We’re going to start off today with some hardcore analysis: oh, wow baseball.
And then this.
If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, you fall into one of three categories: 1. you don’t like baseball, 2. you are dead, 3. you’re goosebump making machinery is broken.
First, Monday, October 7, 2013 was a fantastic day of playoff baseball.
Second, and relatedly, we spend a lot of time on here discussing whether young players can grow up to be big leaguers and when they get there, what kind of players they might become. Both things certainly matter for teams and fans.
And then in the 8 o’clock hour eastern a replacement level player – Jose Lobaton – put one over the right-center field wall to force a game four in Tampa. Lobaton homering off Koji Uehara, who had not allowed a home run in over three months is as improbable as it gets. Lobaton, entering the playoffs owned a career MLB batting line of .228/.311/.343 in 564 PA, a little over half of which (311) came in 2013. He had a career WAR of 0.9, as his 2013 mark of 1.4 lifted him out of negative territory for the first time. The Padres waived him in 2009.
Lobaton was never a Top 100 prospect in baseball, nor did he ever make Baseball America’s Top 20 list for either of his two organizations (Padres or Rays) or for any league in which he played. BA did call him the Padres best defensive catching prospect in 2007 and 2008.
Uribe is a different kind of surprise in that he’s been a big leaguer for the last 13 years and has put together on of his best seasons in 2013 at age 33/34 (he turned 34 in July) when most players are declining. Uribe’s 4.1 bWAR this season exceeds his previous career best of 4.0 set nine years ago in 2004 when he was worth 4.0 bWAR with the White Sox. (A side note: a 4.1 bWAR and a 4.0 bWAR is essentially identical as any measurement error swamps the one tenth of one win – one run – difference.) Just once in the intervening period has he been worth three wins. He’s coming off a 2011-2012 period with the Dodgers where he “hit” .199/.262/.289 for an OPS+ of 54 (where 100 is league average) in his age 31/32/33. He’s made a cool $40.3 million dollars for his 18.3 WAR since 2001.
Uribe was a well-regarded prospect in the years preceding his big league debut. BA had him ranked as the Rockies #6 prospect before 2009, and as the team’s #2 prospect before 2001 when he was the #94 prospect in baseball.
BA even nailed that Uribe’s power mattered (from their pre-2001 writeup):
He even has shown power in two years at full-season Class A, hitting a total of 22 home runs. …Uribe has basestealing speed and showed a better feel for the art last year, getting caught just five times. He has plus power potential for a middle infielder.
He followed that up by earning the #5 prospect award in the PCL, and the circuit’s best infield arm in 2001. That season, he hit a healthy .310/.340/.530 in 74 games in the hitters’ paradise of Colorado Springs and then .300/.325/.524 for a 98 (!!) OPS+ in 72 games for the Rockies in the days when Coors Field was still Coors Field.
Stars, Baby, Stars
While Lobaton and Uribe are surprises, the pedigree of some of their contributing teammates is not.
On the Rays, Evan Longoria, who was the third overall pick in the 2006 draft launched a three-run homer. Later that same draft, the Rays went overslot ($400,000) to sign Alex Cobb, who started the game. He landed between #14 and #21 on BA’s Rays ranking before every season from 2008 through 2011. He was a perennial in the back half of his league’s Top 20 lists.
The Dodgers too relied on elite amateur talent. Clayton Kershaw, who allowed just two unearned runs in his six innings on three days rest, is not just the best pitcher in the National League. He was also a first round pick, seventh overall, four spots behind Longoria in 2006, who signed for $2.3 million. Per BA, he was his League’s top prospect every year from ’06-08 and one of the Dodgers top two prospects the whole time.
Carl Crawford, who homered twice was an elite prospect for the Rays, earning top rankings before his $142 million from the Red Sox. Way back when, he slipped out of the first round in the draft to the Rays at #52 overall, who paid him $1.245 million to skip a football scholarship to Nebraska. The pre-draft writeup is fun:
OF Carl Crawford is one of the two or three best athletes in the draft. He has a rare package of speed and strength and has committed to Nebraska as an option quarterback. In tryouts for scouts, he hit a number of mammoth home runs. ….
