AAA Business: Mets Move Closer to Las Vegas

The Mets are one step closer to placing their AAA baseball team in Las Vegas for at least the next two years.

Tuesday, the Houston Astros and the Oklahoma City Redhawks extended their PDC for two more years, while the Nashville Sounds and the Milwaukee Brewers did the same.  The Marlins and New Orleans Zephyrs already extended their relationship through 2014.

There are only four AAA teams without a PDC for 2013: Buffalo, Las Vegas, Memphis and Tucson. Memphis is Cardinals’ country and a lock to resign with St. Louis. Tucson is a Padres affiliate, and surely will resign. That leaves the Blue Jays and Mets on the Major League side and the Bisons and Las Vegas 51s on the AAA side. At least the 51s have a sweet new logo (pictured at right).


Labor Day: The Almost End of the Minor League Baseball Season

Labor Day marks not just the end of summer, and a wonderful day for going to the beach, but the end of the minor league baseball regular season for the four full-season levels: AAA, AA, advanced-A and A. That leaves two Mets affiliates still playing baseball, the Brooklyn Cyclones and St. Lucie Mets.

The Brooklyn Cyclones are closing in on a wild-card berth, with a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot with two games to play.

The St. Lucie Mets, who set a new franchise-high for wins in a season at 83-52, begin the best-of-three Division Series on the road in Jupiter Tuesday. The series shifts to St. Lucie for game two on Wednesday, and if necessary, game three on Thursday.

The AAA-Buffalo Bisons, AA-Binghamton Mets and A-Savannah Sand Gnats are done for the year.

Upper Minors Friday: Wilmer Flores Goes Big Fly Again

AAA: Buffalo Bisons 8, @ Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 5 

3B Zach Lutz was 1-for-5 with an RBI in his final game of the year in AAA. The Mets recalled Lutz and C Mike Nickeas after the game. The 26-year old Lutz has hit .299/.410/.496 this year in AAA with 10 homers in 72 games. He’s never been able to stay on the field, but when he’s played in the minors, he’s hit. He’s played both third and first, but is a below average defender at third, his primary position. He might be a decent right-handed hitting bench bat.

2B Jordany Valdespin (.286/.335/.415 – 37 games) was 2-for-4 with a walk, his third straight game with a free pass.

RHP Chris Schwinden was ok: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. He has a solid 3.21 ERA and a 2.7 K/BB ratio in AAA. He’s a good AAA pitcher but not a big league asset.


AA: @ Binghamton Mets 8, Trenton Thunder (NYY) 5 

I’m less interested in the homers hit by LF Dustin Martin and 1B Allan Dykstra in favor of the one hit by 2B Wilmer Flores who was 1-for-3 with a homer, his 18th of  the year between advanced-A and AA. The 21-year old is enjoying a .377/.436/.632 in August and is up to .324/.375/.517 in 63 games with Binghamton.

I don’t think he’s a second baseman, but I think it’s pretty clear he’s a major league hitter.

Upper Minors Thursday: Jeurys Familia Finishes 2012 on a High

AAA: Buffalo Bisons 10, @ Rochester Red Wings 3 

Maybe it’s taken Jeurys Familia the better part of a AAA season to figure it out. His line Thursday: 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 WP – 61% strikes. The nine strikeouts tied a season-high. After walking at least three batters in each of his first six starts of the year and eight of his first nine, Familia has walked one batter or fewer in three of his last four outings.

His combined line in his last four starts: 25 IP, 27 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 7 BB, 28 K. That’s a 3.60 ERA, a 4 K/BB and an opponents’ batting average of .270. It’s not dominant, but it’s much, much better than the early season version of Familia who had an ERA above five in April and July and right around 4.50 in May and June. Crucially, he’s 22 making him younger still than many players in Savannah or St. Lucie.

