Mets Merized Online » Matt Den Dekker http://metsmerizedonline.com Sun, 01 Feb 2015 01:16:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 2014 Free Agent Review: The Peralta Effect (Part 2 of 3) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2014-free-agent-review-the-peralta-effect-part-2-of-3.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/10/2014-free-agent-review-the-peralta-effect-part-2-of-3.html/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 15:52:54 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=168645 Jhonny = Peralta

I reviewed  long-term free agent deals (7-10 years) last week, and today I’ll examine last off-season’s  mid-term deals (4-6 years) highlighted by the Cards’ Jhonny Peralta.

The Mets are close to turning a pivotal corner in the return to relevancy with a wealth of power pitching no less than a year away from being fully realized. Bartolo Colon was brought in to fill a portion of the black hole left by Matt Harvey who succumbed to a torn UCL injury, but anything behind Colon’s two year contract made little sense for the Mets in the long run.

The position players available to the club were former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, former Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, former Braves catcher Brian McCann and former Tigers second baseman Omar Infante.  The Mets anticipated a breakout season from their top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud, so McCann made little sense at five years and $85 million. The organization’s deepest position, aside from pitching, is second base with Wilmer Flores and Dilson Herrera both waiting behind All-Star Daniel Murphy, so Infante was never a fit either.

Peralta had the best season of any mid-level free agent signed last offseason. He ended the year by posting a career high 5.4 WAR and quieted the critics who questioned whether he was worth the four year, $53 million deal that the Cardinals jumped to offer him. The majority of teams were hesitant to commit that amount of time and money to a 32-year old shortstop coming off a 50 game PED suspension, but St. Louis had faith in a different approach than the rest of the league and it certainly paid off.

The Mets instead signed former Yankee’s slugger Curtis Granderson, 33, to a similar four year, $60 million deal.  This satisfied a portion of the fan base that felt increased spending would hurdle the team into contention.  The minority view among the fans was that Granderson, despite having a successful career, would not regain his stroke in Citi Field after an injury shortened season a year before.  In the months of May, June, July and September, Curtis had 376 at bats, which represented more than 65% of his season total.  His produced a .272/.370/.860 slash line, along with 18 homers and 54 RBI.  The remaining 35% of the season (March, April, August), Curtis hit just .142/.241/.439.  The net result provided little value this season, but came with promising anecdotes headed into 2015.

Back in July, Dave Cameron of FanGraphs said this of advanced metrics: At times, they’re flawed, but oftentimes they discover outliers in the data, or exceptions to conventional rules.

A concern regarding Peralta last offseason was his defense. Scouts who studied Peralta in the field felt that his range was limited and his lower body was too bulky, therefore defensive metrics in favor of the shortstop were inaccurate. However, Cameron argued that metrics that support Peralta, like Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), are indeed accurate.

The stat line highlights him as an outlier, who replicated quality seasons on multiple occasions, despite the cautions of conventional wisdom.  Although written in July, the predictions held true as Peralta ended the regular season fourth among all qualified shortstops in UZR (12) and UZR/150 (12.7).

Wilmer Flores didn’t play enough games to qualify at shortstop, but his performance measured by UZR/150 ranked him 5th among those that did, with Ruben Tejada coming in at 7th.  The point being that, the same standards that deem Peralta a good shortstop, ranked our boys right behind him, so the Mets lost very little defensively by passing. The story at the plate turns into in an entirely different narrative with Peralta, especially if he was chosen instead of Granderson.

Offensively, Peralta was 2nd among qualified shortstops in home runs (21), RBI (75), slugging percentage (.443) and OPS (.779).  According to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker, at least 18 of his 21 homers went beyond Citi Field’s dimensions, so his long ball power would have translated well to Queens. By comparison at shortstop, Jhonny still outperformed his counterparts on the Mets in almost every offensive category, combined. He also accomplished this in 86 fewer at-bats.  Per his season totals, Peralta hit 10 more home runs, 11 more doubles and 30 more singles than the Mets contingent.  In that same comparison, Peralta’s isolated slugging percentage (.179), or ISO, was 48.2% higher than the Mets shortstop unit (.093).

Had the Mets chosen Peralta instead of Granderson, it would have had a huge impact on the makeup of the outfield and the team’s performance in 2014.  By August, a combination of Matt den DekkerJuan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis would have been patrolling the outfield grass together.  Not long ago, those three were the top center field prospects in the Mets minor league system. Given a full season together, it’s possible they may have developed into one of the best defensive units in baseball. Oftentimes rare, unforeseen circumstances, present opportunities to a combination of players who otherwise may never have discovered their talents as a unit.

Through 27 games in LF, den Dekker batted .295 with a .404 on base percentage.  The home run ball eluded him, but he showcased his ability to spray doubles around the park and found ways to keep the line moving. His 26 hits, 8 doubles, 4 stolen bases, 15 walks and 17 runs brought tremendous value during that span. Translated into a 150 game season, that pace is good for 144 hits, 44 doubles and 94 runs scored.

Kirk played 17 games between right and center, where he’s far more comfortable, and hit .288/.371/.909 with 7 doubles, 2 home runs and 12 RBI.  This year, the Mets played two full games with an outfield of den Dekker (LF), Lagares (C) and Nieuwenhuis (RF).  The first was on 8/31 against the Phillies and the second was on 9/3 versus the Marlins.  The Mets won both of those games decidedly, on the backs of that very outfield unit, who either scored or batted in 5 of the team’s 10 runs in those games.  Together, over those 18 innings, they put up a collective slash line of .667/.769/1.991.    

In the short run, Peralta was a huge miss on behalf of the Mets. He would have been an added threat in the lineup and his presence in lieu of Curtis may have altered the fate of the outfield. In the long run, signing Curtis could also prove harmless. Kirk has likely earned a spot on the bench after his stellar campaign as a pinch hitter and den Dekker still has an opportunity to win a starting corner outfield spot.

Sandy Alderson knew what Peralta could bring to the Mets. He personally met with him in the offseason and the only other player he met personally was Granderson. But the Mets’ GM likely believed a more elite player at a lower cost was available heading into next season.  Few GM’s have the patience and conviction to sit out a full year in order to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a World Series, but the Mets are a unique team defined by big market expectations and a small payroll.  Alderson saw 2014 as another year to evaluate the players he’s targeted as options and his own players he’d consider dangling.

As always, I look for feedback from other fans, what’s your take?  Was Peralta the right shortstop for the Mets short and mid-term plans?  Should Alderson have followed his initial instincts when he viewed Peralta as a key Mets target? Or was Granderson at a year older the right call for the future of the team? Or should he have passed on both of them?

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3 Up, 3 Down: Hot Hand Luke http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-hot-hand-luke.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-hot-hand-luke.html/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 17:00:31 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166894 daniel murphy lucas duda

The New York Mets wrapped up their 2014 campaign at Citi Field yesterday, taking two out of three from the Houston Astros to finish 79-83 on the year. The Amazins’ concluded their final two games with authority as they head into a highly anticipated offseason. Below are the series takeaways in this edition of 3 & 3.

3 Up

1. In front of a crowd of nearly 35,000 fans, which included his parents, Lucas Duda smashed his 30th home run of the season and rounded out one of the most hysterical dugout celebrations I’ve ever seen on television. The two-run jack was his 14th at home this year, the most by any player at Citi Field in a single season and it was a total no-doubter. To witness a player discover his power stroke in Flushing, in a lineup where he is the protection, is just remarkable. For the series, Duda hit (.333), slugged (.917) and totaled an OPS of (1.250) to go with his 6 RBI’s and 2 runs scored.

2. Matt den Dekker turned in one of the best series of his brief Major League career, going 4 for 10 (.400) with an RBI and a run scored. The majority of writers, fans and critics believe the Mets would benefit from another power bat in the lineup and feel that left field is the most logical position for such an acquisition. However, den Dekker put up a strong fight towards the end season to throw his name in the conversation. In the month of September, he hit .328, got on base at a .426 clip and posted an .858 OPS. After being in center for the majority of his amateur and professional career, den Dekker made great adjustments defensively and played a strong left field. An outfield tandem of den Dekker in left and Juan Lagares in center is about as ‘lock-down’ as you can get. I’m probably in the minority here, but barring any overwhelming offers, I’d like to retain the pitching we’d use to trade for an outfielder and watch Matt back them up in left.

bobby abreu3. In the 5th inning of yesterday’s game, Bobby Abreu knocked the 2,470th hit of his 18 year MLB career. Immediately after, Abreu left to a standing ovation as Eric Young Jr. came in to pinch run for the veteran. Citi Field sent the former All-Star off with a warm and joyous applause, but many see this as merely the beginning of Abreu’s career as a Met. The front office believes he had a positive influence on the many young call-ups in search of guidance this season and find his offensive approach to be identical to the organizations hitting philosophy. MLB.com’s Tim Healey summed up the end to Abreu’s storied career nicely, noting that he “was playing against the organization with which he got his professional start (the Astros), playing for the team against which he collected his first big league hit (the Mets), and playing under the same manager as when he was a 22-year-old September callup in 1996 (Collins).” Congratulations Bobby, may all the good fortune that followed you as a ball player continue in the next chapter of your life.

3 Down

1. Jon Niese battled injuries and discomfort all season and ended up leaving Friday’s game early with the return of an accelerated heart rate. Overall, Bartolo Colon was the only Mets pitcher to reach 200+ innings this season. Zack Wheeler came close at 185.1 and despite the fact that he remained healthy all year, he consistently suffered from high pitch counts that forced him to routinely exit games in the 5th or 6th inning. Dillon Gee was also no stranger to the disabled list. Matt Harvey will be coming off of Tommy John Surgery and undoubtedly be under an innings limit and Jacob deGrom, aside from an outstanding rookie campaign, battled shoulder soreness with a stint on the DL. For a team that is grounded in its young starting pitching, there’s a component of durability that’s certainly missing.

2. The Mets did tie for second place, but did so with a losing record for the 6th straight season. The club hasn’t made it to the playoffs in 8 straight seasons now and aside from the “additions” they’ll be getting from the disabled list, it doesn’t appear that much will change heading into 2015. If the team can stay healthy all season, I think we have the pieces to be relevant, at least in the wild card standings, but I hope the front office has a better back up plan than AAA Las Vegas should the youth initiative fall through next year.

3. The season is over with and I’ll still be paying an outrageous cable bill even though I’ll have nothing to watch. Here’s to Spring Training 2015, down in Port St. Lucie.

A special thank you to all those who followed along with 3 & 3 this season, I learned a tremendous amount from all of those who added their input. I also realized that expanding my thoughts on the Mets through MMO is a true passion of mine, so a special thank you to Joe D and all the MMO staff for allowing me to be a part of such a great entity. The writing was as therapeutic as the season was frustrating, but I would not have enjoyed 2014 as much as I did had it not been for Mets Merized Online.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Another NL East Rivalry Lives On http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-another-nl-east-rivalry-lives-on.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-another-nl-east-rivalry-lives-on.html/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:59:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=166052 wilmer flores

Perhaps not as intense as the Mets and Nationals rivalry looks to be in coming years, but the Miami Marlins have played hard fought games against New York all season and like the Mets, they’re a squad that is centered around young talent and a low payroll.  The fish kept finding ways to get hits en route to taking 2 out of 3 games in this series, below are the usual takeaways in this edition of 3 and 3.

3 Up

  1. Wilmer Flores was incredible this series.  Apparently no one told the 23 year old Venezuelan that hitting for power in Citi Field is impossible because he made it a top priority the last three days.  Wilmer’s slugging percentage against Miami this week was 1.273, hitting 2 doubles and 2 home runs to go with 8 RBI’s.  Overall, he registered a .545/.583/1.856 slash line for the series.  It appears Flores has developed a repeatable approach at the plate.  He’s getting the barrel on the ball consistently and has an idea of what pitchers are trying to do to him.  6 of Wilmer’s 8 RBI’s came Tuesday night and the SNY crew flashed a very interesting statistic.  In Mets franchise history, only four players have had two separate 6 RBI nights in a single season.  Along with Flores, that list includes Carlos Delgado, Mike Piazza and Robin Ventura.
  2. Lucas Duda regressed towards the end of August, but he has bounced back gradually, adjusting different parts of his offensive approach to remain productive.  It’s easy to dismiss Lucas when he isn’t hitting home runs, but he is much more of an all around hitter than he’s been given credit for.  In this series, Lucas went 4 for 9 (.444), but also drew 4 walks to give him a .615 on base percentage.  This as a major plus because the league caught up to Duda and he’s seeing mostly breaking balls, a common treatment in the majors for emerging sluggers.  Any elite power hitter goes through periods where the home runs slow down, so it’s imperative that Lucas finds a way to contribute when the quality of pitches diminishes.  A perfect example was last night’s game where he managed to punch in two runs with a slap single off a pitch that landed on the upper outside portion of the plate.  Would it have been more fun to see him crank a 3 run shot over the Shea Bridge?  Of course, but I’m firmly content having a 25-30 HR first baseman who also drives in runs with singles and doubles.  Additionally, as his power and average have dipped, his OBP has skyrocketed.  In the month of September, he’s getting on base at a .439 clip.  Eventually, this will come down, but with it, his home runs will go up as opposing pitchers will have to throw their fastball for strikes.  When they do, there will be misses over the plate, the Hulk will be unleashed and moonshots will resume.  One other thing, Duda is hitting .308 against left-handed pitching this month and getting on base at a .400 clip against them.
  3. Have to give the final “Up” nod to Jacob deGrom, his performance on Monday night was spectacular.  He made the first 8 Marlins batters look completely lost at the plate, striking them out one after the next in dominate fashion.  Ironically, the first hit came off of the opposing pitcher, Jarred Cosart, but deGrom got back to work and cruised up to the 7th inning nicely after that.  The outfield was playing oddly deep in that inning and the Marlins took advantage with a series of hits that landed in front Matt den Dekker and Juan Lagares, allowing them to briefly take a 3-2 lead.  The Mets offense would come back with go ahead runs in the bottom of the frame, but the bullpen could not hold on to keep Jacob’s W in line.  Another hard luck loss for the Rookie of the Year frontrunner, but not before tying the major league record for number of consecutive batters struck out to start a game.  Congrats sir.

