We’re fully into the “middle relievers who could be up in 2014″ section of this list. It’s not sexy, but these guys are potentially useful big league pitchers as soon as a few months from now. That proximity to providing big league value puts them ahead of higher upside players who might never see a day in the big leagues.
18 – RHP Jeff Walters
Acquired: 7th rd ’10 (Georgia)
Born: 11/6/87 (Orlando, FL)
2013 Rank: NR | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Walters jumps from unranked to the top 20 by virtue of AA success, a tick up in velocity in the last few years, and big league hair. He’s a sinker, slider guy who throws 92-94 with his fastball and can touch 96 on a good day. He can lose the strike zone when he overthrows, but when he’s calm, and spotting in the zone, His slider is mid-80s (82-86) and has the potential to be a plus offering. Truth time, Walters’ long, flowing locks did not really help him with this ranking, but they sure didn’t hurt.
He chatted with the Mostly Mets Podcast here.
2013: Hey, he set a Binghamton record with 38 saves and split the AA Sterling Award with Noah Syndergaard.
Dr. Pangloss Says: 8th inning guy
Debbie Downer Says: Not quite enough command to get big league hitters out regularly. Up and down guy.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: June/July 2014
19 – RHP Cory Mazzoni
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190lbs
Acquired: 2nd rd ’11 (NC State)
Born: 10/19/89 (Evans City, PA)
2013 Rank: 19 (2012: 10) | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Mazzoni projects as a middle reliever, potentially as soon as some time in 2014. His size, stuff and the fact that he has broken down under a starter’s workload suggest that Mazzoni’s future is in the bullpen.
Mazzoni is a three-pitch guy: fastball, slider and changeup that he throws with a split-finger grip. As a starter, his fastball was mostly 91-93, but he threw harder early and has shown the ability in the last few years to reach back and touch 94, 95 or even 96 for a given at bat.
2013: After two starts in April, Mazzoni had elbow neuritis that kept him out most of April. He made 11 more starts before he tore his meniscus in a July start and had season-ending arthroscopic surgery in August. When he was healthy, Mazzoni bumped his strikeout rate from 16% in AA in 2012 to 26% in 2013.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Backend starter, but more likely, a middle-reliever
Debbie Downer Says: Baseball nomad who splits the next six years between MLB and AAA for three or more franchises.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: 2014, if he’s healthy and there’s a need.
Noah Syndergaard made his second Spring Training start Saturday. He struggled to command his fastball. His line: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. He was 96-98 early and 95-97 over the course of his outing.
According to Michael Fenson in The Star-Ledger, Syndergaard threw 31 of 52 pitches for strikes – 59.6%. MLB average is 62.5%.
He threw just one changeup through the first two innings, but added “seven or eight” in the third inning. As Syndergaard put it, about Dan Warthen:
“I think he got a little frustrated with me because I had only thrown one changeup. And that’s something I really need to work on to make the next step to the big leagues — being able to locate my changeup, and being able to also work behind in counts. Just be a little bit more unpredictable — not so fastball-oriented. If you’re not throwing the changeup, or you can’t throw it for a strike, then hitters can just eliminate that pitch and they’re going to sit on the heater.” (Adam Rubin, ESPNNY.com)
Syndergaard’s own explanation for his walks focused on his mechanics.
“Just kind of started coming out of my delivery. Started doing too much… Opened up my front side, came out of my delivery. Just trying to do a little too much.” (Matt Ehalt, NorthJersey.com)
Ian Kinsler was impressed by Syndergaard’s curveball.
“He looked like he belonged out there, and he threw the ball well today. … He had really good velocity. He had a pretty good presence out there. He threw me a couple of curveballs for strikes. It was a good pitch. I don’t know where he is in his development or anything like that, but he threw the ball well today.” (Adam Rubin, ESPNNY.com)
Mike Vorkunov in The Star-Ledger goes long about Syndergaard. He tells the now familiar story of Syndergaard’s late high school growth spurt and velocity increase. Vorkunov attributes the beginning of Syndergaard’s Thor nickname to his photo in the weight room on Halloween. That’s surely wrong. We were using it around here all of the 2013 season (in April, May, and June, for example) and Daniel Wexler started using it in December 2012.