Familia’s late-season progress is very, very encouraging. Whether or not the Mets call up Familia for a look in September this year, I hope the team stays patient with him and returns him to AAA (wherever) to begin 2013 where he can continue to work as a starter.

2B Jordany Valdespin was 1-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base. That’s two games in a row with a walk.

Deolis Guerra, part of the package the Mets sent Minnesota for Johan Santana, threw two innings in relief for Rochester, giving up a run, as the 23-year old’s ERA hovers at 4.95.


AA: @ Reading Phillies 7, Binghamton Mets 2 

Ah, come on. On the day I put up some links to some nice articles about Darin Gorski he did this: 2 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP. The homer he allowed was the 38th of the year for 26-year old Darin Ruf, breaking Ryan Howar’s REading team record. That’s a rare case of Darin on Darin violence. Ruf, a first baseman, is hitting .321/.412/.634 in 135 games in the Eastern League this year.

After Jefry Marte (.255/.326/.374 – 125 games) started at third base, going 1-for-3, Wilmer Flores (.323/.374/.506 – 62 games) came in for the game’s final innings, picking up a single and a walk.

Upper Levels Tuesday: Collin McHugh Tunes Up; Wilmer Flores Just Keeps Hitting

AAA: Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 10, @ Buffalo Bisons 4 

Collin McHugh was ok in a start merely designed to keep him fresh for his next big league assignment, September 3rd in St. Louis.

This was not a pretty game: the Bisons committed three errors while the pitching staff issued eight walks.

An 0-for-4 with two strikeouts dropped 25 year old CF Matt den Dekker to .215/.248/.376 with 88 whiffs in 73 games in AAA.

Jordany Valdespin played second, where he was 0-for-4 with a strikeout, and yes, oddly a walk.

AA: @ Reading Phillies 12, Binghamton Mets 8

Good first: 2B Wilmer Flores was 3-for-5 with a double and a triple and a strikeout. In, August, the month he turned 21, Flores  is hitting .392/.443/.639 in 25 games in August with 15 extra-base hits to push his season line at AA to .328/.376/.515 in 60 games. That’ll work.

CF Juan Lagares was 2-for-5 with a homer, his fourth. The 23-year old is hitting .279/.332/.385. He’s hit for a little more power as the year has gone one. In the first half, he had a singles and doubles heavy .089 isolated slugging in 85 games, which he’s raised to .142 in 41 games in the final 41 games.

Every B-Mets’ pitcher gave up at least three runs starting with Cory Mazzoni: 3.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. It was the third time in his last five starts that he’s given up six runs or more as he’s now allowed 26 runs on 47 (!) hits in 31.2 innings in August.


AAA Monday: Jenrry Mejia: Impressive, with Hiccup

AAA: Rochester Red Wings 6, @ Buffalo Bisons 1 

After rolling through the first two innings, Jenrry Mejia lost his command in the third inning when allowed three walks and four runs. The first scored on a bases-loaded walk, and the next three on a bases loaded triple.

His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K. He threw 65% of his pitches (57 of 88) for strikes. He induced eight groundouts.

The results were not great, but altogether, I thought it was an impressive night for Mejia. His sinker, when it was down picked up grounder after grounder. The Bisons’ broadcast crew repeatedly mentioned his 95 mph velocity. His curveball had bite. I thought a few of the more hard-hit against him were on changeups, but it was hard to tell on my computer screen.

The Bisons have six games remaining, so the Mets could have Mejia make one more start in AAA. He’s up to 86.2 innings this year after 28.1 last year in a season lost to Tommy John surgery. In 2011, he threw 81.1 innings between the big leagues and the minors. I would like to see the Mets give Mejia another start in AAA and then a few turns through the big league rotation.

The Weekend in Buffalo: Zack Wheeler was Brilliant Sunday

Zack Wheeler was brilliant in game one of a doubleheader on Sunday in a 1-0 win. His line: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K. He threw 66% of his pitches (65 of 98) for strikes. It was far and away his best outing in his five tries in triple-A for the Bisons.

