AA: @ Binghamton Mets 6, Reading Fightin’ Phils 3
After a rough one last time out, Noah Syndergaard got back on track for Binghamton: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 WP. He threw 62.5% of his pitches for strikes (60 of 96) and induced five groundball outs against one in the air.
After the game, he told Lynn Worthy in the Press and Sun Bulletin:
“Those six days in between starts I really hounded on my mechanics and got back on my program and went out there every day with 110 percent mentality to get better. I didn’t like how my last start went, and I was going to do my best to change that. I feel like I did a pretty good job tonight. I was still a little erratic at times, but I think my mechanics were a lot better.”
Syndergaard is focused on becoming more efficient and keeping his pitch count down. Again, as told to Worthy:
“I think right now the struggle is going deep into counts, putting guys away once I get two strikes. I feel like a lot of the guys get at me when they start fouling pitches off. … I feel like I’ve got to work on putting guys away, but my curveball was pretty solid tonight so that’s always a plus.
You know what will help pick up some early count outs? A better changeup. Also, I have this theory that in the minors, the hard-throwing guys don’t work as many short counts because many batters do not want to swing at 94+ heat.
CF Darrell Ceciliani was 2-for-4 with a walk to extend his hitting streak to 16 straight games, the longest active streak in the AA Eastern League. In those 16 games, he’s hit .460/.507/.730 with eight extra-base hits, six walks and seven strikeouts. For the year, the 23-year-old is up to .294/.344/.430 in 85 games. At the start of his streak, while putting him “In the Team Photo” on their July 12 “Hot Sheet” Baseball America wrote that his run, began “to remind everybody why he has a chance to develop into a fourth outfielder. All the same, he’ll need to sharply reduce his strikeout rate (26 percent of plate appearances) to avoid becoming Kirk Nieuwenhuis 2.0.” At this writing, he’s fanned in 23.5% of his plate appearances, so yeah, that’s still an issue.
RHP Jeff Walters continued a really nice year out of the Binghamton ‘pen, getting out a bases-loaded jam in the eighth before working an uneventful ninth for his 27th save, one off the B-Mets’ team record. He’s fanned 46 and walked 12 in his 42.1 innings of work, while yielding just 33 hits. He’s a fastball slider guy who used to be 92-93, but has added velocity this year, and is getting to 94 regularly and touching higher. He will absolutely be a Mets’ bullpen candidate in the next year.
I’ve been on the road, so we’re going to skip the game-by-game stuff to point out three or so things by affiliate that I care about right now.
1. Cesar Puello is not just hitting, he’s walking a little.
After drawing one walk in an 18-game stretch from June 8th through July 7th, Puello has drawn seven free passes in his last 12 games while hitting .395/.491/.581 with seven walks, only eight strikeouts and a .444 BABIP in those dozen contests. Obviously, he cannot run a .444 BABIP in the big leagues, but the 8/7 K/BB sure seems like progress for the 22-year-old. He also had four doubles in his last three games over the weekend in New Britain. Puello is leading the Eastern League in batting average, (.332), fifth in on-base percentage (.401), second in slugging (.571) and tied for fourth in homers (16), and is third in stolen bases (23). More or less, the thing keeping him from AAA was his strike zone control.
I wonder at this point whether the Mets will promote Puello to AAA at all this year. The AA B-Mets are going to the playoffs, and are 11 games up in first while the AAA Las Vegas 51s are 0.5 games behind Tucson. His time in Double-A appears to have been very productive developmentally. More to the point, it looks like his game is still evolving as his recent K/BB shows.
2. Jenrry Mejia is not just alive, he’s pitching well.
Saturday night: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 HR. He threw 62% (56 of 90) of his pitches for strikes.
A scout Adam Rubin talked to about Mejia’s outing told him, “Very good,” the scout said. “Plus cutter at 88-90 mph. Fastball velocity was 91-94 mph, which should improve with more innings. The curveball had plus 12-to-6 bend and tilt.”
Just a week ago, I argued that Mejia had never really conquered AA and thus, it was the right level for him developmentally. I also believe that Chris Schwinden and his 6.00 ERA and 65/33 K/BB in 105 AAA innings this year has no business starting a big league game on July 26. There are two good reasons not to call up Rafael Montero for that start either: he would need to be added to the 40-man roster now, entering a winter where he would not other wise have needed to be added and more importantly, AAA hitters are giving him trouble as evidenced by his 4.50 ERA/5.68 RA and 47 hits in 38 innings. Meanwhile, his strikeout rate has plunged from 27.6% in AA to 19.6% in AAA while his walk rate has jumped from 3.8% to 7.7%. There is nothing in there that says, “ready for the big leagues.”
