Lefty pitching prospect Steven Matz is hot

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Thursday, in his third start of the 2014 season, and his second straight against the Fort Myers Miracle, LHP Steven Matz took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The only two hits he allowed all night were a bunt single and a bloop into right. His pitching line: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K and 11 groundball outs.

In three starts this year in St. Lucie, Matz has allowed five runs, four earned in 18 innings for a 2.00 ERA. He’s struck out 17 and walked only three, on his way to a 24 percent strikeout rate and a 4 percent walk rate. For reference, in 2013, in the South Atlantic League, he struck out 29 percent of opposing hitters and walked 9 percent.

Matz Delivery ST (Getty)Last week, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen compared Matz to Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw. There’s obviously some hyperbole in comparing a pitcher in advanced Single-A with the best lefthander in baseball over the last five years, and one of the game’s top five pitchers overall, but his excitement is understandable.

Add St. Lucie Pitching Coach Phil Regan to the chorus of Matz fans. Earlier this week, in a phone conversation, Regan said of Matz,

He’s got a perfect pitcher’s body. He’s throwing the ball 95-97 miles an hour with a pretty good breaking ball and changeup. That’s pretty good.

After his first start against the Miracle, on April 11, in which he limited Fort Myers to three runs, two earned in six innings, with six strikeouts, Regan reported that his old friend and former big leaguer Doug Mientkiewicz, who is now managing Fort Myers told him after the game:

“Boy, tall left-hander, throws like that, and he gets everything over. We weren’t going to do much with him.”

Matz relies on his fastball and changeup, as his primary off-speed pitch. He told MiLB.com that those were working for him Thursday.

“My command was there. I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. My fastball and changeup and the contrast between the two was really working for me, and I was able to keep them down and in the zone.”

Over the course of the last few years, he has gone back and forth over whether his breaking ball was a slider or a curveball. Now, after tightening up the break, it’s a true curveball and he can throw it for strikes. Regan again,

“It’s got a sharper break. Now it’s a definite curveball. The nice thing is that he’s getting it over.”

Matz has been generating enough groundballs to damage the Florida State League’s infield grass. Thursday, at one point, he induced seven straight groundouts. His ground out to air out ratio for his three starts is now 28-5.  Overall, his 60 percent  groundball percentage is fourth among qualified pitchers in the FSL.

In the larger picture, Matz, my pre-season No. 7 prospect, who will be 23 years old after Memorial Day is off to a great start. He’s well on his way to pitching for the Double-A Binghamton Mets for most of the summer. His promotion might even come in the month of May if the B-Mets have a rotation opening. Generally, top pitching prospects under Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta have made at least eight starts in advanced Single-A before moving on.

PitcherGames in A+Age
Jacob deGrom624.8
Luis Mateo323.1
Steven Matz322.9
Rafael Montero822.5
Matt Harvey1422.3
Zack Wheeler2221.9
Noah Syndergaard1220.8

Age is the player’s age at the time he was promoted from St. Lucie to Binghamton, except for Matz where age is his age today.

The timing on Mateo and deGrom’s promotions were each driven by injuries in Double-A. Mateo was only supposed to be making a spot start in Double-A last spring, filling in for Cory Mazzoni, but Mateo strained his elbow during the start and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery. After Mateo was hurt, the Mets promoted deGrom from advanced Single-A to take Mazzoni/Mateo’s spot in the rotation.

So, if there’s a need in Double-A, Matz could move soon. Otherwise after another 5-7 starts, he might just force the Mets to make room for him in Double-A anyway. From Double-A, Matz, who is already on the Mets 40-man roster, could be looking at a big league debut as soon as 2015.

Hot/Not on the Mets Farm

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Let’s skip the Tax Day jokes and get right to it: who’s had a hot first week and a half, and who’s had a lousy first week and a half in the Mets Farm System and prospect world. Remember, it’s early. Also, it’s really early.

Triple-A
Hitters
HOT
Bobby Abreu:
.478/.556/.609. He’s  11-for-23 with 4 2B, 4 BB and 3 K in his nine games. The opt out in his contract is April 30, so either the 40-year old will be a Met soon, or he will move on.
Eric Campbell: .295/.392/.545, 5 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 5 K – 11 gms. Despite a few games at second earlier this year, he’s not a second baseman. He played shortstop Monday night. He’s not a shortstop. Instead, he’s more of a LF/1B/3B type three corner reserve. This is not totally aberrant, he ran a .910 OPS in 120 games for Vegas last year.
28-year-old Zach Lutz has a .500 OBP in his first 12 games and 26-year-old.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a .500 slugging percentage thanks to two doubles and two homers. And is now headed to the big leagues to take Juan Lagares’ roster spot.

