Tim Tebow

Does Tim Tebow Want to Be a Sideshow Or a Baseball Player?

While we can question many things about Tim Tebow, the one thing we seem to not be able to question is his mission in life to help others.  Time and again, we have not only seen him do charitable work, but we have also seen him take an active role in things rather than just being the proverbial person who does nothing more than cutting a check.  We heard about it again just the other day:

Not even the most cynical among us can find fault with Tim Tebow the Man as he raises $2.2 million for his foundation which does things to help the mentally and physically challenged.  No, there is no fault with Tebow the Man.  However, what about Tebow the Baseball Player?

We all knew the deal when Tebow first announced his intentions to play baseball.  By and through his celebrity status, he was going to get a chance to play professional baseball, a chance that not even some other professional athletes might have received.  An organization, like the Mets, would be interested in Tebow because he would not only be a positive presence with their young and developing minor leaguers, but he would be a revenue machine.

To a certain extent, he was likely Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own.  As Dugan would so eloquently put it, “It was made very clear to me what I’m supposed to do here. I smile, wave my little hat… I did that, so when do I get paid?”

Sandy Alderson has really made no bones about it.  On the topic of signing Tebow, Alderson said, “Look, we signed him because he is a good guy, partly because of his celebrity, partly because this is an entertainment business. My attitude is ‘why not?’” (Newsday).  While Alderson has recently touted Tebow as someone who could one day make the majors, it should still be noted, Tebow was never originally signed to make the majors.

To that extent, Tebow was signed to be a side-show of sorts.  People would pay the Mets money to watch the former Heisman Trophy winner try to play baseball.  They would cheer wildly when he hit that unexpected home run.  They would call and beg for his autograph.  They would be disappointed but not surprised when he made an error or struck out.

If Tebow wants more out of this experience, or experiment, it’s really up to him.

It’s incumbent upon Tebow to show he’s dedicated.  He needs to show us all he’s not just a side show.  He has to show us he is here to be the best baseball player he can possibly be.

While I understood this was a side show, I never doubted Tebow’s integrity in wanting to become a Major League player.  That is until now.

We can argue about his having an offseason job w0rking college football.  We can debate whether his charitable endeavors really stand in the way of him becoming the professional athlete he always wanted to be.

What we should be all willing to agree upon is if Tebow’s serious, he can’t be leaving Spring Training to do work for his charity.  Yes, it is amazing his charity raised $2.2 million.  However, shouldn’t we all ask why this didn’t happen a month or so ago?  This is his foundation, and as a result, you would think he had some say as to when the event would be held.  Someone who was truly interested in his baseball career WOULD NOT have HIS FOUNDATION’s charitable golf outing during Spring Training.

He just wouldn’t.

Then again, maybe Tebow was never truly interested in playing baseball.  Maybe he was just interested in keeping a high profile to help boost his charitable efforts.  In the end, there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, you could argue his willingness to subject himself to ridicule and to withstand the rigors of a minor league season with the end game of helping those in need makes him an even better person than we believed.

What we can’t argue is this means he wants to be a baseball player.  Real minor leagues with a real hope of making the majors don’t skip out on Spring Training.

Mets Signing Tim Tebow Better Decision Than Yankees Trading For Russell Wilson

With his football career over, and with him still being a young man, Tim Tebow shocked everyone when he decided he wanted to become a professional baseball player.  To a certain degree, you could say Tebow’s first season as a professional was a disaster.  In 126 games played, he would hit .226/.309/.347 with 24 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 52 RBI.  Now, you can argue there were glimpses like his hitting .260/.370/.390 in June, but most would likely dismiss that as one hot streak.

Despite Tebow’s struggles, his being a Mets minor leaguer last year should be seen as a success.  First and foremost, everywhere he went set attendance records.  As noted by ESPN, even before he played one game, his jersey sales were through the roof.  Say what you will, but this is a business, and if any team ever needed the money, it was the Mets.

But more than that, Tebow was there to leave an impression on the young Mets prospects.  That’s clearly a benefit as this is a person who has been able to conduct himself as a professional, has no off the field issues, and is someone willing to serve as a mentor to younger players.  This has value in the minors when you are teammates with players not too far removed from high school or college.

Fireflies teammate Bradon Brosher said of Tebow, “He does everything the right way.  He’s definitely one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. And I really respect what he’s doing.”  (New York Daily News).