Eliminating Montero and Swinden leaves Mejia vying for the spot in the doubleheader with Jacob deGrom (AAA 6 starts/36 IP: 3.00 ERA/3.00 RA, 18% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate. 48% gb rate). I like deGrom and his power sinker plenty, but when I saw him last, his slider needed lots of work. Considering he started the year in advanced-A, giving him a big league start would be quite a jump for the 25-year-old. Of that quartet, Mejia might be the best prepared for a spot start. That is consistent with saying that Mejia’s development is best served by time in AA.
A quick note for completeness here: Mejia first appeared in a game this year on May 17 for the advanced-A Florida State League team. He made two starts there and then two starts for the GCL team starting on June 29. MLB pitcher rehab assignments are supposed to max out at 30 days for pitchers, so Mejia, if his current rehab is dated to June 29 is just about done with the minors this year unless the Mets spend an option on him now. If they do spend the option, he will have to make the team out of spring training. It’s easier to hide him for a month now in August and then when rosters expand in September to preserve his final option for 2014. I do not know what the right course is with Mejia now, but I’m leaning towards giving him the spot start/keeping him in the big leagues/preserving the option for next year.
3. OBP is still (Offensive) Life
The B-Mets are 62-37 and lead the Eastern League in on-base percentage (.351) and runs scored (511). The team has three guys in the top five in the EL in OBP Allan Dykstra (#1 – .462), Josh Rodriguez (#4 – .415) and Puello (#5 – .401). Dykstra at age 26 and Rodriguez at 28 are living out their peak years in AA. They will not be impact big leaguers, but they sure are impact AA guys. Danny Muno, at age 24 is #11 in the EL in on-base percentage at .246/.381/.385 with a ridiculous 65 walks against 71 strikeoust in 90 games.
AA: Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF) 6, @ Binghamton Mets 5
RF Cesar Puello: 1-for-2, HR (16), BB, HBP, K, SB (21). The 22-year old is up to .332/.398/.570 with 16 doubles, 16 homers and a 70/19 K/BB ratio in 86 games.
The B-Mets turned a triple play behind Syndergaard in third. With runners at first and second, and going on the pitch, SS Wilfredo Tovar caught a liner, threw to Justin Turner at second to double off a runner and then Turner made it three by tagging the runner coming from first.
The rehabbing Turner was 2-for-5 with a pair of doubles while playing second base.
Hard-throwing RHP reliever Jeff Walters fanned all three batters he saw in the ninth. He owns a 43/12 K/BB ratio in 39 innings this year in AA.
Noah Syndergaard did not have his good fastball, or more importantly, his good location. His line: 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 2 HR. The Binghamton radio broadcast thought that, based on the stadium radar gun, all of his pitches were a mile or two off from normal. Instead of reaching back for 96, he was sitting at 94 all day. Also, as Syndergaard told Lynn Worthy after the game, “I didn’t really have a lot of idea where my fastball was going.” Hey, he’s 20 in AA. He’ll learn.
Syndergaard threw an inning in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, so he was running on two day’s rest
AA: Richmond Flying Squirrels 9, @ B-Mets 3
The Double-A Binghamton Mets were the only affiliate to complete a game on All-Star Tuesday and they lost LHP Angel Cuan’s AA debut. Cuan was ok: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. If he’s flown under your radar, well, that’s no surprise and even as it should be. At 24, he’s a little soft-tossing lefty (listed at 5’11″, but probably smaller) with a breaking ball and a changeup. He pitches with smarts and guts, but there’s just not enough stuff to see him in the big leagues.
Cesar Puello (.331/.395/.560 – 75 games), who was 2-for-4 with an double and an RBI, was the only B-Met with two hits. His power production has dropped in July. After 15 extra-base hits in 18 games in June, he has just one in 12 games in July as part of a .313/.365/.333 line. After a three-walk June, he’s equaled that mark in two thirds as many games in July. Progress on plate discipline, or small sample size nonsense?
An 0-for-4 dropped LF Travis Taijeron to .250/.320/.528 overall. After hitting four home runs in his first seven games in AA, Taijeron has four in his next 22 as part of a .205/.289/.385 line with 28 strikeouts in 90 PA over 22 games.