NOT
Cesar Puello has a .317 slugging percentage (thanks to two extra-base hits – both doubles) in his first 12 games.
In eight games, 22-year-old INF Wilmer Flores is hitting .184/.225/.184 with two walks against six strikeouts. Early on in past years, Flores has attacked early count fastballs and put them in play for hits. Later, as he got more comfortable, he would see more pitches. Not so much here, yet.


Pitchers
HOT
LV_MonteroRafael Montero has a 18/3 K/BB ratio in his first three starts and took a no-hitter into the sixth his last time out.
Jacob deGrom allowed one earned run in his first two starts.
NOT
Josh Edgin: 4.1 innings of relief and 5 runs allowed with a 3/4 K/BB ratio
Erik Goeddel: 3.1 innings of relief and 6 runs allowed with a 2/8 (!) K/BB ratio



To read more of this story, click here

Jacob deGrom is off to a good start

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Mets RHP prospect Jacob deGrom has allowed just one earned run, seven hits and three walks in 11 innings this season for Triple-A Las Vegas. He has struck out 11 of the 43 hitters he’s faced.

It has been reported that deGrom, 25, may be considered later in the season to help in the big-league bullpen.

He was added to the team’s 40-man roster last November.

DeGrom’s power two-seam sinker (92-96 mph) and good command will get him to the big leagues. He’s lean and long and the velocity comes relatively easily for him. He added a curveball to his repetoire in 2013 to complement his slider and changeup. If he can get two of those pitches to MLB average, he can be a starter. Otherwise, the Mets hope that they found themselves a nice, hard-throwing reliever in the 9th round of the 2010 draft.


Screen shot 2014-04-15 at 11.08.17 AM


The Mets added deGrom to the 40-man roster in November, 2013 which makes promoting him to the big leagues that much easier.

It’s early yet, but compare deGrom’s performance in a number of key categories in AAA in 2013 versus 2014.

ERAIPHBBSOBB%SO%GB%TBF
13 PCL4.6475.678724637.319.043.6331
14 PCL0.821173117.025.665.543

DeGrom ripped through the system in 2013, moving from advanced Single-A to Double-A after just two starts in April. After four starts for Binghamton, the Mets moved him to Triple-A for a spot start on May 6. After a decent, but not dominant, six start run in Double-A from May 9-June 9 (4.79 ERA, 30/12 K/BB and an opponents’ batting line of .310/.364/.465 in 157 PA) the Mets moved deGrom up to Triple-A where he made 14 starts with a 4.52 ERA and a seven  percent walk rate against just a 17 percent strikeout  rate. In a world in which MLB starters strike out 20 percent of their opponents, deGrom’s 17 percent strikeout rate in 2013 in Triple-A was a red flag. Yes, some sinker ballers have had success with low strikeout rates, but deGrom’s groundball rate of 43.6 percent in Las Vegas was just a tick above the league average of 43 percent.

A former college shortstop at Stetson, who pitched relatively little, deGrom’s professional career got off to a slow start. He strained his UCL in 2010 when he was with Kingsport in the Appalachian League. Initially, he opted to attempt to rehab it, rather than go straight for Tommy John surgery. However, eventually, he went under the knife which cost him the entire 2011 season. While rehabbing in Port St. Lucie, he met one Johan Santana, who helped teach him the two-seam fastball. He unleased the two-seamer on professional hitters for the first time in the South Atlantic League in 2012, earning a mid-season promotion to the Florida State League.

My preseason #16 prospect, I don’t think the projection on deGrom has changed that dramatically, yet.

DeGrom and his power sinker could help the Mets bullpen in short order. However, if his secondary offerings take a step forward this year, the Mets might keep him stretched out in the minors to give him a better chance to start in the big leagues.