Hanley Ramirez, who had a quiet night Monday going 1-for-3 with a walk, was one of baseball’s top prospects, placing either #1 or #2 in the Red Sox and Marlins’ systems for four straight years from 2003-2006 sanwiched around the trade to Florida with Anibal Sanchez and two other prospects for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota.
What’s the Point?
Yes, Uribe and Loboton were unlikely heroes. “Don’t forget the work of the stars” does not feel like an egalitarian position. And it’s not. But do not forget that the stars’ performance helped create the opportunity for their teammates to earn top billing for a night.
As far as the stars go, their talent shone brightly as amateurs, or at the latest (Ramirez), in the low minors. These are first-rounders and well-regarded international signings making good, although sometimes not for the team that drafted them.
And to bring it back here, player development always matters. The draft matters. Organizations that get it right go to the playoffs. Organizations that complement that star-level talent with useful pieces win titles.
I’m meandering through the list of Mets Sterling Award Winners. From the system level winners, through AAA to AA and now to advanced-A and 24-year-old 3B/LF Dustin Lawley.
A thirdbaseman and centerfielder in college at West Florida, where he helped the Argonauts win a DII title, Lawley has mostly played left field as a professional.
This has been a busy awards season for the 24-year-old Lawley, who also collected the FSL’s MVP award thanks to a .260/.313/.512 line with 25 homeruns and 92 RBI in 122 games for St. Lucie. The Mets rewarded Lawley with a late-season promotion to AAA Las Vegas for the final week of the regular season and the playoffs.
Lawley hit for real power in 2013, leading the FSL in home runs while playing as old for the FSL. He’s pound-for-pound, one of the strongest Mets farmhands. He used to use an aggressive, full body load to initiate his swing and then would bring his body forward with an aggressive move launching his hands and hips together. I was told that he calmed that move down somewhat in 2013. Both his swing and his approach are aggressive. He attacks the first fastball he sees in counts.
Lawley’s problem is one of time and profile. The player who hit the most home runs in the Florida State League at age-24 and above in the last six years has not yet become a big leaguer. Here’s the illustrious list.
2012 – Kyle Roller (NYY)
2011 – Brad Glenn (TOR)
2010 – Brock Kjeldgaard (MIL)
2009 – Jesus Gonazalez (TOR)
2008 – Brian Dopirak (TOR)
2007 – Jacob Butler (TOR)
2006 – Jay Garthwaite (CIN)
Roller hit .253/.347/.427 with 17 homers in 124 games for the Trenton Thunder in AA in 2013 at age 25.
Glenn hit .264/.334/.459 with 17 homers in 111 games in a repeat of AA and then .246/.329/.508 in 18 games in AAA for the Jays this year.
Kjeldgaard, while repeated AA this year, hit .222/.333/.417 in 134 games with 24 dingers and a 29% strikeout rate.
Gonzalez is out of baseball.
Dopirak reached AAA with the Jays in 2009 and repeated the level in 2010, but after the Astros gave him a shot in 2011 and a combined .286/.321/.465 line in 195 AAA games, he too is out of baseball.
Butler hit .242/.341/.424 in 122 games in AA in 2008 and appears to be out of baseball.
Garthwaite hit .238/.295/.421 in AA in 2007 and is out of baseball.
Lawley would be bucking recent history of older players in the FSL a big way if he developed into a useful big leaguer.
Other (Good) Candidates
None. The Mets honored Noah Syndergaard, Jayce Boyd and Kevin Plawecki with other awards. No other St. Lucie player deserved recognition.
As a 24-year-old, Vaughn hit .267/.346/.424 in 71 games in AA. An elbow strain kept him out of the AA lineup from June 2 through August 6.