AA: @ Binghamton Mets 7, Richmond Flying Squirrels (SF) 3
Logan Verrett (9-4, 4.16): 8 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR.
Verrett is now second in the Eastern League in innings pitched (110.1), second in WHIP (1.11) thanks to the fifth-lowest walk rate among starters (1.96 BB-IBB/9 IP) but is third in home runs allowed (15). Thus, his ERA of 4.16 is a tick above league average at 4.07. I don’t see Verrett as a guy who can go through a big league lineup multiple times. Maybe he has a future throwing lot of sliders out of the bullpen.
LF Darrell Ceciliani was 2-for-3 with a walk at the top of the order to lift his season line to .281/.329/.421 in 79 games.
Rehabbing 2B Justin Turner was 2-for-3 with an RBI.
AA: @ Binghamton Mets 4, Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 0
The Binghamton Mets improved to 58-34 behind six shutout inning from RHP Erik Goeddel Sunday.
Goedel’s (8-3, 3.94) line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. Goeddel is working on a 10% walk rate and a 22.6% strikeout rate for the year in AA Binghamton. I’m skeptical he will have the command to be a good starter, but he might well slot into a middle relief role.
RF Cesar Puello was 0-for-3 with a walk (!) that helped load up the bases.
A+: Dunedin Blue Jays 1, @ St. Lucie Mets 1 (suspended after three innings)
The rain curtailed a great prospect pitching matchup as Michael Fulmer took on a rehabbing Sergio Santos and then Aaron Sanchez, the Jays #1 prospect per BA heading into this year.
Fulmer’s line: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR
A: Greenville Drive @ Savannah Sand Gnats – ppd by rain
The Gnats and Drive were rained out Friday and Sunday, and suspended mid-game on Saturday, so the two team have completed one half of their scheduled three games to this point in the series. They’ll complete the suspended game on Monday and then play the regularly scheduled game. The two missing games will be made up as part of back-to-back doubleheaders August 30 and 31, during the final week of the regular season, which, I promise, will be brutal.
On the plus side, all the rain gave me a chance to watch the first few innings of the Futures Game (more on that in a bit) and work on a musical mix for the ballpark about sunshine, which has been in short supply the last few days. Obviously, we will take songs that use sunshine as a metaphor and are not strictly about sunshine.
Bob Marley – The Sun is Shining
Katrina & the Waves – Walking on Sunshine
Violent Femmes – Blister in the Sun
Cream – Sunshine of Your Love
Beattles – Here Comes the Sun
Beatles – Good Day Sunshine
Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine when She’s Gone
Leslie Gore – Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows
Len – Steal My Sunshine
Matisyahu – Sunshine
Nirvana – Jesus Doesn’t Want me for a Sunbeam
Feel free to help with this project in the comments.
AA: @ Binghamton Mets 5, Portland Sea Dogs 2 (7 innings)
@ Binghamton Mets 6, Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 0 (7 innings)
Jenrry Mejia in his first rehab start in AA in game two: 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
After the game, Mejia told Lynn Worthy, “Now, I feel like I can throw (with) more consistency. (I can) throw my curveball for strikes, my change-up, two-seamer.” According to Worthy, Mejia was sitting 93-94 on the Binghamton stadium gun, which is usually fairly close to accurate.
Mejia’s a fascinating case study. Since he was foolishly jumped to the big leagues in the 2010, he actually has not had that much success in the minors, and when he has had success with a nice, pretty low ERA, he did so without the usual statistical markers in dominant strikeout and walk rates that suggest that he is ready to thrive in the big leagues.
2010, AA: 6 starts, 1.32 ERA BUT 14 walks in 27.1 IP for a walk rate of 12.6%. League average walk rate was 8.8%.
2011, AAA: 5 starts, 2.86 ERA BUT 21 K/14 BB in 28.1 IP for a walk rate of 12.4% and a strikeout rate of 18.5%. The International League walk rate was 8.5% with a 19.7% strikeout rate.
2012, AAA: 26 games, 10 starts, 3.54 ERA BUT 39/24 K/BB for a 12.5% strikeout rate. The International League walk rate was 8.9% with a 19.3% strikeout rate.