3 Down

  1. This isn’t an indictment of Juan Lagares, but the centerfielder may be out for the rest of the season after spraining his right elbow in the 4th inning of Tuesday night’s game throwing to second base.  This is a major downer, obviously there’s only 9 games left in the season, but Juan has hands down been my favorite player to watch this year.  He was also hitting .317 in the month of September, working hard to end his first full campaign on a high note.  First priority is to get healthy for next season though, so if Tuesday marked the end to Lagares’ season, tip of the hat to this young lad.  If he doesn’t win a gold glove award, I’m going to explode.
  2. Travis d’Arnaud has got to improve his footwork behind the plate.  Bobby Ojeda did an excellent job breaking down TDA’s mechanical flaws during last night’s pre-game segment with a side by side comparison to backup catcher Anthony Recker.  Travis comes up flat and doesn’t sets his throwing arm back far enough before firing to second, forcing him to add an extra hitch in his release.  This adds another second for the runner and more pressure to d’Arnaud’s timing resulting in rushed misfires over the second basemen’s head.  One second seems harmless, but it’s the difference between locking up runners and sailing the ball into center field.  However, like Ojeda, I believe d’Arnaud will improve in the offseason.  Also, his catching abilities are much more valuable than he gets credit for.  There were several pitches in this series that were clearly out of the strike zone before Travis snapped them back in with the flick of his wrist.  This ability, along with his game calling, are two very underappreciated aspects of his game.
  3. Last down goes to the farewell tour that stopped by Queens on Tuesday night.  Bud Selig’s vote of confidence for Fred and Jeff Wilpon is infuriating at this point.  Look, I understand that blindly spending money in free agency this offseason will not cure this Met’s post-season woes.  However, Selig is avoiding the bigger picture.  Financial prowess doesn’t just pertain to offseason acquisitions.  It deals with retaining talent that is set for a raise in the offseason.  It deals with acquiring talent midseason in the midst of a playoff hunt, when other players undoubtedly go down or underperform.  It deals with justifying the price the Mets charge their fans to go see a game.  This isn’t Oakland, it isn’t Kansas City, it’s New York.  No one is fooled by the numbers, the product, or the slick sales pitch.  The Mets are going to miss the offseason for an 8th straight year and despite having the pieces to build a dominant contender going into next season, it looks like the organization is instead banking on a miracle.  I’ll write later on about other options this team can exercise in the offseason, but regardless, the approach for next year should have been described as ”we’ll spend when the right opportunity presents itself”, not “we’re still broke, but it’s all good”.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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3 Up, 3 Down: The Grandy Man Can http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-the-grandy-man-can.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-the-grandy-man-can.html/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 15:47:02 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=165231 curtis granderson

Let’s take a brief look at some of this weekend’s highs and lows in this edition of 3 & 3.

3 Up

1. Curtis Granderson needed to turn in a great series and that is exactly what happened this weekend. The veteran right fielder went 5-for-12 (.417 Average) with a double, two home runs, six RBI and three runs scored.  He was also able to draw two walks.  As of yesterday, Curtis is tied with Mike Trout for 3rd in walks among all major league qualified outfielders with 72 on the year.  When looking at his numbers in comparison to the other major league outfielders ranking in the top 10 in walks, Granderson is one of 3 players with a BABIP that’s lower than .300.  In fact, his number (.249) is drastically less than the other two, with St. Louis’ Matt Holiday coming in at .295 and Toronto’s Jose Bautista generating a .291 in-play average.  Curtis’ BABIP has been heavily cited throughout the season as a sign of bad luck, but it also could speak volumes to his need to adapt to defensive shifts used often on the slugger.  If he can work in the offseason to evolve as a gap-to-gap doubles hitter at home, while still pulling pitches on the low and inside part of the strike zone, it will give the Mets a more realistic version of the player Sandy Alderson expected to be signing.  Against righties, Granderson is slugging .846 from that portion of the plate this year (ESPN.com), so developing a game inside the ball park for pitches on the rest of the plate will benefit his game tremendously.

2. Six different Mets took a pitch out of the yard this series, giving the team a total of seven home runs, with notable blasts coming from up and comers under the age of 30.  Travis d’Arnaud hit his 13th on the year and continues to lead all NL rookies in the category.  Dilson Herrera hit the second long ball of his brief career, helping to generate a .500 slugging percentage in his first 34 major league a- bats.  Lucas Duda added his 27th home run in the ninth inning of Friday’s matchup and is now 3rd in the National League in homers, 2nd among first basemen to Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo (30).

3. Matt den Dekker and Juan Lagares are both doing excellent jobs of translating their speed and overall baseball IQ from the outfield to the basepaths.  While he didn’t have his best offensive performance this series, den Dekker has gotten on base at a .370 clip in 22 games since being recalled from AAA Las Vegas in August.  More importantly, his ratio of walks to runs scored during that time is nearly 1 for 1, having sprinted across home plate 15 times compared to his 16 walks.  His batting average is ascending slowly, but still only at .261 since the call up, so he is still finding a way to make an impact offensively, while continuing to adjust to major league pitching.  Matt scored two runs off of his two walks in Friday’s game.  Meanwhile, Lagares has been unbelievably efficient with the use of his explosive speed, going 3 for 4 in stolen bases this series.  The lone failed attempt came in Saturday’s game and marks the only time he’s been nabbed in his last 10 attempts.

3 Down

1. Jenrry Mejia managed to record a save in yesterday’s 4-3 victory, but just barely.  The closer allowed 4 hits, including a home run to Jay Bruce, while surrendering 2 earned runs before shutting the door.  In the month of September, Mejia is 3 for 3 in save opportunities, but is doing so with an ERA of 6.00 and an even WHIP of 2.00.  My concern is that a much needed bout of luck is overshadowing the fact that he is not in a healthy enough condition to finish out the season.  As always, it depends on the results.  If he is able to finish out the season strong and battle through adversities such as injury and strong hitting opponents down the stretch, then it could be beneficial.  However, if pitching through physical duress creates an issue that lasts into next season, it would be wise to preserve his body for 2015 and shut him down.  Also, I love the intensity, but tone down the celebration dance when you nearly blow a 3 run lead my man.

2. Home runs were equally helpful and hurtful in this series.  Dillon Gee failed to hold on to a one run lead during his outing on Saturday, giving up home runs in the 6th and 7th innings en route to his 7th loss of the season.  Dillon will always be a pitcher who relies heavily on location, not power.  He must be able to keep the ball down and reduce the number of fly balls, particularly in situations like Saturdays where his offense has given him a lead against a formidable opponent in Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto.

3. The team batted .242 with runners in scoring position this series, with that average being propped up heavily by Friday’s 14 run onslaught.  Looking specifically at the latter two games, the Mets were 2-15 (.133) with a total of 18 men left on base.  For the series, the Amazins’ left a total of 31 men on base.

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3 Up, 3 Down: The Kids Are Alright http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-the-kids-are-alright.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-the-kids-are-alright.html/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 17:32:05 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164908 MLB: Chicago Cubs at New York Mets

The Mets finished up their three game set against the Marlins with a 2-1 series victory last night. New York has an interesting parallel with their division rivals from Miami, in that both organizations have dwelled at the bottom of the NL East cellar for many years now, but through those years they also stockpiled young, athletic players with the potential to be stars. Let’s see how the Met’s youngsters stacked up in this edition of 3 Up and 3 Down.

3 Up

1.  Matt den Dekker, Juan Lagares and Kirk Nieuwenhuis are a stellar defensive unit in the outfield, they’re fast and fearless, but that speed and tenacity has transitioned recently at the plate. Of the three, I’ve been most impressed with den Dekker as of late. The indictment against Matt has always been that his offense may never develop enough to give his glove an everyday spot in the lineup. I’m only evaluating a small sample size, but MDD is showing improvement in areas that project future success. Mainly, he’s reverted to a shorter, more compact swing, allowing him to turn on pitches quickly. He’s also showing vast improvements in his plate discipline. In his first 12 games in August, he was seeing an average of 12.4 pitches per game. In his last seven, that number has gone up to 16.4 pitches per game, with a 22% increase in strikes. His walk rate has remained relatively flat, but now Matt is seeing better pitches and taking better swings. The results are fantastic as den Dekker left Miami with a triple slash line of .545/.615/1.252, plating a run, swiping a base and scoring twice. His defense holds up pretty well to his counterpart in center field as well.

2.  Juan Lagares is no stranger to Mets fans at this point. He continues to improve in every facet of his game, becoming more of a student, while retaining his ‘hair on fire’ style of play.  Lagares took tremendous strides in this series and gave us a glimpse of a superstar in the making.  First base coach Tom Goodwin has challenged Juan to transition his speed in the outfield to the basepaths and unsurprisingly, it’s been a success. Juan had three stolen bases in three attempts against the Marlins this series. In his last six games, he is 5-for-5, as Goodwin at times has forced him to steal. Lagares noted that he had previously been hesitant given the duress on his hamstring, but at 100%, he seems unstoppable. Prior to his recent streak, he was 4-for-7 all year. It also seems that the coaching staff is making a unique case for Lagares’ approach at the plate by ditching the one-size-fits-all philosophy and building on Juan’s strengths. Pitchers began to recognize his ability to hit balls on the outside of the plate, so they started going inside to him. Lamar Johnson worked with Lagares to pull the ball on the inside and it translated into home run power. Opposing pitchers are once again pitching him low and outside the strike zone and Juan has adjusted nicely by continuing to drive those balls to the opposite field. Tuesday, Lagares put his talents on exhibition, going 4-for-4 with a walk and two stolen bases. Overall, the center fielder batted .500 with an OPS of 1.105 in South Beach.

3.  Little “d” on the mound and behind the plate, means a W in the books. The battery duo of Jacob deGrom and Travis d’Arnaud has produced a team record of 5-3 in the games they start together, allowing a meager 1.07 walks/hits per innings pitched. Last night kept pace with that production, as deGrom went 6.0 innings, allowing only one earned run while striking out six.  He has lowered his ERA on the season to 2.87 and kept his name hot in the hunt for Rookie Of The Year.  Meanwhile d’Arnaud (the little ‘d’ is killing my auto-correct) continues to emerge as one of the top offensive catchers in the league. He already leads all rookies in home runs with 12, but had a great series, giving his pitchers a boost on offense. Travis produced a triple slash line of .500/.571/1.155 this series and is now a point away from having a .300 OBP and .700 OPS on the year, which is fairly remarkable given his woes prior to returning from AAA Las Vegas. Consistency is the name of the game for the youngsters, it’s the only true measurement of projecting sustained success in the future, and these players named so far have done a great job making the future very bright.

3 Down

1.  Pitching was atrocious for the most part in this series, which for the Mets, has been their strength all year.  Zack Wheeler was fortunate enough to have minimal damage done to his ERA, as it now sits at 3.45.  He only gave up two earned runs in Monday’s loss, but as a whole, he allowed five runs total while he was on the mound. Wheeler again turned in a brief outing, going only 4.2 innings with five hits and two walks, using 114 pitches to get through it all.  Zack clearly has the material to be an ace, but he has yet to figure out a way to keep his pitch counts down and go deeper into games.  Pitching coach Dan Warthen has got to prioritize this and reverse the trend or Wheeler may never reach his full potential. Jon Niese remarkably was able to walk away with a win on Tuesday, thanks entirely to an eight-run offensive outburst by his teammates (Jon did go 1-1 with a run scored to be fair), but he still surrendered 10 hits and six earned runs.

2.  Errors absolutely killed this team.  Jeurys Familia is a relief pitcher, so I’m slightly less aggravated by his two errors in the series, although they were total blunders. Dilson Herrera committed two errors in his three starts and David Wright also had a pair in the series, giving him 15 on the year. Wright is a seasoned vet and a former gold glover, although watching his errors gave me hope and disappointment simultaneously. Hope, because they had nothing to do with injury or lack of range. Disappointment because he was back on his heels when he committed a fielding error and he wasn’t squaring his body up when he made a poor throw. When David struggles from injury, I’m probably his biggest apologist and have been all year. This series was not a good display of The Captain leading by example though.

3.  In game decision making by the manager, in my opinion, cost the Mets their only loss in this series and could have cost the team another loss last night as well.  In the top of the 7th of a tie ball game on Monday night, Terry Collins made an offensive switch to bat Eric Campbell against lefty reliever Mike Dunn, taking Matt den Dekker out of the game.  Conventional wisdom agrees with Collins’ move here, but there were different elements that immediately made me feel like this was a poor choice.  The Marlins were producing runs all night, using all parts of the outfield to knock out base hits. Den Dekker is clearly the better defensive choice, and had also been producing at the plate that night too. In a game where the Mets pitchers were getting lit up, it made sense to leave den Dekker in. The result was Campbell flying out to center and in the following frame he dropped a ball he dove to catch in left field, It was the beginning of an error-filled meltdown. Hindsight is 20/20, but den Dekker was playing great that night and he undoubtedly would have made that catch. This isn’t a knock on Soup, but he’s not an outfielder. I also understand situational hitting, but at the same time, this is supposed to be a developmental period for our up and coming youngsters.  All position players who are looking to lock down a job in 2015 should be tested in all situations across nine innings of baseball to see what they’re really made of. As for last night, leaving Carlos Torres in to bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the eighth, instead of pinch-hitting Curtis Granderson, was a dangerous choice that just barely paid off. The entire reason behind that decision was so that Torres could face Giancarlo Stanton in the bottom of the eighth. The result?  Stanton cranked his 36th home run of the year, a magnificent bomb to left field.  Again, this is another case of hindsight after the fact, but I was baffled when I saw Torres toss a batting helmet on.  If it weren’t for a slick defensive play by Lucas Duda to rob a rocketed baseball off the bat Marcel Ozuna and end the inning, it most certainly could have backfired.

Lets.Go.Mets.

