Tomas Nido

Five Prospects To Watch This Spring Training

The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves.  Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice.  With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder.  From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.

This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway.  Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:

RHP Tyler Bashlor

MMN Rank: 14

Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball.  He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors.  His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.

If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks.  In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie.  Those are unsustainable numbers.

Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day.  Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks.  If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.

LHP P.J. Conlon

MMN Rank: 24

For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever.  Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.

Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line.  Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.

However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter.  In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon.  More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.

RHP Corey Oswalt

MMN Rank: 12

Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters.  Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both.  As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.

2B Luis Guillorme

MMN Rank: 10

Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores.  If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.

At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder.  The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors.  To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle.  If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman.  Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.

C Patrick Mazeika

MMN Rank: 28

With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year.  While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.

Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t.  In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base.  What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.

What remains at issue is his defensive abilities.  It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough.  With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.

Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher.  Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.

Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future.  In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity.  If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN

Ghosts Of Mets Past And Present In Split Doubleheader

The Mets played two ends of a doubleheader against the Braves with vastly different results. 

When you look at the lineup on the first game, you can immediately guess which game they won and which one they lost:

  1. Nori Aoki
  2. Jose Reyes
  3. Brandon Nimmo
  4. Phillip Evans
  5. Dominic Smith
  6. Amed Rosario
  7. Juan Lagares
  8. Tomas Nido
  9. Chris Flexen

For his part, Flexen fought the good fight pitching five good innings allowing just one earned run. Then the sixth inning happened. 

Flexen would load the bases to start the inning including his issuing back-to-back walks to Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies

Josh Smoker would relieve Flexen, and he would allow all three inherited runners to score. The highlight (lowlight?) was Mets killer Freddie Freeman hitting a two run double. 
With the lineup the Mets had, this game was all but over. The base running certainly didn’t help that Tyler Flowers threw out Lagares and Reyes trying to steal a base. 

The Braves would score runs in each of the final four innings in the 9-2 blowout. The only Mets runs came off a Nido two run seventh inning double; his first career extra base hit. 

Things would go much better in the second game of the double header because Seth Lugo was great. 

Lugo pitched six scoreless innings allowing just two hits while walking none. He kept the Braves off balance striking out seven. 

He’d get all the run support he needed from Travis d’Arnaud who had another big night in what has been a big month for him. 

In the third, after Asdrubal Cabrera had an RBI groundout scoring Nimmo, d’Arnaud doubled home Lagares. The Mets 2-0 lead would become a 3-0 lead with a d’Arnaud eighth inning homer. 

It should be noted d’Arnaud was not the only Mets with a big game. Nimmo, who finally hit lead-off, was 3-4 with a run and a double. Matt Reynolds got the start at SS, and he was 2-4 with a double. 

The Mets needed all the room they could get because Jeurys Familia had an adventure in his second save opportunity since coming off the disabled list. 

After a Kurt Suzuki lead-off single, Familia made an error on a Freeman grounder to set up first and second with no outs. 

After a Jace Peterson RBI single and Matt Kemp RBI groundout, it was a 3-2 game with Peterson in scoring position. 

Familia then bore down, and he got Flowers to ground out to end the game. 

Between the two games, the Mets scored five runs. The runs were sufficient in the second half because the Mets had good pitching. That was a reason why the team was good in 2015 and 2016. For at least one night, you were reminded of those days. 

Of course, with them getting annihilated in the first half of the doubleheader, you were reminded why the Mets are terrible this year. 

Game Notes: Kevin Plawecki started at first base in the second game. With the Mets losing the first game of the doubleheader, they have officially gone the 2017 season without sweeping an opponent at home. 

Mets Are Younger But This Is Ridiculous

With the Mets selling at the deadline, we saw them call up young players to begin building for the future.  That meant players like Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis GrandersonAddison Reed, and Neil Walker were gone.  In their stead are young players like Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Jamie Callahan, Jacob Rhame, Gavin CecchiniKevin McGowan, and Tomas Nido.  

With that, you knew the team was going to be young, but his young?

Wow.  I expected a younger group, but not ones that were dressed up in rompers like my then nine month old son.