I no longer view Vaughn as a potential everyday contributor for the Mets. The move to AA really exposed him. His strikeout rate of 26.5% in AA this year was his highest at any minor league stop, while his walk rate of 8.2% was his lowest. His .156 isolated slugging percentage was his lowest since Savannah and his 6.8% extra-base hit rate exceeded only Savannah (6.7%), and even at that by only one tenth of a percentage point. For reference, the Eastern League had an extra-base hit rate of 7.2%, a strikeout rate of 20.1% and a walk rate of 9%. So, Vaughn hit for below average power, walked at a below average rate and struck out way above AA average. His season line looks better thanks to a .345 batting average on balls in play, his best rate since Savannah, and one he seems unlikely to replicate with consistency against upper level competition.
Again, in 2013, Vaughn displayed extreme platoon splits that have been present in his performance in the last three years. In 2013, he hit .242/.327/.374 in 198 AB against righties and .344/.403/.578 in 64 AB against lefties. In the last three years, through the full-season minor league levels, he has bashed .296/.401/.528 in 409 PA against lefties and .231/.335/.383 in 1047 PA against righties. At this point, it seems extremely unlikely that Vaughn will magically figure out how to hit righties.
Can a Major League team afford to roster a corner outfielder who only hits lefties and does not play centerfield? Sure, straight platoons are possible, still, right? Oakland?
I’m going to write at some moderate length about the Mets’ Sterling Award winners at each level of the farm system. In some cases the choice of player intersects with the team’s best prospect, or one of their best prospects, in others it diverges.
The series starts at the top of the farm, where Rafael Montero earned the AAA Las Vegas 51s Sterling Award.
Montero, who will turn 23, has nearly an extremely rapid rise through the Mets’ minor league system. He began 2011 in the Dominican Summer League and has advanced at least two levels in each of his three minor league seasons, including a four-level summer (DSL, GCL, APP, NYP) in 2011. His rise has been extremely brisk
His 2013 in Numbers
Statistically, therere are two things that matter to me in there. After running strikeout rates of 29% and 27% in advanced-A and AA, his strikeout rate declined to 21.5% in AAA. Meanwhile, his walk rate which was 2.8% in the SAL in 2012, and 3.8% in AA, climbed to a career-high 6.9% in AAA. Basically, he’s headed back to league average (~19.4% k rate and 9.1% walk rate in the PCL this year) in these two crucial markers. Two amazing statistical notes: he did not hit a single batter all year, and was charged with just one wild pitch. Those control metrics can get lost in a focus on walks, but the baserunners and extra bases they give an offense should not be ignored.
Montero is a three-pitch guy, fastball, slider and changeup. As a starter, he’s mostly 92-94 mph with his fastball with outstanding control and the ability to get to both sides of the plate. Note that in the Futures’ game over the summer, he averaged 95 mph for seven fastballs. That’s harder than I’ve ever seen him throw as a starter. Subtracting a mile or two for stamina and control takes him to his standard 93 ish range. It’s a little straight, but again, he can spot up with the pitch to make it play.
In the low minors, his second pitch was his changeup. He had good armspeed on it and just enough movement to miss bats. His slider has come along in the last few years from poor to a weapon in ball to a little below big league average when I saw it in spring training (and for two pitches in the futures game). It was short and flat and that more defined movement is progress from the loopier breaking balls of years’ past. He continued to improve the offering all year.
The Mets wanted to see Montero’s progress with his slider and changeup this year. Mets’ VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul dePodesta in April, ““His fastball is very advanced right now, but the secondary pitches need to continue to get better.”
If Montero was not dominant overall in AAA, he was in August, when he put up a 1.40 ERA and a 37/6 K/BB (6.2) ratio in 38.2 innings with a 25.8% strikeout rate and a 4% walk rate. He was big league ready when the Mets shut him down to manage the jump in his innings on a year-over-year basis.
In a world where Matt Harvey is not ready to go on Opening Day 2014, Montero really might have a chance to win a spot in the Mets’ starting rotation out of Spring Training behind Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia and Dillon Gee. He could be a league-average starter in the near term and more if his slider continues to progress past average to plus.
