Mets Minor Recap: Monday, April 7

The Las Vegas 51s were the only minor league affiliate in action on Monday, and won 7-6 to improve to 4-1 this season.

las vegas april 7

Need to Know: Daisuke Matsuzaka allowed three earned runs over five innings. He walked four and struck out four.

LF Matt den Dekker had two hits and two RBI. DH Bobby Abreu hit two doubles. C Juan Centeno had three RBI for Las Vegas.


Games for Double-A Binghamton and Single-A Savannah were both rained out.

Upper Levels Thursday: Montero Surgical in 51s Win

AAA: @ Las Vegas 51s 9, Fresno Grizzlies (SF) 2 

Rafael Montero ST 13 (Baron)- Rafael Montero turned in the pitching performance of the night in the Mets system: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 55 of 79 pitches for strikes (70%). According to one eye-witness, he was sitting at 93 and made the Grizzlies look “silly” at times.

- Meanwhile, have a day LF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The 26-year-old was 4-for-4 with a homer, threw out a runner at the plate, and made a nice running catch near the stands.

- Vic Black is still having control issues. He issued two walks and committed a throwing error, but used a pair of strikeouts to escape the eighth inning without allowing a run.

- Bobby Abreu singled as a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning.

- Erik Goeddel worked out the bullpen for the first time as a professional (not counting a few piggy-back appearances with Savannah two years ago) and struck out one in a three-batter ninth.

 

AA: Akron RubberDucks (CLE) 7, @ Binghamton Mets 1 

The B-Mets had four hits, while their pitchers issued 11 walks. That’s not a winning combination.

LHP Jack Leathersich pitched a very Leathery eighth inning in a 4-1 game: 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, no hits. In 29.1 innings in AA last year, he allowed almost as many walks (16) as hits (19) to go with his 55 strikeouts.

Las Vegas 51s Release Initial Roster

51s LogoMonday, the Las Vegas 51s, the Mets’ AAA affiliate quietly posted an initial roster on the team’s site.

There are no surprises here.

This rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom is prospect-fun.

Also, the roster came out before the Mets officially signed 40-year-old Bobby Abreu. Also, the Mets signed Bobby Abreu to a minor league contract!

Rotation
Noah Syndergaard
Jacob deGrom
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Rafael Montero
Logan Verrett

 

Infield
SS Wilmer Flores
2B Danny Muno
1B Allan Dykstra
UT Anthony Seratelli
1B/3B Zach Lutz
1B/3B/OF Eric Campbell

Wilmer and friends should get on base plenty. In all seriousness, this would be a good time for Flores to get his walk rate to 6% or better. 

Outfield
Cesar Puello
Matt den Dekker
Kirk Nieuwenhuis

In addition to Abreu, Eric Campbell can also play left field.

This is now an interesting race between den Dekker and Nieuwenhuis who are basically racing/hitting against each other and Abreu in case the Mets need another outfielder. And of course, can Puello prove that 2013 was not a fluke?

Catchers
Juan Centeno
Taylor Teagarden
Kai Gronauer

Bullpen
Giancarlo Alvarado
Vic Black
Buddy Carlyle
Joel Carreno
*Josh Edgin
*Dana Eveland
Kyle Farnsworth
Erik Goeddel
Ryan Reid
Miguel Socolovich
Jeff Walters

The Mets’ bullpen on Opening Day was bad. Some, maybe even most of these guys will get a shot in the big leagues over the course of 2014. Who will be first? Vic Black? Edgin? Goeddel? Reid?

Despite a tweet/story saying that had made the team, Jon Velasquez is not listed on the initial roster.

Here’s the roster in a Vegas_2014_Roster_March31_igbcrpag.

Tom Signore will Fill in For Frank Viola in AAA

While Frank Viola is recovering from open heart surgery, the Mets will ask Tom Signore, who had been scheduled to serve as the pitching coach for SSA Brooklyn to fill in (Per Kevin Burkhart on Thursday’s SNY broadcast).

This is a return to Vegas for Signore, who was the Jays’ AAA pitching coach in 2011.

Signore, who had been with the Toronto Blue Jays sine 2005, had worked as their double-A pitching coach for the last three years.

 

Signore, 52, also joins the Mets organization for the first time in 2014 after spending the previous two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays as the pitching coach with New Hampshire (AA) of the Eastern League.