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3 Up, 3 Down: Mets Phil Up on Momentum For Miami http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-mets-phil-up-on-momentum-for-miami.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/09/3-up-3-down-mets-phil-up-on-momentum-for-miami.html/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 14:21:25 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=164748 dilson herrera jenrry mejia

The Mets went almost entirely with home grown talent this weekend against the Phillies as clubhouse veterans such as Daniel Murphy, David Wright and Curtis Granderson saw their playing diminished for various reasons.  The results?  The Amazins’ added another series W to this year’s resume.  Below are the usual 3 Up/3 Down takeaways.

3 Up

1.  Sunday was an interesting sight as the Mets trotted out three former center field prospects in Matt den Dekker (LF), Juan Lagares (CF) and Kirk Nieuwenhuis (RF) to defend the outfield.  As a unit, they also accounted for half of the offensive production yesterday, scoring 3 runs, stealing 3 bases while putting up a slash line of .333/.500/.833.  Defensively, Matt den Dekker played some great defense all series, making a web gem catch in Saturday’s loss to rob Ryan Howard of an extra base hit.  He also put in a great bid to gun down Freddy Galvis at home plate off of a sharp single by Jimmy Rollins, but Anthony Recker was unable to hold on to the one hop toss from Matt, despite on a dime.

2.  Jacob deGrom resumed his campaign for ROTY by having an excellent outing on Friday.  The former Stetson standout went 7 innings, allowing only 4 hits, 1 unearned run and 2 walks while punching out 5.  The 26 year old rookie has some outstanding numbers at home this season, posting a 1.68 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, a 3.06 strikeout to walk ratio, 0.50 home runs per 9 innings while opponents bat a meager .215 against him at Citi Field.

3.  Wilmer Flores had an outstanding series.  The 24 year old Venezuelan turned a great performance at the plate and with the glove.  Flores had a triple slash line of .500/.545/1.145, scored 2 runs, plated an RBI and even swiped a base.  On defense, Wilmer helped turn four separate double plays while also flashing some nice range, robbing Ben Revere of a base hit with a diving snag in yesterday’s win.

4. A bonus “UP” for Dilson Herrera who made his major league debut and earned his first hit, walk and RBI during the three game set. The beginning of what should be a fantastic career for the 20-year old second baseman.

3 Down

1. Curtis Granderson is spiraling downward rapidly since the All-Star break.  The struggling slugger only played two games in the series, getting a day to “clear his head” (a.k.a. benched) on Sunday.  Granderson went 0-8 with 2 strikeouts and despite one spectacular catch on Saturday night, his defense is extremely conservative and overall a liability.  It doesn’t help his cause that Lagares and den Dekker are spectacular within their respective regions, but there were several outfield hits that either of Granderson’s counterparts would have made and these hits ended up being the majority difference in the Amazins’ lone loss from the series.  Terry Collins disregarded the hits as more luck than anything else, but Curtis has lost a step in his speed to the ball and his bat isn’t hot enough to make up for the lack of defense.

2.  Lucas Duda is slumping hard recently and carried this trend into the Phillies series.  The Hulk went 1 for 12 in the series with no extra base hits, walks or RBI’s.  Duda even contributed a rare throwing error in Friday’s win, although his defense has remained solid overall.  The emergence of Duda was sure to come with some downward movement, but the upcoming series against Miami will be a true test for him and his future.  He is batting 0.87 with two singles in his last two series.  If Lucas is able to break out of his woes and get back to laying the barrel on the ball, it will go a long way towards quieting his critics who do not see his 2014 performance as proof that he is a lock at 1st base for the future.

3. Terry Collins continues to look like a lock in 2015, despite Wally Backman putting up tremendous numbers on the farm and garnering the support of nearly the entire fan base.  News broke during this series that there’s no chance the front office will consider the former World Series champ as a candidate to unseat the current manager and Collins’ remaining contract has little to do with it.  Had something to do with Wally thinking on his own, managing winning ball clubs with constantly fluctuating rosters, just winning in general…I don’t know, something along those lines.

*Side Note*- Condolences to Bartolo Colon for the loss of his mother, whom he buried Thursday prior to the start of this series.  Big ‘tolo didn’t have the best outing on Saturday, but it took incredible guts for him to get on the mound after such a devastating experience.  Thoughts and prayers are with Colon and his whole family.

MMO footer

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3 Up 3 Down: Cubs Split With Mets http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-3-down-cubs-split-with-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/3-up-3-down-cubs-split-with-mets.html/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 16:49:37 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=163736 vic black

The Mets split their most recent 4 game series with the Chicago Cubs, below are some key takeaways between the final scores.

3 Up

1. Zack Wheeler is exciting to watch and he’s backing up his electric arsenal of pitches with some great results. This series was no different, as Wheels went 6.2 innings on Friday night, allowing only 4 hits while striking out 10. When he exited the game, he’d only given up 2 runs and the bullpen would come in to keep the Cubs at exactly that number, pushing Zack to 8-8 on the season. The 24 year old heat hurler now owns a 2.02 ERA in his last nine starts, giving up more than 2 earned runs in only 1 of those games.

2. Vic Black has been the bullpen equivalent of the aforementioned Wheeler. The rookie stalwart has stranded 22 base runners in a row and 24 out of 25 on the season. Part of that came from Saturday’s performance where Black came in to relieve starter Jon Niese with the bases loaded and nobody out in the 7th inning. He sat down the top of the Cubs lineup using only 8 pitches and let nobody cross home plate. Black has pitched 10.2 innings this year with runners in scoring position. In those situations, opponents are hitting .114 against him and he owns a .75 WHIP (walks-hits per innings pitched).

3. Matt den Dekker hit .285 with 3 walks, an RBI and a stolen base, playing in 3 of the 4 games in this series. While these numbers are jaw dropping, Matt has provided the exact type of lift offensively that the organization could have expected and maintained his stellar play in the outfield. Keep in mind, prior to den Dekker getting his second call-up of the year, the Mets were batting .200 with an OPS of .568 from their collection of left fielders. Since coming up from Triple-A Las Vegas, Matt is getting on base at a .379 clip.

3 Down

1. David Wright, well, he’s having a bad season and Saturday’s game symbolized the exclamation point. The Captain left the game in the seventh inning after trying to play through an at bat where he was beamed in the bottom of the 6th, directly on the area where he’s currently rehabilitating from posterior left shoulder soreness. David is not in good shape and this is painfully obvious, literally and metaphorically. He needs to hit the DL and try to recover before he does damage that lasts into next year. I admire Wright for going into Terry Collins’ office prior to Monday’s series finale and insisting that he was in good enough condition to play, but his 0-4 performance should be a good enough indication that something is wrong and playing through the injury isn’t helping his or the team’s long term goals. One other thing to add. Where is the response from our pitchers? The pitch delivered by Cubs starter Dan Straily was intended to brush Wright back and it missed and hit his shoulder. It wasn’t a breaking ball that slipped, it was an 88 mph fastball. Starter Jon Niese already loaded the bases in the seventh, one of those should have been a hit-by-pitch if that’s how the Cubs want to pitch our franchise player.

2. Jenrry Mejia had two bad outings in a row this series on Sunday and Monday. In 2 innings of work, Mejia allowed 4 hits, 3 earned runs and 2 home runs while only striking out 1. No real thoughts here, either he’s pitching injured and this is a mistake by medical staff or he’s not performing and that is a larger issue.

3. Wilmer Flores has ironically maintained a serviceable level of defense at shortstop, allowing only 1 error in 32 games played at the position in 2014, but his bat has not delivered as advertised. Flores had 1 hit in 8 at bats this series and in the last 7 days, he is batting and slugging a measly .211. Somehow, his offensive production is beginning to dip below Ruben Tejada‘s.

mmo presented

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Mets Minors Report: Montero Masterful In 1-Hit Shutout, Den Dekker Stays Hot http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-minors-report-montero-masterful-in-a-1-hit-shutout-den-dekker-stays-hot.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2014/08/mets-minors-report-montero-masterful-in-a-1-hit-shutout-den-dekker-stays-hot.html/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 13:00:39 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=162705

Montero_Rafael

Last Night’s Quick Scores

Prospect Pipeline

  • Rafael Montero (6-3, 3.28) threw eight shutout innings, allowing only one hit, two walks and struck out 11 batters. In his last two starts he has not allowed a run in 14.2 innings, allowing just four hits and recording 17 strikeouts.
  • Chase Bradford closed the door on Montero’s one hit gem, by quickly striking out the side in the ninth to record his third save for Vegas. Bradford struck out the side with only 10 pitches.
  • Matt den Dekker singled in his first at bat and scored the 51s first run on a Sac Fl by Allan Dykstra and finished 2 for 4, with a run scored and a walk and now has hit safely in nine of last ten games batting .436 (17 for 39) in that span.
  • Matt Reynolds singled in three at bats and has hit safely in nine of his last ten games with seven multi-hit games in the span.
  • Anthony Seratelli went 2 for 3, with a walk and two RBI’s and has hit safely in eight of his last ten games batting .419 (13 for 31).
  • Dilson Herrera doubled and scored the first run of the game and finished 2 for 4, with three runs scored, a stolen base (8) and two RBI’s. He is batting .343 for Bingo this season.
  • Brian Burgamy hit his 20th home run on the season, and drove in four runs in the B-Mets victory.
  • Wilfredo Tovar went 3 for 3, with two runs scored and two doubles.
  • Darrell Ceciliani finished 2 for 5, extending his hit streak to seven games and also recorded his fourth straight two-hit game.  He is batting .410 (16 for 39) in his last ten games.
  • Jayce Boyd had two singles in three at bats and has hit safely in nine of his last ten games batting .400 (14 for 35).
  • Tyler Pill tossed seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, two walks and struck out eight to earn his seventh win for Binghamton.
  • Matt Oberste hit his eighth homer on the season in Game 1 of Savannah’s doubleheader.
  • In Game 2, Miller Diaz (6-1, 2.14) threw a complete game shutout, to earn his six victory on the season. He allowed three hits, walked two and struck out five. His last win was on May 22, but he actually made a relief appearance on July 23rd tossing three innings for the save.
  • Outfielder Vicente Lupo hit his second home run on the season, a grand slam, in the top of the ninth to draw Kingsport within a run short of tying the game.

Highlight From The Farm

This is probably the most exciting sight from Tuesday, aside from a Mets win, that the fans can be happy about.

Matt Harvey throwing off a mound again in Port St. Lucie.

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Does 2015 Free Agent Market Influence Mets 2014 Offseason Strategy? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/does-2015-free-agent-market-influence-mets-2014-offseason-strategy.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/does-2015-free-agent-market-influence-mets-2014-offseason-strategy.html/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 02:16:59 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131802 sandy alderson

An MMO Fan Shot By Andrew Doris

The two-year plan

The past two seasons, the Mets have finished 74-88. Over that time, they’ve dumped all their albatross contracts (except Bobby Bonilla…) and resolved the Bernie Madoff lawsuit, such that management finally appears capable of investing in the team. Whether they will or not remains to be seen, but Sandy Alderson has said the team has about $30 million to spend this off-season if he chooses. This post assumes they are serious, and aims to shed light on the wisest way to invest that money.

It’s reasonable to assume that without any major off-season additions, the Mets might finish 74-88 again in 2014. That might even be optimistic, because they’ve lost two key producers from last season already: Matt Harvey and Marlon Byrd. Perhaps young players will develop and improve enough to replace those losses, but even if that’s the case, they would still just be treading water to match last year’s output. It’s safe to say the current roster is no better than a 74 win team.

With that in mind, it is highly unlikely the Mets will win the World Series next season – there are just too many holes to fill in one off-season with the money and trade chips at Alderson’s disposal. A more realistic approach is to view the next two off-seasons as stepping stones to serious contention – a sort of “two-year plan” to get this team among the league’s elite.

Phase one of this plan should be to improve the team by enough that the fans take notice and tune in for 2014. The piqued interest would increase ticket sales and TV revenue, and ideally enable additional payroll expansions (read: player acquisitions) in phase two – next off-season and beyond.

However, doing this will require a team that, as Fred Wilpon famously put it back in 2004, is “playing meaningful games in September”, and a 74 win team does not match that criteria. How much does Alderson need to improve the roster to make that team a reality?

In a division with the Braves and Nationals, I suspect the Mets will need to win at least 85 games to even compete for the playoffs. Last year the Nationals won 86 and still finished 4 games out of the wildcard race. To actually make the playoffs, they may need to win 90, but I think Mets fans would be satisfied with 85 if it meant they stayed in the hunt until late in the season.

The question Alderson must answer, therefore, is this: how can he improve the team by 10 wins or more this off-season, without impeding his flexibility to make even more acquisitions next year? If the Mets are to navigate this question successfully, it behooves them to consider what options might be at their disposal next off-season. This foresight is particularly necessary at their positions of need, because those are the spots at which the greatest improvement can be made.

As I see it, the Mets’ greatest positions of need are OF, SS, 1B and SP, in that order. I put SP last because it is the only one of those holes that exists only in the short term. With the return of Harvey and the ascent of Syndergaard, Mejia, Montero, DeGrom and even Robles all expected by 2015, pitching shouldn’t be a problem over the long term (unless some of those names get traded filling one of the other three holes). By the time we’re seriously contending for a world series, that hole will ideally have filled itself. Neither OF, SS, nor 1B, however, have any promising minor leaguers nearing an MLB arrival date, so it makes the most sense to target external additions at those positions.

The options at shortstop:

Let’s start at SS. As Mets fans know, this was one of our biggest areas of need last year, with Ruben Tejada and Omar Quintanilla combining for a woeful -1.7 WAR on the season. The 2014 free agent class has two primary options at SS: Stephen Drew, and Jhonny Peralta. Although these are good players, both are on the wrong side of 30 with health concerns, and both may cost around $12 million a year on a multi-year contract. The 2015 class, by contrast, features a whole host of interesting names: Asdrubal Cabrera, J.J. Hardy, Hanley Ramirez, and Jed Lowrie. Furthermore, each of those players play on teams that are often open to trading players in contract years, such that Sandy might be able to land them in a deadline deal this upcoming summer depending on where everyone is in the standings.

