and vice-versa, so they are both getting plenty of AB’s while keeping their legs fresh, a smart move by manager Frank Fultz. Although much taller, at 6’3″, and more athletic behind the plate, than Maron, Glenn’s offensive skills lag behind a bit. After a hot start to the season, Glenn is fading as the stretch run wears on. He is only batting .114 in his last 10 games, but overall his numbers look like: .234 BA, in 128 AB’s, 13 Runs, 30 Hits, 12 2B’s, 3 HR’s 15 RBI’s, .398 SLG, and a 37/12 K/BB ratio. Glenn and Maron should emerge in the next year as catching prospects to watch.

Tillman Pugh - The Mets 2010 15th round draft pick out of Sonoma State University, Is the sort of speedy young outfielder who grows up to patrol the expansive acreage of Citifield. But after a solid start to the season, Pugh has struggled, and really needs to pick it up some, and finish the season strong. AMAZING Baseball Catch by Tillman Pugh – YouTube Hopefully, Pugh can begin to showcase his talents over the next few weeks, to warrant consideration for a long season league next year. This years numbers: .261 BA, 3 HR’s and 16 RBI’s in 119 AB’s.

Luke Stewart - This 6’4″ lefty hitting 1st baseman, from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, was the Mets 20th round pick in the 2010 draft. He is an intriguing player because of his power potential, although he has yet to show much power in his professional career so far. In 97 AB’s with Kingsport this year he is hitting .247, with 18 Runs, 24 Hits, 5 2B’s, 1 3B, 4 HR’s, 18 RBI’s, his K/BB ratio is 33/15, and his OPS stands at .792. The strikeouts tell the tale, too many against rookie league pitching. If Stewart ever wants to be considered a prospect, he needs to find a way to cut down on the strikeouts and put the ball in play more.

TJ Rivera - Signed earlier this summer as a free agent, this 22 year old SS from the Bronx has gotten off to a decent start with the Mets, hitting .290 in his first 93 AB’s.

Chad Zurcher - The 2011 31st round pick out of Memphis has been seeing duty at 2B and SS while hitting just .241, but his K/BB ratio of 8/12, gives him a reasonable OBP at .357.

Tant Shepherd - The Mets tabbed this slugging RH hitting 1st baseman, from the University of Texas, in the 24th round of the 2011 draft. His raw power has not yet translated to the professional ranks, but next year could be a breakout year for him. His numbers this year in 97 AB’s, he is hitting .237, with 18 Runs, 23 Hits, 7 2B’s, 1 HR, 9 RBI’s. With a K/BB ratio of 26/10, although a small sample size, it seems he has the same things to work on, moving forward, as Luke Stewart: making contact, and being more selective at the plate.

PITCHING

As for the guys on the “bump”, the Kingsport staff leads the league in hitting batters with pitches, and are second in the league in walks. Hmmmm….not too good. The good news is they were in 4th or 5th place amongst the ten teams in most of the significant pitching categories. One K-Mets starter throws in the mid-90′s and is tied for the Appy League lead in strikeouts with 54, in just 40 IP! He is a 6’1″ RHP from the Virgin Islands, who was the Mets 2010 10th round pick, and his name is…..

Akeel Morris - Morris is an unbelievable talent, who is still very raw. When you grow up in the V.I. and choose to play baseball, you are not playing against the best talent, and it is hard to challenge a pitcher with a skill set like Morris’. So despite his abilities, Morris is now facing much tougher competition for the first time in his life. Video: Akeel Morris- Live BP 2011 – YouTube Morris has shown flashes of dominance this year combined with rough spots where his command would break down. His uneven performance has resulted in a 2-2 record, and an ERA of 4.05. His peripherals are somewhat more encouraging, but even considering the high strikeout numbers, he walks too many batters, 30 in 40 IP. The really good news? He is only 18 years old, and Appy League opposition is hitting only .185 against him.

Much of the same things can be said about Dominican RHP Domingo Tapia. 6’4″ and 19 years old, he has a heavy sink FB and some promising secondary stuff. He has been very inconsistent this year, but has been much better of late. In his two August starts he has gone 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA. Video: Domingo Tapia Live BP 2011 Overall Tapia is 4-4 with an ERA of 4.50.

Juan Urbina - The son of the former big leaguer Ugueth Urbina, has been having a very rough year as the rest of the league has been beating him like a drum, at will. His stats aren’t pretty: In 9 GS and 40 IP, he has an ugly 2-5 record, and an ERA of 6.69. His K/BB ratio is very good, 36/16, but he is getting knocked all over the park. 53 hits in his 40 IP, 7 of which are HR’s, and the league is hitting .314 against him. The scouts love him though. After all he just turned 18 earlier this season. He’s 6’2″ and throws LH. And they say he can command several plus pitches, So I guess you can chalk this year up to his young age and despite the numbers, this is a very important developmental year for the south-paw. Video: Juan Urbina

Bret Mitchell - The 6’2″ RHP won 5 of his first 7 starts for the K-Mets and then was promoted to Brooklyn. The 2010 12th round pick out of Minnesota State University-Mankato, went 5-1 with a 2.95 ERA for Kingsport. In 40 IP he gave up 24 Hits, only two of which were HR’s. He had a 38/12 K/BB ratio, the league was hitting .175 against him and his WHIP was 0.91.