Another teammate, Michael Paez said, “He’s the first one to pick us up and let us know we have so much to look forward to in the game and even in life.  He’s a great influence to have in there.”

Whether a direct result of Tebow or not, Paez certainly took off last season earning an All Star nod in the South Atlantic League.  At the time he was promoted to St. Lucie, Paez was the league leader in doubles.

In sum, we see the positives of Tebow at play, and yet, when the Mets do something like invite Tebow to Spring Training, the Mets are routinely mocked.

You know who doesn’t get mocked for stuff like this?  The Yankees, and they’re really much worse than the Mets when it comes to this stuff.

Years ago, they let a 60 year old Billy Crystal play in a Spring Training game, and now they have traded for Rangers “second base prospect” and Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. For his part, Brian Cashman justified the PR by basically saying the team looks forward to picking the brain of a Super Bowl champion.  (ESPN).

Fact is, Cashman is as right about the decision as the Mets were about Tebow.  Sure, both faced their fair share of jokes over it, but with the Mets being the Mets, and Tebow being Tebow, the jokes directed towards them will last longer than what we’ll see with Wilson and the Yankees.

But you know what?  There’s more virtue with Tebow and the Mets.  Tebow’s there for the grind, the hard part, and not just for a fantasy camp experience.  The Mets have brought in more than a yearly scheduled motivational speaker; they have a mentor.

We can all mock Tebow and the Mets all we want, but fact is, this is proving to be a mutually beneficial relationship, and it will prove to be better than any other publicity stunt any other organization can concoct.

 

Tim Tebow’s Babe Ruth Moment

Part of the legend of Babe Ruth was how he promised to hit a home run for a young boy in a hospital. The story became legend not just because it spoke to The Babe’s home run prowess, but also because it showed a softer side of him – how he always treated children kindly. Perhaps, it was because beneath it all, the godlike Ruth was a caring human being just like the rest of us. 

On July 29th, Tim Tebow had his Babe Ruth moment:

During the game, a young boy named Seth Bosch wanted to meet his hero, Tim Tebow. Seth is no ordinary boy. The nine year old is autistic, suffers from neurofibromatosis, and he has a tumor behind his right eye. 

Seth found his moment when he went from his seat to the front row and got Tebow’s attention. The St. Lucie outfielder stopped his warm-up swings from the on deck circle to go over to the netting and shake the young man’s hand. 

As if the story of one of the most recognizable athletes in the United States taking the time to shake the hand of a young fan wasn’t enough, he followed it up with a Ruthian opposite field homer. Understandably, Seth’s whole family was overcome with emotion.  As his mother said:

When Seth came back to his seat, he was crying.  And then Tim hit the homer. I started crying, too. How does that happen? I think God brought Seth and Tim together.  (Martin Fennelly, Tampa Bay Times)

These moments right here are what make the Mets signing of Tebow worth it. It’s the drawing new fans to the game. It’s his basic human decency to take time for a fan. It’s about an incredible moment you see once every other century. 

Most of us grew up dreaming of replicating our own Babe Ruth moment. We all stood at the plate and called our shot in the sandlot or our parent’s backyard. 

For Tebow, his Babe Ruth moment was shaking the hand of a young fan and going out there and hitting a home run. No, Tebow probably didn’t promise a homer like The Babe did, but that is of little difference to those of us who saw it happen. It certainly didn’t matter to the family who was overwhelmed with emotion by both the handshake and the homer. 

One Year Later: The 2016 Mets Draft Class

With the 2017 MLB Draft having begun and the Mets selecting David Peterson and Mark Vientos in the first two rounds, now is a good time to review the selections the Mets made last year and check-in to see how these players are progressing. The one thing that really stands out with all of these players is the inordinate amount of injury issues the Mets have had with these players over the past two seasons. Still, despite this, there are a number of players who have shown real talent and provide hope for the future for the Mets organization.

BIG STEPS FORWARD

2B Michael Paez, 4th round (130th overall)

MMN Rank 50

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 46 G, 201 PA, 179 AB, 18 R, 34 H, 11 2B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 8 SB, 6 CS, .190/.270/.285

2017 Stats (Columbia) 58 G, 236 PA, 199 AB, 30 R, 58 H, 20 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 7 SB, 4 CS, .291/.386/.503

Paez has shown the type of power that led the Mets to draft him. So far this season, he leads the Sally League in doubles, and he is top five in total bases. So far this year, he is easily having the best season out of all the 2016 draft picks.