I caught a few pitches early in the game on, but apparently, he held his mid-90s velocity into the seventh. His curveball was sharp early.

Wally Backman, his skipper was impressed:

“I think we’re just seeing the surface of it. He really dominated today. He threw the ball by all those hitters. He threw his breaking ball for strikes. When he can pitch like he did today, he’s going to be dominant. For him now, it’s just going to be a matter of consistency.

It’s a power arm, with a power breaking ball. He threw a few good changeups today as well. He stayed ahead of the hitters, pounded the zone. They couldn’t just sit on his fastball cause he had good command of his breaking stuff.

I just believe, that he’s young enough, that if this kid stays healthy, he’s going to mature into something pretty special.

He kept the ball down and pounded the zone, down. Those are the things he’s going to have to learn to do consistently. He’s shown that he can do it. Earlier, he’s had a bad inning here, or a bad inning there, in the course of a game, [but] today, he got through all of that and it shows that when he’s right, he can be dominant.


Game two, an 11-9 Rochester win, was a complete mess in which the Bisons walked seven men. LHP CJ Nitkowski, who’s comeback is a nice story had a ______ (fill in the adjective) outing: 1.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.

Upper Minors Friday: Jeurys Familia as Two-Face? Wilmer Flores As Hitter…

AAA: Scranton/WB Yankees 6, @ Buffalo Bisons 4

Jeurys Familia was bad early, but steadied himself and finished six innings. He allowed five runs in the first that started: single, homer, double, single, wild pitch, wild pitch, E6, single… Then, after a single and a double accounted for a run in teh second inning, he righted himself and retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced. Which is the real pitcher? Both, really. His final line: 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. He’s not really close to contributing in the big leagues, but his final five innings have to be an encouraging sign in a second half in which he has cut his walk rate from 14% in 18 starts before the All-Star Break to 9% after.

Once again, Lucas Duda, who was 1-for-5 with a double, played leftfield. I guess the Mets were not serious about having him reacclimate himself  to firstbase.

CF Matt den Dekker was 0-for-4 with two more strikeouts. The 25-year old is hitting .212/.246/.383 with a 85/12 K/BB ratio in 68 games in AAA. End of story.


AA: @ Portland Sea Dogs 4, Binghamton Mets 3

2B Wilmer Flores homered for the second straight night in a 1-for-4 effort. A .338/.398/.538 line with seven doubles, three homers, eight walks and 12 strikeouts in 21 games in August has carried him to .302/.353/.467 in 56 games in AA.His 16 homeruns in 2012 are a new career-high, easily surpassing his 11 from 2010. He just turned 21. At this rate, he’ll be in the big leagues in 2013.

CF Juan Lagares was 2-for-4 to extend his hitting streak to six straight games. He’s up to .295/.342/.425 in 38 games after the AA All-Star break, but a .130 isolated slugging is an ominous sign for the 23 year old.

25-year old Reese Havens was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. His season line dipped to .220/.349/.353 with 109 strikeouts in 90 games this year.

Gonzalez Germen: 7.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 2 HR. Meh.

Upper Minors Thursday: Wilmer Flores Goes Big Fly

AAA: Scranton/WB Yankees 4, @ Buffalo Bisons 3 (11 innings)

The Bisons had a 3-1 lead in the seventh, but the bullpen could not hold a lead. Sound familiar?

RHP Armando Rodriguez made the spot start for the Bisons after working the vast majority of the year out of the Binghamton bullpen. His line: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. Rodriguez has been on and off the Mets’ 40-man roster in the last year and went unclaimed when he was exposed to waivers.

CF Matt den Dekker was 2-for-4 with a strikeout. The 25-year old is hitting .298/.322/.386 with two doubles and a homerun in his last 15 games, but has 18 strikeouts against two walks in that time span. In 66 games in AAA, he’s sitting at .211/.244/.387 with 12 walks in 88 games.