For this reason, I recommend the Mets hold off on signing a big-name SS this winter, when the market is thin and prices are high. This has the added benefit of giving Ruben Tejada a few more months to turn things around. Even if the Mets don’t view Tejada as their SS of the future, it is unwise to sell low, and Tejada’s value has never been lower. A solid start to 2014 might improve his trade value and net them something better in return than they could get right now.

The options in the outfield:

Next up is OF. Even if we assume that light-hitting Juan Lagares is the answer in CF, the Mets have only one MLB caliber starting outfielder on their roster, with no help from the minors in sight (short of Cesar Puello, who has some questions to answer). If they are to get away with Lagares in CF, they desperately need some offense from the corner OF spots. Thankfully, the 2014 free agent class has several big name outfielders that could serve as the power-hitting cleanup hitter Terry Collins needs. Shin-Soo Choo, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, and Nelson Cruz could all fit that mold, while Jacoby Ellsbury could busy our competition on the market and make those other names more affordable (higher supply of marquee OF’s = lower price for each one). Additionally, there are several big name outfielders rumored to be on the trading block this winter, from Jose Bautista to Giancarlo Stanton to Matt Kemp to Andre Ethier. 2015, by contrast, has very few exciting names under 35 years old. Colby Rasmus is pretty good, but after that it goes downhill fast: Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, Jonny Gomes, Emilio Bonifacio, Nate Schierholtz, Norichika Aoki, Chris Denorfia…you get the picture.

Curtis+GrandersonFor these reasons, it’s imperative that the Mets land at least one marquee, power-hitting outfielder this offseason, even if they have to sign him to a long term deal. Ellsbury and Choo may be outside our price range, but I think Curtis Granderson could be an excellent fit. He’s certainly comfortable in New York; in his first three years with the Yankees, Granderson was a superstar, averaging 36 homers per season with an 11% walk rate. Before you argue that was inflated by Yankee stadium, realize that Granderson averaged 18.5 road home runs from 2011-2012, which is more than any current Mets OF could provide in an entire season.

The 2013 season was lost to fluke injuries stemming from two stray fastballs, but before that Granderson was extremely durable, averaging 153 games a season from 2010-2012. His speed and defense will decline with age, but keep in mind what it’s declining from: a speedy, gold-glove caliber centerfielder. If the Mets shift him to LF to accommodate Lagares, he’d still offer plus defense and base-running in the short term, without being anything close to a liability in the long run. Granderson also has a reputation for being one of the most amiable players in the game, making him a fan favorite and a great locker room presence. He does strike out a lot, but that’s nitpicking, especially when you consider the much larger flaws of any 2015 option. In a deep market, Granderson could probably be had on a 3-4 year deal at $14-15 million per year, which still leaves Alderson enough flexibility to sign a SP and some role players for 2014. If they miss out on Granderson, I’d suggest Carlos Beltran or Nelson Cruz as high-ceiling fallbacks. If we felt like signing two outfielders, Nate McLouth might warrant consideration.

The options at first base:

Finally, we have 1B. With Jose Abreu gone to the White Sox, this year’s free agent class features interesting options like Mike Napoli, Kendrys Morales, and Corey Hart. 2015, by contrast, has very few good options under the age of 35 (assuming the Royals use their club option to pick up Billy Butler’s contract). Using the above logic, this would seem to imply that if the Mets are to get an external option to man 1B, this is the offseason to do it. If Sandy chooses to go that route, I’d support the decision.

However, I don’t think first base is such a dire necessity as is the outfield, for the simple reason that the Mets have better in-house options to man the former than they do the latter. Between Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Satin, Wilmer Flores and Daniel Murphy, the Mets have five candidates for one position. With the exception of Flores, none of those candidates have a career OPS below .746. Even if only one or two of those options work out, Terry Collins could probably cobble together moderate levels of production by riding the hot hand. The options in the OF, by contrast, inspire much less confidence: Eric Young Jr., Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jordany Valdespin, and Matt den Dekker. None of those guys have a career OPS over .672 – none have a track record to prove they are major league caliber hitters. Until Cesar Puello (who has his own question marks) gets called up, these four AAAA guys would be competing for two vacancies, and the result would be woeful even if nobody got hurt.

TL;DR:

The bottom line is this: if the Mets are serious on improving the team in 2014 while maintaining the flexibility to make additional improvements next winter, they should devote this off-season to acquiring at least one marquee OF, either via a trade or via free agency. Then, they should sign a high-upside veteran starting pitcher to a short, cheap, incentive laden deal, as well as a backup catcher and some affordable bullpen arms. However, they should hold off on acquiring a SS upgrade until the market thickens, and if money’s tight, they should also hold off on committing to an external 1B until they have more information on the viability of their internal options.

By following this blueprint and getting a little lucky, the Mets should be able to plug all their holes with capable and exciting players in a cost efficient way before the 2015 season, while still improving enough in the short term to make 2014 exciting. Only time will tell if Sandy Alderson agrees.

bleed orange & blue  button

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What The 2015 Mets Will Look Like If Built Entirely From Prospects http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/what-the-2015-mets-will-look-like-if-built-entirely-from-prospects.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/10/what-the-2015-mets-will-look-like-if-built-entirely-from-prospects.html/#comments Sat, 26 Oct 2013 19:49:46 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=131767 punt

With news floating around that the Mets may indeed punt again in 2014, and with Matt Harvey sidelined the entire year; maybe it’s time to start looking at what the New York Mets may look like in 2015.  I know it’s a depressing thought, and I’m sorry for bringing it up.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun with this.

The reason why 2015 will actually make for an interesting season is because a lot of the current Mets prospects that are tearing up the minor leagues should be major league ready.

That would mean that Sandy Alderson, or whoever is the GM at that point, can arguably build a team entirely from Mets prospects. But we don’t have to wait that long, because I am going to build that team for you guys right now.  That’s right, let’s mark this day down in history and look back in 2015 to see how close I am to predicting what the Mets team will look like in 2015. Just a reminder, I am building this team entirely from prospects (and existing homegrown Mets players).

rafael montero travis d'arnaud

The 2015 New York Mets

Catchers: Travis d’Arnaud & Juan Centeno

D’Arnaud has the potential to be an All-Star caliber catcher…but so does Kevin Plawecki if d’Arnaud continues to suffer injuries.

Sleeper Candidate: Plawecki is the sleeper candidate to be the starter by 2016, but as it stands, d’Arnaud will literally have to play himself out of town for that to happen.

First Base: Wilmer Flores

That’s right, Flores will ultimately be moved over to first base. This will allow the team to bring up a more solid defensive second baseman.

Sleeper Candidate: Jayce Boyd has all the makings of a future major leaguer, and he could be a good one.

Second Base: T.J. Rivera

Rivera is an excellent defensive second baseman and I would actually like to see if the team could move him over to shortstop to take advantage of his offensive skill set–but that is not likely to happen. Rivera made great strides adjusting to hitting leadoff this year in St. Lucie, and he should split time between Binghamton and Las Vegas in 2014 setting him up for a 2015 MLB debut.

Sleeper Candidate: Dilson Herrera is only 19, but with his skill set he could be a fast mover through the organization. However, with Rivera and Flores already playing second base, the Mets may take it slow with him.

Shortstop: Wilfredo Tovar

As I’ve said before, shortstop is a position that will always be one where the glove is more important than the bat, and Wilfredo Tovar brings his glove with him to the ballpark every day. Tovar is the best internal option for the Mets at shortstop right now.

Sleeper Candidate: TJ Rivera is my starting second baseman, but he is also my sleeper candidate at shortstop. In an interview back in August when David Conde of MMO asked Rivera which position he was most comfortable playing, he responded that he is comfortable at all three infield spots (2B, 3B, SS).

Third Base: David Wright

Nothing more to add here.

Left Field: Dustin Lawley

Lawley could provide some much needed pop to the lineup and be the future left fielder of the Mets. You won’t find him on any top prospect lists, but he was signed in 2011 and made it to Triple-A within two seasons. He also led all Mets minor leaguers in homeruns and RBI in 2013.

Center Field: Toss-up between Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker

Lagares flashed enough leather in 2013 to be the centerfielder of the future for the Mets. Offensively, he struggled to adjust to major league pitching. Matt den Dekker also flashes enough leather to be the future centerfielder of the Mets. In fact, if not for a wrist injury during 2013 spring training, den Dekker may have made the team out of spring training. The job will ultimately go to the guy who produces better with the stick. This position battle could get interesting.

Right Field: Cesar Puello

The arrival of Puello in 2013 was marred by a 50 game PED suspension–just a blip on the radar. Puello has legit 20/20 potential and is a five tool player…the Mets aren’t exactly stocked with five tool talent these days.

wheeler harvey

Starting Rotation:

Matt Harvey

Zack Wheeler

Noah Syndergaard

Rafael Montero

Jonathon Niese

Bullpen:

Vic Black (Closer)

Jeff Walters

Jack Leathersich

Jennry Mejia

Cory Mazzoni

Michael Fulmer

Starting Lineup

1.  Rivera, 2B
2.  Puello, RF
3.  Wright, 3B
4.  D’Arnaud, C
5.  Flores, 1B
6.  Lawley, LF
7.  Lagares/Den Dekker, CF
8.  Tovar, SS

Manager: Wally Backman

If we’re building a team from prospects, what better person to have manage the team than a guy that has worked with the majority of them the past few years, and knows what makes them tick?

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Den Dekker Gets Unexpected Audition With Four Weeks To Go http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/den-dekker-gets-unexpected-audition-with-four-weeks-to-go.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/08/den-dekker-gets-unexpected-audition-with-four-weeks-to-go.html/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 20:30:45 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=128061 mattdendekker promotionWith the Mets trading Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates today, the door is left open for one of the biggest enigmas in the organization: Matt den Dekker.

Den Dekker, 26, was a fifth-round draft pick in 2010 after an illustrious career at the University of Florida. The outfielder gradually rose through the ranks of the minor leagues before having a breakout first half in 2012 with Binghamton, hitting .340/.397/.563 with 21 doubles, four triples, and eight home runs in 268 plate appearances. The second half was a completely different story for Den Dekker, however, as he struggled to hit above .200 with Triple-A Buffalo. He finished the season with a dreadful .220/.256/.373 slash line with nine home runs in 317 trips to the plate. He saw his walk rate drop below 5% and his strikeout rate rise above 28%. If there is one thing that was going to keep Den Dekker from being a major league player, it’s his unusually-high strikeout rate.

This season after missing time due to a broken wrist, Den Dekker has seen his strikeout rate return to manageable levels, and is now walking at a career-high rate of 9.9% with Triple-A Las Vegas. Den Dekker has a .296/.366/.486 slash line with Vegas to go along with his eight doubles, four triples, and six home run in 202 plate appearances.

Den Dekker will finally get a chance to make his long-awaited debut this week after two years of uncertainty. Two years ago, there was talk that he would be the center fielder on Opening Day despite never having played above Double-A.

Den Dekker is in a situation very similar to Juan Lagares. The two players profile very differently at the plate (Den Dekker is more like Kirk Nieuwenhius with the bat), but they are both players whose value will come predominantly from their defense. Den Dekker has a little bit more power than Lagares, but the difference probably won’t be that significant at the big league level.

If the Mets really plan on revamping their outfield this offseason, it seems logical that only one of the two outfielders will have an everyday job. I could definitely see both of them on the roster come next spring, but this next month will be the beginning of a competition for the center field job, which Lagares already has a significant leg up in.

Regardless, Den Dekker is finally getting a chance to audition for a major league job, something not many expected after last year’s debacle and especially not after the Mets declined to trade Marlon Byrd in late July.

Follow me on Twitter @UpAlongFirst.

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Previewing The Las Vegas 51s http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/04/previewing-the-las-vegas-51s.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/04/previewing-the-las-vegas-51s.html/#comments Sun, 07 Apr 2013 16:00:18 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=113521

Travis d’Arnaud, along with Zack Wheeler headline the Las Vegas 51s roster.

The Mets changed Triple-A affiliates this offseason, going from Buffalo to Las Vegas and from the International League to the Pacific Coast League. The biggest storyline for this team will be how the move affects development. The Pacific Coast League, especially Las Vegas, is notorious for inflated power numbers. It may be harder to judge how well a player is developing because hitters will have more home runs and pitchers will see their ERA shoot up as well. It will be interesting to see how the prospects react as well, with the top two prospects in the system set to play at least the first month with Las Vegas.

The Big Names

  • Zack Wheeler (RHP)- It’s only a matter of time before the top Mets prospect gets called up to the majors. Wheeler should only be with the 51s for a few months, coming up in July at the latest. 
  • Travis d’Arnaud (C)- d’Arnaud was the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade last December, and for good reason. d’Arnaud looks like the complete package, both at the plate and with the glove. His power has developed over the past two years into one of his best tools. Last year, he hit 16 homers in 67 games in Triple-A before a torn PCL ended his season.
  • Wilmer Flores (INF)- After struggling in the lower minors for a few years (as a result of being rushed), Flores had a resurgent season last year for Advanced-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. The long-awaited power numbers finally came, as Flores slugged .479 with 18 home runs in 130 total minor league games. In his third year in St. Lucie, he hit .289/.336/.463 with ten home runs in 64 games, earning himself an FSL All-Star Game selection. He was then promoted to Binghamton, hwere he hit even better, batting .311/.363/.494 with eight home runs in 66 games. He is still young for the league, currently the seventh-youngest player in Triple-A and the fourth youngest in the Pacific Coast League. If Flores can keep it up, all that’s left is finding a position.
  • Jeurys Familia (RHP) Note: Familia was sent down on Saturday and will be with the 51s for the foreseeable future- Familia had a down season last year with the Buffalo Bisons, struggling as a starting pitcher. He made 28 starts and had a 4.73 ERA, along with a very concerning 4.8 walks per nine rate. His poor performance finally convinced the Mets that he belongs in the bullpen, which is where he will be this season for Las Vegas.
  • Matt den Dekker (CF)- Note: Broken wristThe former fifth-round pick den Dekker tore the cover off the ball in half a season with Binghamton, but struggled to hit .200 in the second half with the Bisons. He batted .340/.397/.563 with eight home runs in 56 Double-A games. After moving to Triple-A, he hit just .220/.256/.373 in 77 games. His stirkeout and walk rates were awful, as he struck out in 28.4% of his Plate appearances, while walking only 4.4%. Those numbers are among the worst in his minor league career. Den Dekker must cut down on the strikeouts if he will ever play regularly in the majors. His incredible defense isn’t going to carry him to success. Den Dekker has shown a trend throughout his short career of needing an adjustment period to each new level, which has some people very hopeful that he will start to hit again once he comes back from a broken wrist later this season.