However, keeping Montero down in the minors for about a month will buy the Mets an extra year of control on his services by postponing the date he is eligible for free agency. The smart money is on the Mets signing an extra veteran or two, both to add depth for the duration of the year, and postpone Montero’s big league debut and service time clock in 2014.
Montero was a very strong choice for his award.
Other (Good) Choices:
Picking a single MVP in AAA usually going to be an daunting feat. This year, the Las Vegas 51s used 28 position players and 31 pitchers. That’s pretty standard in AAA. Montero made the third-most starts on the 51s, behind only Matt Fox (20 starts; 4.59 ERA) and Chris Schwinden (28 starts; 5.78 ERA).
Zack Wheeler made 13 starts for Las Vegas with a 3.93 ERA, nearly a full run higher than Montero’s, before his big league promotion. Given that Montero threw 20 more innings than Wheeler, and allowed exactly the same number of both earned and unearned runs, he was better. Wheeler’s reward in 2013 was his big league debut and the beginning of big league money.
Among pitchers, Montero was the clear choice.
Montero faced 363 batters in AAA this year. Only a four position players had that many plate appearances for the 51s: Eric Campbell, Wilmer Flores, Jamie Hoffman and Zach Lutz. Flores at .321/.357/.531 in 463 PA, would have been a deserving candidate too. Like Wheeler, his reward was big league time and big league money. Better to leave the minor league award to a deserving minor leaguer.
The Mets named their Sterling Award winners for the organization as a whole and for each affiliate Friday. But are these guys prospects and potential big leaguers or even good big leaguers?
The Mets handed the organizational hardware to 1B Allan Dykstra, C Kevin Plawecki and RHP Gabriel Ynoa. In this case, Plawecki and Ynoa are prospects who matter.
The Mets started the 22-year-old Plawecki, their supplemental first round pick in the 2012 draft in Savannah, where he hit a loud .314/.390/.494 in a pitcher’s park in 65 games to earn a promotion to advanced-A after the Gnats clinched a first half title. By late May, it was clear, to those inside and outside the system, that he was ready to move. The Mets allowed him for finish the first half in Savannah and attend the SAL All-Star Game in Lakewood before departing for advanced-A and the Florida State League. In the FSL he dealt with various minor injuries including a back and usual catcher maladies like balls that hit him in places that hurt. He hit .294/.391/.392 in advanced-A, with his on-base percentage sustained by 14 HBP in 60 contests.
The good in his offensive game: he rarely strikes out, and he has gap power, regularly stinging balls to left-centerfield.
His walk rate has slipped at each minor league level from 9.9 in Brooklyn to 8.2 in Savannah to 7.9 in Advanced-A. He’s an aggressive hitter who will attack early count fastballs. This approach, combined with a keen understanding of the strike zone and good bat control keeps his strikeout rate way down – to 10.2% between the two a-ball levels this year. Both his extra-base hit rate (11% -> 6.7%) and his home run rate (2.1% ->0.85) dropped when he was promoted from Savannah to St. Lucie. There’s enough bat here to play catcher in the big leagues, but the way in which his power numbers dropped off at advanced-A is a little concerning.
Plawecki’s defense is fine. He’s an adequate receiver who worked on his game calling and understanding his pitchers. I thought his arm was the weakest part of his game, and he still threw out 31% of opposing runners in the SAL, although that slipped to 27% in the FSL in 45 attempts. He had a tendency to leave throws high and to the first base side of second. When pitchers struggle in the same way, they talk about being too fast with their front side and leaving their arm behind. Plawecki needs to make sure he stays mechanically sound on every throw; he just does not have the kind of natural arm where he can throw out professional runners when he is out of sync.