It seems that with the Mets recent youth movement, my son is closer to majors than I initially believed:

 

Cubs Maul Mets Again

Well, this game just shows how far the Mets have fallen. Last year, Seth Lugo caught Mets fans attention and the attention of Stat Cast people by striking out Anthony Rizzo on a nasty curveball. 

Tonight, Lugo wasn’t fooling Rizzo who was 2-2 off Lugo with a homer. 

For that matter, Lugo wasn’t fooling anyone. In three plus innings, he allowed eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits and one walk. 

Lugo’s outing wasn’t even the worst thing that happened that night. The worst thing that happened was Amed Rosario leaving the game with a hip pointer. 

It’s the second time this month he’s dealt with an injury. To put it as succinctly as possible, he’s now a Met just like Travis d’Arnaud, who to the surprise of no one left this game early with a twisted knee. 

As if it wasn’t depressing enough, the Mets continued some horrendous pitching out of the bullpen. 

In this series the Mets have made 17 pitching changes. It wasn’t until Chris Flexen‘s appearance today that a Mets reliever didn’t allow a run or an inherited run to score. 

It’s hilarious to think at one point in this game, the Mets were playing well and winning. After the top of the second, they lead 3-0. Even after the Cubs tied it at 3-3, the Mets responded immediately to go up 5-3. From there, the Cubs scored 11 unanswered runs in a 14-6 win. That sealed the Mets fate giving up 39 runs in this series, which is the most runs allowed in franchise history in a three game series. 

If you’re looking for a bright side, it’s Dominic Smith. He continued his good month of September going 2-3 with a run, homer, RBI, and a hit by pitch. 

Special mention should also go to Brandon Nimmo who was finally allowed to play. After sitting in the first two games, apparently because Terry Collins finally figured out he’s a left-handed hitter, Nimmo was 2-4 with a double and an RBI. 

Tomas Nido got his first major league base hit in the top of the month. It was an RBI single scoring Juan Lagares.  He then made the last out of the game trying to score from second on a Phillip Evans dribbler down the third base line. 
The catcher, who fell down, made an easy flip to the catcher, who easily applied the tag. It was a perfect way to end this series. 

Other than Smith, Nimmo, and Nido, the only highlight is this series is over. Soon, this season will be over. Once that happens, the Mets will then be obligated to build a team that will no longer play like this. Well, at least that’s the hope. 

Game Notes: Jay Bruce had a walk off hit in the bottom of the 10th to propel the Indians to their 22nd straight win. This only proves Bruce right. He’s gone from a bad to a good situation. 

Mets Uniform Assignments A Small But Interesting Issue

With the Binghamton Rumble Ponies season over, the New York Mets have called up top catching prospect Tomas Nido to serve as the team’s third catcher for the final few weeks of the season. Once he arrived in the clubhouse, he was issued the number 77. 

Now, it’s possible Nido selected the number himself as “his” number 7 was unavailable because it’s already being worn by Jose Reyes. However, the assignment of the number follows an odd pattern where the Mets typically have used number assignments to distinguish between top prospects and others. 

The most recent example was Phillip Evans being assigned 72. His number in the minors was 13, which is currently occupied by Asdrubal Cabrera. There’s a large chasm between those two numbers. 

That’s not the case for Amed Rosario (#1) or Dominic Smith (#22). They had the benefit of their Las Vegas numbers being available, and as such, they were given their numbers.

This is unlike former Mets first round pick Brandon Nimmo. Like Nido, he wore 7 in the minors. When Nimmo was called up last year, Travis d’Arnaud wore the number. Unlike, Nido or Evans, he didn’t get a number in the 70s. Instead, he was assigned 9. 

Later that season, Seth Lugo couldn’t wear 27 because of Jeurys Familia. He was given 67. The fact Lugo was removed from the Las Vegas rotation earlier that year was certainly of consequence. 

Robert Gsellman wore 24, a number mostly out of circulation to honor Willie Mays. The pitcher rushed to the majors was given 65. Chris Flexen had a similar rise this year. His 33 in St. Lucie wasn’t available due to Matt Harvey and his Binghamton 46 was worn by Chasen Bradford. Flexen was given 65. 
By the way Flexen was given that number because his 29 was already worn by Tommy Milone

Bradford’s Las Vegas teammate Paul Sewald is wearing 51 because the Mets have taken Keith Hernandez‘s 17 out of circulation. 