The Sleepers

  • Juan Lagares (OF)- The speedy and versatile Lagares hit .283/.334/.389 between St. Lucie and Binghamton last season. He can play all three outfield positions, making him a possibility for the Mets bench late this season if things go right.
  • Andrew Brown (OF)- Brown was a longshot to make the team in spring training, and was cut before the season started. However, Brown still has a chance to make some noise with his power. He has put up consistent power numbers throughout his minor league career and could play a role on the Met bench as a power-hitting pinch hitter if someone gets hurt.

Other Names to Watch

  • Reese Havens (2B)- The seemingly always hurt Reese Havens was finally cut from the 40-man roster in the week leading up to Opening Day. Havens, 26, has never played a full season without injury and in his six-year career, has only played in 308 games. If he can stay healthy and the power that scouts have been talking about since he was in college finally shows up, there is still a chance he has a role with the big league club.
  • Collin McHugh (RHP)- McHugh profiles as a long man or back-of-the-rotation type of pitcher. He had a solid season in the minors last year, posting a 2.91 ERA in 25 starts with Binghamton and Buffalo, walking 2.8 batters per nine and striking out 8.2. He struggled in a short stint with the big league club, allowing 21 runs (18 earned) in 21.1 innings over eight appearances.
  • Zach Lutz (3B)- Lutz has put up solid numbers for most of his minor league career, and almost made the team out of spring training. He hit .295/.404/.496 in 78 minor league games last season.

 

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Was Matt den Dekker In Line For A Roster Spot With The Mets? http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/was-matt-den-dekker-in-line-for-a-roster-spot-with-the-mets.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/was-matt-den-dekker-in-line-for-a-roster-spot-with-the-mets.html/#comments Thu, 28 Mar 2013 13:17:33 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=112175 matt den dekker 2

At this point, I think everyone knows that I am a Matt den Dekker fan. I’ve argued in his favor since early spring training, when he leaped through the St. Lucie night and pulled a would-be home run from beyond the left-centerfield wall. Many Mets fans never knew who den Dekker was until that moment. That catch brought him into the limelight.

But maybe it was just one catch, people thought. If you’ve read the scouting reports on den Dekker, you would see that most will agree that he has gold glove potential. If den Dekker were to win a gold glove in a Mets uniform someday, he would only be the third outfielder in the team’s history to ever do so. The other two gold glove winner recipients in the outfield were Tommie Agee (1970), and Carlos Beltran (2006-08).

Den Dekker continued to make highlight reel catches through the spring right up until he fractured his wrist on what would have been another catch featured on ESPN’s Top Ten. The fan base has been torn on den Dekker and can basically separated into two categories—one group of fans said his offense was not good enough to be considered for the major league roster, and the other group said his defense more than makes up for his offensive woes, and he will figure it out eventually if you keep giving him at-bats.

I was really hoping that den Dekker would make the opening day roster. I felt that he could help the team win ball games with stellar defense, speed on the base paths, and pop the occasional home run. I felt the fans would rally around a player of his type—young, exciting, and balls to the wall. I recommended hitting him down in the eight hole until he figures it out, which I was convinced he would. There hasn’t been a player that I checked the box scores every time he played to see how he did in awhile. It was a feel-good story, and I was rooting for den Dekker.

I know people are down on den Dekker’s offense, but Toby Hyde’s recent evaluation of den Dekker seems a bit harsh. Here is what he had to say about den Dekker in case you missed it:

He was not a realistic candidate to make the Opening Day roster. Again, he hit .220/.256/.373 in 77 games in AAA last year with 90 strikeouts – a 28% strikeout rate. In 45 PA this spring, he was no better: .205/.222/.364 with one walk and 16 strikeouts – a 36% strikeout rate. I have lowered my offensive expectations for den Dekker from poor in the big leagues, to poor in AAA.

Everyone looks at the strikeouts as a major concern. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that you don’t want a player striking out a lot. An out is an out, but putting the ball in play puts the pressure on the defense to make the play and potentially make a mistake. If you strike out a ton, you are not doing that. But for a young player I would rather see him striking out and taking pitchers deep into the count versus hitting weak grounders after swinging at the first or second pitch. And I would be more likely to accept a player with a high strikeout rate if he provides gold glove defense in a premiere position, has proven to be a decent situational hitter and maybe knock the ball out of the park every now and then. Den Dekker has nine hits this spring and seven RBI. That means the hits were productive. Just bat him towards the back of the lineup until he adjusts.

I pretty much accepted the fact that he would not be on the Opening Day roster, after I read time after time about how his offense and not being on the 40-man roster hurt his chances. Then he fractured his wrist and the reality set in that he definitely won’t be on the roster.

I say I accepted it, instead of say I supported that would-be decision, because I never truly believed that den Dekker should be sent down. Now in full acceptance, I am going through Adam Rubin’s latest roster projection and see that Kirk Nieuwenhuis is not only on his projected opening day roster, but the starting centerfielder and leadoff hitter? Did I miss something? He is 2-26 so far this spring. Two hits all spring and may be our starting centerfielder, but there was no chance den Dekker was making this team? I’m not buying it.

den dekker

Then I scroll down Rubin’s page a little more and read that “concerned about their defensive capability in center field, the Mets are mulling carrying Kirk Nieuwenhuis on the Opening Day roster over a bona fide backup shortstop (Omar Quintanilla).” Well slap me sideways. Defense does matter after all.

After putting all those pieces together, I don’t think I am reading into this too much by saying that I believe that den Dekker did have a very good shot at making the opening day roster. Den Dekker had outplayed Nieuwenhuis in every way, shape and form this spring. Den Dekker’s bat still needs to develop, but there are three positions on that baseball field where a coach will take defense into account when making decisions—shortstop, catcher, and of course, center field. And you won’t find too many centerfielders with better defense than Matt den Dekker. Let’s hope Matt has a speedy recovery from his wrist injury, so we can see this rare talent roaming the green pastures at Citi Field soon.

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Valdespin Is Saying And Doing All The Right Things http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/valdespins-blast-brings-him-one-step-closer-to-making-the-team.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/valdespins-blast-brings-him-one-step-closer-to-making-the-team.html/#comments Fri, 08 Mar 2013 22:18:21 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=110191 valdespin

Updated by Joe D. at 5:00 PM

Here’s a brief update to this morning’s Jordany Valdespin post. Dog-house or not, it would seem like a big mistake to me if Valdespin fails to go north with the Mets when all is said and done.

That said, Terry Collins continues to downplay his chances of making the team, saying, “It’s March 8th. I’ll wait.”

It could be the manger’s way of keeping the 25-year old Valdespin motivated.

Valdespin made his first start of the spring in the outfield today, and he really put an exclamation point on his performance. With the game knotted at 1-1, ‘Spin put a charge into one and launched a solo home run in the seventh to give the Mets the lead. It was his second homer of the Spring and he is now batting .333 through eight games.

The Mets went on to lose the game 3-2 to the Tigers.

After the game, Collins admitted that Valdespin has played well and adds energy to the lineup. “He likes to play. He loves to be on the stage. He plays with some flair,” Collins said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. But he certainly plays with some energy, too. We need that.”

Original Post 6:50 AM

Before the game yesterday, Jordany Valdespin sat by his locker, his eyes glued to a television showing the Phillies-Nationals highlights. However, his mind seemed elsewhere, but apparently not on his quest to be the Opening Day leadoff hitter in center.

“They have a decision to make, and the only thing I can do is keep playing hard and give them something to think about,’’ Valdespin said.  “I can’t make the decision. I have to play hard and see what happens in spring training.’’

Valdespin rarely made eye contact, instead kept on watching the television.

Valdespin has several factors working in his favor. He’s able to play second base as well as the outfield, and versatility is always a plus. He hit five pinch homers last season, so he has the ability to jump-start a rally. He can also get things going with his speed.

Whether he’s a starter or role player, he’ll take either. There have been times when Valdespin’s attitude didn’t always endear himself to the Mets’ brass, including being suspended in winter ball. He seems to have gotten the message.

“I’m happy with whatever they want me to do,’’ Valdespin said. “I’ll work hard either way.’’

Valdespin led off and played second yesterday against the Marlins, and as he has been doing in almost all his Grapefruit League opportunities, he stood out with his dynamic play. He has the ability to be a catalyst and a difference maker when he’s in the lineup. I can see that now.

During the game he was robbed of an extra-base hit on a fly ball down the right field line in the first inning. But as I wrote yesterday, what was impressive about the at-bat was not the near hit, but how Valdespin worked the count full after being behind.

“The more pitches I see, the better,’’ said Valdespin, who started at second base and made a running catch down the right field line on a foul ball.

Collins said Valdespin is showing more discipline, and noted his third at-bat when he was unhappy with a strike call, but kept his focus and didn’t give away the at-bat.

“He’s getting better at being aggressive, but working the count,’’ Collins said. “He fought off some tough pitches and hit the ball hard.’’

Thoughts by Joe D.

It was thought originally by some, that Valdespin would be squeezed out because of a numbers crunch on the roster this Spring. The additions of Andrew Brown and Collin Cowgill made an outfield spot difficult to envision especially when you add in how high the organization is on Matt Den Dekker.

Trying to find a spot as an infielder seems to be a more difficult challenge. Justin Turner and Omar Quintanilla are both well liked by Collins, and then you have Zach Lutz, Josh Satin and Brian Bixler all jockeying for a job too.

Valdespin is one of the few Met players who is having a solid spring at the plate and in 20 at-bats he’s made the most of his opportunity with a slash of .350/.381/.500. When he’s on the field there’s an electricity about him that’s easy to see. He’s always moving and looking and waiting for his chance to impact the game and contribute to a win.

It’s becoming very difficult to overlook what Valdespin can bring to the 2013 Mets. Like Jose Reyes before him, he can add a charge to the top of the order and ignite a rally.

He’s letting his play do all the talking now and while he seems to be an outcast at times in the clubhouse, it would behoove Terry Collins and the Mets to remedy that situation and let bygones be bygones.

The talent is there… The desire is there… The high upside is there… The love of the game is there… But will he be there at Citi Field on Opening Day? Only the Mets hold the answer to that question.

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Governor Chris Christie Likes The Mets’ Direction http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/governor-chris-christie-likes-the-mets-direction.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/governor-chris-christie-likes-the-mets-direction.html/#comments Fri, 08 Mar 2013 14:24:41 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=110196 christie-metsjpg-4eebed596f258110_large

According to the Star-Ledger, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent some time on SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio channel yesterday discussing the Mets. Christie has been a long-time Mets fan, and will be in the stands on April 1 when the Mets take on the San Diego Padres on opening day.

Christie went through a list of players he likes, which he considers the nucleus, and includes David Wright, Ike Davis and Daniel Murphy. He’s also excited about seeing top catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud in blue and orange very soon. Christie believes with that young core of players, in addition to the Mets’ young pitchers Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler, the Mets are headed in the right direction. Like most Mets fans, Christie raises questions about the outfield situation, but is looking forward to 2014 where he hopes that the Mets can add a few pieces to the puzzle.

matt harvey zack wheeler

Christie sounds like most Mets fans these days—he likes the young core, loves the young pitching, and has no idea what the outfield situation is going to look like. The outfield situation quickly becomes the center of attention for anyone discussing the Mets. The fans are tired of it and want to move on, but unfortunatley it’s one of those problems that seem to continue rearing it’s ugly head.

When looking at how some of the outfielders performed this spring, it could prompt a Mets fan to say to themselves “maybe this outfield won’t be as bad as everyone thinks.” I actually buy into that thought, but only out of sheer optimism. Overall, the performance of the outfield this spring has been utterly disappointing for me.

I expected Lucas Duda to take a step forward. I expected Kirk Nieuwenhuis to soildify himself as an everyday player, and even before the knee injury, did little to convince us he was ready. These are two guys the Mets really were hoping would take the bull by the horns, and it’s looking like they still need more fine tuning.

One guy that has really turned some heads this spring has been Matt den Dekker, in centerfield. Everyone should know how I feel about den Dekker by now (You down with MDD? Yeah you know me). Den Dekker is a human highlight reel with solid power, and will be a 20/20 type of a guy once he makes it to the show. I would love to see him in centerfield for the Mets this year, but the reality is starting to set in that he will be starting the season with Las Vegas. Hopefully he tears it up in Triple-A and joins the Mets sometime in the middle of the year.

Matt-Den-Dekker

It looks more and more like Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd will be with the team when camp breaks. Not only will they be with the team, but they seem to be playing themselves into starting roles. Most fans have been blown away by the play of these two guys, as the bar was set very, very low coming into the spring. It will be interesting to see how these guys perform once the regular season starts and opposing pitchers are trying to get them out, rather than getting their work in. There will most likely be a drop off in performance from these two guys once the regular season starts.

Jordany Valdespin is another guy that seems to be playing himself into a starting role this spring. With his skill set, it wil be very difficult to not have him in the lineup everyday. It seems like Valdespin is starting to realize that he has a major opportunity to leap frog some guys that got off to slow starts this spring, and he’s going after it.

So here we are, three weeks into spring training, and the outfield situation is just as muddled as it was when camp opened. It’s starting to look like the competition is separating, but it’s yet to be seen what kind of impact the spring performance will have on who is in that starting lineup when the season opens up. This saga will continue into the regular season.

