Mets Merized Online » John Sickels Sun, 04 Dec 2016 04:58:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 MLB Draft: Mets Select Boston College RHP Justin Dunn With No. 19 Pick Fri, 10 Jun 2016 01:13:18 +0000 john franco draft

Clayton Collier, Metsmerized Online

With the 19th selection of the MLB Draft, the New York Mets selected right-hander Justin Dunn out of Boston College.

The Mets say they love his upside and didn’t expect him to be on the board. They view Dunn as a starting pitcher and saw this as an opportunity to replenish the system with high upside pitching.

The Mets believe his fastball and power curve are plus pitches, and that his changeup and slider are works in progress.

The New York native began the 2016 spring season in the bullpen and dominated there, striking out 17 batters in 13 1/3 relief innings before he moved into the rotation in April.

Scouting Grades: 20-80 scale

Fastball: 65/70
Slider: 60/70
Curveball: 50/55
Changeup: 50/60
Control: 40/55
Overall: 50/60


Baseball America

Justin Dunn

Hometown: Freeport, New York
Height/Weight: 6’2″, 185 lb
School: Boston College

John Sickels 

Dunn opened 2016 in the bullpen again, giving up three runs in 13 innings with a 17/3 K/BB. He moved into the starting rotation in April and has continued to dominate in longer outings, with particularly strong performances against tough competition like Virginia (five shutout innings in his first start) and Louisville (one run in six innings).

Keith Law

Control has been a bit of an issue for Dunn, especially since he moved into the rotation. But there again, context is important when it comes to projection, and the circumstances surrounding Dunn’s development to this point should be taken into account when it comes to projecting his control. Bottom line is he’s a high-upside college arm without a long track record of success as a starter.

Boston College Interaction

He wasn’t a pitcher when he got here. He was an infielder who got up on the mound a few times and could just throw. He was a super athletic kid with a good arm. Over the past three years, he’s turned into a pitcher. His freshman year he didn’t have any command, he was just trying to throw every fastball as hard as he could. Then he started to understand the concept at the end of his freshman year down at URI, and (former assistant coach Scott Friedholm) did a good job of starting that whole process. I think it really opened his eyes the first time he touched 96 on the fastball, and it was hit over the scoreboard.

Lookout Landing

Dunn’s bread and butter will always be his hard fastball, which will sit 93-95 mph, but it will be interesting to see if he manages to develop either his curveball or slider into a plus pitch. The slider can look deadly at times with late, sharp movement, but I’m not sold on his ability to consistently command it. The curveball is a big looper that is occasionally left up, but he mixes it amongst his pitches well and frequently catches hitters off guard with it.

Jonathan Mayo

Dunn has always had a plus fastball and he maintained it in his early starts, lighting radar guns up to 98-99 mph and sitting in the 92-95 mph range. He utilizes two breaking balls, both of which are Major League average: a three-quarters curve and a solid hard slider. His changeup will also flash average, though he didn’t need it much as a reliever. His command is fringy at present, but his outstanding stuff helps make up for it.

Many teams feel Dunn has a very good chance to start as a Yordano Ventura type athletic, yet slightly undersized, right-hander. As a result, he was flying up boards, with some feeling he could be gone by the end of the first round.

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Talking About the PTBNL and the Draft with Rob Brender and John Dreker Thu, 29 May 2014 16:11:09 +0000 jacoby jones

Could JaCoby Jones find himself on the Mets soon?

I had a chance to speak with the always insightful John Dreker who helps run the great site Pirates Prospects. He has scouted, analyzed and interviewed many of the prospects in the Pirates system over the last five years and has a great wealth of knowledge on who’s who and what their prospect status is.

Joe D – Regarding the PTBNL in the Ike Davis trade, if you had to rank your top three probables right now, who would you say they are and rank them in order of probability?

John – If I had to guess I’d say Neil Kozikowski, Blake Taylor, JaCoby Jones are the top three. Cody Dickson a maybe. Can’t imagine anyone else though. I guess Billy Roth could be another option, another Kozikowski-type, high upside, but far away. Should have went before 16th round.

Joe D – I consider you the expert on Pirates prospects, of those first four, where do they rate as far as A-Level or B-Level prospects?

John – All have big upside, Jones the most. I’d rank them all B. Had a scout tell me he didn’t see much in Taylor, but he was only 17. Dickson is really disappointing this year, control issues popping up and lots of hits allowed, but his last start was nice.

Joe D – Thanks again for sharing some of your insights.

John – No problem. Check out our recently posted draft profiles and videos. Put in Michael Conforto and Sean Newcomb before they shot up the charts.

If you’re wondering where the four probable PTBNL’s rank in the Pirates system, here is what I could find.

  • Neil Kozikowski, SS was unranked by John Sickels and Jonathon Mayo.
  • Blake Taylor, LHP was ranked 19 by John Sickels and unranked by Jonathon Mayo.
  • JaCoby Jones, SS/CF was ranked 14 by John Sickels and 20 by Jonathan Mayo.
  • Cody Dickson, LHP was ranked 18 by John Sickels and unranked by Jonathan Mayo.

Obviously, the player I hope we get is Jones who actually just fell a triple short of hitting for the cycle last night for Single-A West Virginia in the South Atlantic League.

The 2013 third-rounder hails from LSU and is slashing at .270/.353/.423 with nine doubles, six home runs and 23 RBI in 189 at-bats while playing mostly shortstop and some center field. He’s still very raw, strikes out too much, and needs to find a true defensive home, but he also comes with an excellent tools package that includes a nice blend of contact, hitting for power and speed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

SNY’s Robert Brender was also kind enough to answer a few questions for me over the weekend and I asked him a question about the upcoming draft.

With the draft coming up in just over a week, is there one or two players you are hoping the Mets walk away with? And how do you view Paul DePodesta’s first three draft classes and his overall philosophy and draft strategy?