RHP Austin McGeorge, 7th Round (220th overall)

MMN RANK 59

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-1, 2.84 ERA, 16 G, SV, 19.0 IP, 1.474 WHIP, 8.5 K/9

2017 Stats (Columbia & St. Lucie) 0-1, 1.84 ERA, 16 G, SV, 29.1 IP, 1.023 WHIP, 11.66 K/9

A hot start for McGeorge this year led to a quick promotion to St. Lucie where he has continued his dominance out of the bullpen. Whereas last year, left-handed batters hit well against him, he has become a platoon neutral pitcher. More than that, McGeorge is learning how to put batters away with a huge increase in his strikeout rate.

RHP Max Kuhns, 21st Round (640th overall) –

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-0, 6.28 ERA, 13 G, SV, 14.1 IP, 1.395 WHIP, 9.4 K/9

2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-0, 2.10 ERA, 17 G, 5 SV, 25.2 IP, 0.896 WHIP, 13.0 K/9

There is perhaps no Mets prospect that has shown more improvement than what Kuhns has shown this year. He has learned how to control his pitches, and more importantly, he has learned how to attack hitters. He has started to become the team’s primary option at closer, and he has been named a Sally League All Star.

INJURY ISSUES

LHP Anthony Kay, 1st Round (31st overall)

After he was drafted last year, it was discovered he needed Tommy John surgery. It is not likely we will see him pitching in the minor leagues until next season.

1B Peter Alonso, 2nd Round (64th overall)

MMN RANK 12

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 30 G, 123 PA, 109 AB, 20 R, 35 H, 12 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 21 RBI, CS, .321/.382/.587

2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 18 G, 71 PA, 68 AB, 3 R, 10 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI, CS, .147/.183/.265

Similar to Dunn, the Mets rewarded Alonso for an outstanding season in Brooklyn by having him skip Colombia and having him start the year with St. Lucie. Also like Dunn, Alonso has struggled this year. We have not seen the same power from him that we saw last year. It should be cautioned that may be the result of his having suffered a broken hand earlier in the season.

3B Blake Tiberi, 3rd Round (100th overall)

MMN RANK 47

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 56 G, 225 PA, 196 AB, 21 R, 46 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 24 RBI, 2 SB, 6 CS, .235/.316/.316

2017 Stats (Columbia) 5 G, 22 PA, 18 AB, 3 R, 3 H, 2B, 2 RBI, SB, .167/.318/.222

It is hard to glean anything from Tiberi as he had suffered a torn UCL requiring him to have season ending Tommy John surgery this May.

SS Colby Woodmansee, 5th Round (160th overall)

MMN RANK 40

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 64 G, 276 PA, 249 AB, 30 R, 64 H, 11 2B, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 4 SB, 3 CS, .257/.305/.325

2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 2 G, 8 PA, 7 AB, .000/.125/.000

Woodmansee was the standout shortstop in the New York Penn League last year. Although he cooled off after a hot start, he still showed enough to skip Columbia and begin the year in St. Lucie. Unfortunately, after his first two games, Woodmansee needed surgery to repair a core muscle tear, and he has been reassigned to Brooklyn.

RHP Colin Holderman, 9th Round (280th overall)

MMN RANK 68

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 1-0, 3.86 ERA, 13 G, 3 SV, 18.2 IP, 1.500 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-2, 4.60 ERA, 4 G, 4 GS, 15.2 IP, 0.830 WHIP, 9.8 K/9

After a promising start to begin the season, Holderman struggled, and eventually found himself on the seven day disabled list. The undisclosed injury has kept Holderman out since April 29th, and it is still unknown when he can return.

OF Jacob Zanon, 15th Round (460th overall)

MMN RANK 93

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 44 G, 184 PA, 157 AB, 19 R, 31 H, 6 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 20 SB, 2 CS, .197/.284/.287

2017 Stats (Columbia) 4 G, 13 PA, 8 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 3B, RBI, 4 SB .500/.692/.750

Zanon got off to a hot start showing the ability to not only get on base, but to utilize his terrific speed. Unfortunately, for the second straight season, he has not played a game since leaving an April 10th game after being hit in the helmet. While it is not known if it was related to the beaning or last year’s torn labrum, Zanon is on the seven day disabled list, and it is unknown when he can return this season.

