At MiLB.com, Ben Hill discusses the Brooklyn Cyclones’ “messy offseason” that included a “frenzied” cleaning/rebuilding effort for MCU Park to deal with the damage from Hurricane Sandy.
At ESPNNY, Matt Ehalt has a preliminary roster for the Cyclones that includes only four 2013 draft picks. Here’s a secret: it’ll eventually include more once guys sign and pass their physicals. The star of the roster is 2012 first round pick Gavin Cecchini, who got a behind the scenes tour of the Barclay’s Center and the Brooklyn Nets’ lockerroom (via LJ Mazzilli’s twitter).
In Newsday, Ike Davis explains what he’s working on in AAA:
“Being a little quieter, more relaxed, not as much movement, picking up the ball a little easier and just having a smooth swing,” Davis said. “Just slowing things down, trying to calm it down a little bit and use my hands a little more and not be so herky-jerky with my body. It’s allowing me to be a little smoother and get to fastballs a little easier.”
At Baseball Prospectus, Ben Lindbergh looks at Gonzalez Germen who gave up four homeruns (!) in an inning of relief on Thursday.
BA Hot Sheet
Baseball America put RHP Rafael Montero on at #11 on this week’s Hot Sheet.
J.J. Cooper took a pair of Mets-related questions in his associated chat, one about Travis d’Arnaud and one about Zack Wheeler.
His comment about Wilmer Flores’ power:
He has solid line drive swing that should produce solid average and solid, but not spectacular power. Somewhere in the 15-20 home run range seems to be a reasonable expectation in a good year with a little less in his normal years.
Sweet Music and a Prospect Tourney
There’s a nice piece on Gnats’ pitching coach Frank Viola. It’s worth a read for the revelation that Viola liked basketball more than baseball when he was younger, his discussion about his circle changeup and the source of his “Sweet Music” nickname.
The Mets have introduced a new amateur baseball tournament for the nation’s travel teams that Conor Glassey at Baseball America calls a “must-see.” The games will be split between Citi Field, MCU Park and St. John’s Jack Kaiser Stadium.
Andy Martino of the New York Daily News was hanging out in Las Vegas and talked to Ike Davis and Wally Backman about Davis’ attitude. Guess what? Wally wants to make a tweak to Davis’ swing mechanics:
“What we’re trying to — collectively as a staff, coming down from (Mets hitting coach Dave) Hudgens, all the way down…we took his hitch,” Backman said. “You’re not going to see this big old hitch no more. We changed his hand position, and that’s the only thing we changed, so his hands can only go in one direction, and that’s up to a firing position.”
- At ESPN, Mark Simon has the heat maps for Ike Davis’ slugging percentage comparing last year to this year. They are alarming. Simon’s blunt conclusion, “In short, Davis is a man in need of hitting help in every possible way.”
- At Fangraphs, Jeff Sullivan looks at Davis’ level of offensive production (on the high end for an NL pitching staff), at similar players who have suffered a collapse at the same age (hint: Davis is doing something historical) and the chances that Davis returns to something useful.
But what’s clear is that, in some way, Davis is broken. It’s unlikely that this would be a step on Davis’ path toward becoming an elite, franchise first baseman. The good news is that there can still be good news…. Historically, players have bounced back from dreadful seasons, and Davis has already bounced back from a partial dreadful season, and Davis is his own man so history means only so much anyway. It’s important that Davis has been bad, but it’s perhaps equally important that Davis has been good, for years. In the big picture, Davis does still have a 107 career wRC+, and that can’t be forgotten on account of a couple terrible months.
- Bob Klapisch in the Record has a column in which he suggests that working with Ike Davis will be important for Wally Backman, and could have “greater ramifications. If Wally has something in his ’80s arsenal that would allow him to succeed where Collins, Alderson and everyone else at Citi Field have failed, it would cement the notion that Backman’s time has come.” This is silly stuff.
ESPN, Jason Churchill: “Smith offers a strong hit tool and future power, and the Mets clearly went best player rather than need or an attempt to save a significant amount of cash under MLB’s recommended bonus for later picks.”