 

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Den Dekker Stands To Gain If Nieuwenhuis Lands On DL http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/den-dekker-stands-to-gain-if-nieuwenhuis-lands-on-dl.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/03/den-dekker-stands-to-gain-if-nieuwenhuis-lands-on-dl.html/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 13:10:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=109553

Opportunity could be knocking for Matt den Dekker if Kirk Nieuwenhuis’ knee injury turns out to be more serious than just a bruise. We’ll know more on that later today.

The Mets will consider all their options if Nieuwenhuis were to miss any significant time, but one could make a strong argument that den Dekker could have a leg up on his competition because of his stellar defense which can impact a game as much as a solid bat. His glove-work is that good. Here is what I wrote about that this weekend…

Original Post 3/2

If you have been watching the Mets at all this spring, one thing has become evident – Matt den Dekker deserves a shot to be the Opening Day centerfielder.

Throw the offensive stats out the window for just a second and ask yourself who you would want out there chasing down fly balls. After seeing a few highlight reel catches already this spring, it becomes more and more evident who should get the nod.

Now let’s take the spring stats into consideration. Here is a breakdown of how the Mets outfield competition is playing out so far this Spring:

OF STATS(Games played through March 1 – Note: Nieuwenhuis should read six strikeouts.)

The common argument when looking into spring training stats is that they should be taken with a grain of salt. In other words, don’t put too much weight into whether a player gets off to an extremely hot start, or an extremely cold start.

While that argument holds some validity, because spring stats are not factored into any regular season awards and does not factor into the race for the pennant, when you have a situation like the Mets have, where it’s an open audition for an outfield job, spring stats will definitely impact the decision of who is standing in the Mets outfield on opening day.

With that being said, looking at the stats shown above, only a couple of guys have gotten off to hot starts in the outfield–and one of them (Valdespin), has yet to get any reps in the outfield.

Den Dekker’s spring stats are comparable to the other players vying for an outfield job with the exception of Collin Cowgill and Marlon Byrd. However, defensively, den Dekker sticks out like a sore thumb amongst his colleagues, and I mean that in a good way.

Terry Collins should be looking at ways to strengthen the team’s defense up the middle, and the best way to do that right now is by having den Dekker out there. Having a defensive player like den Dekker in center will make the pitching staff that more effective. Having a gold glove caliber outfielder in center will also take the pressure off the other outfielders, and help cover some of the defensive gaps that may exist when Lucas Duda or Byrd are out there with him.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Den Dekker has made a living making highlight reel catches.

Having solid defense up the middle will also let the pitchers pitch the way they want to pitch. If a pitcher has too little confidence in the defense behind them, they will try to strike every hitter out. This inevitably leads to more walks as they try to nibble corners (unless they are a power pitcher) because they are afraid to let the hitters put the ball in play. So by having a defender of den Dekker’s quality in centerfield, pressure is not only taken off of the other outfielders, but the pitcher as well.

If den Dekker can perform offensively as well as the other outfielders on the roster, then why not just have him join the team right out of spring training? Right now, is there any reason to believe that he can’t perform as well offensively, or maybe even better than the other outfielders on the Mets roster?

I did my weekly MMO Prospect Pulse on Matt den Dekker, and while I noted I wasn’t sure he would ever be a .300 hitter at the major league level, I do think he has the potential to be a 20/20 player; a 20/20 player that can win a gold glove. Maybe we are starting to see why the Mets may have not pulled the trigger on Michael Bourn after all.

The only argument I can see being made about den Dekker being given the keys to the centerfield job with the Mets this year was his performance when promoted to Buffalo last year.

However, as I noted in last week’s feature, it has been a trend across his career thus far to go through an adjustment period when promoted. During that adjustment period, his offensive stats tend to take a dip. However, after the adjustment period, his offensive numbers are at an all-star level. Mix that in with that solid defense, and there is only one man for the job this year in centerfield.

There is no reason to start den Dekker at Las Vegas this year. Throw him in centerfield, bat him in the eight hole of the lineup where he will experience minimal pressure, and let him do his thing. He will figure it out. The best thing for his development would be to let him adjust to the major league pitchers and the major league level while taking advantage of that ridiculous defensive skill set.

The Mets need den Dekker’s glove in centerfield, and when his bat comes around, they will be able to use that too. But the Mets have to stick with him. They can’t send him down to Las Vegas if he starts to go through an adjustment period at the big league level. Let the kid figure it out and entertain us with some jaw dropping catches while he’s in the process.

Enjoy this recent den Dekker highlight-reel catch from last week’s Grapefruit League action!

In case you missed it, check out my exclusive MMO Prospect Pulse on Matt den Dekker.

Follow MMO Minor League Analyst Mitch Petanick on Twitter at @FirstPitchMitch for even more Mets Minor League and prospect coverage.

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Prospect Pulse: 2013 Mets Centerfield Candidate Matt den Dekker http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/prospect-pulse-2013-mets-outfield-candidate-matt-den-dekker.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/prospect-pulse-2013-mets-outfield-candidate-matt-den-dekker.html/#comments Sat, 23 Feb 2013 18:00:35 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=108834 matt den dekker 2

Matt den Dekker, CF

Bats: L Throws: L
Height: 6’1″
Weight: 205 lb.
Position: Centerfield
Age: 25 (26 in August)
ETA: 2013
MMO Top Prospect Rank: #12

Background:

Here is a brief player profile from the recent 2013 MMO Top 25 Prospect series:

Matt den Dekker has only been in the Mets farm system for three years, but his name has been relevant since the Mets tabbed him as a legitimate centerfield prospect. Den Dekker torched Binghamton upon his arrival in 2012, but struggled after his promotion to Buffalo and saw his strikeout rate increase to nearly 30%. He has a great feel for centerfield and could get by on his spectacular defense alone as a major leaguer. But his ability to hit advanced pitching will ultimately determine how quickly he makes his way onto the Mets.

Den Dekker is likely the closest outfield prospect the Mets have to being MLB ready. The one downside is that he’s another left-handed hitter which means he would have to outperform the glut of other Mets left-handed hitters to earn a promotion.

He is considered a superior defender to incumbent Kirk Nieuwenhuis, but with his inability to consistently make contact and a poor split-performance, den Dekker is likely to begin the season in Las Vegas and won’t make a trip up to Flushing until he can improve some elements to his offensive game. If he can square up and make more consistent contact, while reducing his strikeouts, Den Dekker could make an appearance later this season and end up playing a significant role this year and next. It’s a big “if” but it’s certainly not out of the question.

When looking at den Dekker’s stats, it’s easy to see his numbers took a dive after he made the jump to a higher level. This happened in both 2011 and 2012. What’s promising is how he adjusted at those levels when he started with those teams the following season. He was absolutely destroying Double-A pitching in 2012 after struggling during his first stint there in 2011. In 58 games with Binghamton last year, he hit to the tune of a .340 AVG/.397 OBP/ 8 HR/ 29 RBI/ 10 SB. You can see why he got promoted to Triple-A Buffalo after a sizzling start like that.

Up at Buffalo, he struggled. But as I stated earlier, that seems to be the trend with den Dekker (when he initially makes a jump, he struggles). It will be interesting to see what he does in Las Vegas this year, because if he follows the trend, he should put up some really solid numbers at the Triple-A level now that he got a half season under his belt. If he succeeds in Vegas, he will surely be a candidate to join the Mets sometime in June or July.

Analysis:

Based on the video, den Dekker does have a slight mechanical issue with his swing. It is easily fixable using muscle memory drills. However, he does have a very smooth swing and the potential is there to be a 20/20 type of player at the major league level.

I’m not sure den Dekker will ever be a .300 hitter unless he works out the mechanical deficiency that was described in the video. His front foot opens up during his swing, which causes his hips to open early. This could make him susceptible to off-speed pitches and pitches on the outside part of the plate. Keeping his front foot and hips closed longer should also improve his strikeout rate (since it will help him with the off-speed/outside pitches). If he is going to be a .300 hitter, he is going to have to working on keeping those hips closed and use all parts of the field when hitting.

Here is what a scout had to say about den Dekker via ESPN New York:

He’s a good defender. He throws good enough. He’s got some power — not great power, but he’s got some power. He’s making adjustments. I’ve been there [to watch Binghamton] three times. Every time he’s gotten better with the bat. He’s not flailing. He’s not trying to pull the ball. He’s making adjustments. It looks natural. He will cut down on his strikeouts with this new approach. He’s more patient. He’s going to be OK. I was prepared to not like this kid. He’s really won me over. It’s going to be a very spirited competition for center field between him and Nieuwenhuis, who are both better than Torres.

Those are pretty powerful words from that scout who said that both Nieuwenhuis and den Dekker were better than Andres Torres already, and this quote is from last June. Matt den Dekker should start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, and you should definitely keep an eye on him in 2013. Depending on how he performs in Las Vegas, he could be in the outfield mix at Citi Field very soon.

prospect pulse mitch petanick

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Follow MMO Minor League Analyst Mitch Petanick on Twitter at @FirstPitchMitch for even more Mets Minor League and prospect coverage.

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An Alternative Mets Top Prospects List (My Top 20) http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/an-alternative-mets-top-prospects-list-my-top-20.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2013/02/an-alternative-mets-top-prospects-list-my-top-20.html/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 15:20:39 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=106487 After reading the wonderful prospects list that some of my fellow MMO writers put together, (which is incredibly well-done, well-researched and a must-read for prospect gurus), I decided to share my own prospect list, which I have been working on for a while, with you all.

In putting together this list, I tried to balance as best I could major league readiness with the so-called “ceiling” of each prospect. In compiling the list, I looked at and analyzed career statistics, video, scouting reports, and the opinions of some well-respected scouts and Mets minor league experts before coming to my conclusions. Enjoy!

20. Jack Leathersich, LHP

Height: 5’11″

Weight: 205

Throws/Bats: L/R

jack leathersich

We may be seeing Josh Edgin 2.0 as Jack Leathersich shoots up the ladder. Another college lefty reliever. However, Leathersich is rather unconventional, and has been slightly more successful than Edgin was in his short time in the minors. Although he had a 4.12 ERA over the second half of the year when he was with St. Lucie, Leathersich had an astronomical strikeout rate of 14.2 batters per nine. That’s 35.5% of the hitters he faced.

There is still one question with Leathersich, a very important one. Is his success because of his talent or a deceptive delivery? Watch his delivery below and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

He struggled to get hitters out for the first time in his career with St. Lucie last year, and we’ll have to wait and see how his delivery translates to the higher levels.

2013 Outlook: Leathersich has been shooting up through the lower levels, and will likely continue to do so. He may even be an outside candidate to pitch for the Mets in the second half this year. Then, we’ll see what he’s got. He will start the year with Binghamton in all likelihood and go from there. If his success continues, he will move up fast.

19. Cory Vaughn, RF

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 225

Throws/Bats: R/R

Cory_Vaughn

A former fourth-round pick and son of former major leaguer Greg Vaughn, right fielder  Cory Vaughn is a physically-gifted, all-around athlete. Coming out of San Diego State in 2010, Vaughn was projected as a five-tool player, and did a little bit of everything once he turned pro. In his first professional season with the Cyclones, he hit .307/.396/.577 with 14 home runs in just 72 games. He also swiped 12 bases and hit five triples.

In 2011, Vaughn saw his numbers drop. He had a decent first half with Savannah, batting .286 (although he hit only four home runs) until he was called up to St. Lucie, where he struggled even more. In an injury-riddled second half, Vaughn hit only .219 in 63 games.

2012 was another year of mixed results for the 23 year-old outfielder. Everything was there – the power, speed, defensive skills – except for the hit tool. Vaughn struggled to but the barrel on the ball consistently, hitting just .243. The key to Vaughn’s success going forward will be his ability to hit for average. The other tools are there, but the one he didn’’t show this year is the most important to future success.

2013 Outlook: Vaughn has played 189 games for St. Lucie, so but he may end up there again. He may start the season there again because of his struggles at the plate last season. He will be turning 24 in May, so the clock is ticking. We’ve seen what happens to guys like Zack Lutz and Josh Satin getting “stuck” in the minors because of age. Vaughn still has some time, but he can’t afford to spend the majority of 2013 in St. Lucie.

18. Phillip Evans, SS

Height: 5’10″

Weight: 185

Throws/Bats: R/R

Phillip Evans

The Mets got a steal two years ago when, in the 15th round they drafted a high school shortstop named Phillip Evans. Evans was a 2nd-round talent, but scouts were scared off by his commitment to San Diego State. Luckily, the Mets were able to grab him late and sign him for $600,000.

Scouts say Evans has an advanced approached at the plate. He also generates a decent amount of power, despite being very small. (He is listed at 5’10”, but is much shorter). He hit .252 in his first full professional season with Brooklyn. He had an OPS of .665, but hit five home runs, third on the team.

The Mets will have to decide over the next few years where exactly Evans fits. He has a weak throwing arm and often has to take a few steps before making a throw to first. The general belief Is that he will eventually have to move to second base.

2013 Outlook: Phillips will probably split time with Savannah and St. Lucie this season.

17. Matt den Dekker, CF

Height: 6’1″

Weight: 205

Throws/Bats: L/L

Matt den Dekker

It was like two separate seasons for Matt den Dekker in 2012. In the first half, we saw his bat come alive, as he hit double after double (along with a few home runs), batting .340 in 58 games for Double-A Binghamton. Den Dekker was arguably the best player in the league, socking 21 doubles, four triples, and eight home runs. He also stole ten bases and continued to play incredible defense.

The second half was a different story for den Dekker, after he was called up to Buffalo. He was striking out more, walking less, and most importantly, hitting the ball less. Here is how his first half in Binghamton compared to his time with Buffalo:

Matt den Dekker half comparison

Den Dekker is facing the same strikeout problem that held Kirk Nieuwenhuis back last season. He has to lower his strikeout rate drastically or he is going to have a very difficult time hitting in the big leagues. You can’t get away with a 25% strikeout rate in the bigs. He’s too much of a free-swinger (as you can tell by his walk rate, which was already low in the first half) and big league pitching will test him.

2013 Outlook: Last year, den Dekker was a candidate to make the team out of Spring Training, but that’s not happening no matter how he performs in spring games. He will need to put together a few months with lower strikeout rates in order to get the promotion.