The cupboard was pretty bare when DePo started this process three years ago. There was very little depth from top to bottom, although there were certainly a few studs mixed in from the Omar regime. They’ve used the 1st round to draft what they feel is the “best available” player and not worried about high school vs. college.

Guys like Nimmo and Dom Smith take longer to develop, but the payoff could be huge in a few years. Sure, they’ve missed on a few players like Michael Wacha and Jose Fernandez but so did most teams, and that happens.

Overall, they’ve climbed from near the bottom of the league in overall Minor League talent to the top half of baseball and even top 10 in some people’s thinking. That’s a pretty good jump in a short period of time. They have a lot of pitching top to bottom in the system. There are lots of bats at the lower levels, with a few starting to creep into AA and high-A now. Kevin Plawecki could get to AAA this season and Nimmo AA.

The player I hope the Mets take is Jeff Hoffman, the East Carolina right-handed pitcher who is having TJ surgery (or recently had it). By all accounts, he would have been a top four pick before the injury and might slip because of it. With so many pitchers having TJ and the success rate for guys coming back from it, I would have no issue spending the pick on him. Rumor is, he still wants a big pay check, which could be a problem because I’m sure they would prefer to go under slot. #10 is a spot to take the best talent and this isn’t a deep draft, at least not on paper.

I’d like to thank John and Rob for taking some time to answer a few questions for me.


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Diamondbacks To Go With Chris Owings At Shortstop Sun, 16 Mar 2014 16:46:27 +0000 Chris Owings

Jim Bowden of ESPN is hearing that Chris Owings will be the everyday shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Although it hasn’t been officially announced yet, Bowden reports they are going to start him over Didi Gregorius because of his bat.

As a result, Gregorius should now be a good trade piece for the D’Backs at some point this summer and Bowden expects Owings will be a Rookie of the Year candidate.

John Sickels profiled Owings a couple of months ago and said he was supposed to open 2013 at Double-A, but after a solid spring training, the D’Backs sent him to Triple-A Reno.

He responded with a .330/.359/.482 line, with 31 doubles, 12 homers, 22 walks, 99 strikeouts in 546 at-bats. He also set a career high with 20 stolen bases, and was named to the All Star Futures Game roster.

The 21-year old phenom was named the Topps 2013 Pacific Coast League Player of the Year.

There has been a some buzz about the Mets monitoring the shortstop situation in Arizona in the past two weeks, but neither team has confirmed any interest in making a deal.

Sandy Alderson continues to hold firm on his position that there will not be any changes at shortstop between now and opening day. Additionally, two other team sources told the NY Post that despite his spring performance, Ruben Tejada will be the shortstop and “he’ll be fine.”

Presented By Diehards

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2014 Player Projection: Travis d’Arnaud, Catcher Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:00:31 +0000 Welcome to my annual player projection series. In this series, I will try to take a swing at estimating how each Met will do in the upcoming season. As the results of last year’s projections will tell you, I won’t be too accurate. So much happens over the course of a baseball season that without access to heavy data, (and the time and programming knowledge to analyze it), that even well thought-out projections could look laughable at the end of a season. Nonetheless, it is a great way to discuss in detail about each player. How will I go about doing this? Here are some of the tools I will use.

  1. Historical statistics of each player
  2. Computer Projections (Steamer, ZiPS, etc.)
  3. Indicators (xFIP, HR/FB, BABIP, Pitch f/x etc.)
  4. Visual analysis (Swing/Pitch mechanics and trends)
  5. News and notes

Hopefully, we’ll be able to get to each player this year. Enjoy the series!

Travis d’Arnaud, C

Photo: Brad Mills, USA TODAY Sports

The Mets are a team filled with promising young prospects, ones they hope will carry them to a winning future. One of the most important pieces for this year and beyond is Travis d’Arnaud, a 25 year-old catcher and top-rated prospect.

d’Arnaud was ranked the 30th-best prospect in baseball by Baseball America before last season, and was the top position player prospect in the Met farm system. He was due to receive significant playing time with the big league club, but after fracturing a bone in his foot in an April Triple-A game, that got pushed back. After a few setbacks, he was finally able to join the Mets in mid-August, when he would take over for the soon-to-be-traded John Buck.

In 112 plate appearances with the Mets, d’Arnaud struggled, posting a .202/.286/.263 slash line, ending the season with just four extra base-hits.

There were some bright spots for the young catcher, however, as he impressed the coaching staff and pitchers with his game-calling ability and certain aspects of his defensive game. Specifically, he did an impressive job with pitch-framing, and, as ESPN’s Mark Simon and Adam Rubin pointed out, was among some of the best pitch-framers in baseball during his short time with the team.

Although he struggled at the dish, there is still plenty of optimism surrounding d’Arnaud. For one, the sample size from last year is very small, so small that he will maintain his rookie status this year. That sample size may have also been his adjustment period after his injury, playing 20 minor league games, most of them below Triple-A. While this may seem like I’m making excuses for d’Arnaud, it’s more so pointing out the circumstances in which those sliver of at-bats were a part of. He may have hit terribly in his limited time, but that hasn’t dismayed any of the scouts that have raved about him in the past.

To get a good idea of d’Arnaud’s potential, I’ve compiled a few snippets from expert reports on him.

John Sickels (Minor League Ball):

Offensively, his best tool is power. He was rather impatient early in his career but has made progress with the strike zone. He looked dramatically improved in that department for Vegas this spring and summer, when he wasn’t hurt anyway. His power usually comes when he pulls the ball, although he is more willing to take something the opposite way than he was earlier in his career.

I don’t see him as a .300 hitter at the major league level, but he should be good for a solid .250-.270 range, with an adequate OBP and better-than-average power. He could exceed those projections in his peak seasons.