 

Also, this cannot be said enough: get well soon, Frank.

Sweet Music Heads to Las Vegas

FViola Black Hat Graysonrank Viola will join the Mets’ AAA staff in 2014. Viola will coach alongside manager Wally Backman and Hitting Coach George Greer.

Viola’s great. He always had time for me in Savannah, but more importantly, made his pitchers better. He understands what makes each pitcher successful, and seems adept at prioritizing the areas for each pitcher to improve. Frank is a ball-buster in the classic sense and enjoys his time on the field. He also gets a kick out of mixing in a few breaking balls or running a pitch in on a hitter’s hands in batting practice. He can still make his ball move like a Cy Young award winner

I’m disappointed personally that I’ll likely spend less time talking pitching with Frank this summer, but thrilled for him personally and professionally.

Upper Levels Thursday: A Ruben Renaissance?

AAA: Las Vegas 51s 10, Colorado Springs (COL) 7  

TRuben Tejadahin air baseball is a different beast indeed.

SS Ruben Tejada hit his first home run of the year at any level in a 3-for-5 night that extended his hitting streak to eight straight games. He’s now hitting .385/.444/.590 in his last 10 games and .295/.347/.379 in 57 games with Las Vegas.

LF Dustin Lawley, in his second game in AAA, was 3-for-5 with two doubles and a homer.

The 51s pitchers: Matt Fox, Sean Henn, D.J. Mitchell and Chris Schwinden (0.1 innings of relief). Ugh. Lets move on.

The 51s are two games ahead of the Sacramento River Cats with four games to play.

 

AA: @ Bowie Bay Sox (BAL) 13, Binghamton Mets 1

The Bay Sox scored six times in the first inning against Erik Goeddel and three more times in the five-run fifth. Goeddel’s (9-7, 4.37) ugly line: 4.2 IP, 12 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 4 HR.

One modest bright spot for the B-Mets: RF Travis Taijeron, who was 2-for-4, with a homerun and a strikeout. Taijeron has in fact seen his strikeouts (75 in 63 games) eat his batting average as he’s down to .241/.320/.500 in 63 games in AA. The 24-year-old has more extra-base hits (30) than singles (24). It’s an all-or-nothing approach that will not play, in its current form, in the big leagues.

Playoffs? Lets Talk about Playoffs

The Major League Mets are not going to the playoffs, but the majority of their minor league affiliates are still fighting for playoff berths. So lets check up on each race, starting with the full-season teams where two of the four teams have clinched and one more is close.

 

AAA
51s LogoLed by almost big leaguers Ruben Tejada and Kirk Nieuwenhuis and earlier Lucas Duda and Ike Davis and Wilmer Flores on the position side and Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero and friends on the hill, the Las Vegas 51s are 76-58 and two games ahead of the Sacramento River Cats for first place in the PCL Southern Division with 10 games to play in the next eight days thanks to a pair of doubleheaders with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.

There is no wild card in the PCL, so it’s Division Title or bust for the 51s.

Prospects you care most about: Zack Wheeler, Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores have all graduated. That leaves Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom in the starting rotation, both of whom could make their MLB debuts in 2014. John Church is not sexy, but he’s had decent results out of the Vegas bullpen with a fastball in the low 90s. Jack Leathersich is still walking a batter an inning in AAA (25 BB in 27 IP) on his way to a 6.00 ERA.

 

AA
The Binghamton Mets have clinched the Eastern League’s Eastern Division and have tied a franchise record for 82 wins.

In related news, the B-Mets lead the EL in walks drawn and are second in OBP (.343). Also, the team’s pitching staff is one one hundredth of a point from the league lead in ERA.

Prospects you care most about: THOR. Noah Syndergaard, who throws tonight, is the only Top 15 guy in the system on this team right now with Rafael Montero promoted to AAA and Cesar Puello suspended. Jeff Walters, a sinker slider guy, has had a nice season out of the Binghamton bullpen (57 K/16 BB in 51 IP) and is a good bet to earn a 40-man spot this winter.

 

A+
St. Lucie is six games back with seven to play in the second half and staring at an elimination of 1. This is the one full-season affiliate likely to miss the playoffs.

 

A
The Savannah Sand Gnats won the first half in the SAL Southern Division to clinch their playoff berth and likely headed toward a first round date with the Augusta GreenJackets (SF).