In 2013, when Major League catchers averaged .245/.310/.388, Plawecki looks like a big leaguer to me. His ceiling right now looks like a solid everyday catcher because I have not seen the in-game power to declare him a star. Even if he’s a low-power guy, his strike zone awareness and bat control will keep him employed in the big leagues. I am concerned however with the decline in his in-game power in 2013 and his very gentle erosion in walk rates as he has moved up the ladder. Double-A will be a big test for him in 2014.
Ranked #43 on last Winter’s Top 41 prospect list (yeah, I miscounted), Ynoa had an excellent 2013 at age 20 in the South Atlantic League and has pulled himself comfortably inside the Mets’ Top 20 prospects approaching the 2014 season.
Including the SAL playoffs, the 20-year-old finished with a 2.57 ERA in 150.34 innings over 24 starts with 115 strikeouts and 18 (!) walks. In rate terms that’s a 3% walk rate and a 19.3% strikeout percentage.
He’s a three-pitch guy with fastball, slider and changeup. His fastball hangs around MLB average sitting going 91-95, sitting 92-93 on a good night and 91-93 later in outings. He can work to both sides of the plate. With solid outfield defense patrolling expansive Grayson Stadium behind him, he did well attacking hitters. He has feel for the changeup. Gnats’ manager Luis Rojas thought that Ynoa’s slider made major strides in 2013. One scout who saw Ynoa in the second half told me he saw “three MLB pitches there.” I don’t know if the movement on any of his offerings is above average, but his fastball command is above average.
Ynoa has good size at 6’2″ and he’s filled out a little from his listed 160 lbs. He’s not huge by the standards of modern baseball players, but he’s big enough that his rotation is fairly easy, and he’s been relatively durable at a young age.
Ynoa’s ceiling right now is as a rotation regular. That’s a nice prospect who will start 2014 in advanced-A.
I examined Dykstra when he won the Eastern League’s MVP award. The cliff notes version: the 26-year-old hit .274/.436/.503 with 21 homers, 102 walks and 123 strikeouts in 122 games for the Binghamton Mets. There’s absolutely no reason from a scouting or statistical perspective to think that he is better than Ike Davis or Lucas Duda, both of whom performed at the same level or better, in AA at much younger ages. It’s nice that he hit, and he was more valuable in AA than Eddie Kunz. He’s not part of a winning Mets future.
The Mets added Wilfredo Tovar to the active roster today to take Ruben Tejada’s spot.
Tovar, who turned 22 in August, is a very gifted defender. He’s a little dude, listed at 5’10, 160lbs, with outstanding body control. His reactions are quick and movements agile while his hands are fluid and arm strong enough to make plays from the hole. He’s really, really fun to watch defensively. The errors I saw him make in a-ball were mostly of focus, where he kicked an easy play when he lost focus rather than anything he couldn’t do.
Sure enough, his error totals, admittedly, a wildly imprecise metric for defense, have declined on an annual basis from 17 in 94 games in Savannah in 2011, to 18 in 118 games in A+/AA in 2012 to just nine in 128 games in 2013 in Binghamton. On a rate basis, that’s one error every 5.5 games in 2011, every 6.6 games in 2012 and one every 14.2 games in 2013.
At the plate, Tovar hit .263/.323/.340 in 486 plate appearances in AA on a .287 BABIP. His offensive game is al about making contact and drawing a few walks. Despite a career-high four home runs in 2013, he will have as little power as any player on a big league roster. In AA this year, he struck out at just a 10% rate and walked at a 6.8% clip. The Eastern League averaged a 9% walk rate and a 20% strikeout rate. So, compared to his peers, Tovar struck out at half the league average rate, and walked at 75% of the average rate.
Nice shortstop defense, lots of soft contact and a walk rate that in the big leagues might be 60% of average, will keep Tovar above replacement level right away.
The Mets plan to platoon Tovar with Omar Quintanilla. This should help both players. In AA this year, Tovar hit .292/.361/.375 in 108 PA vs. LHP for a .736 OPS, a 92 point improvement over his work against RHP. Quintanilla has hit .237/.333/.304 against RHP and an anemic .197/.244/.250 in 82 PA vs. LHP in the big leagues this year. Tovar is certainly an improvement over Quintanilla against lefties for now. This week and a half in the big leagues will be a nice introduction for Tovar, who will be around in the next few years whenever the Mets need help at either middle infield position.