Now, this isn’t to say Sewald should wear 17, or that he didn’t select 51. Same goes for players like Bradford whose preferred number is being worn by a Major Leaguer. 

However, again, there is a real difference between saying no to 13 and assigning the number 72. It isn’t something the team did to Nimmo, but then again, he’s a well regarded prospect. 

The really own exception to this is  Travis Taijeron and his switch from 18 to 28. 

And Taijeron really is an anomaly unless you believe T.J. Rivera (#3) and Ty Kelly (#11) really wanted to wear 54 and 56 because Curtis Granderson and third base coach Tim Teufel already had their uniform numbers.  Really, it’s not likely. 

No, the truth of the matter is the Mets are really only inclined to allow a prospect to pick their own number upon a call up to the majors unless they’ve already been deemed a top prospect. 

Look, we know Rosario is a better prospect than Rivera ever was. Likely, Rosario will be a much better player. Still, that does not mean Rosario gets to pick a number, but Rivera shouldn’t. They’re both New York Mets. They should be treated as such. 

Overall, this is far from the biggest issue with this team, but it is an issue nevertheless. It shows why certain players get chance after chance after chance while those that produce have to continue to reprove themselves. The reason is because the Mets seek confirmation bias rather than results. 

Want to know which players are which?  Just look at the uniform numbers. 

Eleven Mets Minor Leaugers To Protect In An Expansion Draft

In the NHL draft tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights will be drafting players from each of the other 30 NHL rosters.  There is a provision that players who have less than two years of service time are automatically protected thereby not making a team choose between a significant player and a huge prospect.  It does beg the question about what would happen if that provision were removed.

Better yet, what would happen if teams were forced to protect just 10 of their best prospects in an effort to permit the new team to stock their minor league system.  If the Mets were put in the position to select eleven players with under two years service time, who should they select?

1.   SS Amed Rosario

By any account, Rosario is among the top prospects in all of baseball if not the top prospect.  He has more than justified that billing this year.  Through 69 games, Rosario is hitting .325/.368/.479 with 15 doubles, four triples, seven homers, 48 RBI, and 12 stolen bases.  He’s great, and there is no circumstance in which the Mets should even think about losing him to another team.

2.   1B Dominic Smith

The Mets have been aggressive promoting their 2013 first round pick through the minor leagues.  Last year, he was the youngest player in the Eastern League.  This year, he has been among the youngest in the Pacific Coast League.  Through it all, he has held his own, played a terrific defensive first base, and is developing power at every stop.  He is the first baseman of the future for a team who will likely lose their current first baseman at the trade deadline or free agency.

3.   RHP Justin Dunn

Last year’s first round pick has terrific stuff, and he showed it off last year.  While he struggled this year, he has been better off for those struggles.  Since being demoted to the bullpen to help him find himself, Dunn has gone 3-1 with a 0.86 ERA and an 8.1 K/9.  When you have a player that struggles and improves this much, this is a player you make sure to keep.

4.  RHP Robert Gsellman

Gsellman started last year pitching in Double-A, and he finished it helping pitch the Mets into the postseason.  He’s had an up and down 2017 season, but he has shown flashes of his tremendous talent.  He is just 23 years old, and he still has the stuff he did last year when he posted a 2.42 ERA in eight games.  With a better infield behind him, which we should see with a Rosario promotion, we will likely see a return of the stats we saw last year.

5.   SS Andres Gimenez

The 18 year old dominated the Gulf Coast League last year showing off his skill set that had him one of the highest regarded international free agent signings in 2015.  He has skipped short season ball and held his own during his 37 games for the Columbia Fireflies.  He has a good bat regardless of position.

6.   LHP Thomas Szapucki

Szapucki is potentially a top of the rotation starter with a mid to high 90s fastball and a very good curve ball.  He used that to be completely dominant in rookie ball.  After an injury to start the year, he has just returned from the disabled list, and he is rounding into form.