Prospects you care most about: CF Brandon Nimmo, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Luis Cessa and RHP Gabriel Ynoa.
With his bruised thumb finally healed, and after a couple of tweaks to his swing, Nimmo has taken off in August at .354/.514/.456 with 24 walks against 24 strikeouts in 25 games to push his season line at age 20 to .279/.402/.369 while playing CF at a level that makes me think he can stay there.

Ynoa and Cessa are in the Top 10 in the league in ERA and Matz (2.59 ERA) would be there if he had enough innings. Barring rainouts that cancel games, Matz will need to throw 8.1 innings in his final start to qualify for the SAL leaderboard. He’s been 92-96 with his fastball, sitting 92-94 with the makings of a plus changeup. Oddly, in his last start on Saturday, he had better feel for his breaking ball than his changeup, the reverse of the usual order. He’s back to calling his breaker a curve instead of a slider as he works to get more depth on the pitch.

Cessa and Ynoa both have the potential to be rotation members in a few years. Cessa’s fastball has held up a little better over the course of the summer, as he’s touched 95, and sat around 92 to go along with a changeup and slider that has more depth than sweep. The 20-year-old Ynoa has been 90-92 more recently after touching higher earlier in the season, and complements that with a slider and a changeup that scouts think have the makings of MLB average offerings.

Upper Levels Thursday: Rafael Montero Dominant Again in AAA

AAA: @ Las Vegas 51s 3, New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA) 2 

Rafael Montero ST 13 (Baron)Hey, now, Rafael Montero: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. The eight strikeouts for Montero were one off a AAA season-high set in his last start. After an ordinary first 10 starts in AAA, Montero’s August has been spectacular: 3 GS, 0.82 ERA, 22 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 21 K. He’s striking out batters at a rate of 27.6% in his last three starts and walking them at a 2.6% rate. After 122 innings a year ago, Montero has thrown 138 this year, so he likely only has another 15-20 to play with before the Mets will shut him down for the year. That, plus the fact that the 22-year old is not on the Mets’ 40-man roster, and will not need to be added for Rule 5 protection for two more years, means he will not get a chance to make his big league debut until next year. Instead, bet on 2014 for Montero.

C Travis d’Arnaud (1-for-3, BB, RBI) is hitting .304/.487/.554 with 21 walks against 12 strikeouts in 19 games in AAA. This is a guy who drew 19 walks in 67 games in Las Vegas when they were a Blue Jays affiliate in 2012. He has addressed the major flaw in his on-field game: his patience at the plate.

RF Kirk Nieuwenhuis had a solid night at the top of the order, going 2-for-4 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts. In 55 games in AAA, the 26-year-old has hit .243/.342/.471 with 30 walks and 59 strikeouts. Nieuwenhuis is playing right while Matt den Dekker patrols center.

 

AA: Binghamton Mets 9, @ Reading Fightin’ Phils 3 

The Binghamton Mets are now a franchise-best 30 games over .500. Which is nice. The B-Mets’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth is just one. Which is also nice.

CF Alonzo Harris had a nice night at the bottom of the Binghamton order, going 3-for-4 with a double. Despite leadoff man speed, the 24-year-old is the owner of a .225/.292/.310 line in 88 games.

Upper Minors Wednesday: Travis d’Arnaud Still Waiting on BabyBuck

AAA: Las Vegas 51s 8, New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA) 1 

For the second straight night, Travis d’Arnaud was hitless, (0-2,) but walked twice. You want strike zone control? d’Arnaud has walked 20 times and fanned just 12 in 18 games in AAA for a .302/.486/.566 line. Combine that new patience with vicious batspeed, and d’Arnaud is just waiting on his call. He’s still just waiting on BabyBuck and saying  the right things while he waits.

Juan Centeno pinch hit for d’Arnaud in the 7th.  Hmm…

RF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (2-for-3 with a homer, 2 walks and 2 RBI) and 1B Lucas Duda (3-3, 2B, 2 BB) carried the 51s offense. Duda has played four straight games at first base, which is nice, because it’s the position where he belongs.

The homer was the 12th of the year for Nieuwenhuis (.238/.336/.465) who has more homers than doubles (8) in AAA.

Matt Fox was sharp: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.