In the ninth inning last night, with the Mets down 4-1, I tucked my phone in my pocket and headed to the grocery store to pick up some breakfast essentials (granola, Honey Nut Cheerios, bananas, and almond milk) and ice cream. I saw Josh Satin’s game winner just after scooping up bananas. That’s Satin pictured at right as a Savannah Sand Gnat in 2009.
The Mets put together a remarkable comeback by as anonymous a group of major leaguers as possible.
Eight Mets batted in the team’s 9th inning. As a group, these eight had a combined 4.9 fWAR in 2013 and 2.5 fWAR for their careers. Six of the eight Mets who batted in the frame had fewer than 385 career plate appearances. The only ones who had more than 400, and both have more than 1,111, are Lucas Duda and Omar Quintanilla, who both have negative career fWAR totals. Six of the eight had a career fWAR total at or below 0.5.
This group is not composed of really young players either. Six of the eight are 26 years old or older, as of September 18. Only Juan Centeno, making his first big league start at age 23 and Juan Lagares, who made his MLB debut earlier this year at age 24, are young enough to project significant performance improvements as they age.
Lets go to the annotated play-by-play for more. Italicized comments are mine, obviously.
1. Andrew Brown walks.
—- Andrew Brown is playing with his third MLB organization in three years. The 29-year-old’s total MLB line is .230/.290/.415 in 292 PA over 119 games. This 2013 season is the first time he has exceeded 130 MLB PA in a year.
2. Lucas Duda strikes out swinging
— In a slow-motion battle for the 2014 first base job, Duda has hit .275/.378/.458 with six home runs, 20 walks and 30 strikeouts in the last 42 games since the Mets recalled him from triple-A on August 25th. Miscast as an outfielder for the last three seasons, Duda has a chance to be a productive, unspectacular MLB first baseman.
– With Juan Lagares batting, wild pitch by Santiago Casilla, Andrew Brown to 2nd.
3. Juan Lagares walks (!)
— It was his 19th walk of 2013 to bring his MLB walk rate to exactly 5%. Fourteen players in MLB have walked between 4.5% and 5.5% of the time and had enough PA to qualify for the batting title, a group that does not include Lagares, who is short on playing time. Nine of the 16 have an wRC+ above 100, making them league average hitters or better. Both Daniel Murphy (102 wRC+) and Marlon Byrd (135 OPS+) fall into the bucket above 100. Lagares’ centerfield defense makes him playable now, but a few more walks would do wonders for his offensive and overall value.
— Zach Lutz pinch hits for Ruben Tejada, who broke his leg on this catch.
— Terrible timing for Tejada, who had the last month of the season to impress Terry Collins/Sandy Alderson/JP Ricciardi and play his way back into the 2014 starting job. I argued on last week’s Mostly Mets Podcast that Tejada had a lot riding on the last month. He still does.
— Sergio Romo replaces Santiago Casilla.
—- Something about the variability of year-to-year relief performance … and wait, what’s that? They’re both really still good. Yup. Sergio Romo has a 4.67 K/BB ratio a 124 ERA+ and a 23.7% strikeout rate. Casilla has a 1.57 K/BB rate, a 156 ERA+ and a 18.9% K rate while allowing only 34 hits in 45.2 innings. Yeah, it was an off-night for both.
4. Zach Lutz doubles to left field. Andrew Brown scores. Juan Lagares to 3rd.
— When Lutz is healthy, he hits. In 23 MLB PA, he’s hit a solid .263/.391/.368. Yeah, I just gave you a batting line over 23 PA.