Although I don’t see him in the Buster Posey or Joe Mauer class of superstar catcher, d’Arnaud produces quality play on both sides of the ball. If he can avoid getting hurt too often, d’Arnaud will be a fixture in the Mets lineup for years to come,

Mark Anderson/Brett Sayre (Baseball Prospectus):

D’Arnaud is a complete catching prospect, and the only thing standing between him and several All-Star appearances is his ability to stay healthy and on the field. Offensively, d’Arnaud has plus bat speed and a knack for hard contact that should allow him to hit at least .280 in the big leagues once he settles in. He likes to swing the bat and will chase out of the strike zone at times, but he demonstrates just enough restraint for his natural hitting ability to shine through. When he makes contact, he consistently drives the ball to all fields and has the potential to pop 18-22 home runs and around 30 doubles at his peak.

D’Arnaud does a good job of receiving the baseball, handling velocity and secondary pitches with aplomb and demonstrating an ability to block pitches in the dirt. He isn’t fast, but his feet work quickly behind the plate, and he can get in position to unleash his plus arm with ease. D’Arnaud has consistently popped in the sub-2.0 second range, making him a threat to control the running game. Overall, d’Arnaud owns a robust skill set that will play on both sides of the ball. His ceiling stands squarely in the plus regular range and he could be a perennial All-Star when it all comes together.

Jim Callis (

The 24-year-old d’Arnaud stands out the most for his prowess at the plate, and he keeps getting better and better. A career .286/.347/.476 hitter in the Minors, he has boosted his OPS from .726 in high Class A to .906 in Double-A to .990 in Triple-A. d’Arnaud’s best pure tool is his above-average right-handed power, which he generates with a combination of bat speed and strength, and he could smash 20 homers annually in the Major Leagues.

d’Arnaud shows a feel for hitting as well, and his compact swing and all-fields approach should translate to solid batting averages as well. He could stand to draw a few more walks, but he has made progress with his plate discipline as he has risen through the Minors. d’Arnaud very well could produce .275/.340/.500 lines year in and year out in the Major Leagues.

Yes, even after the injury, experts are still high on d’Arnaud, even, as we see with Callis’ thoughts, after his hitting woes last season.

The computer projections are just as, if not more optimistic than the prospect experts. While it’s still early for projections to come out as rosters aren’t quite set, the ones that are out have d’Arnaud as an above-average starter this year. Here’s a look at what the Steamer projections have him doing:

105 G, 428 PA, 13 HR, 8.3 BB%, 18.9 K%, .254/.320/.418, 2.6 fWAR

This is interesting, as it has d’Arnaud missing some time. Projections are never good for predicting injury, so what will it be if it is averaged out to 140 games?

140 G, 570 PA, 17 HR, 8.3 BB%, 18.9 K%, .254/.320/.418, 2.8 fWAR

That’s a very good season, especially for a catcher. In last year’s rankings, that fWAR of 2.8 would be 11th among MLB catchers, and his home run total would be ninth. Now let’s look at the Oliver projections:

143 G, 600 PA,16 HR, 9.0 BB%, 24.7 K%, .241/.312/.397, 3.1 fWAR

This projection is interesting, as it has d’Arnaud having a worse offensive season than what the Steamer numbers say, but also having a higher overall value. Looking deeper, that’s because Oliver has him six runs better defensively.

Finally, we have the always-conservative ZiPS projections. For some reason, these always undershoot, so bear that in mind:

336 PA, 9 HR, 7.4 BB%, 24.1 K%, .245/.307/.392, 1.6 zWAR

Averaged out to 550 PA: 15 HR, 7.4 BB%, 24.1 K%, .245/.307/.392, 2.6 zWAR

Even these projections, which have David Wright accumulating just a 4.4 WAR next season, are rather optimistic on d’Arnaud. Both the scouts and the sabermetricians agree: d’Arnaud is due for a solid season.

Given a full spring training with a roster spot in-hand, as well as a full, injury-free offseason, I don’t see any reason not to be optimistic for d’Arnaud this year. His defensive abilities are there, and although he didn’t show it in limited time last year, his hitting is too. Just because of the dimensions of Citi Field and having to go through a full-season, I’m going to be a little conservative on the power numbers, but still within the range of the computer projections. However, I’d like to come full circle and talk about d’Arnaud’s pitch framing one last time.

Measuring a catcher’s worth is still difficult for statisticians when it comes to defense. d’Arnaud’s pitch framing abilities as well as his game-calling have been lauded by the Mets coaching staff and pitchers. Neither of those are incorporated into WAR as of now, so he adds intangible value as well, or at least that’ what has been the case so far.

Tangibly or intangibly, this season looks to be a strong one for the young catcher.

MMO 2014 Projection:

550 PA, 15 HR, 8.0 BB%, 22.0 K%, .245/.310/.405, 2.8 fWAR


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Prospect Spotlight: 2B Dilson Herrera Thu, 29 Aug 2013 17:10:42 +0000 herrera

With Tuesday’s trade of Marlon Byrd and John Buck, the Mets got a very intriguing prospect from the Pirates, 19 year-old second base prospect Dilson Herrera.

Herrera is a converted third baseman out of Cartagena, Colombia who is three years into his professional baseball career, and in his second year playing in the U.S., after spending time in the Venezuelan Summer League in 2011. He is listed at 5’10″ and 150 pounds, very small, even for a middle infielder. However, he has surprising power for his size.

It’s unusual enough to see a middle infielder hit with power like that at 18 and 19 years old, let alone someone of Herrera’s size doing it in leagues like the Gulf Coast League and South Atlantic League, where you normally don’t see much power. In addition, his walk rate at just below 8% is solid for a middle infielder. His strikeout rate has risen from 15.4% in the Venezuelan Summer League gradually up to 23%, where it sits right now. That’s a bit of a concern, but it’s not something to get too worried about at this point with Herrera being so young.

