It was Military Appreciation Day at Tradition Field on Thursday night and I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make it out to Port St. Lucie to watch the St. Lucie Mets defeat the Charlotte Stone Crabs 2-0. The game was highlighted by solid pitching, speed and defense (yes, I know Luis Guillorme made a couple of errors) which led the team to victory.
Regarding the pitching, the night belonged to Chris Flexen. He had the opponents off balance all night, mixing up his pitches, hitting the corners, and allowing only one early hit the entire game. There were not a ton of swings and misses off Flexen stuff tonight but the hitters still looked overmatched and confused throughout. Not a lot of solid contact made by the Stone Crab hitters, and despite the minor mishaps by Guillorme the defense came up big in making all the routine plays.
The stadium radar gun was off so I couldn’t get a reading on the his MPH, nor could I even keep track of his pitch count. What I do know is that Flexen fought through each hitter, inducing many soft grounders and fly balls that were easily tracked down. His delivery looked consistent and I did not notice any wearing down even into the 7th before he was taken out. Oh, and I would like to mention ladies and gentlemen that yes there is a pitcher with a Mets uniform who consistently throws it in the dirt when ahead 0-2 and 1-2 in the count and his name is Mr. Chris Flexen. I look forward to keeping an eye on Flexen in the box scores throughout the season to see much he continues to progress.
As far as the hitting the number one guy to mention is the was the lead off man Champ Stuart. I watched a handful of games at Tradition field last year and this year, and tonight was the very best I have ever seen him. Champ worked ever single count like he was channeling his inner Curtis Granderson and drew three walks to go with a bunt single for the game. Perhaps he was at his best because in the stands (sitting next to me) was his very lovely girlfriend Jessica.
What I learned is that nobody works harder than Champ Stuart. He’s putting in the time, early and often, on the field and watching videos. Champ has the tools to succeed. He has the talent. He has the speed, solid defense, a strong arm and does have gap power at the plate. If he can continue to get stronger physically and perhaps just as importantly mentally, I think there can be a place for Champ and his plus plus speed at the higher levels.
On the night the box score showed walks and a hit, but what it doesn’t show is the line drives he was consistently hitting foul in multiple at bats throughout. I just notice him making more consistent contact this year than last. Again, with his speed, there’s simply no discounting how much havoc this young man causes on the bases. All four times he was on base there were numerous balls thrown to first and second for pickoff attempts. He became the main focus each time he got on those bases and that kind of distraction is a good kind. Overall it was his speed and patience at the plate that led to both runs coming in courtesy of the other offensive hero of the night Mr. Luis Guillorme.
In the first inning, Luis stroked an opposite field liner down the left field line, scoring Champ from first after his leadoff walk. Luis made contact all night, also showing off his speed and aggression by pulling off a solid bunt for a base hit and also an infield single to score the second run of the game.
My critique of Luis last month watching him was that he didn’t appear to be as aggressive as I would have hoped for offensively, but tonight he shut me up completely. He attacked at the plate the way he attacks in the field and showed a ton of spark and energy. Defensively, Luis showed off his amazingly quick hands and agility early and often in the game, including a highlight reel play for a putout rushing to his left to scoop a liner for an out. However, on separate occasions during the game Luis, on my vantage point, just seemed to have a couple of minor issues in the transition of the ball out of his fast glove and into his hands. All in all there’s no denying the talent defensively of the young Guillorme.
The only other Mets player to manage a hit on the night was Tomas Nido. I liked what I saw in the young catcher. He looks extremely aggressive at the plate. If its close to the strike zone, he’s taking a hack. Looked big and strong, had a nice solid opposite field liner for his hit in the game. He looks to have a pretty quick bat.
Mets super prospect AKA “The Future” (that’s how they announced him when a player announced the starting lineup and their nicknames pregame) Amed Rosario had a quite night offensively. He did hit into a double play to halt a rally but he also did not strike out. He certainly gave one a ride to deep center during the game. He continues to show an extremely quick bat without a lot of swing and misses these days.
Defensively, we got exactly what we could have expected, which was above average range, above average speed, and above average arm. Rosario made some of the putouts look so easy that it was hard to tell just have difficult they may have been during the course of the game to get those needed outs.
The one prospect I’m still waiting and hoping to see bust out offensively is switch hitter Jhoan Urena. He’s physically built, compact and strong. When he makes contact he hits it hard. My eye ball test seems to show that he looks stronger as a left-handed hitter than as a righty. But tonight I only got one look at him as a righty in the game.
The other pitcher to keep an eye on at the is Corey Taylor, the former 7th rounder who appears to now be entrenched as the closer on the St. Lucie Mets. Last month I watched Corey get robbed by the umps and having it cost him earned runs he didn’t deserve off a foul ball that was called fair. And pretty much ever since he has been close to untouchable, including tonight. I see him as physically imposing, tough and strong with a fastball I’ve previously seen inch close to the mid 90’s. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Corey promoted to AA level later this summer.
Unfortunately for me, Mets outfield prospect Wuilmer Becerra got the night off and didn’t appear at all in the game.