7.   CF Desmond Lindsay

The man dubbed as the “Offensive Machine” when he was drafted has certainly taken off lately.  While he struggled to start the year, he has adjusted to the Sally League, and he has begun dominating.  Since June began, he has been hitting .333/.400/.694 while playing a good center field.  It seems he may have put his leg issues behind him, and he is taking the next step.

8.   C Tomas Nido

After years of struggling at the plate, Nido broke out last year winning the Florida State League batting title.  After a slow start to the season in Double-A, he is once again showing he is as complete a catcher as they come hitting .300/.353/.483 with 10 doubles, four homers, and 22 RBI in his last 32 games.  He is proving last year was no fluke, and he is the Mets catcher of the future.

9.   RHP Marcos Molina

Despite missing a year due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets believed enough in Molina to add him to the 40 man roster.  They were right to do so.  In five starts for St. Lucie, he was 2-3 with a 1.26 ERA, 0.767 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.  That has earned him a promotion to Double-A and a clear path towards the major leagues.

10.  RHP Seth Lugo

With spin rates, we know Lugo’s curve ball is the best in the majors.  He has used that to help propel him not just to the majors, but also to have success in the majors.  In addition to that, he has a fastball he can get into the upper 90s when he needs a big out.  He used this repertoire to help pitch the Mets into the postseason last year.  He has used it again this year to be effective in the rotation upon his return to the rotation from his elbow injury.

11.  LHP Anthony Kay

The Mets have long wanted him.  After failing to sign him out of high school in 2013, they made him their second first round draft pick last year.  That is because he has a fastball he can get into the upper 90s with a promising curve ball and change.  Like many college pitchers, his arm was abused by his coach, and he has suffered an injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  He should be able to bounce back and be the pitcher the Mets have long thought he could be.

In the above list, the Mets have lots of pitching talent, but that would also leave a lot of pitching talent exposed.  If the Mets went this route, they could lose a Harol Gonzalez or Jordan Humphreys, both of whom are having terrific years.  There is also the potential position player cost.  Brandon Nimmo and Gavin Cecchini are both former first round picks who are close to being regulars at the major league level.

Even if you were to make some amendments to the above list, you are still going to leave a very talented player exposed.  This speaks to the depth of the Mets farm system that the Mets continue to improve with each draft and each international signing period.

Eight Players The Mets Should Protect

With the NHL having their expansion draft tonight, each of the pre-existing 31 teams will sit and wait to see which one of their players will be selected to became an inaugural member of the Vegas Golden Knights.  With the Golden Knights being required to select one player from each NHL team, each franchise is going to see a player depart their franchise.

Occasionally, there have been discussions MLB will expand.  Whenever that happens, each MLB team will have to go through the same exercise each NHL team just did.  If that were to happen, it would be interesting to see exactly who each MLB team would protect.

In terms of the NHL draft, teams can protect somewhere between eight to 11 skaters and one goaltender depending on who the team decides to protect.  Given an NHL has a maximum roster size of 23 players, the 8 – 11 paradigm is a good framework for a potential MLB expansion draft.

Assuming MLB lands upon eight players, it would be interesting to see who the Mets decided to protect.  Now, where the Mets are lucky is players with less than two service years are automatically protected.  As such, Amed Rosario, Dominic Smith, Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman, and any other young player you would consider protecting are already protected.  With that in mind, here are the eight players the Mets should protect should such a draft take place:

1. RHP Noah Syndergaard

Arbitration Eligible: 2018
Free Agent: 2022

Last year, Syndergaard emerged as the ace of the Mets staff with a repertoire that has never been seen by a Major League Starting pitcher.  He has a fastball that tops off at 100 MPH and a slider that he can throw in the mid 90s.  He also has a swagger on the mound, and he gets up for the biggest games.  Again, like Cespedes, this is a no-brainer even with his lat injury this year.