Oh, and his bunting looks, well, awkward (thanks Amazin Avenue).
At Baseball America, Ben Badler broke down the Mets’ 2013 international signing class at a level of detail only he can.
There’s a new name, so we’ll start with an excerpt on him:
RHP Scarlyn Reyes – $25,000 – “The Mets took a flier on an intriguing arm last February when they gave $25,000 to 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dominican righthander Scarlyn Reyes. By Latin American amateur standards, Reyes is already ancient, having turned 22 in November. Reyes also has a big arm, sitting at 92-94 mph, touching 97 and throwing a lot of strikes.
At his age, and with this scouting report, I’d expect to see Reyes stateside this year.
OF Ricardo Cespedes – $725,000 – “one of the youngest players eligible to sign last year… a 6-foot-2, 185-pound lefty with a loose, whippy swing and good bat path. …He’s around an average runner with good body control and a solid arm, so the Mets project him as a center fielder.”
C Ali Sanchez – $690,000 – “an excellent receiver with good footwork, quick hands and an average arm that plays up because of his quick release and accuracy. Scouts highest on Sanchez have seen him hit in games with a contact-oriented swing from the right side, though other scouts were more skeptical of his bat.”
SS Yeffry de Aza -$475,000 - “high-waisted frame at 6 feet, 170 pounds and generates surprising power at times….With an average arm and average speed, de Aza will get a chance to play shortstop, though scouts from other organizations thought he fit better at second base.”
SS Luis Carpio – - $300,000 – “Several teams were surprised the Mets were able to sign Venezuelan shortstop Luis Carpio for just $300,000 and felt he was one of the more underrated players in the 2013-14 signing class…. good athlete who does a lot of things well… good bat control, recognizes pitches.. at least a plus runner underway…will start out at shortstop and has solid hands, though some scouts feel he could end up at second base or center field…”
RHP Luis Silva – $275,000 – “ 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame….88-92 mph before July 2, Silva has since been up to 94. His changeup is advanced for his age and is ahead of his slurvy 74-78 mph curveball.”
- Former Met Colin McHugh writes about the anxiety of reporting to a new organization, driving an old car, but finishes optimistically with the pleasure it feels to “belong.”
- Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors, points out that the “Marlins gave up rights to Jose Fernandez’s age 26 season (2019) so he could throw five additional innings for them in 2013 (Apr 7 debut).” This is part of the reason that Noah Syndergaard will not start the season with the Mets. Even if he’s awesome in spring training, and basically MLB ready, he needs to spend two weeks in the minors (and make two or three starts) to give the Mets an extra year of control – which, if he’s as good as the team and fans hope – could be worth $20 million or more on the open market. Of course, he’d be arbitration eligible in that final season – the 2020 season -and perhaps making $10-$15 million. Even so, smart organizations do not piss away $5-10 million for one start from a guy who has never pitched in AAA as the Mets would if they started Syndergaard in the big leagues.
Rob and I discuss the first base battle between Ike Davis and Lucas Duda, the impressive prospects in Mets camp. We also kick off our NL East Preview with Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley on the Phillies.
You can rate, review and subscribe via itunes here.
Ike vs. Duda
Jon Niese injury
Young guns in camp
Bill Baer interview (14:35)
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (31:40)
- Mike Puma writes about Steven Matz in the Post.
Frank Viola, his pitching coach in 2013, explains that Matz needs to improve his curveball: “He’s got a two-seam, four-seam fastball and changeup that will challenge anybody — I’ll go to my grave with that one. The biggest thing he needs to do is get a consistent slide on his curveball and be able to repeat that. Once he’s able to do that and mix it up with the fastball and changeup, he’ll go fast.”
- Jeff Moore at Baseball Prospectus watched a few Mets farmhands – Dominic Smith, Amed Rosario, Dilson Herrera, Luis Guillorme and Gavin Cecchini and offered scouting notes. On Smith, who he notes is “physically developed”:
This is both good and bad for Smith. It’s an advantage now that gives him a leg up on low minor-league competition, but at six foot even, there’s not a ton of projection left in his body. He’s not physically imposing so much as he’s just solidly built.