One of Herrera’s best tools is his speed, which many scouts rate a 60 on the 20-80 scale, making it a plus tool. Speed is odd because it peaks very early and lots of players with “plus” speed in the minors never end up stealing a ton of bases at the big league level. However, at this point expect him to be a 20-30 stolen base type player. He went 16-for-24 on stolen base attempts in 2011, 12-for-16 in 2012, and has gone 11-for-17 so far this season.

Despite being converted to second base, Herrera is improving at the position and could actually end up becoming an above-average second baseman.

Herrera represented the Pirates in the All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field last month, becoming the second-youngest player to ever play in the game.

Overall, Herrera is an underrated prospect with a good hit tool, speed, and solid power at a premium position. Not a bad return for a month of John Buck and Marlon Byrd.

What the experts say…

Jonathan Mayo:

Scouting Grades (present/future): Hit: 3/6 | Power: 3/5 | Run: 6/6 | Arm: 5/5 | Field: 5/6 | Overall: 3/6

Some international prospects come to the United States and are, at least initially, overwhelmed. Not so for Herrera, who made his U.S. debut in 2012 and was among the Gulf Coast League leaders in a host of offensive categories. He continued his strong play in Class A West Virginia in 2013 until being traded to the Mets in August as a part of the deal that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pirates. While Herrera isn’t the biggest guy in the world, he’s shown he can really hit and projects to be an above-average hitter in the future, with more power than you’d expect from a guy his size. A well-above-average runner, the Colombian infielder should be able steal bases consistently, and that speed should also help him with his range as he continues to improve at second base.

Fangraphs Preseason:

If you’re looking for a player who could have a breakout season in 2013 similar to those of Gregory Polanco and Alen Hanson from 2012, look no further than Herrera. The middle infielder generates surprising pop for his size, and that included 25 extra base hits in 60 short-season contests last season. The 19-year-old Colombian needs to tighten up his approach at the plate, including pitch recognition, if he’s going to hit for average as he moves up the ladder.

In the field, Herrera has a below average arm but has good actions and average-or-better range thanks to solid foot speed. He’s played third base, shortstop and second base in his young career but profiles best at the keystone. He should move up to full-season ball in 2013.

Baseball America:

Herrera hit .321 for short-season State College in 2012 and led the New York-Penn League with 22 extra-base hits, and despite a dip in his raw production this season at low Class A, he remains an intriguing prospect as an offensive-oriented second baseman. A compactly-built 5-foot-10, Herrera makes consistent line-drive contact and ought to develop at least average power to go with a solid average and on-base percentage. He lacks the type of flashy defensive tools to get a look at shortstop, though sticking at the keystone will be no problem thanks to solid range and quick hands. As such, South Atlantic League managers recently selected Herrera as the best defensive second baseman in the circuit.

Ben Badler on Twitter:


John Sickels:

Herrera is a right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 3, 1994. He’s not very tall at 5-10, but he is physically strong and generates good power given his size. His eye for the strike zone is uneven and he’s a rather aggressive hitter at this point, with a high strikeout rate. He is primarily a pull hitter at this stage of his career; he also has a strong platoon split, with an .829 OPS against southpaw pitchers but just .730 against right-handed moundsmen.

Defensively, he has good range around the bag at second base, but a mediocre arm precludes usage at shortstop and he’s never played a pro inning there.

Herrera will report to Savannah, where he will likely play out the season.

Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst.

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Prospect Spotlight: RHP Vic Black Thu, 29 Aug 2013 16:30:10 +0000 vic black tradeAccording to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the Mets and Pirates have agreed on Vic Black as the player to be named late in the trade that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the Pirates. The Mets sent cash to Pittsburgh as well in exchange for Dilson Herrera,who we profiled yesterday, and Black, who will either join the team once he clears waivers tomorrow or after the season if he is claimed by another team.

Black, 25, is a right-handed relief pitcher currently pitching for Triple-A Indianapolis as their closer. Black was originally drafted by the New York Mets in the 41st round of the 2006 draft, but did not sign.

Three years later, the Pirates selected him 49th overall. He got his first taste as a closer last season with Altoona in the Eastern League, where he finished 38 games (including 13 saves), while posting a 1.65 ERA in 60 innings. Even more impressive were his 85 strikeouts (12.8 K/9). This season in 46.2 innings, he has a 2.51 ERA with 63 strikeouts and 17 saves.

Black is a highly-regarded prospect in the Pirates organization, ranked 16th by Jonathan Mayo of, 18th by Pirates Prospects, and 15th by John Sickels of Minor League Ball. He has an electric fastball that has been clocked at times over 100 miles per hour and a slider that can touch 90 on the gun.

Two top 15 prospects is quite a haul for one month of Byrd and Buck. Pirates GM Neal Huntington did say the PTBNL wasn’t a no-name prospect, but it’s a bit of a surprise to see a prospect of just about equal value as Herrera to be thrown in the deal as well. Nice work by the Mets front office.

Career Stats

What the experts say…

Jonathan Mayo:

Scouting Grades* (present/future): Fastball: 6/7 | Slider: 4/5 | Control: 3/5 | Overall: 4/5

The Pirates knew Black had tremendous arm strength. That is, after all, why they drafted him out of Dallas Baptist in the first place. But the right-hander had trouble staying healthy at first, missing nearly all of his first full season and not getting a lot of mound time in 2011. Moved to the bullpen that year, Black really took off with the push to Double-A in 2012, where he struck out 12.75 per nine innings. His fastball can be plus, into the mid-90s with sink, and he combines it with a hard slider that could be a Major League average pitch. Black’s control, however, hasn’t been as solid. Though his walk rate did drop in 2012, he had trouble throwing strikes during his Arizona Fall League stint. If Black can find the strike zone with more consistency, he has the stuff to pitch out of the back end of the bullpen.

John Sickels:

Unlike many minor league closers, Black does not want for stuff: he has one of the best fastballs in the system, clocked as high as 101 MPH in the minors; he hit 98 during his major league trial and averaged 95. A supplemental first round pick in 2009 out of Dallas Baptist, he struggled with control problems, a substandard change-up, and persistent arm trouble early in his career and at one point looked like a bust.