2.  LF Michael Conforto

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

Conforto has been around for only three years, but it has been a whirlwind.  In 2015, he was a budding superstar.  In 2016, he had a wrist injury, struggled, and was demoted to Triple-A multiple times.  In 2017, he has emerged as an All Star.  Even with a rough June, there’s reason to believe in Conforto being a budding superstar, including but not limited to his ability to hit left-handed pitching.  Conforto is a foundation piece and should be the Mets right fielder for decades.

3. LF Yoenis Cespedes

Remaining Contract: 3 years $87.5 million

Given the fact players with no trade clauses must be protected in an expansion draft, the Mets would be required to protect Cespedes.  Even if that wasn’t the case, the Mets need to protect Cespedes.  He’s been a superstar with the Mets hitting .286/.354/.565 with 56 homers and 146 RBI since joining the team.  More than that, he puts fans in the seats.  You have to protect him at all costs.

4.  RHP Jacob deGrom

Free Agent: 2021

After an injury riddled year, and some ups and downs this year, deGrom has rediscovered himself, and he’s back to pitching like an ace.  That is evident with his being the National League Pitcher of the Week last week.  We also saw what deGrom was made of during the 2015 NLCS when he outpitched both Clayton Kershaw and Zack GreinkeThere are only a handful of the pitchers on the planet that can do that, and when you have one of them, you don’t let them go.

5.  LHP Steven Matz

Arbitration Eligible: 2019
Free Agent: 2022

When Matz is healthy, he has the potential to be an ace.  Before his bone spur issues arose in late June last year, Matz was 11-3 with a 2.58 ERA, 1.167 WHIP, and an 8.9 K/9.  In his return from season ending surgery, he has pitched well lasting seven innings in both of his starts.  Overall, when he’s healthy, he’s terrific, and he’s not someone you part with so easily.

6. RHP Jeurys Familia

Free Agent: 2019

When you consider the Mets bullpen is in shambles, and they are going to have to rebuild it in totality, the Mets need to keep Familia at all costs.  It is also important to keep in mind that despite his injury this year, Familia has been an absolute work horse for the Mets with his making the most appearances out of the bullpen and pitching the most innings from 2014 – 2016.  If the medical reports are promising, there is every reason to believe Familia can return to being that pitcher again.

7.  C Travis d’Arnaud

Free Agent: 2020

There is every reason to leave him unprotected.  He has regressed in most aspects of his game, and he had yet another stint on the Disabled List this year.  Still, d’Arnaud is a good pitch framer, who still has offensive upside.  Before injuring his wrist, d’Arnaud was hitting .270/.357/.541.  While his stats have dropped precipitously, his .223 BABIP suggests d’Arnaud is due.  More than that, there’s really no better options available.  The catching across Major League Baseball is on a downturn, and you need someone to bridge the gap until Tomas Nido is ready.

8.  3B David Wright

Remaining Contract: 3 years $47 million

As noted above with Cespedes, the Mets would have to protect Wright due to his no trade clause.  Even without it, there is a case for keeping Wright.  Wright is the team captain, and he is the guy you want leaving an impression on Rosario and Smith when they get to the majors.  His contract is insured, so if he can’t play, you can reallocate the money.  More to the point, could you possibly imagine Wright in another uniform?  Me neither.  Is this all a stretch?  Sure, but fact is Wright will remain with the Mets until he finally decides it’s over.

As with any decision like this, there were hard choices.  Matt Harvey has been a cornerstone of the Mets rebuild, but his injuries and impending free agency, you’d be forced to expose him.  Zack Wheeler has had a strong return from the Disabled List, but even before he was injured, he was 18-16 with a 3.50 ERA, 1.339 WHIP, and a 100 ERA+ in 49 career starts.  In 2017, he has not appeared to be more than that.  That coupled with the rise of Gsellman and Lugo as well as other pitchers in the Mets farm system, you could very well expose Wheeler.

Overall, the hypothetical player that would get taken from the Mets roster would be damaging.  That includes Juan Lagares, who is a Gold Glover that showed some promise this year, but still has a terrible contract.  That also includes Wilmer Flores who still doesn’t quite have a position.

With all that said, it does speak to the talent Sandy Alderson has brought to this organization that the Mets could lose one of the aforementioned players and still have a team that could compete for a World Series next year.

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.

 

Is There Still Hope for Kevin Plawecki?

