This continues our unsexy section of the Top 41 – the MLB Spare Parts category. These guys could carve out big league roles, but they will never be average (or above) Major League regulars.
#21 – 1B/3B Zach Lutz
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 220 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd ’07 (Alvernia College)
Born: 6/3/86 (Reading, PA)
2012 Rank: 28 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: As we’ve written in this space every year for going on three years running “when he’s healthy, Lutz can really hit. But he’s often not healthy.” Lutz has some strength in his swing and he’s disciplined. He’s not really a bat speed guy, and will strike out more in the big leagues against the world’s best fastballs to the point where it should really take a bit out of his batting average. Still, he could be a useful bench bat with a little pop.
The issue for Lutz is that he provides very little value when he’s not in the batter’s box. He’s a below average runner, who plays a below average third base. He’s played a grand total of 38 games at first base in his minor league career so he is far from natural there.
Lutz has never played the outfield as a professional and would likely be a liability defensively were he to play leftfield.
2012: A standard Lutz season: an injury (this time a broken hammate bone), a nice offensive line in AAA and lookee here, a MLB debut.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A useful bench piece. His minor league numbers are better than “pinch-hitter extraordinaire” Willie Harris‘s were.
Debbie Downer Says: Teams often won’t/can’t carry a 1B/3B righty bench bat in the era of 12 and 13-man pitching staffs.
Projected 2013 Start: AAA Las Vegas (where he should be up big numbers)
MLB Arrival: He’ll be back in 2013.
#22 – LHP Darin Gorski
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 lbs
Acquired: 7th rd ’09 (Kutztown U)
Born: 10/6/87 (Mt. Joy, Pa)
2012 Rank: 13 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Gorski drops nine spots because he was an average pitcher in AA. In a League that allowed 4.3 runs per game, Gorski allowed 4.4. He works with a below average fastball. When I saw him early in spring training he was mostly 86-88. Even if that goes to 87-89, as the weather warms, it will not change the math of the pitcher/batter confrontation very much.
As I wrote earlier this spring: “His changeup at 79 mph remains his best weapon. He has good armspeed with the offering and a little sink.”
Gorski’s breaking ball is now a curveball at about 74 mph. It’s shorter and tighter than when he was in a-ball, which is a good thing. Even so, it’s clearly his third pitch. If he is to succeed, it’s as a fastball/changeup southpaw. I do not think the breaking ball is good enough yet that it makes sense to put Gorski in the pen. Besides, the Mets might need a few extra starting pitchers along the way and Gorski is depth in that valuable category.
2012: How close to Eastern League average was Gorski? The EL as a whole fanned 7.3 batter per nine, and walked 3.3. Gorski: 7.6 and 3.2 respectively.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Backend starter
Debbie Downer Says: Up and down, AAA journeyman.
Projected 2013 Start: AAA Las Vegas.
#23 – OF Matt den Dekker
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd 2010 (Florida)
Born: 8/10/87 (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
2012 Rank: 18 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Den Dekker slips five spots from a year ago because he “hit” .220/.256/.373 with strikeouts in 28% of his plate appearances in AAA in the second half of 2012 in the season in which he turned 25. That’s not going to play in AAA and it certainly means he is not ready to play in the big leagues. Now, he will miss the first half of 2013 with a broken wrist.
Den Dekker can really go get it in centerfield. There’s little question about that. He’s not a burner, but he gets excellent jumps, covers ground well, and is fearless. His arm is below average, but plays in center.
At the plate, lefties and good breaking balls give him fits.
2012: Den Dekker crushed AA Eastern League pitching, but more experienced AAA pitchers ate him up.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A 4th outfielder.
Debbie Downer Says: A AAA veteran.
Projected 2013 Start: Las Vegas (late)
MLB Arrival: 2013 (maybe)
Due to today’s game being the Mets last home game until next Thursday most of the regulars saw extensive action. While it was nice to see Duda and Davis handle the LHP I’ll concentrate on Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores.
den Dekker worked a very patient full count ground out in his first AB against a righty, laying off low breaking pitches. His AB’s against the lefties were not so encouraging getting his knees buckled on a steady diet of breakers. He will certainly need to be more competitive against same side pitching for him to see success at AAA, much less on the big league level. There was of course this sweet catch which have become spring training regulars from den Dekker.
Wilmer Flores lined up at 3B in today’s game which was unfortunate because just about every play went to Justin Turner at 2B. I think even Justin Turner grounded out to Justin Turner at one point… In the 7th Flores finally saw his first defensive play. He may have drifted off, or he might be really slow. On a slow roller he charged and had no play on Brandon Barnes. After a routine play followed, Flores had another slow roller in the 8th, with men on 1st and 2nd. On a play that David Wright would have charged to field in front of the runner and sent to second to possibly start a double play, Flores had to play it behind the runner and barely threw out the Astro’s catcher Carlos Perez. After liking what I saw from Flores at 2B earlier in the spring, I came away from today’s game wondering if Flores might actually be too slow to even play 3B regularly.
Zach Lutz had a bad series at 1B and he only played 4 innings. Botching a grounder, failing to catch a foul pop near the railing, and then short arming a throw to Parnell that they called an error on Parnell, but the throw was well low.
Gorski and McHugh had uneventful innings of work. Only really of note because these suspected AAA starters made short relief outings. Rob Carson walked Fernando Martinez and gave up a homer to Carlos Pena, but then recovered to retire two more lefties. As someone in the loogy competition this was a rough outing.