The Farm Cannot Help Replace Bobby Parnell Yet

parnellThe bad news: Bobby Parnell is going to have Tommy John surgery, and is done for the 2014 season. The good news: none. The bad news: the Mets farm system cannot offer a Parnell replacement right now. Instead, the Mets bullpen is going to have to muddle along with the pieces they have for now. (At right is an old picture of Parnell from his AA days.)

The Mets of course, have already replaced Parnell on the active roster with Kyler Farnsworth, outrighting Ryan Reid to triple-A Las Vegas, removing him from the 40-man roster in the process.  That means for the short-term, it’s all about righthanders Jeurys Familia, Kyle Farnsworth, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres and Jose Valverde and lefties Scott Rice and John Lannan, a man with no career platoon splits, miscast as a situational left-hander.  There is risk nearly everywhere in this group. Farnsworth and Valverde no longer throw as hard as they once did. Scott Rice appeared in 73 games in 2013, in his rookie year, more than 15 more than in any of his 14 (!) minor league seasons. Gonzalez Germen and his marvelous changeup are probably not going to strike out 3 out of every 8 opponents.

What can the farm offer now, and in a two months? Crucially, these are different questions.

Bobby Parnell was the Mets’ best reliever in 2013. Losing him will hurt.

 

Now
The AAA Las Vegas bullpen features: righties Giancarlo Alvarado, Vic Black, Joel Carreno, Ryan Reid, Miguel Socolovich, and Jeff Walters and lefties Josh Edgin and Dana Eveland.

Black and Edgin are the two guys to watch for here.

- Black’s spring training control problems have continued in Las Vegas as he walked two batters in his only appearance so far. Scouts who saw him in Spring Training were also concerned that he did not create enough contrast with his pitches. “Everything was hard, his fastball was hard, his breaking ball was hard” one NL evaluator told MMiLB. Over short outings thats ok, as long as he can locate, which he has struggled to do. The smart bet here is that Black and his 98 mile an hour fastball will be back in the big leagues as soon as he starts throwing more strikes.

- Josh Edgin’s velocity dipped in July of 2013 from its 2012 peak. As a guy with only so-so command, he will either need to find the velocity or improve his command. He’s still left-handed and throws hard enough, if he had a better idea where it was going.

- Jeff Walters, the reigning Binghamton saves record-holder has found AAA to be tougher going so far. He picked up the always fun blown save/win combo on Sunday when Zach Lutz doubled home the winning run. He gave up four runs on five hits, including a homer, in his first outing. After striking out 27% of opposing hitters in 2013 in AA, Walters has not fanned any of the first 13 to face him in 2014. Yes, it’s only two outings. But those two outings do not scream: Big League Ready!


. (Audio courtesy Doug Greenwald, Fresno Grizzlies)

- Erik Goedel gave up a couple of runs Saturday to Fresno, as he transitions back to the bullpen fulltime.

 

Later
Fan favorite, LHP Jack Leathersich was sent back to AA in 2014 to improve his command. So far, it’s more of the same with lots of strikeouts and lots of walks: 2.1 innings, 13 batters, seven strikeouts and three walks.

 

There’s something inherently silly about citing less than a week’s worth of stats for any player, or two outings for a reliever. And yet, none of the preceding four pitchers looked ready to help the Mets in Spring Training. None helped their case in the season’s first week.

 

Two Months?
Lets fast forward two months. Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have all been healthy and effective in the AAA rotation. They have made 10-12 starts, and thrown ~60-80 innings. These are the guys who are supposed to help the rotation this year, and in the case of Thor and Montero, become cheap building blocks in future seasons.

But lets proceed. Lets say the rotation is intact. But the bullpen needs help. With 80 innings under their belt, the Mets could transfer one guy, say deGrom or Montero to the bullpen and still get him enough innings that he could transition back to a starting role in 2015 or even later in the year. (Scouts are still split on whether deGrom should be a starter or reliever long term.)

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs found that on average, teams need 32 starts from pitchers beyond their five most frequently used pitchers. Montero, deGrom and Syndergaard need to be ready to provide these innings. Fine, include Daisuke Matsuzaka for completeness here too.

The Mets cannot and should not move any of these three to the bullpen now, or before June. Moving them too early takes away valuable development time this year and cuts into their innings which will affect their ability to work without innings caps in future years.

 

Hang With Em
The hope? Edgin rediscovers his lost mph and tightens up his command. Vic Black throws more strikes. Goeddel turns back the clock to his UCLA days when his fastball and slider were plus pitches. Jeff Walters figures out more advanced hitters.