With the bat, everything Smith does is smooth. He has a fluid left-handed stroke that stems from a quiet set-up and stance. He may struggle at first with quality breaking stuff (when he eventually faces some) due to an elongated weight-transfer that is as much lunge as it is a stride, but it’s a simple fix. He doesn’t need as dramatic of a weight transfer to generate power.
Smith’s power comes free and easy from the natural loft in his swing. He generates backspin without forcing it and the ball carries. Because he doesn’t have to swing hard to generate power, he is able to control the bat within the strike zone.
- Jake Seiner at MiLB.com looks at the ZiPs projections for rookie pitchers for 2014, and finds once again, that ZiPS really likes Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero.
- In the Times, Tim Rohan writes about L.J. Mazzilli’s day in camp on the minor league side. It’s almost less about Mazzilli than a standard minor league camp day.
- At MLB.com Anthony DiComo wrote a tear-jerking story about Anthony Seratelli and his close knit-family. Seratelli, trying to make the Mets and the Majors for the first time this year, lost his father in a tragic car accident three years ago, and his grandmother this year.
- More Minor Leaguers are suing their former teams and MLB for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. At Sports Illustrated, lawyer Michael McCann breaks down some of the players’ novel arguments and odds of success. Remember, the MLBPA only covers big leaguers and guys on the 40-man rosters. Curious aspiring lawyers can read the full amended complaint here.
- Former Mets statistical guy, Ben Baumer, who created the team’s analytics department, and is now a college professor, talked to Amazin’ Avenue.
- Frank Viola’s son Frank, who has been working on a knuckleball for a few years, signed with the Toronto Blue Jays where he will get to pick R.A. Dickey’s brain.
I’m not listing every minor leaguer’s line, only those that are notable, good or bad.
@ Washington Nationals 11, Mets 5 (In Viera, Radio Only)
CF Brandon Nimmo: 1-1. He’s having a very nice spring
2B Wilmer Flores: 0-2, 2 BB. Key facts here: he played second, and walked twice.
Jacob deGrom: 2 IP, 1 H , 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K. Nice
Cory Mazzoni: 1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 HR.
Oh dear. Terry Collins, as quoted by Adam Rubin at ESPNNY:
We like his stuff. Today was a bad day. He was flying open. Stuff was flat. This kid has got very good velocity. He didn’t have it today. But he’s come with some high recommendations from the people in the organization that this kid can be an absolute late-in-the-game kind of bullpen guy, because he’s got three quality pitches. Today they just weren’t working.
Miami Marlins 5, @ Mets 2 (on SNY)
Not much in the way of prospect pitching in this one, but at the plate Cesar Puello was 1-for-3 and hit a few balls hard.
In the first of two required votes, Tuesday, the Columbia City Council voted to approve a venue license contract and funding for a new minor league baseball stadium that will provide the anchor for the Bull Street Development, called Columbia Commons. The vote was 4-3. The second and final vote is scheduled for March 18. A WIST reported tweeted play-by-play from the meeting.
Hardball Capital, which owns the Savannah Sand Gnats, would put up $6 million toward construction of the park which is currently budgeted to be $35 million. The City will pay for the remaining $29 million with a hospitality tax bond, to be repaid over 30 years.
This might be a Mets issue and might not. The Mets’ Player Development Contract with the Savannah Sand Gnats runs through the 2014 season. The two parties can renew anytime. Once the season ends without an agreement, the Mets and Gnats would each be free to hunt for other partners (the Mets for an a-ball team, the Gnats for a MLB team.) A Gnats franchise moving into a new ballpark in Columbia, would be very desirable for a MLB team’s perspective which wants the best developmental environment (new training facilities, weight rooms, batting cages, clubhouses) and yes, fans for their prospects. The Gnats lease with the City of Savannah also expires at the end of the 2014 season.
More financial details from The State:
Freier also has agreed to contribute yearly to a $250,000 ballpark maintenance fund if the city’s income from the stadium does not generate the full $250,000. Further, he would pay up to $516,000 annually until the Bull Street project puts $60 million of property on the tax rolls, said Jeff Palen, the city’s chief financial officer.
The city also would keep all the ticket sales and advertising dollars at events that don’t involve baseball; half of the money from concessions at city-sponsored events as well as half the income from naming rights for the stadium.