He revived his career by converting to relief, posting an excellent 1.65 ERA with an 85/29 K/BB in 60 innings with 13 saves last year in Double-A, followed by consistent success this year. He’s had fewer problems throwing strikes and staying healthy with relief use, doesn’t have to worry about the change-up, and can just come in and blow people away for an inning or two with his fastball and a slider that can touch 90.

MLB Prospect Watch

Black has the velocity you simply can’t teach, consistently sitting in the upper 90′s with the ability to reach triple-digits.  That alone makes him an intriguing prospect.  Serving as a closer in Triple-A, Black struck out 12 batters per nine innings for the second straight year (having also done it in 2012 in Double-A) and lowered his walk rate to a career low.  Unfortunately, that career low is still 4.0 BB/9, which is the Achilles heel of Black’s game.

The past two years, Black has been extremely effective in each of the minor league’s highest two levels.  He’s already 25-years-old, so he’s ready for a test in the majors, and if the Pirates major league bullpen hadn’t been as good as it was all season, he likely would have already gotten it.

Vic Black, on himself in Q&A with Fangraphs in May:

On his two-pitch repertoire and velocity: “I feel I have two pretty good options. I can go fastball and I can go slider, and that shortens my thought process. As a short-inning reliever, I don’t want to start thinking about too many ways to get a guy out.

“In my last outing, against Buffalo, I was 97-99 [mph].

“The velocity is coming earlier this year. When you saw me in Portland last year, it was toward the end of the season and that’s when I was starting to throw that hard consistently. Throwing hard this early tells me my mechanics and timing are becoming more sound.”

Black could join the Mets’ bullpen this season if he clears waivers.

Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst.

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(Updated) Satin Deserves A Major League Opportunity Thu, 25 Jul 2013 16:41:01 +0000 New York Mets v Atlanta Braves

Updated 12:40 PM:

Keith Law wrote me saying:

Your writer says: “Keith Law must be a terrible assistant GM and front office person, and that’s why no major league team has hired him since he got shit-canned in Toronto.”

You can call me whatever names you like, but I was not “shit-canned” or fired by Toronto. I quit in May of 2006 to join ESPN, and have discussed this openly many times with readers. To claim I was fired when I was not strikes me as libelous, and I would appreciate it if you would remove that part of the post.

I’ve retracted my earlier comment, Keith. But I still think you’re pretty hard on the Mets minor leagues… And I’m sure you can understand why so many Met fans feel the same way as I do. Actually the comments on your last chat validates that. I think you were way too harsh on Satin who is certainly proving to be worthy of providing some value at the major league level. Far from terrible.

Be good…

Original Post 9:00 AM

You may remember a couple of weeks ago, I made a big stink about Keith Law calling Josh Satin a terrible ballplayer. In that article I wrote:

What a blowhard Law has become… Never mind the fact that despite his high opinion of himself with regard to ranking prospects, he couldn’t carry John Sickels’ jockstrap. Calling Satin a terrible ballplayer, when he’s produced a career .389 on-base in the minors and is performing at that level in the majors, is a low blow by Law.

Well as luck would have it, John Sickels profiles Josh Satin in his Prospect of the Day feature this morning and he concludes the following:

Although his offensive production in the minors was undeniable, many scouts and coaches didn’t like his approach at the plate: he had a noisy setup with a lot of movement. Despite advice to do so, Satin didn’t want to change this, and it can be hard to convince a guy who constantly rips minor league pitching that he needs to make adjustments.

However, after his early major league struggles Satin got the message and made some changes this spring, as noted by the New York Times earlier this month. He has always had keen strike zone judgment, so the combination of a shorter path to the ball with his already-present batting eye has given good results. His strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and so far he’s doing very, very well in the major leagues.

The sample size is small, of course, and the pitchers could adjust right back at him. He still faces the challenge of hitting enough to hold a job at first base. Still, given the totality of his track record, Satin deserves a major league opportunity. I’m glad to see him get it, and so far he’s taking full advantage.

Nice to see that there are still a few minor league experts who can write objectively without the need to make outlandish claims for attention.

Look, nobody is saying that Satin is going to be the end-all at first base for the Mets, much less me. All I’ve said is that he’s a better option than Ike Davis and more productive – and that’s exactly what he has shown himself to be.

Combined with Allan Dykstra and Jayce Boyd when he’s ready, the Mets have some nice options that won’t suffocate the offense once they realize that Ike Davis isn’t the solution at the position. First the Mets need to realize that, and then we can see what we really have in Satin and Dykstra for the rest of this season. But as long as Davis is here, he clouds the picture which is unfortunate because then we have to do this all over again in 2014.

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Puello Could Be Top 50 MLB Prospect Next Year Mon, 22 Jul 2013 19:53:33 +0000 Cesar Puello KM

Here’s what John Sickels had to say about Cesar Puello in his MiLB Gameday thread…

New York Mets prospect Cesar Puello went 1-for-3 with a double for Double-A Binghamton yesterday, giving him a season line of .332/.401/.571 with 16 homers and 23 stolen bases. He’s been particularly hot lately, hitting .361 in his last 10 games with five doubles, a homer, four steals, and a 6/7 BB/K ratio.

Tools have never been the problem with the 22-year-old Puello, but he’s been slowed by injuries and poor plate discipline. He’s healthy this year, has tripled his 2012 walk rate, and is now hitting the hell out of the ball. He’s flashed this before but didn’t sustain it, but this season he got hot in late April and has stayed that way. I didn’t have him in my recent Top 75 Prospects update, but he’d definitely be in the 80-100 range and if he keeps playing like this he’ll certainly be in the Top 50 for next year.

