Who’s Coming to Camp? Spring Training Invites for Rafael Montero, Cory Mazzoni, Matt den Dekker, Josh Satin and Juan Centeno

spring-trainingThe Mets have invited five non-roster minor leaguers to spring training: RHP’s Rafael Montero and Cory Mazzoni, C Juan Centeno, INF Josh Satin and OF Matt den Dekker to Major League Spring Training.

None are likely to make the team’s 25-man roster out of camp. None.

Position Players

Josh Satin, who turned 28 in December, has found a role in the last two years as a AAA utility guy hitting a combined .294/.389/.430 for the Buffalo Bisons in 169 games. He’s played first, second and third for the Bisons.  In very limited big league time, he’s hit .192/.250/.231 in 28 plate appearances, all but one of which came in 2011. He was removed from the Mets’ 40-man roster, and no other team claimed him.

Matt den Dekker, who turned 25 last August, had two different minor league seasons in 2012: a really good first half in AA Binghamton and a dreadful second half in AAA Buffalo. In 58 games with the B-Mets, he hit .340/.397/.563. His offensive production cratered to .220/.256/.373 with 90 strikeouts in 77 games in AAA. Over the two levels, he totalled 31 doubles and 17 homers. However, he struck out in 28.4% of his plate appearances in AAA. Looking over past seasons in the International League, I did not see a single productive big leaguer, who struck out as much as den Dekker >28%, over as plate appearances >300, for as long as Fangraphs has the data. John Mayberry comes closest, with a 26.3% in AAA in 2009. After a productive (2.5 fWAR) 2011, Mayberry was close to a replacement level player in 2012. That’s den Dekker’s future. His ability to play centerfield will get him to the big leagues, but his inability to make contact will hold him to just a shade above replacement level at best.

Centeno, who turned 23 in November 2012, has worked his way up the system as a backup catcher originally drafted in the 32nd round in 2007 out of Puerto Rico. He had never started more than half of his team’s games until playing in a career-high 79 games in 2012. He’s short (listed at 5’9″), and used to be pudgy (currently listed at 172 lbs). His approach at the plate is contact oriented – he will look to flare the ball the other way on anything away. He has no power, but he controls the strike zone well enough – 43 K against 23 walks in 79 games in AA in 2012. The invite is a nice reward for a .285/.337/.342 performance in AA in 2012 when he threw out 41% of opposing basestealers. Major League pitchers will eat him up, but his ability to squat behind the plate will get him a little service time as a third catcher. The other point here is that early in spring training, teams need extra catchers around camp to catch all of those pitchers’ bullpens.

 

Pitchers
Rafael Montero, who turned 22 in November, put up great numbers in a-ball in Savannah (2.52 ERA and a 6.75 K/BB ratio in 12 starts) and in advanced-A St. Lucie (2.13 ERA, 5.09 K/BB ratio in 8 starts). At the beginning of the 2012 season, he mostly relied on spotting his fastball and his changeup. As the year went on, he threw his slider more and more. His fastball is average to a tick above, sitting 91-92 mph, with a little bit of 93 when he’s really reaching back. It’s plenty to pitch in the big leagues, but he’s not going to blow away big league hitters. He has solid arm speed on his changeup with a little bit of sink. At 6’0, 170 lbs, he is small for a major league starting pitcher. Lack of size and a dominant fastball limit his projection, but he could slot in as a mid-back end starter based on his command and feel. He should start 2013 in double-A with a realistic chance at cracking the MLB rotation in 2014.

 

Cory Mazzoni is an interesting name and pitcher, but my projection on him has changed in the last year, after giving him the #10 ranking in the system at this time last year. By stuff and numbers, he now looks like a bullpen piece. The Mets’ 2nd round pick in 2011, and third pick behind Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer, Mazzoni pitched his way out of advanced-A and to double-A in 2012. Mazzoni put up a 3.25 ERA in advanced-A and a 4.46 ERA in double-A. I’m more interested in his strikeout rate however. He fanned under 7 batters per nine at both levels, including a 16.1% strikeout rate in double-A. By my count, there are exactly two Eastern League pitchers in the last five years who have gone on to become major league starters with a double-A strikeout rate below 17%: Vance Worley and Ricky Romero. By the time both guys reached the majors they had increased their strikeout rates above 18%. Mazzoni, pitching the way he did in 2012, does not miss enough bats to be a Major League starting pitcher. He’s not real big – listed at 6’1″ and 190lbs, and has not shown an ability to hold his stuff in a starting role. Generally speaking, in 2012, he would work 91-92 with his fastball most of his start. He might show better velocity earlier, or in a big spot, crank it up to 94 or 95. (I heard he reached 96 against a rehabbing big leaguer.) In short outings out of the bullpen, he should be able to find that plus velocity more consistently. His secondary pitches – a slider and a changeup that mimics a split-finger – are fine if unexceptional. Mazzoni could well be in the Mets’ bullpen as soon as mid-late 2013.

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