Baseball America, Conor Glassey: “One of the best pure hitters in the draft class, the Mets continue to go with high-upside players in the first round… Smith’s hitting potential may outweigh Gavin Cecchini’s overall upside, he’s that good of a hitter. Either way, Smith should rank in the top three in the Mets’ system when he signs.”
The Strawberry Connection
In the New York Post, Zach Braziller goes with the Darryl Strawberry.
CBSSports does similarly and mixes in a Strawberry quote about Eric Davis’ recommendation of Smith.
At Baseball America, Mike Kerwick mixes the Mets’ praise for Smith’s swing with a little Strawberry and a little Michael Bourn.
I get the temptation for the Strawberry angle – Straw and Smith are both black, left-handed hitters drafted out of high school from Southern California. However, physically they are not similar. Smith is listed at 6’0″, 185, although his high school team page lists him at 6’2″, 220 lbs. Straw was 6’6″, 190. Six foot six. This raises a really important question for me with Smith, just how big is he? I like him a lot more at 6’2″ than 6’0″, 185.
Smith and Not Michael Bourn
In the Daily News, Andy Martino revisits the Mets’ pursuit of Michael Bourn last winter, and MLB’s changing rationale over whether the team’s pick at #11 was protected.
For what it’s worth, Bourn is having a strong season for Cleveland, for whom he is hitting .301/.346/.404 in 36 games. If that holds up, it would be his highest slugging percentage of his career.
A Shining Day for MLB’s RBI and Urban Youth Academy
Both Smith and Phillies’ first rounder J.P. Crawford are products of MLB’s RBI and Urban Youth Academy initiatives. Of the pair of programs, Smith told MLB.com:
They mean a ton,” Smith said of UYA and RBI. “They exposed me to so much baseball and got me to this point. Without them, I wouldn’t even be here. They exposed me with the scholarship, the traveling, baseball around the world. It has taken me to places like China, Florida, Arizona, I could keep naming them all. Without that exposure, I don’t think I would be here today.
There have to be many, many happy people at MLB HQ about these two and the apparent success of RBI and UYA, and rightly so.
- In the Wall Street Journal, Brian Costa in the Wall Street Journal takes an in-depth, honest and scathing assessment of the Mets’ unfortunate landing in Vegas. Remarkably, Costa discussed the Mets’ relationship with Buffalo, including the disastrous start to the 2009 season, without once using the name Tony Bernazard. Apparently, the 51s batting cage is outdoors, which is awesome for those 100+ degree days in the desert and they don’t water the field enough.
- At Beyond the Box Score, Chris St. John does a nice study and finds that Baseball America does a pretty darn good job at identifying the prospects who will become baseball’s top players. His summary:
“nearly 80% of the top 100 players in recent seasons were ranked in the top 100 by Baseball America. Of all the talk about failure rates (12% of prospects don’t even get to the majors, only 69% fail to put up a career WAR over 10), the fine folks at BA are really good at finding the top players.
- Heading into the SAL off-day Monday, Savannah Sand Gnats’ CF Brandon Nimmo is hitting .424/.513/.576 with five extra-base hits, 10 walks and 14 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances over 17 games. He’s leading the SAL in average, on-base percentage, hits (28), is tied for the league lead in triples (3) and runs scored (18) and is fourth in total bases. It’s a remarkable start for the 20-year old.
Nimmo told Adam Rubin at ESPNNY that he’s just on a hot streak.
“It’s baseball, so we’re going to go through cold streaks and hot streaks,” Nimmo said. “This is a hot streak right now. I’m going to go through a period where I’m not doing very well. We’re just going to try to keep this going as long as possible, just be consistent. But, yeah, there’s a reason people don’t hit .400 in baseball.”
- At Baseball America, Jim Callis says Rainy Lara was next on the list of next Mets out in the annual BA Handbook. Callis’ comment on Lara:
“he stands out most for his command of his 89-92 mph sinker. Scouts aren’t as enthused about his secondary offerings, however, and they aren’t in love with his long arm action.”
And on the Mets:
The strength of the Mets system is righthanded pitching.