5. Juan Centeno singles on a ground ball to shortstop Brandon Crawford. Juan Lagares scores. Zach Lutz to 3rd.
– Congratulations to Centeno, who collected his first MLB hit earlier in the game. Both hits were Centeno classics: a grounder on the right side and a flare that Brandon Crawford tracked down on the left side of the diamond. In the minors, that ball probably scoots in to left field, but not in the big leagues against the world’s best defenders at shortstop. Centeno’s ascent to the big leagues is remarkable in that he was a back-up nearly all the way through the minors. He has never played in 60% of his team’s games. Not once. His minor league slugging percentage is .335. But he just kept grinding through at-bats, making contact and playing solid defense behind the plate and worked his way to the big leagues. It’s a good story. He should make a few million bucks playing baseball in his life as he’s just a few more innings from a membership card in the Fraternal Order of Backup Catchers.
6. Matt den Dekker walks. Anthony Recker to second.
— Catcher Anthony Recker had pinch-run for catcher Juan Centeno. It was that kind of inning.
— den Dekker, who had struck out in exactly 33% of his MLB plate appearances (17 of 51) entering this one in the ninth fell down 0-2 in the count and then watched four straight pitches out of the zone. Sergio Romo has walked 12 batters in his 56.1 innings in 2013, a rate of 5%. Those four straight balls out of the zone which put den Dekker on base, and pushed the tying run to third, and the go-ahead run to second, in position to score on a single were awfully important to this inning.
7. Omar Quintanilla flies out to right fielder Hunter Pence.
— Quintanilla, a man who is the major leagues for his defense at short, and a player with a career wRC+ of 53 (!) was asked to pinch-hit for Vic Black. (For a month of John Buck and Marlon Byrd, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera looks better and better.)
8. Josh Satin singles on a line drive to left fielder Gregor Blanco. Zach Lutz scores. Anthony Recker scores. Matt den Dekker to 2nd.
— Of course. Win for the Mets. Fist pumps near the frozen foods! Weird looks from fellow Kroger shoppers for me.
Satin does not have prototypical power at first (.114 ISO), but he works counts, grinds through at bats and hits line drives and can play second or third. He’s also hit .329/.417/.493 in 73 MLB AB against left-handers. That might just be enough to earn himself part of a platoon job at first base in 2014 with the Duda/Ike Davis winner.
Is there a larger lesson here? In the broadest possible terms, walks are good for an offense. A team that walks three times in an inning should score a few runs.
As far as the Mets future? There was one guy who participated in the 9th inning rally who looks to have a starting spot nailed down for Opening Day 2014: Juan Lagares. Satin and Duda are fighting to be part of a firstbase time share. Quintanilla is a replacement level SS, who would be a fine bench player, or AAA depth piece. Brown, Centeno, Recker, Lutz and den Dekker might be fighting for bench jobs.
And this group fashioned as enjoyable an inning as possible. It’s a weird game.
Over the weekend, on Sunday night to be specific, the Binghamton Mets announced that the Eastern League had named manager Pedro Lopez the Manager of the Year and 1B Allan Dykstra the AA League’s MVP.
From a value perspective with the bat, Dykstra is a worthy choice. Over the full season, he was the most productive hitter on the League’s best team. (I suspect had he played, and hit well in August, this would have been Cesar Puello’s award.) The 26-year-old Dykstra hit .274/.436/.503 with 22 doubles, 21 homruns, 102 walks and 123 strikeouts in 122 games. It’s a modest credit to the award’s voters that they looked past Dykstra’s sub-.300 batting average to pick the guy leading the League in on-base percentage and slugging, (and walks, who was fourth in RBI and tied for fifth in homeruns).
In advanced metrics, Dykstra was #1 in the Eastern League in both wOBA (.423) and wRC+ (163).
This was the third go-round in AA for Dykstra, who hit .267/.389/.474 with 22 doubles and 19 homeruns at age 24 in Binghamton in 121 games in 2011. The major change for him in the last two three years statistically is that he moved his walk rate from a strong 14.5% in 2011 to an extremely discipline 20.9% in 2013. His power output was similar.