There are lots of potential paths to bullpen help, but all have twists and roots that could knock one off balance. There is no easy paved road to a bullpen savior.

Rafael Montero – Strong on Opening Night and Closer than You Think

Rafael Montero easily turned in the top pitching performance by a Mets farmhand on Minor League Opening Night (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K).

Pitching Coach Tom Signore, filling in for Frank Viola was impressed:

“That’s the way Rafael does business. He was amazing. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is always good. He’s going to make you put it in play or he’s going to strike you out.”

Signore thought that the four hits Montero allowed were solid offerings:

“He really didn’t [make mistakes with those pitches]. I’m looking at the spray chart right now and those were pitches that were down and hit on the ground. We’ll take our chances with balls hit on the ground, especially here in the thin air.” (Josh Jackson, MiLB.com)

 

Old friend Doug Greenwald, longtime Fresno Grizzlies broadcaster added, “command of the fast ball.  Excellent control.  Sets up hitters well using his slider.  Gets ahead of hitters.  Very poised.  Made the pitches when it counted.  Didn’t seem to overthrow.”

 

It’s one start. But it was a very nice start to the 2014 season.

One thing to keep in mind about Montero; he made 16 starts in AAA in 2013, and with his 2014 debut, he’s up to 17 starts and 94.2 innings in AAA. He is now comfortably in the range of AAA experience that the previous two Mets starting pitching prospects  - Matt Harvey in 2012 and Zack Wheeler in 2013 – had when they were called to the big leagues. Compare the AAA tenure of the three hurlers.

GSIPTBFERAK%BB%TBF/IP
Matt Harvey201104733.6823.710.14.30
Zack Wheeler1368.672913.72259.34.24
Rafael Montero1792.673842.85226.54.14

At first, I was going to skip ERA because the three pitchers pitched in different run environments, but it’s still worthwhile enough, and Montero performs extremely well in the comparison. All of Harvey’s 20 starts were with Buffalo in the International League. Wheeler made 13 starts in Buffalo in 2012 and six with Las Vegas in 2013. Montero has done all of his work in the Pacific Coast League.

Montero has the best control of the group. He has been the best of the three hurlers at actually keeping runs off the board. He’s walked the fewest batters. And he’s worked the most efficiently, seeing the fewest batters per inning of the group.

Of course, Montero also trails Harvey and Wheeler in perhaps the most important rate category: strikeout rate. The other two have bigger fastballs and fan more batters. They have more pure stuff.

Montero is just about ready to be a Major League starter. While the Mets bullpen has been bad through the first three games of the 2014 season (a 10.61 ERA, second-worst in the Majors), there is absolutely no reason to move Montero to the pen. First of all, it’s three games. Rather, the nature of pitchers and pitcher injuries suggest that Mets will need another starter at some point in the not too distant future. At that point, Montero will have the AAA experience to warrant a big league look.

In baseball in 2014, with a team as budget-conscious as the Mets, it is impossible to discuss promoting a player from AAA to the big leagues without a nod to the finances. Players become free agents after six full seasons in the big leagues. If the Mets keep Montero in AAA for another week – past April 11, he cannot pick up a full year of service time in 2014 and the Mets would control his rights through 2020. If they call him up in May or June, they run the risk of his achieving Super Two arbitration status where he would have four years of arbitration eligibility instead of three. That could cost the team roughly zero – $15 million depending on Montero’s efficacy in the big leagues.

Montero is not coming to the big leagues in the next week. But anytime after tax day, when the Mets have a rotation need, Montero will be ready. The Mets could bring him up to help the bullpen, but if they do so, they must keep him stretched out so that he can return to starting when the need arises.

 

Vic Black vs. Gonzalez Germen

Vic Black ST HeadThe Mets optioned Vic Black to the minors Wednesday, which opens the door for Gonzalez Germen to make the roster.

Black’s delivery relies on a very unusual glove tap, which complicates his timing, and this spring was messed up. In the Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond explains that Black’s tap might well have saved his career.

Black had a lousy spring, in 10 outings against competition that averaged a AA level, he gave up 24 baserunners (13 H, 10 BB, 1 HBP) in 9.1 innings. That’s bad. If AAA Las Vegas is the place to get his mechanics right, so be it.