- The Yankees hire goons to keep home fans quiet and deter them from jeering the Yankees when the team is on the road. Really?
- Finally, I thought I was covering a league lacrosse championship Sunday in Savannah for the Savannah Morning News. I was, but I was also covering a living memorial.
- Travis d’Arnaud will not require surgery. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Mets still expect him out for eight weeks. It could be a little shorter, it could be a little longer. It depends on 1. how quickly the bone heals, 2. how much discomfort he has in his rehab and return to catching.
- Baseball America put Wilmer Flores in their honorable mention section “In the Team Photo” of their weekly Hot Sheet this week. They still refer to him as a third baseman, despite the fact that he has played second almost exclusively. BA writes, “The 21-year-old went 12-for-30 (.400) with a homer and four doubles this week, but more remarkably he has just three strikeouts in 15 games this season.”
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Jeffrey Paternostro spends a lot of words comparing Logan Verrett and Tyler Pill in a Prospect Smackdown, only to conclude that Erik Goeddel, with the better fastball is the better prospect. Well played.
- The newiest:
The early report of “elbow strain” for Mateo strikes me as a placeholder until the MRI comes back. Mazzoni’s initial diagnosis is “elbow neuritis,” or, an inflamed nerve. The MRI might reveal why the nerve is inflamed.
- Mike Newman of Fangraphs, scouted Brandon Nimmo and came away impressed.
Newman thinks Nimmo will stay in centerfield, even as he ages and fills out
the left-handed hitter deserves mention with the very best the South Atlantic League has to offer… Well-proportioned, discussion of him “outgrowing center field” is overblown.
Offensively, Newman notes:
At the plate, Nimmo combines a patient approach with the ability to consistently barrel baseballs in the strike zone. In expecting to see a project, Nimmo’s polish was surprising. … Nimmo also features a simple set up and swing mechanics. When his hips and hands work in unison, easy power is present as the ball explodes off the barrel. When he leads with the hips, bat drag is present. Repetition will remedy this.
- In the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin, Lynn Worthy writes about Jack Leathersich, a Boston native, for whom Monday’s terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon was especially painful.
- In his weekly Farm Report at ESPNNY, Adam Rubin talks to Alonzo Harris about getting his chance, his versatility and his relationship with LHP Rob Carson his “little big lbrother.”
- In Toledo, former big leaguer Felix Pie had to be restrained by teammates from climbing into the stands to go after fans who were throwing things at the visiting Indianapolis Indians’ players.
I found the attack on the Boston Marathon deeply unsettling. One of my good friends is preparing for her first. My cousins often hang out along the marathon route. One of my favorite days included a Patriots’ Day Red Sox game with my late Grandfather. The violence is so random and logic-less. And yet, I make no specific personal claim on the events of Monday afternoon.
There is no practical way to secure a 26.2 mile route through an American city over the time demands of a marathon from elite runners out front through the novices in the back checking in at five and six hours. As with many everyday activities, we are all vulnerable. The correct response might well be no response (other than justice for those directly involved). Go to back to your normal deal. Go to work. Go out with friends. Go to sports games. Enjoy your life.
In particular Bruce Schneier makes this case very convincingly at the Atlantic that terrorism ONLY works when it succeeds in scaring its targets.
Terrorism isn’t primarily a crime against people or property. It’s a crime against our minds, using the deaths of innocents and destruction of property as accomplices….
Don’t glorify the terrorists and their actions by calling this part of a “war on terror.” Wars involve two legitimate sides. There’s only one legitimate side here; those on the other are criminals. They should be found, arrested, and punished. But we need to be vigilant not to weaken the very freedoms and liberties that make this country great, meanwhile, just because we’re scared.
A lot of the writing about the marathon is very hard to read. However, Brendan O’Toole at Beyond the Monster, Charles Pierce at Grantland and Leigh Montville at Sports on Earth all have really compelling pieces that capture the moment and what this act of terrorism means to Boston and its beloved sports.
So, back to business: I’m going to continue writing about the Mets and their prospects.