UNEVEN PROGRESSION

RHP Justin Dunn, 1st Round (19th overall)

MMN RANK 6

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 1-1, 1.50 ERA, 11 G, 8 GS, 30.0 IP, 1.167 WHIP, 10.5 K/9

2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 4-3, 4.81 ERA, 11 G, 8 GS, 48.2 IP, 1.521 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

After a promising half season with Brooklyn, Dunn skipped Colombia and started the season with St. Lucie. Dunn struggled, and he was temporarily moved to the bullpen to help him figure things out. In his first start back in the rotation, he pitched five scoreless innings with no walks and seven strikeouts, which seems to indicate he’s back on track.

OF Gene Cone, 10th Round (310th overall)

MMN RANK 90

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 60 G, 261 PA, 229 AB, 35 R, 52 H, 6 2B, 3B, HR, 17 RBI, 9 SB, 4 CS, .227/.312/.275

2017 Stats (Columbia) 57 G, 249 PA, 209 AB, 32 R, 52 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, 22 RBI, 6 SB, 2 CS, .249/.361/.306

Cone has a refined approach at the plate, and he has the ability to get on base. However, at this point in his career, he is not hitting for much power. In order to progress further, he is going to have to start driving the ball more.

C Dan Rizzie, 13th Round (400th overall)

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 33 G, 126 PA, 105 AB, 10 R, 17 H, 3 2B, 3B, 8 RBI, 3 SB, 2 CS, .162/.286/.210

2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 19 G, 67 PA, 56 AB, 2 R, 9 H, 2B, RBI, .161/.284/.179

Rizzie has certainly lived up to his billing as a defensive minded catcher who struggles offensively. While he is sound behind the plate, his 28% caught stealing percent this year is disappointing for someone who’s calling card is defense.

LF Jay Jabs, 17th Round (520th overall) –

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 52 G, 200 PA, 175 AB, 13 R, 31 H, 6 2B, 3B, 12 RBI, 2 SB, 3 CS, .177/.275/.223

2017 Stats (Columbia) 30 G, 108 PA, 94 AB, 11 R, 18 H, 7 2B, HR, 14 RBI, .191/.296/.298

After struggling in the infield last year, he was transitioned to the outfield. It’s been difficult to find him playing time with a lot of players in Columbia who command playing time, Tim Tebow included, and the fact that he has not maximized his limited opportunities.

RHP Adam Atkins, 18th Round (550th overall) –

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-2, 3.71 ERA, 19 G, 17.0 IP, .471 WHIP, 11.6 K/9

2017 Stats (Columbia & St. Lucie) 1-0, 5.54 ERA, 10 G, 13.0 IP, 2.000 WHIP, 9.7 K/9

After struggling with St. Lucie to start the year, he was demoted to Columbia where he has pitched much better. While it was surprising Atkins had reverse splits last year with his 3/4 delivery, that has normalized this year with left-handed batters teeing off on him this year. Still, there is promise for him with him holding right-handed batters to a .188 batting average against in Columbia.

RHP Gary Cornish, 19th Round (580th overall)

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 0-0, 2.16 ERA, 14 G, 3 SV, 25.0 IP, 1.080 WHIP, 15.8 K/9

2017 Stats (Columbia) 1-1, 2.19 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12.1 IP, 0.982 WHIP, 7.3 K/9

After an outstanding season for Brooklyn last year, the Mets decided Cornish should be transitioned to the rotation. His start to the season was delayed as Cornish was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for amphetamine use. His is off to a strong start to the 2017.

2B Nick Sergakis, 23rd Round (700th overall)

2016 Stats (Brooklyn) 38 G, 167 PA, 143 AB, 21 R, 36 H, 10 2B, 2 Hr, 15 RBI, 11 SB, .252/.353/.364

2017 Stats (St. Lucie) 29 G, 107 PA, 90 AB, 15 R, 21 H, 8 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 4 SB, .233/.330/.456

Sergakis got off to a hot start to his professional career, but he soon fell off, and he became a part-time player. While he has made the most of his opportunities this year, he has not yet done enough to crack the starting lineup on a consistent basis.