 

AA: Binghamton Mets 4, @ Reading Fightin’ Phils (PHI) 3 

One night after blowing his first save since June, Jeff Walters was right back on the hill, working around two hits to nail down the final three outs with a strikeout.

Darin Gorski was ok, but unexceptional: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.

 

AAA Tuesday: Jacob deGrom and the Nature of Learning a Curveball

AAA: @ Las Vegas 51s 4, New Orleans Zephyrs (MIA) 3 

Position Players
C Travis d’Arnaud (.314/.486/.588 – 17 gms): 0-for-2, 2 BB

d’Arnaud now has drawn 18 walks and fanned just 10 times in 17 games in AAA. That is very, very good.

1B Lucas Duda (.200/.355/.200 – 8 gms): 0-for-4

Duda, who again played first for the third straight night, has just played a little over a week’s worth of games in AAA, but it has not been a good week.

CF Matt den Dekker (.286/.350/.484 – 39 gms): 0-for-4,
RF Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.231/.326/.447 – 53 gms): 0-for-3, BB

Nieuwenhuis has fanned 57 times in 53 games in AAA this year and just enjoyed his 26th birthday. The window for him to establish himself in the big leagues is rapidly drawing closed.

SS Ruben Tejada (.265/.329/.329 – 40 gms): 1-for-3

The 23-year-old Tejada has a platoon split .794 OPS vs. LHP in 33 PA and .614 vs. RHP in 141 PA this year in AAA that mirrors his MLB platoon split (.608 vs. RHP and .739 vs. LHP). Omar Quintanilla does not hit lefties at all (career: .180/.232/.205 – 225 PA). Could a Tejada/Quintanilla platoon work for the Mets in the big leagues if there is no satisfactory everyday SS available via trade or free agency this off-season? A team cannot really carry both Tejada and Justin Turner as bench pieces at the same time.

 

deGrom
deGrom WarmUp PSLStarter Jacob deGrom had a solid night both on the mound and at the plate, where the former college shortstop was 1-for-2 with his first professional homerun. His pitching: 6.2 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

After a 6.43 ERA in July, the 25-year-old deGrom is down to a 3.32 ERA in three starts in August. His strikeout to walk ratio, which was 3.2 in July (19 K/6 BB) has improved to 4 in August (16 K/4 BB). He’s striking out basically the same number of batters – 19.5%, but his walk rate this month is down to a very strong 4.9%. deGrom is a personal favorite of mine, he’s long and lean with a great pitcher’s build and a plus fastball that sits in the low-mid 90s and he can run up to 96. He was new to pitching when the Mets drafted him, and he missed the 2011 season with Tommy John surgery, but he’s thrown lots of strikes as a minor leaguer.

The question I had about deGrom was whether his slider would develop enough to complement his fastball and keep him in a starting role in the big leagues. Now, the Mets have him working with a curveball, rather than the slider.

When queried about deGrom’s slider, Mets’ pitching coordinator Ron Romanick, talked about deGrom’s new weapon, “His slider, I like it more as a curveball.  The last time I was in Vegas, he threw some on the side – basically, the same grip, but just throw it like a curveball. And deGrom, he threw it, and I’m like, “that’s a curveball, I like how that comes out of your hand. It looks natural.”

Romanick compared deGrom to the 1980s starter Mike Witt. The tall, slender Witt was a big leaguer for 12 years, almost exclusively as a starter, with a career ERA+ of 105 and two All-Star selections, including a career year in 1986 when he placed third in the Cy Young award voting.

Romanick also mused about the nature of teaching or improving young pitchers’ curveballs and pointed out that deGrom was going through a similar adjustment period to Noah Syndergaard in learning the pitch. Romanick wants to see pitchers maintain deliveries on their breaking stuff that mimics their fastball motions as nearly as possible.

For deGrom, he said, “It’s like Syndergaard – he was trying to throw his curveball “like a curveball” instead of like a fastball and when he started doing that, [throwing it like a fastball], here’s a plus curveball. The [goal is] the mentality of a curveball grip, but you throw everything like a fastball. And a lot of the guys who throw curveballs, it has that “high school loop” in it and that’s the wrong mentality. That’s one of the things you talk about. Not how much it breaks, but how late it breaks. And a true curveball, the grip will produce the rotation to it.  Syndergaard’s the same way. They get this mental picture of what it’s supposed to look like. It’s supposed to look like a fastball. You gotta have the same stroke you do on the fastball. “