When the Mets and Rene Rivera avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $1.75 million salary, it was an indication Rivera was going to return to the Mets as the backup catcher.  This also means the former supplemental round draft pick Kevin Plawecki is likely going to start the 2017 season as the starting catcher for the Las Vegas 51s.

Based upon the 2015 and 2016 seasons this is where Plawecki belongs as he has proven he is not yet ready to be a major league catcher.  In 121 major league games, he has hit .211/.287/.285 with four homers and 32 RBI.  Last year in AAA, he hit .300/.348/.484 with eight homers and 40 RBI in 55 games.  These were not outstanding numbers, especially for the Pacific Coast Leauge, but they represented a marked improvement over what Plawecki has shown in the majors.

At this point, the question is Plawecki destined to be a major league player, or is he a AAAA player like Eric Campbell, who just signed a deal to play third and hit cleanup for the Hashin Tigers.  The fact is with Plawecki turning 26 this February, it is still too early to determine.  However, we have seen some good things from him to believe that he still can be a major league catcher.

While it was once believed Plawecki’s true value was as an offensive catcher, he has established himself as a good major league receiver.  In his two years with the Mets, Plawecki has rated as a good pitch framer.  Additionally, while the advanced stats for catchers are flawed, Plawecki has posted an 8 DRS in his brief major league career showing he is above average defensively behind the plate.  This is impressive when you consider he has only thrown out 25% of base stealers as a major leaguer.

For the sake of comparison, Rivera has a reputation as a very good defensive catcher, and he has a career DRS of 12.  On a per inning basis, Plawecki has established himself to be the better defender.  However, it should be noted that Rivera has had more success throwing out base runners with his career mark of 36%.  What has held Rivera back in his career has been his bat.  In parts of eight major league seasons, Rivera is a .213/.264/.332 hitter who averages three homers and 15 RBI a season.

Looking at the data, it could be argued that right now Plawecki is actually a superior player to Rivera right now.  However, it should be pointed out Rivera is a 33 year old journeyman catcher.  When the Mets drafted Plawecki in the 2012 supplemental round, they were certainly hoping for more than just a journeyman catcher.

Ultimately, it will be Plawecki’s bat that decides whether he will be a journeyman, a career backup, or a bona fide major league starting catcher.  Before he was called-up to the majors, many believed Plawecki would hit.  For example, before his first call-up in 2015, The Sporting News stated:

Plawecki is a solid, reasonably polished hitter who should be an adequate contributor on offense. Overall, Plawecki has solid plate recognition, a consistent swing path and good raw power. He opts for contact over power in game settings, which will help his average but can result in weak contact on pitches he should be trying to drive.

Others felt that Plawecki had the potential to be an offensive force in the majors with, “One talent evaluator who has seen Plawecki likes as a solid everyday catcher in the majors, with enough power to hit 15-20 home runs a year.”  (Mike Vorkunov, nj.com).

However, that is not the Plawecki we have seen in the major leagues.  As a major leaguer, Plawecki has shown a tenency not just to pull the ball, but also to hit an exceedingly high rate of ground balls.  Moreover, he infrequently makes hard contact.  In today’s day and age of shifting, this has led to a number of easy ground outs to the left hand side of the infield.  As a result, we see Plawecki with a low batting average and a minuscule slugging percentage.

However, the talent is still there.  It is also important to remember really has not gotten sufficient time in AAA to develop.  In fact, he only played in 57 games at the level before he was rushed to the majors due to a Travis d’Arnaud injury in 2015.  As we saw in 2016, when he got an extended stretch of 55 games in AAA, while working with hitting coach Jack Voigt, he began getting on base more consistently and driving the ball more often just as he had done earlier in his minor league career.  At a minimum, this extended stay in AAA showed Plawecki still has promise.

Only time will tell whether Plawecki will be able to hit at the major league level.  However, in his career, we have seen he has the ability to hit.  More importantly, we have seen he has the ability to be a good catcher behind the plate.  Ultimately, Plawecki has a future in the major leagues due to his strong work behind the plate.  Accordingly, despite his early career struggles, Plawecki still has value.  Therefore, it is way too soon to give up on Plawecki.