Well, alright then! There are many things to consider when looking at Cesar Puello. The numbers alone don’t tell the whole story — he still has trouble with plate discipline and recognition of breaking pitches. However, he has worked to improve that, and is actually drawing walks at the plate right now. That might sound sarcastic, but it is extremely important to see him drawing walks at a better rate — it is demonstrative of his improved plate discipline.

His potential is finally turning into performance this season and it’s great to see him look like the 20/20 threat I always had him pegged to be. His MLB batting average may not be pretty, but he’s surely working on improving his outlook.

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Reactions To Mets First Round Selection Dominic Smith Fri, 07 Jun 2013 11:10:40 +0000 dominic smith

Paul DePodesta: Fired up to select Dominic Smith! Chance to hit for average and power while playing great defense. Special human being, too!

Keith Law: Smith is one of the best pure hitters in the high school class, showing a smooth left-handed swing with power and a plus glove at first base. When he keeps his weight back, his swing is outstanding, with great balance through contact and good hip rotation to generate power from his legs.

High School coach Wilmer Aaron: He always comes through when you need him. Smith boasts poise, terrific bat speed and a power arm. He does things college kids can’t do. God has blessed him with tremendous gifts.

Dominic Smith: This is a great honor and opportunity. I can’t wait to get out there.It’s an incredible team. David Wright is a Hall of Fame-potential player and Matt Harvey is a great young guy. I can’t wait to put on my Mets uniform and get out there and play.

Brooklyn Cyclones: The Mets selected Dominic Smith with the 11th overall selection tonight. The first baseman hit .493 this season and a whopping .551 as a junior. Hopefully we’ll get to see him at MCU Park at some point this season.

Baseball Prospectus: A plus hit/plus power bat that could fit comfortably in the middle of a first division lineup. He excels at barreling up balls and producing loud contact. Has a good feel for the strikezone and shows the ability to both turn around good velocity and drive stuff on the outer-half to the left-center gap.

Brandon Nimmo: Congrats to Dominic Smith on being selected by the Mets, hope he becomes part of the team!

Aaron Fitt, Baseball America: Every SoCal scout I know loves Dominic Smith — really special makeup, special swing, plus defender. Has legit bat speed & pop. Mets fans will love him.

Darin Gorski: My internet gave out but my twitter feed blew up with the news. Congrats to Dominic Smith! Welcome to the Mets!!!

Paul DePodesta: We’re thrilled that we were able to select Dominic tonight. He’s a guy we have followed since last summer. Our area scout has known him since he 12-years-old. We think we have a very good all-around player, a plus hitter with plus power.

Tommy Tanous: We felt going back to last spring, into the summer, that this was one of the most advanced high school hitters that you’ll find. The fact that he bats left-handed is even nicer. You don’t find a swing like this every year.

Harold Reynolds: This may be the best left-handed bat from Los Angeles since Darryl Strawberry. I like this pick for the Mets.

Darryl Strawberry: He’s 17 years old, he’s got a lot to learn about the game. From all the reports that I hear about him, he’s a pretty good player. That’s good because you wouldn’t be here being taken in the first round if he wasn’t good. Just hopefully he can handle the opportunity of playing in New York because he has to deal with a lot here.

Jim Bowden: Love the Mets pick of Dominick Smith 1B. He has a chance to develop into an impact middle of the order bat and ++ defender. His bat reminds me of David Ortiz and his defense reminds me of Adrian Gonzalez.

John Sickels: One of the best pure hitters of the class, Smith just squares everything up. He just drops the head of the bat on it and it goes 330’. He understands the strike zone and shouldn’t strike out as much as a typical power hitter does due to his sound approach and great hand-eye coordination.

Peter Gammons: One GM says Dominic Smith was the best interview he conducted since Darin Erstad in 1994. Highest praise.

Dominic Smith: I try to model my fielding after Mark Teixeira. He’s a great fielder and he can hit as well. I like watching Cano swing from the left side of the plate. He makes the game look easy. And Carlos Gonzalez, he’s a gold glove outfielder. He makes a ton of plays and has a really good arm and he can hit as well. I just try to model my overall game after those three players.

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Baseball America’s 2013 Draft Preview Has OF Hunter Renfroe At No. 11 Tue, 28 May 2013 15:28:38 +0000 Jim Callis and Ben Badler of Baseball America released their final Top 500 MLB Draft Preview complete with analysis and scouting reports on each player for subscribed users.

The Mets have the 11th overall pick in the draft, which is where BA has Hunter Renfroe going. MMO’s Craig Lerner profiled Renfroe two weeks ago as a potential Mets selection.

hunter renfroe


Player Profile:

Position:  OF/C
Height:  6-1
Weight:  216
Bats/Throws:  R-R
Birthdate:  Jan. 28, 1992
College:  Mississippi State
Projected Draft Round:  1

Scouting Grades:

Hitting: Present 35 – Future 55
Power: Present 70 – Future 70
Speed: Present 60 – Future 60
Fielding: Present 55 – Future 60
Arm Strength: Present 60 – Future 60

John Sickels Says:

Renfroe packs a big punch at the dish. He has massive power. He has quick wrists and a short powerful swing. He sells out for power most of the time but in his summer league runs, it has paid off. He was named Cal Ripken League MVP in both 2011 and 2012. He hit ..395 with a .581 SLG in 2011, followed by a .366 mark with an .866 SLG in 2012. Renfroe is a good athlete with above-average running speed. He also has a quality throwing arm.

Player Summary

Renfroe is a high-impact college bat in a draft that has few of them, with a big, athletic build and the potential for three or more plus tools, but despite the strong junior year still has a ways to go with the bat.

He can show you three plus tools on the field — power, running speed, and throwing arm — with the power more like a 70 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and the others grading out at 60.

At 6-foot-1, 216 pounds, he already looks physically developed enough to play in the upper levels of the minors. His swing is very rotational, with a good stride into the ball and excellent follow-through to generate all of that power. He lifts his back foot off the ground at contact, which isn’t ideal since it means he’s hitting entirely off his front foot, something a few good big league hitters have done, but that most don’t.