AA: @ Portland Sea Dogs (BOS) 14, Binghamton Mets 9

Good first or bad?

Cory Mazzoni: 3 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR.
Mazzoni’s short outing drove his double-A ERA to 4.24 with a 2.6 K/BB ratio (45 K/17 BB) in 70 innings. That’s a 5.8 K/9 coupled with a 2.2 BB/9 ratio. The outing was his shortest in AA, and the seven runs he allowed tied a season-high.
I got a question on Twitter about whether Mazzoni is tiring. It is certainly possible. Or it’s possible he had a bad night at the office.
In terms of innings, he’s thrown 133.2 this year over 24 starts between St. Lucie and Savannah. In 16 starts with North Carolina State last year, Mazzoni threw 114.2 innings, which he followed up with 13 innings between Brooklyn and St. Lucie for a total of 127.2 innings so he’s just six innings over last year’s total.

2B Reese Havens (.223/.353/.357) was 0-for-5 with a strikeout, his 107th in his 89 game in AA this year.


DH Wilmer Flores (.303/.355/.457 – 55 games) was 3-for-4 with a double and a homer, his fifth in AA and his 15th of the year. The 21-year old has hit .342/.405/.513 with nine-extra base hits, eight walks against 11 strikeouts in 20 games this month. I don’t know where he’ll play, but he can hit.

CF Juan Lagares was 2-for-5 with a double. After a .091 isolated slugging percentage in the first half, he’s up to .134 in the second half as part of a .289/.338/.423 line in 37 games.

Upper Levels Wednesday: Jenrry Mejia is “Going in the Right Direction”

I was trying to get away from daily recaps and focus on more big-picture stuff, but every time I do that, I’m reminded when I look at the box scores everyday, that the games really do matter. Everyday. We’ll just have to do both.

For example, Wednesday’s development at the upper levels was Jenrry Mejia’s best start since his return to the Bisons rotation.


AAA: Scranton/WB Yankees 2, @ Buffalo Bisons 1

Again, the story here is Jenrry Mejia: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2 WP. He threw 63% of his pitches (54 of 86) for strikes.

Bisons manager Wally Backman after the game on Mejia:

“It was a very good start. He had a couple of balls that were hit real hard off of him. Pitched himself out of trouble a couple of times, but overall, he stayed down in the strikezone. I thought he threw his secondary pitches really well. Today, it was probably one of his better starts. I was happy to see that and he’s been better as a starter. What the future holds for Mejia is still uncertain probably. Even when I go back to when he was pitching in the bullpen, before we made him a starter, his last three outings in the bullpen were pretty good too. He’s made some big improvements coming back from Tommy John as quick as he had. He’s definitely going in the right direction.

I’m curious for whom the future is certain. I kid, gently.

I know Backman was again referring to the fact that despite his progress starting in AAA, Mejia might be destined for a relief role. Whatever Mejia’s future role turns out to be, it’s good to see him not just pitching well, but missing more bats. And as long as he’s pitching well as as starter, there really should be absolutely no rush to move him to the bullpen.

Mejia’s line as a starter in Buffalo this season: 1.12 ERA, 40.1 IP, 33 H, 12 R, 5 ER, 2 HR, 11 BB, 21 K.


Lucas Duda (.273/.337/.409 – 23 games) was 2-for-4 with a walk, and again played leftfield. That’s 21 games in the outfield and two at first for Duda in AAA.


AA: @ Binghamton Mets 6, New Hampshire Fisher Cats 3 

2B Reese Havens was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts to slip back to .227/.358/.363 with 106 strikeouts in 88 games. Considering the fact that he’s 1. not hitting, and 2. 25 years old, his 40-man roster spot has to be in some jeopardy this winter.

Meanwhile, 2B Wilmer Flores was 1-for-4 with a double. The 21-year old is up to .294/.345/.431 in 54 games in AA.