Statistically speaking, I think there’s a really strong argument that Mejia has never really conquered AA. When he was last there as a full-timer, in 2009, he had a 4.47 ERA and a 11.3% walk rate in 10 starts. He’s not the same pitcher he was four years ago – he’s been through the big leagues and surgery – to name two obvious differences. Still the Mets tried skipping steps with Mejia and the results have been poor – he has been a non-factor in the team’s big league fortunes for the last four seasons.
If it were up to me, Mejia would stay at Binghamton this time around until he really proves he is too good for the league. And yes, that means he needs to show a strikeout AND walk rate better than Eastern League average.
AA: Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 8, Binghamton Mets 5 (15 innings)
Considering these two are scheduled for a double-header and 14 innings on Saturday, 15 innings was a bad start to the weekend for the bullpens as position players finished the game for both teams.
RF Cesar Puello (.335/.397/.570 – 71 games): 4-for-7 with a walk, SB, CS
CF Alonzo Harris, (.242/.293/.336 – 59 g) who had been on the disabled list since a collision on June 21 returned with a 2-for-6 effort with a double. He took Cory Mazzoni’s spot on the roster after Mazzoni was placed on the Binghamton DL with a strained hamstring.
LHP Pedro Feliciano fanned three over a scoreless two-inning relief effort. He’s up to 11.1 innings in AA in which he’s fanned nine and walked one.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 3, Dunedin Blue Jays 0
LHP Alex Panteliodis (4-3, 4.11) put together his best start of 2013: 7.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HPB, 0 BB, 3 K. It was his longest outing and his first without allowing a run. I wonder if he bought himself some more time in the St. Lucie rotation and kept Steven Matz and Gabriel Ynoa in Savannah just a little longer.
Kevin Plawecki played first base again, for the second time in three games and the third time in the last seven games and was 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI and a run-scored. He’s hitting a batting-average powered .371/.421/.500 with seven extra-base hits and two walks in 19 games in advanced-A. I think Plawecki is a more aggressive than Mets’ fans generally understand. Even though he strikes out very little (10.5% in A+ in 76 PA), he’ll need to adjust his approach against higher-level pitchers.
Tim Byrdak worked the ninth for his third FSL save of the year.
Kyle Drabek, who I once had high hopes for, and owned in a Scoresheet fantasy format, started and went two innings for Dunedin in a rehab start.
A: Greenville @ Savannah – ppd by rain
There was an epic storm in Savannah on Friday afternoon that lasted nearly all evening. They’ll play two on Sunday beginning at noon. The Saturday forecast looks a little shaky by gametime too.
Binghamton Mets 6, @ Portland Sea Dogs 5 (began 6/25; concluded 7/11)
@ Binghamton Mets 4, Portland Sea Dogs 0 (7 innings)
Cory Mazzoni left game one after 1.2 innings with a right knee injury. Per Lynn Worthy in the Press & Sun Bulletin:
Mazzoni left the first game after telling Lopez he heard a pop in his knee with one out in the fourth after throwing 11⁄3 innings. Lopez and trainer Matt Hunter visited the mound, and Mazzoni threw one warm-up pitch before leaving.
I’m no doctor, but a pop does not sound good.
In game two, Noah Syndergaard was pitch-count limited to allow him to throw in Sunday’s All-Star Futures game. His line: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 19 strikes/30 pitches. That’s a nice tune-up.
A day after playing the Eastern League All-Star Game, 22-year-old Cesar Puello (.328/.390/.570 – 70 gms) was 1-for-4 with a walk in game one and 3-for-4 with two RBI in game two.
AA: @ Binghamton Mets 4, Altoona Curve (PIT) 2
This was the completion of the suspended game from Monday. The two teams did not attempt Tuesday’s regularly scheduled game because Altoona has too many games. The Curve, if I’m counting correctly, finished nine games in the final seven days of the month of June and two in the first two days of July and do not have a double-header scheduled in the next six days in front of the Eastern League’s All-Star Break. Also, there was a 2:54 minute delay in this game so the two teams’ interest in not starting a second game makes sense in that light.
In the game that actually happened, both teams went with their Tuesday starters since the game was suspended after an inning on Monday, and the B-Mets had to deal with one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospect – Jameson Taillon.
2B Danny Muno (.238/.381/.367 – 74 games) had the best night on the B-Mets, going 3-for-3 with a double, a walk and 2 RBI. The 24-year-old Muno has 56 walks and 54 strikeouts and is hitting .333/.500/.515 in his last 10 games and finished June with a .901 OPS after a .595 OPS in May.