16. Gabriel Ynoa, RHP 

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 158

Throws/Bats: R/R

Gabriel Ynoa

After dominating the Dominican Summer League two years ago and pitching well in the Gulf Coast league in 2011, Gabriel Ynoa once again had a fantastic season, this time as a part of Brooklyn’s incredible pitching rotation.

Ynoa showed ridiculous control, walking only 1.2 batters per nine innings. The skinny right-hander has always been known for his excellent command, and in over 200 pro innings, he has walked only 22 batters.

Ynoa made 13 starts in the New York-Penn League this season, and in 76.2 innings, he had just a 2.23 ERA. He also struck out 7.5 batters per nine, up from only 4.3 the year before. He has a good changeup and a low-90s fastball that he commands very well. Hopefully, he will fill in his 6’2” frame (he’s listed as only 158 pounds), which could help him put a little more heat on his fastball.

2013 Outlook: Ynoa is so young and still has to build up some innings. He will probably go to Savannah in the spring and stay there the entire season.

15. Wilfredo Tovar, SS

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 160

Throws/Bats: R/R

Wilfredo Tovar

Tovar has always been known as a very skilled defensive shortstop. That’s his best skill, and he is probably the best defender in the entire Mets system. The questionable part of his game has always been his bat.

Signed out of Venezuela at 16 years old in 2008, Tovar had a tough time hitteing at even the lowest levels of the minor leagues, hitting just .203 in 49 games in the Venezuelan Summer League. He saw some improvement in the following years, as his batting average hovered around .250. Last season, he started to see some big changes.

After playing the better part of two years with Savannah, Tovar started the year with St. Lucie, and he started hitting the ball much better. In his 65 games with St. Lucie, he hit .284 with a career-high .377 on-base percentage and 11.3% walk rate, a significant improvement from the year before. He had a tough second half in Binghamton, with his numbers reverting back to what they were pre-St. Lucie, but that may have been due to the fact that he was 20 playing in Double-A.

Tovar certainly has the potential to be a Ruben Tejada-type player with an even better glove. We just have to wait and see how the bat develops. He started hitting some more extra-base hits this season, which was a very good sign. He will need that gap-to-gap power in order to become an MLB regular.

2013 Outlook: The Mets will be in no rush with Tovar. He will begin the season in Binghamton and play most of the season there.

14. Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B

Height: 6’3”

Weight: 210

Throws/Bats: R/R

Aderlin_Rodriguez

Possibly the best power hitter in the system, Rodriguez had a breakout campaign in 2012. The 21 year-old corner infielder, repeating low-A Savannah, displayed incredible power throughout the first half. He clubbed 16 home runs and slugged .497 in just 318 at-bats. This is in Savannah, where home runs go to die. Rodriguez has power to spare.

After 83 games in Savannah, Rodriguez finally made the trip to St. Lucie, where he would spend the rest of the season. There, he saw his batting average and walk rates plummet, but his power numbers stay well above-average. He finished his time in St. Lucie with a .190 ISO and eight home runs in 42 games.

Rodriguez’s power could take him a long way. He still doesn’t really have a defensive position. However, if Rodriguez can keep his power numbers up and improve his walk rate, it won’t matter what position he plays because his bat will make up for whatever he lacks defensively.

2013 Outlook: Rodriguez only played 42 games in St. Lucie, so he will probably play another half season or so before going to Binghamton.

13. Kevin Plawecki, C

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 205

Throws/Bats: R/R

kevin_plawecki

The Mets used their supplemental round pick last year on a young catcher from Purdue named Kevin Plawecki. Scouts praised him for his refined approach at the plate and his ability to hit home runs. One year later, Plawecki is the second-best catching prospect in the farm system, behind only Travis d’Arnaud.

Plawecki signed early and played 61 games for the Brooklyn Cyclones, and showed off his power. He led the team in home runs with seven despite hitting only .250. His patience was also very impressive as he had a walk rate of 9.9%. Combine that with a fantastic 9.5% strikeout rate and you can see why the Mets drafted him so high.

On the downside, Plawecki hit only eight doubles last season, and will need to work on his gap-to-gap power. Also, while he threw out almost 50% of base stealers, he still has work to do defensively.

2013 Outlook: Plawecki is still a few years away. However, because of his patience at the plate, he will likely play most of the year in St. Lucie as opposed to Savannah.

12. Gavin Cecchini, SS

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 180

Throws/Bats: R/R

Gavin_Cecchini

Gavin Cecchini is what scouts call a “baseball rat.” He comes from a baseball family. His father is the baseball coach at his former high school and a former college player. His brother Garin Cecchini is a speedy third baseman and one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization. Gavin is a smart baseball player with great instincts. He doesn’t have the raw talent that some of his fellow 2012 draft picks have, but scouts say he has outstanding baseball instincts.

Cecchini signed very quickly, allowing him to get some experience in Kingsport to start of his career. His bat proved to be a work in progress as he hit only .240 and hit only one home run. However, his swing is smooth and he has the potential to be a very good line drive hitter. He doesn’t have the power, but that was never expected of him.

Cecchini’s defense is really why he was drafted. He doesn’t have particularly great speed or arm strength, but otherwise has the tools to be a good defender. As I mentioned, he has great baseball instinct which will help him read hitters and make him an even better defensive player at a position where that’s very important.

2013 Outlook: Cecchini is still a very raw talent, and will likely stay in St. Lucie for extended spring training before heading to Brooklyn. The Mets will take it slow with him and we probably will not see him until at least September 2015.

11. Jacob DeGrom, RHP

Height: 6’4”

Weight: 185

Throws/Bats: R/L

Jacob Degrom

DeGrom had a stellar season for Savannah, surprising a lot of followers of Mets minor league baseball. Before the season started, he wasn’t very highly-rated and was outside of Toby Hyde’s top 41 list. The 24 year-old had surgery in the fall of 2010, just months after he had been made a 9th round pick by the Mets. He sat out the entire 2011 season rehabbing, and was able to start the season with Savannah.

Despite the serious injury, DeGrom came back with a vengeance, immediately dominating South Atlantic League hitters. He displayed excellent control, walking only 1.6 batters per nine innings, while striking out 7.8. He ended up making 15 starts with Savannah, tossing 89.2 innings with a 2.51 ERA along the way, before earning a late-season promotion to St. Lucie for the playoff run.

DeGrom made four starts to end the regular season in St. Lucie and an additional one in the playoffs, allowing just five runs in 27.2 High-A innings. DeGrom will need to develop his off-speed stuff in order to stay a starter, but is on track for a successful career. There is still a concern for his health after his Tommy John surgery, but after watching how he responded this season, that may not be a problem again.

2013 Outlook: DeGrom will likely pitch no more than a few months in St. Lucie, especially if he keeps pitching like he did last year. Expect him to debut sometime in late 2014 or 2015.

10. Luis Mateo, RHP

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 170

Throws/Bats: R/R

Luis_Mateo

Mateo followed a long and unconventional path to get where he is today. He was originally signed by the Giants five years ago for $625,000, bone chips were found in his elbow, and the Giants voided his contract. Later that year, he signed with the Padres for $300,000, but after an MLB investigation, it was revealed that Mateo had lied about his age. He served a suspension, and finally signed with the Mets in 2011 for only $150,000.

Mateo dominated the Dominican Summer League in his first pro season in 2011, making 13 starts (63 innings) and posting a 2.00 ERA. He impressed the Mets front office enough to skip the Mets’ rookie affiliates and head straight to short-season Brooklyn, where he would become the face of a very formidable pitching staff.

Mateo used a combination of two dangerous fastballs and a sharp slider to dominate the league, posting a 2.45 ERA in 73.1 innings and even more impressively, a K/BB ratio of 9.44. In those 73.1 innings, he struck out 85, and walked nine. You can make an argument that this is the result of a 22 year-old in the low-A New York-Penn League, which is why he’s not ranked in the top five on this list. Had he been two or three years younger, I would put much more stock in the numbers he put up, but until I see him dominate in the Florida State League or Eastern League, that uncertainty remains.

2013 Outlook: As long as Mateo keeps pitching well, the Mets will keep promoting him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he only makes a few starts with Savannah, or skips Savannah entirely like he did Kingsport.

9. Rafael Montero, RHP

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 175

Throws/Bats: R/R

Rafael_Montero

Rafael Montero transformed his reputation this year with a stellar season between Savannah and St. Lucie. Despite pitching 71 innings in 2011 with a 2.15 ERA between the Dominican Summer League, the Gulf Coast League, Kingsport, and Brooklyn, Montero wasn’t taken too seriously before the season started. In just a few short months, however, he became one of the highest-rated pitching prospects in the entire farm system.

Montero, 22,  signed a little late in the game as a 20 year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011, but has rocketed through the Mets’ system. Boasting a low-90s fastball, a solid slider, and a changeup, Montero has excellent command, walking only 1.4 batters per nine innings last season while striking out 8.1.

Montero has a special combination of control and pure stuff. It’s still early, but I expect we’ll see great things from him. He is one of many promising young pitchers working their way through the lower minors that could definitely be in the Met rotation in a few years.

2013 Outlook: My guess is Montero will split the season between St. Lucie and Binghamton (If he continues to pitch well) much like how he split the season between Savannah and St. Lucie this year.

8. Domingo Tapia, RHP

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 186

Throws/Bats: R/R

Domingo_Tapia

Domingo Tapia’s future role is still very much up in the air. Tapia, 21, had a breakout year last season with Savannah. Although his ERA (3.98) was slightly worse than his 2011 mark (3.38), he had a much better season. Tapia, whose repertoire consists of a high-90s two-seam sinking fastball, a high-90s four-seam fastball, a high-80s changeup, and a below-average breaking pitch, struck out 8.4 batters per nine, much better than his 5.8 mark in 2011. Despite having pitched just over 220 professional innings, Tapia already seems destined for the bullpen. He doesn’t have much of a breaking pitch, relying almost completely on his sinker and four-seam fastball. That combination has worked so far, but won’t work as he climbs the minor league ladder, especially as a starter. It may also be difficult for him to develop a breaking pitch considering how low his arm slot is. He is still very young, however, so there is still time for Tapia to develop a breaking pitch. Now the decision rests with the front office: to keep him a starter, they may have to raise his arm angle, possibly jeopardizing his sinker. The Mets will have to decide whether they will take that risk or move him to the bullpen.

2013 Outlook: The future is unclear in regards to Tapia. While scouts agree that he has a great sinker and a good four-seam, his role is still up in the air. As for this season, you’ll probably see him in St. Lucie.

7. Jeurys Familia, RHP

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 230

Throws/Bats: R/R

Jeurys_Familia

Last year was a bumpy one for Jeurys Familia. In 2011, it looked like he had finally started to put it together as a starter, pitching 23 games with a 2.90 ERA in 124 innings between St. Lucie and Binghamton. It looked like the mechanical issues were starting to get fixed and he was looking more and more like a starter. That changed this past season, as Familia regressed.

Familia was very inconsistent in his season with Buffalo. Every few starts, he would dominate and strike out seven or eight batters, but those starts were few and far between. For most of the season, Familia struggled with his control, worked up a high pitch count, and was unable to go deep into games. He has the stuff to be a good pitcher, but he doesn’t have the makeup of a starting pitcher.

Familia has what it takes to be a successful reliever, which is where I think he will eventually end up. The Mets will probably give him another year as a starter (unless they feel they really need him in the bullpen) to develop his breaking pitches. If he doesn’t stay a starter, the transition may take a few months but eventually, he could be the full-time closer and be a good one too.

2013 Outlook: A bullpen role seems most likely long-term unless Familia makes major improvements with his control and secondary pitches this year or in 2014. He will start the year in Triple-A and go from there.

6. Brandon Nimmo, OF

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 185

Throws/Bats: R/L

Brandon_Nimmo

The Mets took a big risk in 2011 when they drafted 18 year-old outfielder Brandon Nimmo out of Wyoming. Why was it such a risk? There is no high school baseball in Wyoming, so the only experience Nimmo had was on top-tier club teams in his area. That, on top of an injury in high school that caused him to miss an entire season put him at a disadvantage when making the jump to professional baseball. This season, after playing only ten professional games in 2011, made the jump to Low-A Brooklyn in the tough New York-Penn League, where many of the top college picks are sent. After a full season there, the numbers don’t stand out as those of a future star, but considering his experience in high school, his season was impressive. He batted just .248, but had a very high walk rate of 14.3%. He also displayed some power, hitting six home runs in 266 at-bats. His ISO (Explanation) of .158 was ninth best in the New York-Penn League. Among players under 20 years of age (with a minimum of 200 Plate Appearances), he was first in that category. He finished tenth in the league in homers, and was the only player under 20 in the top ten. However, he didn’t show much speed or hit lefties very well. Nimmo is someone who is still very inexperienced, so fans have to be more patient than usual with him. The front office will surely take it slow with him, as he is still a very raw talent.

2013 Outlook: The Mets will take it slow with Nimmo this season. He will probably spend the entire year with Savannah. It’s still too early to get a real sense of what type of player Nimmo will be, but the signs so far point towards Nimmo eventually becoming an average to above average major league player at worst. But again, it’s too early to make any conclusions (as is the case with any of these prospects) because he is a rather unconventional prospect.

And my Top 5…

5. Wilmer Flores, 2B, 3B

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 190

Throws/Bats: R/R

Wilmer_Flores

One year ago, Wilmer Flores was on the brink of irrelevancy. He had played 200 games in High-a Port St. Lucie, and hadn’t put up stellar numbers. His 2011 season was one with many ups and downs, and the statistics didn’t look pretty in the end. While he managed to hit a respectable .269 in 559 plate appearances, his on-base percentage was .309 – the second lowest mark of his minor league career. He had signed out of Venezuela as a 16 year-old in 2008 with very high expectations. He was supposed to become a hitting machine, and someone who could eventually become an elite power hitter. In his first season, playing in Kingsport, Brooklyn, and Savannah, he had a .180 ISO, and it looked as if the power was developing early. However, after that, the home runs disappeared and in 2011, he hit a low point, hitting only nine home runs in over 130 games for St. Lucie. His prospect status was in jeopardy. He fell out of the top 15 on many Mets prospect rankings. People started to wonder – what happened? That all changed this season.