The Mets acquired Allan Dykstra for Eddie Kunz in a swap of disappointing first round draft picks in March of 2011. The Padres plucked Dykstra 23rd overall in 2008 out of Wake Forest while the Mets grabbed Kunz 42nd out of Oregon State in 2007. Kunz was released by the Padres this spring after a 6.35 ERA in 21 games last year with a 12/20 K/BB. By any measure, whether Dykstra ever becomes a real big leaguer, the Mets have already won the trade.
Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:
So, can Dykstra be a useful big leaguer?
Here is a sampling of questions I received over email and twitter this weekend.
By email, Mark asked of Dykstra: “could he be the mets version evan gattis? great obp. if he is thank you eddie kunz”
As far as Mark’s question, Gattis is a few months younger than Dykstra and despite his wonderful story is now down to .238/.298/.469 in 80 games in the big leagues. Since July 1, his power has disappeared as he’s hit .215/.263/.280 in 27 games with a two-week trip to the DL and a short trip to AAA Gwinnett over the weekend. As far as profile, Dykstra is a higher walk rate guy with less raw power than Gattis, but Gattis’ case provides a great warning about counting on guys who make their MLB debuts at age 26 or later.
As far as J.D.’s question, will Dykstra get big league time after the Eastern League playoffs end, barring more Mets’ injuries, the answer is: “wildly unlikely.”
Why? Dykstra is big, 6’5″, 240 pounds and old for the Eastern League. His bat is slow. He’s succeeded on strength and approach in the minors. He’s a well below average runner limited to first or DH duties. He’s been a similar hitter for three years, although his walk rate has climbed more recently. He still strikes out in over 25% of his AA plate appearances. Ask Kirk Nieuwenhuis what happens to high strikeout guys in the upper minors when they get to the big leagues. Plugging Dykstra’s 2013 numbers into the handy Minor League Equivalency Calculator yields an MLB line of .197/.329/.342 in 404 AB. That’s not playable at first base. Basically, he would run into some balls, but MLB pitchers, and their fastballs, would eat him up.
Put simply, I believe Dykstra will not be an everyday player in the big leagues. Perhaps, he can be a bench bat, but teams rarely carry true 1B-only bench bats.
Now for the roster considerations. First, the Mets already have a better version of Dykstra playing first in Lucas Duda who crushed AA and AAA at age 24. Second, Dykstra is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster, which is currently full. The Mets could certainly make space in the short term by moving Matt Harvey to the 60-day DL for example. I do not believe Dykstra would be eligible to be a minor league free agent until after the 2014 season. Adding Dykstra now only limits the Mets’ choices in terms of adding other players this off-season, and of course protects him from the Rule 5 draft.
Dykstra has certainly earned a promotion to AAA for 2014. However, AA success at age 26, and the way he has done it, do not indicate that he is a big league piece moving forward.
Yesterday, in voting by the South Atlantic managers, front offices and media, Gabriel Ynoa was selected as the a-ball League’s Most Outstanding Pitcher and his Pitching Coach, Frank Viola earned Coach of the Year status.
Ynoa is third in the SAL in ERA (2.72) and first in wins (15). He has the lowest walk rate (3%) among qualified pitchers in the SAL and has fanned 19.6% of opposing batters.
Ynoa, who turned 20 on May 26th, is one of the Mets’ better pitching prospects in the low minors. He has a solid pitcher’s frame at 6’2″, with room to add strength as he matures. He has enough fastball to pitch in the big leagues, sitting recently 90-92 although he can touch higher. His secondary offerings include a changeup and a slider. He has feel for both. The changeup began the year as his best secondary offering although recently scouts have told me they think his breaking ball can get to Major Leauge average as well. Ynoa, if everything breaks right, could profile as a league average starter in the big leagues. He’s smart and has figured out to attack hitters in spacious Grayson Stadium.
Frank is just the best. The former Cy Young Award winner attacks coaching with an infectious enthusiasm and has made just about every pitcher he’s coached better. It’s a good record.