Coladaily.com provides detail on the back and forth between councilmember Leona Plaugh, an opponent of the ballpark and Mayor Steve Benjamin, its leading proponent. “Plaugh wanted to delay the first vote on the stadium until April 1 to give staff time to execute a cost-benefit analysis on the venue. She also wanted to add a provision to the developer contract that would require Hughes to build 20 percent of residence properties in Columbia Commons as affordable housing.”
Consultant for the City, Rich Neuman of Brailsford and Dunlavey Consultants retorted that:
““I’ve never seen a cost/benefit analysis for a project like this.”
City manager Teresa Wilson told council that she has been unable to find an economist willing to do a cost/benefit analysis without knowing details of Hughes’ construction plans which he has yet to disclose.” (The State)
Building a stadium in Columbia for Opening Day 2015 will require approval on March 18 and a very brisk construction schedule. It is possible.
There are still a few scenarios in play ranked in rough order of likelihood in this author’s estimation:
- The Gnats leave Savannah for a new ballpark in Columbia for 2015.
- The Gnats leave Savannah for a new ballpark in Columbia for 2016 and sign a one-year lease in Savannah for 2015.
- IF the City of Savannah moves ahead with a new ballpark for the Gnats in Savannah, Hardball Capital would purchase another team and move that second team to Columbia for 2015 or 2016. Lynchburg in the Carolina League is for sale. Last month, the Savannah City Council, which has committed to an arena and arts center, did not sound very interested in building a new ballpark.
After the fun and promise of far-away toolsy outfielders like Champ Stuart and Ivan Wilson and young faraway arms, this list takes a turn towards the mundane and focuses on a series of guys who are likely to be Major Leaguers relievers.
#20 – LHP Jack Leathersich
Height/Weight: 5’11”/205 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd (UMass Lowell)
Born: 7/14/90 (Beverly, MA)
2013 Rank: 31 (2012 34 )| Stats
Why Ranked Here: The high-strikeout minor league reliever has a chance to be a solid Major League reliever.
Leathersich’s stuff is ok, but it plays up thanks to a deceptive delivery. Batters just do not seam to see the ball out of his hand from a short-arm delivery. He’s picked up many of his strikeouts up in the last few years, and upper level hitters might not chase or punish those kind of elevated offerings.
Leathersich added a tick to his fastball last year, sitting 91-93, touching 95 up from 90-92, 93 in Savannah the year before. He used to work with a curveball in the upper 70s, but had a tendency to pull it outside the strike zone against lefties.
2013: The move to AAA was a very tough one for Leathersich, who walked a batter an inning, and gave up more than a run an inning.
Leathersich had fairly dramatic reverse left/right splits in which he was better against righties than lefties in 2013.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A left-handed reliever who is effective against both lefties and righties.
Debbie Downer Says: A AAA reliever
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: 2014
#21 – RHP Luis Mateo
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs
Acquired: NDFA ‘11
Born: 3/22/90 (Nizao, DR)
2013 Rank: 14 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Mateo has a big league body, big league stuff, and had Tommy John surgery in June 2013, which continues a pattern of elbow trouble. If everything clicks, there’s an elite level reliever in here for a few years. This is not Mateo’s first brush with elbow trouble – his 2008 contract with the Giants was voided due to bone spurs in the joint.
First, the good. Mateo throws hard, sitting 92-95 mph, and can touch 96 mph. His slider, which he throws frequently, could be a plus big league pitch. I saw a raw changeup in the New York Penn League.
Now, the bad. Mateo will miss at least the first half of the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He threw only 11.2 innings in 2013. Even if he returns one year post-surgery, he will throw a very limited number of innings. It’s hard to see him surpassing 75 innings, and even that feels extremely optimistic. That means at 25 entering 2015 – his next full, healthy (ideally season), he will have thrown under 100 innings in the previous two years. He cannot get to a big league rotation from that spot. Rather, his future is in the bullpen.
2013: Mateo had a weird year, throwing only 11.2 innings over only four appearances, three in advanced-A and one in AA. His first start in A+, April 9 was sharp: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. Promoted to AA Binghamton, his first AA start was rough: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. He was diagnosed with an elbow strain immediately thereafter. He attempted to return in late May in advanced-A, and following a on inning, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K outing on June 2nd, shut it down for Tommy John surgery June two weeks later.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Very good MLB reliever
Debbie Downer Says: Aggressive mechanics prevent him from staying healthy long enough to cash in on his strong arm.