His pitch recognition right now is a weakness, and pitchers can get him out just by changing speeds effectively. Renfroe hit just .252/.328/.374 last year with 51 strikeouts in 230 at bats after going 4-for-26 his freshman year, so while he was a known entity coming into college — Boston took him in the 31st round in 2010 — he came into this year without any strong history of performance, appearing in a second-tier summer league last year rather than on Cape Cod or in the Northwoods League.

In a deeper draft, he’d be a sandwich-round guy because of that history, as scouts and execs asked why he didn’t hit in his previous two years in the SEC, and why he didn’t play in a tougher summer league. In this year’s draft, however, he’s clearly one of the top five college bats, and offers more raw power potential than anyone other than Kris Bryant.

2013 Stats and Accolades

On May 3rd, Mississippi State’s Hunter Renfroe was named to the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list. The award is given to the top amateur baseball player in the nation.

Renfroe leads the Bulldogs in batting average (.352), home runs (15), RBI (54), total bases (137), stolen bases (9), on-base percentage (.445) and slugging (.652). He also 15 doubles and 49 runs scored, both second on the team.

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Talking Mets Minors With Prospect Expert John Sickels Tue, 28 Feb 2012 00:40:17 +0000 During Spring Training some of the best young prospects in the New York Mets system will get their chance to play with the major leaguers and show off what they can do. There are a fair amount of Mets fans who know quite a bit about our top prospects, but for those who don’t MMO is pleased to bring you an interview with one of the most respected experts on baseball prospects and minor league baseball.

John Sickels, wrote a column called “Down on the Farm” for ESPN from 1996 until 2005. He now has his own site dedicated to baseball prospects, the one and only, Minor League Ball. John does a tremendous job analyzing individual prospects and evaluating all 30 MLB farm systems. His rankings and projections are always well received and respected. I am an avid reader of Minor League Ball, and I’d encourage all of you to check it out. John is also a very talented and accomplished baseball writer who wrote a biography of Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller entitled, “Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation.”

Every year John puts out a book profiling roughly 1,000 minor leaguers. It includes each prospects stats, a brief overview plus a scouting report on the player, and of course grades for every player. It is a must read for any baseball fan and it is considered to be one of the most prominent annual prospect books.


Mets Merized Online: You are a big fan of Brandon Nimmo. How do you think his tools will eventually project to the major league level?

John Sickels: If he reaches his maximum potential, I see him as a guy who hits .280-.300 with 15-20 homers, 15-20 steals, and a high walk rate leading to a strong OBP. Add in an above-average glove. I could see him as a taller, lankier Nick Markakis.

MMO: What players in the Mets minor league system do you consider to be sleepers?

JS: I like Akeel Morris a lot. Very live arm. Drafted in the 10th round out of the Virgin Islands. People who follow the Mets closely are quite aware of him, but the casual fan probably isn’t. We’ll have to see if he is a starter or reliever going forward, but the arm strength and ceiling are impressive.

MMO: What do you think of Jenrry Mejia’s potential going forward after his Tommy John surgery?

JS: It is the same as it was before the surgery: if his secondary stuff is there, he could be a number two or three starter. At worst he should be a strong relief pitcher. Keep in mind that Tommy John recovery is far from automatic, so let’s keep expectations cautious until we see how his stuff and command rebound.

MMO: Can Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler make an impact this season or will we have to wait until 2013 to see them in the majors?

JS: Harvey should be a candidate for the second half of 2012, assuming he pitches as he should in AA and/or AAA. Wheeler is much more of a 2013 guy.

MMO: Other than Kirk Niewenhuis and Jenrry Mejia, are there any other Mets prospects that you think have a chance to make an impact this year?

JS: Reese Havens could if health allows. Harvey could. I’m a big fan of Jeurys Familia as well. With Harvey, Familia, and Mejia, the Mets have three power arms who could be/should be ready to do something positive by mid-season. If Dan Gorski performs well in his Double-A transition, you could see him sneak in there as well. Chris Schwinden doesn’t have the upside of the others, but he could be useful too as an inning-eater or long relief type.

MMO: You dropped Wilmer Flores from a B+ prospect to a B- prospect this year, which moved him from the Mets top prospect prior to 2011 to their ninth best prospect. Other than the possible position change from short to third, what was your basis for the drop?

JS: Lack of power development. His bat just isn’t coming along as projected and as a third baseman, he’s got to hit a lot more than he’s done so far. That said, he is still just 20 years old, and the fact that he makes contact is a good marker. It is way too soon to give up on him…all that talent in still in there, but they’ve got to unlock it somehow.

MMO: Based on your past assessments of Ruben Tejada, do you believe that he is a viable major league starter?

JS: I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a long-term regular starter for a contending team, but he should have a very long career as a utility guy and occasional starter.

MMO: Would you say that the Mets farm system has improved over the years and if so, what do you believe is the biggest reason behind the improvement?

JS: Yeah, it has improved. They’ve been investing more in the draft, and I don’t think the farm system was ever as bad as some people felt to begin with. A big problem was just rushing people too quickly but they’ve slowed that down the last couple of years.

MMO: After one year of the new management, do you feel that the Mets have handled their prospects better than they have in the past?

JS: Yeah, I think so. But it takes 2-3 years until you know for sure, and with the financial situation of the team it will be very interesting to see how they manage prospect acquisition.

MMO: Where would you rank the Mets farm system in the NL East?

JS: I currently have them third, with the Braves and Nationals ahead of them. The Mets are in better shape than the Phillies and Marlins at this point. Overall, I ranked the Mets 15th in baseball, exactly in the middle.

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Are The Mets Playing With Fire? Fri, 08 Jan 2010 20:08:55 +0000 It’s no secret that most Performance Enhancing Drugs, PED’s, are readily available and in most cases legal in many of the Latin countries where so many of today’s baseball players hail from.