The 26-year-old Germen was ok for the Mets last year (3.93 ERA, in 34.1 IP, 22% K, 10.7% BB) and worse this spring. In his 10.1 innigns, he’s allowed 15 baserunners against an opponents’ quality somewhere between AA and AAA. Germen is a fastball (55%)/changeup (28.4%) heavy pitcher who gives up lots of fly balls (41.4% last year). He also was very lucky in 2013 thanks to a HR/FB ratio of 2.4% where league average was 10.5%. Unless Germen is one of those pitchers who has some special ability to keep fly balls in the yard, regression is coming for him and it’s going to hurt.

Black throws harder. His average fastball was 95.5 mph to Germen’s 93 in 2013.

I did a brief twitter poll about which right-handed reliever would spend more days on the active roster in 2014, and the unanimous response was: Black.

The bet here: Black will be a significant part of the 2014 Mets bullpen by May. The pathway might not just be Germen’s regression. “Closer” Bobby Parnell’s velocity was 88-92 in his final spring training outing. He’s averaged 96+ in the big leagues. Jose Valverde, who lost his job with the Tigers a year ago thanks to a 5.59 ERA, is supposed to be the 8th inning guy.  Jeurys Familia has battled control problems nearly his entire career. John Lannan, of the 148 career starts, is miscast as a LOOGY. He has no platoon splits (.755 OPS vs. LHH and RHH). Maybe a move to the bullpen will help his ordinary stuff.

Black will be back.

 

First Cuts. One of These Things is Not Like the Others

The Mets made their first round of cuts Monday. This is largely a clubhouse management exercise in which teams send players who have no chance to make the Opening Day roster back over to the minor league side. This accomplishes two goals: the players sent down can pick up more game repetitions and the guys playing for Major League spots for Opening Day and callups later in the year can impress the big league staff.

 

 

Highest 2013 Level Primary 2013 Level 40-man Roster
LHP Josh Edgin MLB MLB Yes
LHP Steven Matz A A Yes
RHP Erik Goeddel AA AA Yes
SS Wilfredo Tovar MLB AA Yes
OF Cesar Puello AA AA Yes
LHP Jack Leathersich AAA AA/AAA No
RHP John Church AAA AA No
RHP Logan Verrett AA AA No
LHP Adam Kolarek AAA AA No
RHP Chasen Bradford AA A+ No
C Kevin Plawecki A+ A/A+ No
INF Danny Muno AA AA No
3B/LF Dustin Lawley AAA A+ No
CF Brandon Nimmo A A No
OF Cory Vaughn AA AA No

 

And yet, look at the list above. There is one name unlike the others: Josh Edgin

Edgin was a big leaguer the last two years and the only guy among the first cuts who spent the majority of his 2013 in the big leagues. The only players still with the Mets who made more appearances than Edgin’s 68 in 2012 and 2013 were Bobby Parnell (123) and Scott Rice (73). On the whole, Edgin was not particularly effective overall (-0.5 WAR) in the last two years, but he threw hard and he was left-handed. And no, he has not been good this spring (3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K). He’s done this, in 19 batters against an opponents’ quality of 7.5, according to Baseball Reference, which is halfway between AA and AAA. His velocity appears to be down.

The timing of this move seems curious. What was the harm in letting Edgin throw another week or two in big league camp to regain his velocity and show that he can be effective? It’s not like the Mets have lots of other left-handed options for the bullpen in camp. The only other lefties on the 40-man roster, aside from Jon Niese, are Steven Matz, who is headed to advanced-A and Scott Rice. Among the non-roster invitees, Adam Kolarek and Jack Leathersich do not look ready for big league duty, and neither was effective above double-A in 2013. And that leaves only John Lannan, has been equally (in)effective against lefties (.333 wOBA) and righties (.334) in his career. This does not suggest future success as a left-handed relief specialist.

The Sandy Alderson Mets have operated largely in a (small c) conservative manner, in which the have kept as many options as possible as long as possible. The cost to keeping Edgin around in big league camp was extremely small, so this move seems like a very minor departure from that pattern. Or spin it around the other way: the Mets are absolutely convinced that Edgin will not be an asset in the big leagues early in the 2014 season.