- Brandon Nimmo enjoyed his big night (3-for-4, HR, 5 RBI) Monday. He said that his time in the NYP League taught him that every at-bat matters:
You can’t take any at-bats off. It took time to learn how to approach the game and how to be at 100 percent or close to 100 percent every day, mentally and physically.
- Over the weekend, Robert Brender, who you will see more of around here, talked to Travis d’Arnaud and the challenges of hitting in Vegas. Like Nimmo, many levels below him, he emphasized keeping an even keel even in the tantalizing hitting environment of Vegas.
- Chris Blessing wrote about Steven Matz at Bullpen Banter. I like Chris, but I think this report is a great example of why relying on one early season look at a prospect is dangerous. He concludes, “Projecting Matz is problematic due to his injury history and without seeing his curveball.” Later that week, Matz told me and Pitching Coach Frank Viola have scrapped the curve to focus on his slider which is more promising based on his arm slot.
- Baseball America is out with their first Hot Sheet of 2013 and Rafael Montero has made the “In the Team Photo Section.” J.J. Cooper’s comment in part: “In his first two starts for Double-A Binghamton, Montero dominated, showing the stuff to be a potential mid-rotation starter with good control and solid stuff across the board. …”
- Montero’s two good starts also land him atop Carson Cistulli’s Eastern League SCOUT leaderboards at FanGraphs (where he regresses walk and strikeout rates) for the Eastern League. Chris Walendin, who posts in the comment section as theperfectgame, also names Montero his Mets’ pitching prospect of the week on his blog, and selects Sand Gnats C Kevin Plawecki as his position player of the week.
- Cistulli’s SCOUT system was also impressed by Wilmer Flores’ first week in the PCL. Although he did not hit for average, he walked and did not strike out.
- AA Manager Pedro Lopez tells Lynn Worthy he’s going to have a new, more hands-on approach in AA this year, his second year at the level.
My biggest mistake last year was that I thought — and I assumed — that some of the guys I had the last year in A-ball, they already had their routines, whether that’s offensively or defensively….
This year is going to be different. This year I’m going to be more demanding. I’m not going to assume that they know what they need to do, so guess what — since day one we’re going to work. It’s all about getting better and winning ballgames. I think looking back at last year’s season, we lost a lot of ballgames just because we didn’t play fundamentally sound. So we’re going to work. We’re going to work and we’re going to get better, and hopefully that translates into wins.
The real goal, even in AA is development. Winning is still secondary, but ideally, a nice by-product of successful player development. But if mistakes are costing a team wins in AA, those same mistakes would presumably cost their big league team as well.
- Zack Wheeler had an MRI on his finger because he’s having blister problems again. He missed a start with a blister issue in 2012. The Giants held Wheeler out for six weeks when he had a blister problem in 2010.
- Apparently Luis Mateo’s changeup is now good too, according to St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan, as quoted by MiLB.com: ”His changeup is outstanding… His fastball is plus. He has three plus pitches. His slider was almost unhittable [Tuesday].” Regan says Mateo was sitting 93-95. Well, well, well.
- Adam Rubin talks to Noah Syndergaard for his first Farm Report at ESPNNY. The most interesting thing to me? The relationship between Syndergaard, Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer who have all become good friends. Nimmo told me that he and Fulmer became close when they played on the Mets’ GCL team in the summer of 2011 right after they were drafted. To some degree it seems like the pair adopted Syndergaard, who Nimmo describes as “funny” and is just about the same age this spring. Fulmer and Syndergaard were throwing partners in Spring Training this year.
- As long as we are talking about Syndergaard, Eno Sarris, who writes for roughly a million different sites, looked at composite prospect rankings list and finds that Syndergaard’s average ranking was the most volatile of any player in the top 50.
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Rob Castellano thinks Rainy Lara is a sleeper. I agree. He’s a big body with an average fastball. That’s sleeperish.
- Cubs prospect Jorge Soler menaced the opposing dugout with a bat after getting tangled up on a hard slide at second. Oh, no. This will be a BIG story.
- The Reading Fightin Phils will have two live ostrich mascots. Because they can. Also, they have a crazy hot dog vendor who “rides” a fake ostrich. So, really it all makes perfect sense.