These banned substances are especially rampant in the Dominican Republic and in Venezuela where aspiring baseball players are exposed to them at a very young age. Sadly, many of these young players, some as young as 15-16, are encouraged to take these performance enhancing drugs to improve their performance and hopefully land a contract with a Major League organization.

Some organizations, including the Mets, even have special baseball academies set up in these countries to help recruit and develop many of the players that are now flourishing in their minor league systems.

In the Mets case, all too many of them have been rushed mostly at the prodding of the now departed Tony Bernazard, but no doubt with the approval of Omar Minaya.

This morning, John Sickels of Minor League Ball, released his Top 20 Mets Prospects.

Topping the first three spots are Jenrry Mejia, Wilmer Flores and Fernando Martinez in that order. All three of these players were signed as international free agents and were not selected in the June Amateur Draft. Mejia and Martinez were both signed from the Dominican Republic, while Flores hails from Venezuela.

Sickels writes the following,

Part of the problem with analyzing the Mets is the weird way they have handled prospects. Some guys, particularly the Latin American signees, have been rushed way too fast, while others have been handled very cautiously.

Last week, Maury Brown of the Biz of Baseball, reported that the Mets led the Major Leagues with eight PED suspensions in 2009.

Brown points out that 39 of the 82, almost half of all minor league drug suspensions, occurred in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues. Furthermore, five of the eight Mets players that were suspended played in these leagues.

I would hope that after a season in which so many Mets minor leaguers were suspended, some new guidelines and protocols will be established and chief among them will be a system that will educate these players as to the dangers of these substances. Eight suspensions in one season is far too high a number, and although it will be almost impossible to stop PED use completely, the Mets certainly have to do a better job than they have been.

Getting back to Sickels top prospect list, I found some of his comments to be a little sobering.

He ranked Josh Thole #15 and wrote,

Grade C: He can hit for average, but has no power and defense is mediocre. Sounds like a bench guy to me.

Ike Davis got a solid #4 ranking, but Sickels says,

Grade B: Showed he could hit for power, also has a fine glove. But I think he looks more like a solid regular than a future star.

Considering the high expectations Mets fans have for Thole and Davis, and the enormous hype the Mets themselves have generated, you would expect to see some of those expectations shared by a lifelong expert in minor league prospects like John Sickels. The Mets have treated Ike Davis and Josh Thole as future All Stars. To hear one referred to as a regular player and the other as a bench player makes me wonder why we always hold on so tight to these prospects.

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John Sickels Releases Mets Top 20 Prospects Mon, 22 Dec 2008 04:56:21 +0000
Here is the latest entry of the Mets Top Prospects list, this one comes from Minor League guru, John Sickels of Minor League Ball. I find it interesting how the one common factor in all of these lists is that Brad Holt has moved into the top five.


The other thing is how each list flip-flops between Wilmer Flores and Fernando Martinez in the top spot.


I don’t understand why Reese Havens is ranked so high, and Dillon Gee so low. It’s also becoming quite clear that Ike Davis is looking more like a first round flop.


It’s pretty sad though, that yet another prospect list fails to give the Mets any “A” prospects. Of course to the Mets and us fans, they are all untouchable “A” prospects, but the truth is quite the different story.


1) Wilmer Flores, SS-3B, Grade B+: I might take some flack for this, but in this case I think his upside is higher than F-Mart. If I could have just one of them, I’d pick Flores.

2) Fernando Martinez, OF, Grade B+: Still extremely young, though at some point he’s got to produce better than he has. You can flip him with Flores if you prefer the guy closer to the majors.

3) Jon Niese, LHP, Grade B: I’ve liked him since high school. He’s not an ace but should be a fine inning-eater.

4) Brad Holt, RHP, Grade B: Higher ceiling than Niese, but not as refined and command still needs work.

5) Reese Havens, SS, Grade B: Assuming he’s healthy, I think he’s going to be a strong across-the-board player with a high OBP.

6) Jefry Marte, 3B, Grade C+: Could be a star if it all comes together, but still rather raw. Considering B- but for me that’s aggressive for a rookie ball guy.

7) Jenrry Mejia, RHP, Grade C+ Pitching version of Marte: lots of talent, but skills are in the developmental stages and may not pan out.

8) Bobby Parnell, RHP, Grade C+: Stats don’t match scouting reports, but he has a good sinker and could be an effective setup man.

9) Eddie Kunz, RHP, Grade C+: Another bullpen option who gets ground balls.

10) Nick Evans, 1B, Grade C+: Held his own after being rushed, which you have to respect, but he may just be a good platoon bat, not a regular.

11) Ike Davis, 1B-OF, Grade C+: I will cut him some slack for now. If he can’t hit, he could convert to pitching due to his strong arm.

12) Dillon Gee, RHP, Grade C+: Sleeper prospect has a decent arm, good command, and has risen rapidly in a short period of time. Could be better than many more-heralded guys.

13) Scott Moviel, RHP, Grade C+: Young and projectable, but if they rush him they will be sorry.

14) Scott Shaw, RHP, Grade C+: Sleeper prospect from 2008 draft, has above average stuff and showed better command in the pros than he did at Illinois.

15) Eric Beaulac, RHP, Grade C+: Another sleeper college arm, this one with a home state connection at LeMoyne.

16) Ruben Tejada, SS, Grade C+: Gets slack on the grade because he was massively rushed to the Florida State League. Controls the strike zone, has promise with the glove, very young.

17) Greg Veloz, 2B, Grade C+: Another young infielder who has been pushed fast but has some upside.

18) Michael Antonini, LHP, Grade C: I cut him at the last second from the 2008 book, though he still showed up on the grade list in the back of the book. Good changeup.

19) Dylan Owen, RHP, Grade C: Polished pitcher with good command, could be swingman.

20) Kyle Allen, RHP, Grade C: Sleeper high school pick from 2008 draft bears close attention.

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