The rest of this list is composed of minor league guys of varying potential from Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz, both of whom will begin 2014 in advanced-A, on down, who had no chance to make the Mets Opening Day roster.

I think it’s worth pointing out here that the Mets added Erik Goeddel to the 40-man roster in November 2013, but that did not save him in March 2014. Instead, he will begin the season in AAA.

Other Notes
- Plawecki was promoted to AA Binghamton for their playoff series at the end of 2013, but was never activated as a B-Met. He’s been all but guaranteed to start in Binghamton in 2014.

- Dustin Lawley had 21 AAA regular season AAA plate appearances after spending 122 games in advanced-A where he hit .260/.313/.512 with 25 homers. He’s really, for the purposes of this exercise, an advanced-A guy. He went to AAA late in the year to help the Las Vegas 51s, rather than Cory Vaughn because Vaughn was already helping a playoff-bound affiliate in AA Binghamton.

- In 2013, Leathersich ran a 7.76 ERA in 29 innings in AAA with as many walks as innings pitched.

- Tovar made 19 plate appearances in the big leagues beginning with his MLB debut on September 22, 2013 after hitting .263/.323/.340 in 133 games in AA Binghamton during the season.

- In 20 games in AA, Bradford ran a 0.71 ERA.

BA: Mets 13th in International Spending in ’13

Baseball America has compiled a list of an estimate on what every Major League team spent on on international bonuses during the 2013 year. The problem with a list like this is that it spans two different signing periods: the back half of the ’12-13 period when every team had $2.9 million to spend, and the ’13-14 period where teams’ official bonus pools ranged from $1.8 million (Nationals) to $4.9 million (Astros).

The Mets were 13th at $3.13 million in the 2013 calendar year. Most teams were in this range. Nearly half of the teams in baseball (14) spent between $2.5 million and $3.5 million.

The Mets began the 2013-14 signing period with a bonus allotment of $2,664,600, but added the #51 slot from the Angels, valued at $360,500 for OF Julio Concepcion and RHP Andres Perez in July. The Mets’ total bonus pool for the 2013-14 signing period is $3,025,100.

Here are the Mets’ major international signings from the 2013-2014 period so far:

PlayerPositionBA RankCountryBonus
Ricardo CespedesCFDR725,000
Aly SanchezC25VZ690,000
Yeffry de AzaSSDR475,000
Luis CarpioSS30VZ300,000
Luis SilvaRHPVZ275,000
Total2,465,000

Eric Young Jr. at Leadoff – Sure. Maybe.

Yesterday, Mets manager Terry Collins told Adam Rubin of ESPNNY, that utility man

Eric Young Jr. is his primary leadoff candidate at this point.

Still, with a full spring training to go, Collins cautioned: “But anything is possible.”

“Anything is possible,” is the key here. Maybe Collins is talking about some advanced level stuff platoon. And maybe this isn’t really going to happen. The reaction to his idea over at Metsblog and elsewhere around the Mets internet was pretty negative, and  understandably so.

Young should not start over Juan Lagares, who will be 25, and in his age 24 season, established himself as one of the top defensive centerfielders in the game (behind only Carlos Gomez in Fangraphs adjusted UZR metric Def). Still, Lagares hit only .242/.281/.352 overall. If Lagares’ offense regresses at all, that on-base percentage will be a heavier weight down on the value his defense provides. Young, who will be 29 in May, has played 307 innings in center and Total Zone and UZR put him near average, although it’s a dangerously small number of chances from which to draw strong conclusions. Lagares, who displayed a relatively small platoon split in 2013 (losing a little power against RHP) should play over Young in center unless Lagares proves he really cannot hit Major League pitching.

Eric Young’s .258/.325/.338 batting line in 1273 career plate appearances will hardly inspire swooning from fans in the first row of seats, or those with access to the internet. However, he was pretty close to 2013′s leadoff man average of .265/.329/.390. Young is light in the power, but almost MLB average in on-base percentage for a leadoff man. He’s also a switch-hitter with next to no platoon split – .253/.323/.336 vs. RHP and .268/.330/.342 vs. LHP in his career.

Now, in both corners, the Mets are planning on starting outfielders with major and complementary platoon splits. The Mets will maximize the value of both players, and their roster in general, by recognizing and embracing these splits. Chris Young has beat up lefties at a .262/.363/.474 rate for his career and hit just .225/.295/.415 against righties. Oh, sure, among Youngs, Chris has Eric well covered with that .190 isolated slugging percentage against righties, but Eric Young provides just a little more on-base skill at the top of the lineup.