With that said, he is going to have to show the Mets something sooner rather than later before the team justifiably moves on from him.  The Mets have d’Arnaud at the major league level, and Tomas Nido is not too far behind him.  This means that sooner or later Plawecki is going to have to do something in AAA or the majors to show the Mets he deserves one more chance to show he can be more than a journeyman.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Minors.

White Sox Are Selling What The Mets Need

With the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox setting baseball’s hot stove fully ablaze with a blockbuster with the Red Sox obtaining Chris Sale in exchange for uber prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech.  With this trade, the White Sox have unofficially announced they are rebuilding and are now willing to trade away every piece of value.

What is surprising is that a White Sox team that was under .500 last season actually has a number of good pieces.  In fact, they have a number of pieces that would be quite enticing for the New York Mets.

For starters, the White Sox have David Robertson.  Robertson is enticing not just because he is a good closer, and the Mets face the possibility of losing Jeurys Familia to a lengthy suspension in 2017.  He is also enticing because he pitched very well for Yankees, and has pitched well for the Yankees in the postseason too.  A pitcher who can pitch well in pressure situations in New York should always be of interest to the Mets.

The White Sox also have a very good left-handed reliever in Dan Jennings.  In 2016, left-handed batters only hit .217/.316/.337 off of him.  Overall, Jennings was 4-3 with a 2.08 ERA in 64 appearances.  He’s even more attractive as a trade target when you consider he’s under team control until 2020.

Perhaps the most impressive reliever in the White Sox bullpen last year was Nate Jones.  Jones made 71 appearances in 2016 going 5-3 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.892 WHIP, and a 10.2 K/9.  He is a sinker/slider pitcher that can throw the ball over 97 MPH that would thrive in the Mets organization.  He has a reasonable contract going forward with provisions in the deal that protects his team against arm injuries.  Overall, he will make $3.95 million in 2017, and he is under contract until 2021.

Offensively speaking, the White Sox have Adam Eaton who is a career .384/.357/.428 hitter who has averaged 28 doubles, nine triples, 10 homers, 50 RBI, and 16 stolen bases a season in his three years as an everyday player.  At 27, he is coming off his best offensive season where he hit .284/.362/.428 with 29 doubles, nine triples, 14 homers, 59 RBI, and 14 stolen bases.

In the field, it has been a mixed bag for Eaton.  He has averaged a 0 DRS and a -4.7 UZR in center.  Best case scenario is he is an average center fielder.  More likely, he is below average at the position.  Eaton will make $4 million next season, and he has an additional two years $14.4 remaining on his contract.  There are reasonable team options for $9.5 million and $10.5 million for the 2020 and 2021 seasons respectively.

Finally, because everyone is interested in the Toms River, NJ native, the White Sox also have Todd Frazier.  On a positive note, Frazier has proven that he is able to hit for power away from the Great American Ballpark.  In fact, Frazier’s 40 home runs this season were a career high.  These home run totals to mask the fact that Frazier is a career .225/.302/.464 hitter who has seen a steady decline in his batting average and OBP over the past three seasons.

Defensively, Frazier has been a good third baseman, but he did have a slight dropoff this season as per UZR and DRS.  In addition to third base, Frazier has played some first making him a versatile infielder.  That would be important for a Mets team that arguably has injury concerns at every position in the infield.  Frazier is third year arbitration eligible, and he will be a free agent in 2018.

Understandably, Mets fans covet one if not all of these players.  The issue becomes what are you going to be willing to give up for anyone of these players who not only suits a need for the Mets, but is also cost controlled?  Judging from the haul the White Sox obtained in the Sale trade, the team is wisely extracting the most possible value for its players.

While nothing has been reported, it is likely the White Sox would look to obtain players like Michael Conforto, Justin Dunn, Robert Gsellman, Steven MatzTomas Nido, Dominic Smith or really any big prospect the Mets have in exchange for any combination of the aforementioned White Sox players.  At some point during trade discussions, if they were to take place, the questions is ultimately going to be whether trading a significant part of the future would be worth a player of Robertson’s or Eaton’s caliber.