YET TO PLAY THIS YEAR

RHP Chris Viall, 6th Round (190th overall)

MMN RANK 81

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 9 G, 6 GS, 20.0 IP, 1.750 WHIP, 12.2 K/9

The one thing that really stands out for Viall is his ability to strike out batters. A large part of that is his ability to get his fastball up to 101 MPH. In college, he split time between the rotation and the bullpen. For now, the Mets are keeping Viall in the rotation.  My interview with him can be found here.

LHP Placido Torres, 8th Round (250th overall)

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 2-2, 3.38 ERA, 13 G, 18.2 IP, 1.500 WHIP, 12.5 K/9

After a partial season pitching out of the bullpen, Torres will be used as a starting pitcher this year.

RHP Cameron Planck, 11th Round (340th overall)

MMN RANK 34

The Mets were prudent with this high school arm that they were surprisingly able to sign last year. He will likely being the season with one of the partial season affiliates come the end of the month.

RHP Matt Cleveland, 12th Round (370th overall)

MMN RANK 51

2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 12.27 ERA, 7 G, 7.1 IP, 2.455 WHIP, 2.5 K/9

The only thing we have learned about Cleveland is the pre-draft reports of him struggling with consistency and control proved to be true in his seven innings for Gulf Coast.

RHP Christian James, 14th Round (430th overall)

MMN RANK 86

2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 0.52 ERA, 14 G, 3 SV, 17.1 IP, 0.923 WHIP, 7.8 K/9

Labelled as a power pitcher, James certainly lived up to the billing with a dominant year with the Gulf Coast Mets.

RHP Trent Johnson, 16th Round (490th overall)

MMN RANK 98

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 0-3, 6.61 ERA, 14 G, 16.1 IP, 1.531 WHIP, 7.7 K/9

While Johnson’s stats looked ugly, it should be noted it was mostly the result of a terrible July. Those six appearances aside, he had a 2.70 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP. Essentially, he had a strong start and a strong finish which give you reason to believe the developing pitcher could still put it all together.

CF Ian Strom, 22nd Round (670th overall) –

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 37 G, 166 PA, 145 AB, 19 R, 33 H, 9 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBI, 9 SB, 4 CS, .228/.319/.317

Strom’s game is speed, and he best utilized it last year in the outfield where he was named Kingsport’s Gold Glover.

RHP Dariel Rivera, 24th Round (730th overall) –

2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-0, 2.79 ERA, 8 G, SV, 9.2 IP, 1.241 WHIP, 2.8 K/9

The 18 year old out of Puerto Rico is a project in terms of developing more consistency in every aspect of his game. Once he develops more consistency, we may be better able to gauge exactly what he could be for the Mets.

RHP Eric Villanueva, 30th Round (910th overall) –

2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-1, 6.97 ERA, 10 G, 10.1 IP, 2.323 WHIP, 4.4 K/9

Like Rivera, he is a project that needs to develop physically. The hope is that once he does begin to mature, his fastball velocity will increase from the low 80s towards the upper 80s or somewhere in the 90s.

LF Jeremy Wolf, 31st Round (940th overall)

MMN RANK 70

2016 Stats (Kingsport) 50 G, 206 PA, 183 AB, 31 R, 53 H, 12 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 33 RBI, CS, .290/.359/.448

Despite coming out of a Division III school, Wolf was seen as a polished hitter. He certainly proved that last year for Kingsport. Somewhat surprisingly, Wolf was not assigned to a full season affiliate. This may have been a result of him being blocked by Alonso and the Mets wanting to get another look at Dash Winningham at Columbia.

RHP Garrison Bryant, 36th Round (1,090 overall) –

2016 Stats (Gulf Coast) 0-0, 9.72 ERA, 7 G, 8.1 IP, 2.040 WHIP, 5.4 K/9

Bryant is a raw pitcher with some talent who for the first time this year will be solely focusing upon baseball. There is a possibility he could both harness and refine his pitches leading to him taking a big step forward this season.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on Mets Minors

 

2017 Mets Minor League Rosters Best of the Best

With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:

Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets

Starting Rotation: Andrew Church, Justin Dunn, Marcos Molina, Nabil Crismatt, Kevin Canelon, Chase Ingram, Thomas McIlrath, Joe Shaw

The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.

Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.

Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s

Bullpen: Paul Sewald, David Roseboom, Ben Rowen, Beck Wheeler, Erik Goeddel, Chase Bradford)

The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.

Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s

Catchers: Kevin Plawecki, Xorge Carrillo, Jeff Glenn

If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.

Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.

Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s

Infield – 1B Dominic Smith, 2B Gavin Cecchini, 3B Phillip Evans, SS Amed Rosario

When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.

Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.

Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies

Outfield – Desmond Lindsay, Gene Cone, Jacob Zanon, Tim Tebow

No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success

Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.

Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.

 

The Dark Knight Returns

With the injuries to both Steven Matz and Seth Lugo, the safety net was gone. Not only did Matt Harvey have to begin the year in the rotation, but he was going to have to be the Harvey of old to give the Mets a chance to fulfill their hopes of reclaiming the National League East. 

During Spring Training, that was far from a certainty. His velocity and confidence were all over the place. It was not until the end of Spring Training that Harvey began to look more like his old self. Still, when he took the mound on a cold wet night, there was doubt as to what we would be. 

Harvey was great. 

Now, it wasn’t quite the Harvey of old. He featured his two seamer more almost scrapping his four seamer. Instead of being in the upper 90s, he was sitting mostly at 94. He pitched more to contact than rack up the strikeouts. Still, his secondary pitches were there, especially his vaunted slider. With that, he might not have been the 2013 or 2015 Harvey, but he was still great. 

His only mistake was a thigh high fastball to Matt Kemp who deposited the pitch into the left field seats giving the Braves a 1-0 lead. 

In a rare sight for a pitcher who has historically gotten low run support, the Mets responded right away in the bottom of the fifth. 

Neil Walker finally got his first hit of the year. The red hot Jay Bruce followed with a single of his own. Both would score on Travis d’Arnaud‘s RBI double. 

It was a huge hit for d’Arnaud bot just because it gave the Mets the lead, but also because it was his first RBI off a left-handed pitcher since September 14, 2015. That’s not a typo – d’Arnaud had no RBIs off a left-handed pitcher last year. In what is a huge year for d’Arnaud, he got his first big hit. 

In the sixth, Wilmer Flores, who absolutely kills left-handed pitching, hit a two run homer right down the left field line off Jaime Garcia to give the Mets a 4-1 lead.

https://twitter.com/mets/status/850148178263408640 

Those four runs were enough for Harvey. Harvey lasted 6.2 innings allowing three hits, two runs, two earned, no walks, and four strikeouts. Two of his four strikeouts came in the seventh as he was pushing towards the finish line. He was then chased by Kemp’s second homer of the night. 

You honestly could not have expected more from Harvey. He was economical throwing just 77 pitches. He pitched to contact and enduced weak contact. He dominated. With that, the Mets rotation looks great again. 

Jerry Blevins got the last out of the inning before turning it over to Fernando Salas and Addison Reed.  Salas faced a bases loaded two out jam, but he was able to get out of it by striking out Swanson. 
There would be no save opportunity as the Mets added two in the seventh to make it a 6-2 game. Asdrubal Cabrera singled home Michael Conforto, who was hit by a pitch when pinch hitting for Blevins. Later in the inning, Reyes scored when Dansby Swanson threw the ball offline trying to complete a double play on the Yoenis Cespedes grounder. 

Game Notes: Jose Reyes got his first base hit after having started the year going 0-12. Flores got the start over Lucas Duda with the left-handed pitcher on the mound. Tim Tebow hit an opposite field home run in his first at-bat for Columbia

Cespedes Is A Dad Like The Rest Of Us

Year in and year out, the one thing you notice with Spring Training games is the stars rarely travel.  That goes double for when there are split squad games.  The bus travel during Spring Training is not ideal, and you really want to keep your best players both happy and healthy going into the season.

That is why I took a step back the other day when I saw Yoenis Cespedes traveled about an hour by bus with the Mets to Jupiter to play the Marlins in a split squad game.

Now, this wasn’t some interesting strategy that allowed Cespedes to get a look at some of the Marlins pitchers for the 2017 season.  It wasn’t even an opportunity for him to help find a spot for Tim Tebow in the Mets lineup at First Data Field.  No, it was for personal reasons for Cespedes that he made this rare trip:

In many ways, Cespedes has become almost a cartoon character with the Mets.  He’s a guy that is unstoppable at video game levels when he’s hot.  He’s the guy that had a car show at Spring Training last year.  He gave the keys to one of those expensive cars so someone could purchase the right waffle iron for him because as we know the biggest star on the Mets also makes breakfast for everyone.  He bought a farm, and he bought a pig at a State Fair.  He even rode horses one day at Spring Training with Noah Syndergaard.  To top it all off, he randomly decided to become the Lion King last year because why not?