Flores broke camp with St. Lucie for the second year in a row, but immediately started hitting the ball much better. He started hitting for power again, slugging ten home runs in 64 games. He had an excellent first half with St. Lucie, batting .289 with a .799 OPS, all capped off by an FSL All-Star Game MVP Award.

He was then called up to Binghamton, where he had a hard time adjusting in his first few weeks. After his adjustment period, he took off again, and hit even better than he did in St. Lucie. Flores continued to hit home runs, slugging eight in 66 games in the Eastern League. He also hit well over .300 for the first time since 2008. His walk rate rose to 7.3%, still below average, but almost a career-high for Flores, and his strikeout rate to its lowest point (10.9%) since he was in Kingsport as a 16 year-old. Between the two leagues, Flores finished with an even .300 batting average, a .827 OPS, 18 home runs, and 30 doubles in 493 at-bats.

What else is there to love about Wilmer Flores? He’s still just 21 years old. He still has plenty of time to get better. The only question mark left with Flores is his defense. He played second base and third base in the minors last year, after posting a dreadful .959 fielding percentage in his career as a shortstop. Flores is big, which may make it difficult for him to be a middle infielder. However, if the Mets want to keep him around, that’s where he may stay because it doesn’t look like Ike Davis or David Wright are going anywhere. If the Mets staff can get him to a point at second base where he is average or slightly below average, he will make up for his sub-par defense with production at the plate.

2013 Outlook: The Mets will not want to rush him (that has hurt him in the past), but Flores got a lot of playing time in the Venezuelan Winter League (in which he played well), so you could see him begin the season with Las Vegas. He isn’t too far off, and could get a cup of coffee at the end of September this year before making his real debut sometime in 2014.

4. Michael Fulmer, RHP

Height: 6’3″

Weight: 200

Throws/Bats: R/R

Michael_Fulmer

19 year-old Michael Fulmer has quietly become one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects. While most of the attention has gone to Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard, Fulmer is looking like he could be a fixture in the Met rotation as well.

Fulmer was selected by the Mets 44th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Deer Creek High School in Oklahoma. Originally slated to go to the University of Arkansas, the Mets took a risk drafting him, but he eventually signed with them for just under $1 million. He was only able to pitch in four games with the GCL team in 2011 before the season ended.

Fulmer was thrust into the world of professional baseball this year, starting the season with the long-season Sand Gnats of the South Atlantic League. The fifth-youngest pitcher in the league, Fulmer was at a bit of a disadvantage facing hitters older than him, but he still had major success. Armed with a mid-90s fastball to go along with a quality curveball and developing changeup, Fulmer made 21 starts, pitching a total of 108.1 innings. He posted a 2.74 ERA and struck out 8.4 batters per nine, while walking only 3.2, very good for a pitcher right out of high school.

Scouts have been very impressed with Fulmer’s stamina and ability to go deep into games. He has the physical ability to have success at the higher levels.

It’s still very, very early to project what Fulmer could be. He’s still developing, but all signs point towards him becoming a productive starting pitcher.

2013 Outlook: Fulmer will follow the traditional track, and will pitch for St. Lucie, probably for the whole season. He will make his debut sometime in 2015 if he stays healthy.

3. Noah Syndergaard, RHP

Height: 6’5″

Weight: 200

Throws/Bats: R/L

Noah_Syndergaard

When the Mets traded R.A. Dickey to Toronto, most of the attention went to a certain catcher the Mets got in return. But the Mets acquired another notable player in the trade, a pitcher who has been nothing but dominant in his three-year minor league career: Noah Syndergaard.

Syndergaard, 20, looks much more refined than most pitchers his age. He has much better command than Zack Wheeler had at that age (and maybe even better control than Wheeler right now), walking just 2.7 batters per nine this past season in the Midwest League, which is on the same level as the South Atlantic League. Since coming to the Mets, many writers and scouts have compared him to Zack Wheeler. Syndergaard actually pitched much better this season in A-ball than Wheeler did, as you can see below:

Syndergaard is often compared to Wheeler from a dominance standpoint, but they are two much different pitchers. Syndergaard throws two fastballs. One is a high-90s four-seam and the other is a sinker. Syndergaard does not possess a good secondary pitch, while Wheeler has a very good one.

Overall, it’s tough to compare Syndergaard to Wheeler because they are at completely different stages. Wheeler is knocking at the door to the big league club while Syndergaard probably has two to three years in the minors left before he debuts. However, it’s great to see such success so soon, and I’m hopeful that the Mets will put Syndergaard in a situation where he can develop his secondary pitches because if he does, he could be a very dominant pitcher.

2013 Outlook: Syndergaard pitched the entire season for a long-season Low-A team, so the next logical step for him is St. Lucie. As of right now, I would project him to make his MLB debut in 2015.

2. Travis d’Arnaud, C

Height: 6’2″

Weight: 195

Throws/Bats: R/R

Travis_dArnaud

There is a reason why in the negotiations for R.A. Dickey, Sandy Alderson held out for Travis d’Arnaud. He is a game-changer, and one of the few players in the minor leagues that can make trading away the reigning Cy Young Award winner worthwhile. d’Arnaud is of a rare breed of catchers: he can hit for power, average, and is decent with the glove.

A former first-round pick, d’Arnaud didn’t put all those tools together until two years ago, when he had a breakthrough season in Double-A New Hampshire. He had already been a highly-regarded prospect, but he became arguably the most promising catching prospect in the game after his fantastic 2011 season, in which he hit 21 home runs with a slash line of .311/.371/.542.

In 2012, d’Arnaud continued to rake with the bat, this time in Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit 16 home runs in 67 games. Hitting numbers are inflated by the hitter-friendly Cashman Field in Las Vegas, but d’Arnaud actually hit slightly in away games. The numbers are there. The power is there. d’Arnaud was on track to make his MLB debut in the second half of the season, but had his year abruptly cut short when, in July, he tore his PCL.

d’Arnaud has earned the praise of scouts around the country. Before last season’s excellent performance, Baseball America had him listed as 17th in their overall prospect rankings, tops among catchers. Here’s what they had to say about him:

“He’s a rare catching prospect that projects to hit in the middle of a lineup. He is an above-average hitter who should hit for at least average power. He doesn’t walk much but makes consistent hard contact, getting hits even when his timing is off or he gets off balance. He has the bat speed and strength to hit plenty of homers and lets his power come naturally, employing a short stroke and all-fields approach.”

Power at the catching position is certainly a valuable commodity that very few catchers possess. d’Arnaud seems to have that rare skill and while he is not expected to be a Mike Piazza-type, his minor league power numbers match up well with Piazza’s, meaning d’Arnaud’s power is legit:

darnaud graph

At minimum, d’Arnaud looks to be a serviceable MLB catcher, but he can be so much more than that. He has the tools to be a dynamic, all-around catcher who can hit fifth or sixth in the lineup. The only question that remains is health, but he doesn’t seem to have any long-term issues.

2013 Outlook: The Mets are in a situation that many front offices encounter every year. They really believe d’Arnaud is a future star. However, d’Arnaud breaking camp with the big league club in April would mean he becomes a free agent after the 2018 season. If he comes up later, however, he won’t become a free agent until after the 2019 season. It seems like a ridiculous thing to consider now, but down the road it will be something that really matters if d’Arnaud turns out to be the star people think he could be. For that reason, and to test out his injured knee, I would say he spends the first month or so with Las Vegas.

1. Zack Wheeler, RHP

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 185

Throws/Bats: R/L

Zack_Wheeler

When the Giants picked Zack Wheeler sixth overall in the 2009 MLB Draft, they were taking a player with enormous upside, but not very polished. In his first professional season a year later at age 20, playing in the South Atlantic League, Wheeler showed just that: a high “ceiling” but with work to be done. In his first season, he walked 38 batters over 58.2 innings, and struck out 70. He made 13 starts and appeared in eight out of the bullpen.

In 2011, Wheeler broke camp with San Francisco’s California League (A+) affiliate, San Jose. There, he was once again inconsistent. He pitched well, but couldn’t get over his control problem, and was walking 4.8 batters per nine innings. When the Giants needed a bat for the stretch run in 2011, they were reluctant to part ways with Wheeler because of his potential, but gave him up any way in a desperate move to bolster the offense at the trade deadline. And what looked

Once in the Mets organization, Wheeler’s command started to improve. He finished the year in the tough Florida State League, with Port St. Lucie. He pitched extremely well there, allowing just six runs in 27 innings and walking only five, setting him up for a Double-A debut in 2012.

After a productive ending to 2011, Wheeler picked it right up again, and steamrolled through the Eastern League. He made 19 starts, and had a 3.26 ERA in 116 innings. During his time in Binghamton, he kept his strikeout rate up (9.1 K/9) and his walk rate relatively low (3.3 BB/9), earning him a promotion to Triple-A Buffalo, where he finished the season. He struggled in his six starts at the next level with his command, but in a small sample size (33 innings) like that, it’s not much of a concern right now.

Wheeler Prospect snip

2013 Outlook: Wheeler has “ace” written all over him. With his electric fastball and very good secondary stuff, my guess is he will be very successful in the big leagues. Look for him to debut a few months into this season, unless the Mets are unable to acquire a fifth starter. He needs a bit more seasoning in Triple-A before he gets called up.

What do you think? What do YOUR rankings look like? Also make sure to check out MMO’s OFFICIAL top 25 prospects, but together by the brilliant Satish Ram (“Perseus”) and Sean Kenny.

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Schwinden Solid As Bisons Come Away With 5-3 Victory http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/08/schwinden-solid-as-bisons-come-away-with-5-3-victory.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/08/schwinden-solid-as-bisons-come-away-with-5-3-victory.html/#comments Sun, 26 Aug 2012 12:30:07 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=94275 Last night, the Bisons beat the Rochester Red Wings in Buffalo by a score of 5-3 behind a solid pitching performance by Chris Schwinden.

Schwinden took the mound looking for his eighth Triple-A win this season and looked to improve off his last start, when he allowed four runs in five innings. Last night was definitely an improvement for him. He allowed one run in the second on an RBI-single, giving the Red Wings a 1-0 lead. The next inning, he allowed two more RBI-singles, making it 3-0. That’s all that Schwinden would give up on the night, however. He held Rochester scoreless until he exited the game with two outs in the seventh inning.

Luckily for Schwinden, the Bisons had no trouble coming back in the game. Buffalo scored four runs in the bottom of the third. Fred Lewis and Zach Lutz both had run-scoring doubles. Then, Valentino Pascucci had an RBI-groundout. Matt Tuiasosopo capped off the four-run inning with a run-scoring hit of his own. That gave the Bisons a 4-3 lead.Then it was up to the bullpen to hold off Rochester.

After Andrew Carpenter finished off the seventh inning for Chris Schwinden, Valentino Pascucci gave the Bisons a little more breathing room, hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh, etending the lead to 5-3. Then, Garrett Olson took the mound in the eighth, looking to hold the Red Wings scoreless and keep the lead. He tossed a perfect eighth inning, giving the ball to Fernando Cabrera, who once again closed out the game, and earned another save.

Herd Rumblings: Schwinden was solid. He threw 69 of his 102 pitches for strikes and only walked one batter. He was pretty shaky on the big league level for the Mets, but has been fantastic for Buffalo this year. Lucas Duda didn’t play last night. He is going to join the team later today. Zach Lutz had two hits on the night, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored. Matt den Dekker was also 2-for-4. He also scored a run. Mike Nickeas had two hits as well, going 2-for-2 with a sacrifice. The Bisons play two today against Rochester, starting at 1:05. Zack Wheeler should start one of the games. He had a rough time in his last start and will look to bounce back later today.

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McHugh Goes Seven Strong As Bisons Defeat PawSox 2-0 At Fenway http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/08/mchugh-goes-seven-strong-as-bisons-defeat-pawsox-2-0-at-fenway.html/ http://metsmerizedonline.com/2012/08/mchugh-goes-seven-strong-as-bisons-defeat-pawsox-2-0-at-fenway.html/#comments Sun, 19 Aug 2012 13:00:08 +0000 http://metsmerizedonline.com/?p=93374

Behind a dominant performance by Collin McHugh, the Bisons squeaked by the Pawtucket Red Sox last night by a score of 2-0.

This game was a pitching duel all around. Playing at Fenway Park, each team sent two up-and-comers to the mound to start. And it was quite a duel. Buffalo got their first run of the game in the top of the second, when Brad Emaus drove in a run with a groundout, scoring Josh Satin on the play. That’s really all Collin McHugh and the Buffalo pitching staff would need.

McHugh shut down Pawtucket, scattering just five hits on the night over seven innings. He was throwing with great control, tossing 66% of his pitches for strikes. On top of that, he didn’t walk a single battle all night.

McHugh was solid all night long, but got an insurance run in the sixth when Josh Rodriguez homered, making it 2-0 Buffalo. But playing in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Fenway, even teams with dominant bullpens would be worried. Luckily for the Bisons, when Collin McHugh handed the ball over to the bullpen, they put in a stellar performance stellar.

Robert Carson entered to start the eighth. He walked a batter, but didn’t allow a hit. After he got two outs, Elvin Ramirez was called upon to record the final out of the inning. Then in the ninth, it was left up to closer Fernando Cabrera to seal it for the Bisons. He did just that, earning his 21st save of the season.

Herd Rumblings: Collin McHugh had a few bad starts when he first came up to Triple-A earlier this season, but has since been excellent. Over his last ten starts, he has a 2.59 ERA. In his last 12.2 innings, he has allowed just one earned run. On offense, it was a very unspectacular night for Buffalo, getting only six hits. Lucas Duda went 1-for-4. Matt den Dekker went 1-for-4. Josh Satin was 0-for-2, but walked twice and scored a run. Jeurys Familia will get the start this afternoon at 1:05 against Pawtucket, looking to build on his great performance on Tuesday, when he tossed seven shutout frames.

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