In the other corner, Curtis Granderson also has major platoon splits and is weak against lefties. He has gone .274/.357/.519 against righties in his career and .226/.295/.409 against lefties. Again, Granderson has more power, but less on-base skills than EY against his same-handed pitchers.

Maybe Collins is suggested an extended platoon where Chris Young sits against many righties, Granderson against many lefties and Eric Young Jr. plays a lot. That seems to fly in the face of the market valuation of the three players, but it would give the Mets a little more on-base percentage at the top of the lineup.

Perhaps the Mets are on to something more radical. For road games, EY Jr. leads off, and the #9 spot in the batting order is held as a place-holder by the previous night’s starting pitcher. EY Jr. and his speed, come to bat in the top of the first inning. At the end of the inning, Collins can then choose to insert his starting pitcher into the #9 spot in the order or the #1, and substitute his anther position player either into the #9 or #1 spot in the order, or just roll with Young. Collins could deploy Juan Lagares, Daniel Murphy or any of his other outfielders to make a double-switch, or not. Does this make any sense? I’m not sure.

Maybe Eric Young will lead off in a extended platoon with both corner outfielders. Doing so would sacrifice power for on-base percentage and speed. Maybe he won’t. Either way, it’s the end of January. It’s been a long winter without baseball. Terry Collins is still two months away from writing out his lineup card in the first game that counts in 2014.

Three Mets Make MLB.com Top 100 Prospects… And What it Says About the System

Rafael Montero ST 13 (Baron)You can probably guess which three Mets farmhands made MLB.com’s list of the game’s Top 100 prospects: RHP Noah Syndergaard at #11, C Travis d’Arnaud at #22 and RHP Rafael Montero at #85 (pictured at right).

One note on each:

  • Syndergaard is the #3 pitching prospect on MLB’s list behind only Archie Bradley and Taijuan Walker.
  • d’Arnaud is the oldest player on MLB’s Top 100, and one of seven 24-year-olds.
  • Of the 37 RHP on the list, Montero is one of four at 6’0″ or shorter, joined by Yordano Ventura (KS – #35), Marcus Stroman (TOR – #55), Jose Berrios (MIN – #90).

With three representatives, the Mets are mid-pack. The list is dominated in volume by six teams, the Astros (7), Red Sox (9), Cubs (7), Pirates (6), Twins (5) and Rangers (5) who together account for 39 players.

One thing stands out to me about the three prospects who made MLB’s list: they should all be in the big leagues for the Mets in the second half of 2014, and should graduate from prospect lists. d’Arnaud will be the Mets’ Opening Day catcher. Syndergaard and Montero will likely begin the year in triple-A with Las Vegas. The odds are strong that the Mets, just like almost every team in baseball, will need reinforcement pitching throughout the season. As long as both Syndergaard and Montero are healthy and pitching effectively, they should be in Queens by July.

I’ll mention Cesar Puello here as another player who will likely start in triple-A, who could and hopefully for the Mets, be in a position to help the team’s outfield by the heat of summer.

After that, there’s a pretty big gap between the guys who can reasonably be expected to reach the big leagues for good in 2014 and the next group. The exception is in the bullpen where there is some depth in potential help in the near future. Some of RHP Jacob deGrom, RHP Cory Mazzoni, RHP Jeff Walters, LHP Jack Leathersich, or RHP Erik Goeddel could help in the bullpen in 2014. However, none of these pitchers, despite AA time in 2013, were Top 100 guys.

The next group of potential starting pitchers or average or better regulars are relatively far away. For example, C Kevin Plawecki will start the season in double-A.  CF Brandon Nimmo, LHP Steven Matz and 2B Dilson Herrera will be ticketed for Advanced-A where they will be joined by RHP Michael Fulmer, RHP Gabriel Ynoa and RHP Luis Cessa. Recent first rounders like SS Gavin Cecchini (almost definitely) and 1B Dom Smith (maybe) will just begin their first season in Savannah in 2014. These are the guys who might next represent the Mets on future Top 100 lists. Their development in a-ball in 2014 will shape the perception of the Mets’ farm system moving forward.