Through it all, Cespedes has shown himself to be one unique individual, and that is why the fans love him.

Under all of that though, Cespedes is just a dad doing all he can do to make sure he can go watch his son’s baseball game.  Certainly, that is something all dads can appreciate.  It is certainly a trait we can all admire.  It is another reason that we can all root for Cespedes.

It’s Good That Tim Tebow Was Bad

When Tim Tebow took the batter’s box against reigning American League Cy Young Award Winner Rick Porcello, we could all guess what was going to happen.  Tebow struck out, and he didn’t look particularly good doing it.  In fact, Tebow didn’t look particularly good in any aspect of the game on Wednesday.  Overall, Tebow was 0-3 with a hit by pitch, two strikeouts, and a GIDP.  The only time he got on base via the hit by pitch, he was doubled off of first.

Simply put, Tebow did not look like he belonged out there.

Most Single A players don’t look like they belong out there either.  That is traditionally why most players in the lower levels of the minor leagues do not play until towards the end of the Spring Training games.  If you put a lower level minors player out there against the Porcellos of the world, they are most likely going to look bad up there.  Heck, major leaguers look bad at the plate against Porcello.  That’s partially why Porcello won the Cy Young Award.

However, with Tebow it’s different.  It’s different because of the attention.  Seriously, who gets a round of applause after they hit into a double play?  It’s different because Tebow has always been a lightning rod.  It’s different because Tebow decided to play baseball after not having played the sport in over a decade and after it was made clear his football career was over. As Terry Collins said, “What he’s attempting to do, not a lot of guys would even try.”  (Anthony DiComo, mlb.com).

It’s different because some people believe Tebow is taking someone else’s spot.

That last one simply isn’t true.  Minor league systems are full of “organizational guys” who are signed so each team can have enough guys to fill out a roster.  In terms of this Spring, Tebow wasn’t even the first prospect to get into a game.  David Thompson, Blake Tiberi, Luis Carpio, Kevin Kaczmarski, Luis Guillorme, Patrick Biondi, Wuilmer Becerra, Peter Alonso, Arnaldo Berrios, Gene Cone, John Mora, Colby Woodmansee, and Ricardo Cespedes are all Single A players who got into Spring Training games this year before Tebow.  Overall, Tebow’s presence has not prevented anyone from getting into a game that the Mets deem worthy of getting into a game.  Guess what?  There is no way the Mets are going to let Tebow get in the way of another more deserving prospect.  The Mets aren’t dumb.

For one day, Tebow went out there, and he didn’t look good.  He looked all the bit of the 29 year old player who hasn’t played a full season of baseball in over 10 years.  He looked outmatched, and he looked like he lacked the requisite instincts to play the game.  That’s a good thing.  Baseball is hard.  As the late great Jimmy Dugan once said, “The hard… is what makes it great.”

In reality, the only way Tebow could have made a mockery of baseball was if he went out there and went 3-3 with a couple of extra base hits.  Instead, the man struggled like he was supposed to struggle.  Now, like many who have struggled, it is incumbent upon him to dust him off and get better.  Tebow knows this better than anyone saying, “”There are a lot of things I have to play catch-up on.  It’s just, how fast can I catch up?”

If Tebow is willing to put in the work, he just might be able to catch up.  If he does catch up, he moves away from being a sideshow the Mets are profiting from to being a minor leaguer who is looking for his next call-up.

The Mets 2016 Minor League Season

Like the Mets, the minor league affiliates’ seasons are long over, and over at Mets Minors, organizational leaderboards are being compiled, and awards are being handed out:

Full Season Batting Leaders – statistically speaking Brandon Nimmo might’ve had the best year especially with him missing out on the Pacific League batting title by .001 points and him having the top OBP in the farm system.

Short Season Batting Leaders – Despite having had the shortest season, Peter Alonso might’ve had the biggest impact

Minor League Best Starting Pitchers – Statistically speaking, the Mets best minor league pitchers were P.J. Conlon, Thomas Szapucki, Harol Gonzalez, Ricky Knapp, and Andrew Church

Full Season Pitching Leaders – Naturally, the above-referenced pitchers were listed throughout.