Projected 2014 Start: Disabled List
MLB Arrival: 2015
Most of the attention following Monday’s Spring Training game was focused on Zack Wheeler’s 2014 Spring debut and Curtis Granderson’s two homeruns. That’s sensible, if the Mets are going to be good in 2014, they’ll need big seasons from both of those two. How about the prospects that are unlikely to make the 2014 Opening Day roster, but could help the team at some point in the future?
- Brandon Nimmo looks terrific. He added 10 pounds of muscle for the second straight season, but said that in doing so, he has maintained his speed.
Monday, he ripped an RBI single to right on a hanging breaking ball.
In 2013, he was often content to work to the right-center and left-center field gaps. As a developmental matter, he needed to learn to use the whole field. Now, it’s satisfying to see him let his hands go, and show off good bat speed as he ripped the ball hard into right field. It’s encouraging.
Also of note: when Nimmo entered the game with Matt den Dekker and Cesar Puello, Nimmo played center and den Dekker shifted to left.
- RF Cesar Puello was 1-2 with a double. Again, he ripped a double down the leftfield line on a fastball. He can really hit fastballs.
- C Juan Centeno singled softly into left field. The left-handed hitter uses the opposite field well.
- Danny Muno played shortstop for the final two innings. He should have been charged with his second error of the spring on a grounder that snuck under his glove on a backhand attempt. It was the kind of play where a guy with quicker feet would have gotten closer to the ball and made for an easier pickup. He’s not really a shortstop; he played 17 games there in 2013 in AA and 18 games there in advanced-A in 2012. At this point, I do not think Muno can play short at a level required to be a big league backup. Given the Mets’ weakness at the position, this will be one of the things to watch in the next few weeks of Spring Training games.
- Erik Goeddel: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. I saw two pitches only, his fastball and curveball. The SNY gun had him 89-90 with his fastball and 72-74 on the curve, but I think the gun was light so add like 2 mph to each reading. Jonathan Villar took a belt-high fastball deep out to left, an opposite field shot.
- Jeff Walters: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K. Again the SNY gun had him 88-90 with a slider around 80. I think it was two mph slow for him too, making him more like 90-92, with an 82 mph slider. Walters was solid, coming into a bases-loaded situation after Vic Black walked them full and induced a groundout to end the threat with his slider.
- Chris McShane at Amazin’ Avenue talked to Mets’ VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul DePodesta about everything in the Mets farm. They discuss the Mets’ near-MLB ready pitching, Rafael Montero, Gabriel Ynoa, Luis Cessa, Marcos Molina, Domingo Tapia, Amed Rosario, Cesar Puello, Brandon Nimmo and the system moving forward.
His comment on Molina:
”super-good athlete, also repeats his delivery well. At the time, he had a nice little sinker, showed some feel for the baseball. But it wasn’t big power or anything like that. Since then, he’s continued to grow. Last year in the Gulf Coast League he was up to 96 miles per hour, typically pitching at 92, 94, has a feel for three pitches….We had some scouts who saw him during the course of the summer—amateur scouts—who told us that if he had been a high school player he would have been a first-round pick in 2013.
DePodesta also offered a theory on Tapia’s 2013 struggles: his armslot dropped and he struggled with his release point.
- Baseball Prospectus ranked all Major League franchises by their under-25 talent. Jason Parks and friends ranked the Mets 12th. The rankings suggest that the National League East is going to be very competitive in the coming years: as there are three teams in the top five: Nationals (#2), Braves (#3), Marlins (#5), and then the Phillies (#29) bringing up the rear.
- MLB.com has released an updated Mets Top Prospect list. The top five (and ten and 20) is now very consistent with my Composite Top Prospect List from BP/ESPN/BA.
- Jonathan Singleton of the Astros discussed his addiction to weed. Remind me why baseball suspends players for this?
- Cubs prospect Javier Baez, one of the top hitting prospects in baseball absolutely crushed this pitch oppo. It is vicious.