Jacob Lugo - After drafting the 6’4″ RHP Lugo in the 34th round this past June, out of Centenary College, the Mets assigned him to Kingsport where he has now made 7 GS, going 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA. In 35 IP he has given up 28 Hits, 3 HR’s, while striking out 32 and walking 16. Opponents are hitting .217 off him and his WHIP is 1.27.  

Brian Valenzuela – This 5’10″ LHP was the Mets 10th round draft pick back in 2008, out of Vista Murrieta (Calif.) High School. Things were tough the last 3 seasons when he threw only 28 IP combined, and missed a season due to injury. This year he has tossed 32 IP, so far, with very poor results. He’s 2-4 with a 5.97 ERA in 6 starts, and the league is raking against him to the tune of a .318 BA. Valenzuela has to show some positive signs soon or the new regime may not keep around for another season.

Miller Diaz - The 19 year old, 6’1″ RHP from Venezuela was signed as an IFA in 2009. He has split time between the rotation (4 starts) and the pen. He is 1-0 with an ERA of 3.90, but he desperately needs to cut down on his walks, as he has 18 in 28 IP already.

Hansel Robles - The 21 year old RHP from the Dominican, was signed as an IFA in 2009. In 12 games this year, 30 IP, he is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA. His K/BB ratio is 33/13, and opponents are hitting .232 against him.

Darwin Frias - This 19 year old RHP from the Dominican Republic, was another IFA signed in 2009. Out of the Kingsport pen this year he is: 1-2 with a 2.50 ERA, opponents are hitting .246 against him. Here’s some video: Darwin Frias of the Kingsport Mets vs. Greeneville Astros (July 18, 2011)

Chasen Bradford - Drafted this year in the 35th round, out of Central Florida, the RHP Bradford has gotten off to a quick start in the Kingsport pen. In 28 IP, he has given up 23 hits, only 1 HR, his K/BB is 33/6, opponents are hitting .221 against him. His record is 0-0 and his ERA is 2.22, and in 9 IP since Aug began, he has not allowed a run, given up only 3 hits, and is 11/1 in K/BB ratio.

Dustin Emmons - The 6’1″ RHP as appeared in 14 games out of the pen for the K-Mets, throwing 26 IP. The 2011 38th round draft pick out of UC Riverside is 2-0 with a 3.76 ERA. He still has work to do getting more swings and misses since he has allowed 34 Hits and a .309 opponents BA against, but he has only allowed 2 dingers. His K/BB ratio stands at 16/6.

Ernesto Yanez - A 21 year old RHP from Venezuela, he got off to a very hot start at Kingsport before being sent up to Brooklyn at the end of July. Originally signed by the Mets in March of 2009, Yanez pitched in 11 games for the K-Mets this year, for a total of 22 IP. He gave up 16 hits, but only 1 ER (as a result of a solo HR), had a K/BB ratio of 14/4, opponents BA was .203, and his WHIP was 0.90.

Mark Picca - This 6’2″ LHP from the University of Texas-Arlington, was the Mets 2011 41st round draft pick. He signed a contract and was assigned to Kingsport, where he has gotten off to a nice start in the K-Pen. So far this season he has made 14 appearances over 20 IP, with a record of 1-1 and a 3.60 ERA, 18 hits, 15/5 K/BB ratio, with an opponents BA at .237, and a 1.15 WHIP.

Chad Sheppard - The 6’4″ RHP out of Northwestern State University, was the 2010 17th round draft pick. In only 18 IP over 12 games for Kingsport, he has gone 1-1 with a pedestrian ERA of 4.58, but has shown some interesting peripherals so far: In his 18 IP, he has given up 14 hits for an opponents BA of .209, but the thing you notice is his K/BB ratio which is 24/12. With a K/9 of 12.0, and a BB/9 of 6.0, he has showed a very “live” arm so far, and with an improvement in his command, he could evolve into a closer down the road. Video: RHP Chad Sheppard

Jared West - Speaking of closers, this 2011 undrafted free agent, has emerged as quite a pleasant surprise for the K-Pen this year. Being placed in the closer role early on, this 6’1″ RHP from The Woodlands, Texas, is showing the Mets were very shrewd to keep tabs on this guy, and get him signed once the draft concluded. For Kingsport he has gone: 0-1 with a 2.50 ERA, and 7 saves, in 14 games, covering 18 IP. He has allowed 18 hits and three walks while striking out 16. His WHIP is 1.17.

The stretch run should prove very interesting for the Kingsport Mets as they are presently playing their best baseball of the season. The hitters are hitting, the bullpen is dealing, if the rotation can pull it together for each of their two or three remaining starts, this team just might find it’s way into the playoffs this September!

Let’s Go K-Mets!

Next Up: GCL St Lucie Mets

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