Short Season Pitching Leaders – Gonzalez and Gary Cornish dominated for the Brooklyn Cyclones while Szapucki continued to show why he is becoming a big time prospect.

Here is how all the 2015 draft picks fared with Alonso and Justin Dunn as standouts.  And nowadays, you would be remiss without mentioning the fact that Tim Tebow homered in his first professional at-bat.

However, here are the bigger awards everyone is most curious about:

Position Player of the YearAmed Rosario with honorable mention to Dominic Smith

Pitcher of the YearP.J. Conlon

Reliever of the YearDavid Roseboom

As you saw this season, there were major contributors from the Mets minor league system this year.  If not for Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, Josh Smoker, T.J. Rivera, and others, the Mets may not make the postseason this year.  It is not only good to know the Mets minor league system has been this beneficial, but also that there is a significant amount of talent behind the players we have already seen contribute.

The Tim Tebow Arizona Fall League Disconnect

In case you missed it, and how could you, Tim Tebow played his first ever Arizona Fall League game for the Scottsdale Scorpions.  First, Tebow made headlines for just starting and batting seventh in the game.  Next, there was a buzz over what could be considered an impressive batting practice display:

Then he made headlines for face-planting while going all out trying to catch a flyball:

Lastly, he made headlines for praying over a fan seeking an autograph who had a seizure.  Boy did that spark controversy.  Some people called it a miracle.  Others will point out that most seizures do not last more than 90 seconds, and that, in fact, Tebow did nothing.  The latter crowd will point out how this only serves to further prove that Tebow is a distraction from what is actually happening in the Arizona Fall League.

And you know what?  They’re right.

If you are a Mets fan, you should be more interested in how Gavin Cecchini performed.  As you may already know, Cecchini is the Mets top major league ready middle infield prospect.  Depending on what happens with Neil Walker this offseason, Cecchini could very well find himself in the second base mix for next season.  Out of all the Mets prospects, his performance in the Arizona Fall League is the most important.  However, outside of a few well regarded minor league websites, you will not find much information on Cecchini’s outstanding 2-3 performance with three RBIs leading his team to victory.

There were also outstanding performances by potential future closer Corey Taylor, who outside of those who closely follow the Mets minor league system, most Mets fans don’t know much about him.

That’s also the point why Tebow’s detractors are wrong.

Look, Tebow is going to be a media circus no matter what he does.  If he played ping pong, he’d get more attention and marketing deals that Forrest Gump ever did.  Instead of football or ping pong, Tebow is playing baseball, and he is getting attention for his actions both on and off the field.

If most are being honest, they wouldn’t know when Arizona Fall League Games are being played or what the results of those games would be.  It is the main reason why the games are not carried on the MLB Network.  Another reason is most fans are consumed with postseason baseball, which is more than understandable.  If not for Tebow, there is a large group of some really terrific and hardcore baseball fans who wouldn’t even know the Arizona Fall League baseball games were beginning.  However, now with Tebow playing, everyone knows.  That’s a good thing because it allows a fan to check not just what Tebow did, but also what other players did in the game like Cecchini and Taylor.

More importantly, Tebow is benign.  Every team in baseball was sending a team of scouts and front office personnel to attend the Arizona Fall League.  They are not sending any more or any less because Tebow is there.  Teams have a vested interest in the Arizona Fall League because they not only want to see how their own prospects fare against the supposed other top prospects in the game, but it also allows them to see how the other top prospects up close.  You get to see how hard they work, and you get a better sense of what areas of the game they may need to improve.  You can also get a sense of how a particular player could fit into your organization.

So overall, Tebow dominated the headlines like he did in college and the NFL.  Like college and the NFL, Tebow brought more eyes to the game than would have been there in the first place.  Like his time in college and the NFL, professional scouts and front office personnel were not distracted by his performance.  Rather, they were still able to see what was happening with the prospects they believed had a brighter future as a professional player.

At the end of the day, whether or not Tebow had any impact on the man’s health or in the major leagues is still a mystery.  Depending upon your point of view, you probably already have a strong opinion on that in either direction.  Regardless of your point of view, you have to admit that Tebow drew your interest to the Arizona Fall League more than you would have had in any other season.  With Tebow drawing more interest to the sport that is a good thing no matter what your opinion is of him.