All in all my first trip to a spring training game was enjoyable, if a little light on the prospects to view. - NateW
The Mets have invited five non-roster minor leaguers to spring training: RHP’s Rafael Montero and Cory Mazzoni, C Juan Centeno, INF Josh Satin and OF Matt den Dekker to Major League Spring Training.
None are likely to make the team’s 25-man roster out of camp. None.
Josh Satin, who turned 28 in December, has found a role in the last two years as a AAA utility guy hitting a combined .294/.389/.430 for the Buffalo Bisons in 169 games. He’s played first, second and third for the Bisons. In very limited big league time, he’s hit .192/.250/.231 in 28 plate appearances, all but one of which came in 2011. He was removed from the Mets’ 40-man roster, and no other team claimed him.
Matt den Dekker, who turned 25 last August, had two different minor league seasons in 2012: a really good first half in AA Binghamton and a dreadful second half in AAA Buffalo. In 58 games with the B-Mets, he hit .340/.397/.563. His offensive production cratered to .220/.256/.373 with 90 strikeouts in 77 games in AAA. Over the two levels, he totalled 31 doubles and 17 homers. However, he struck out in 28.4% of his plate appearances in AAA. Looking over past seasons in the International League, I did not see a single productive big leaguer, who struck out as much as den Dekker >28%, over as plate appearances >300, for as long as Fangraphs has the data. John Mayberry comes closest, with a 26.3% in AAA in 2009. After a productive (2.5 fWAR) 2011, Mayberry was close to a replacement level player in 2012. That’s den Dekker’s future. His ability to play centerfield will get him to the big leagues, but his inability to make contact will hold him to just a shade above replacement level at best.
Centeno, who turned 23 in November 2012, has worked his way up the system as a backup catcher originally drafted in the 32nd round in 2007 out of Puerto Rico. He had never started more than half of his team’s games until playing in a career-high 79 games in 2012. He’s short (listed at 5’9″), and used to be pudgy (currently listed at 172 lbs). His approach at the plate is contact oriented – he will look to flare the ball the other way on anything away. He has no power, but he controls the strike zone well enough – 43 K against 23 walks in 79 games in AA in 2012. The invite is a nice reward for a .285/.337/.342 performance in AA in 2012 when he threw out 41% of opposing basestealers. Major League pitchers will eat him up, but his ability to squat behind the plate will get him a little service time as a third catcher. The other point here is that early in spring training, teams need extra catchers around camp to catch all of those pitchers’ bullpens.
Rafael Montero, who turned 22 in November, put up great numbers in a-ball in Savannah (2.52 ERA and a 6.75 K/BB ratio in 12 starts) and in advanced-A St. Lucie (2.13 ERA, 5.09 K/BB ratio in 8 starts). At the beginning of the 2012 season, he mostly relied on spotting his fastball and his changeup. As the year went on, he threw his slider more and more. His fastball is average to a tick above, sitting 91-92 mph, with a little bit of 93 when he’s really reaching back. It’s plenty to pitch in the big leagues, but he’s not going to blow away big league hitters. He has solid arm speed on his changeup with a little bit of sink. At 6’0, 170 lbs, he is small for a major league starting pitcher. Lack of size and a dominant fastball limit his projection, but he could slot in as a mid-back end starter based on his command and feel. He should start 2013 in double-A with a realistic chance at cracking the MLB rotation in 2014.
Cory Mazzoni is an interesting name and pitcher, but my projection on him has changed in the last year, after giving him the #10 ranking in the system at this time last year. By stuff and numbers, he now looks like a bullpen piece. The Mets’ 2nd round pick in 2011, and third pick behind Brandon Nimmo and Michael Fulmer, Mazzoni pitched his way out of advanced-A and to double-A in 2012. Mazzoni put up a 3.25 ERA in advanced-A and a 4.46 ERA in double-A. I’m more interested in his strikeout rate however. He fanned under 7 batters per nine at both levels, including a 16.1% strikeout rate in double-A. By my count, there are exactly two Eastern League pitchers in the last five years who have gone on to become major league starters with a double-A strikeout rate below 17%: Vance Worley and Ricky Romero. By the time both guys reached the majors they had increased their strikeout rates above 18%. Mazzoni, pitching the way he did in 2012, does not miss enough bats to be a Major League starting pitcher. He’s not real big – listed at 6’1″ and 190lbs, and has not shown an ability to hold his stuff in a starting role. Generally speaking, in 2012, he would work 91-92 with his fastball most of his start. He might show better velocity earlier, or in a big spot, crank it up to 94 or 95. (I heard he reached 96 against a rehabbing big leaguer.) In short outings out of the bullpen, he should be able to find that plus velocity more consistently. His secondary pitches – a slider and a changeup that mimics a split-finger – are fine if unexceptional. Mazzoni could well be in the Mets’ bullpen as soon as mid-late 2013.
AAA: Pawtucket Red Sox 5, @ Buffalo Bisons 1
Collin McHugh was ok with ominous peripherals: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. In 62 innings in AAA, he’s struck out 63 batters and walked 27. That’s a 10% walk rate. Major League average is 8.1%.
Pedro Beato gave up two homers in an ugly four-run seventh inning.
The Bisons had four hits, all singles. DH Zach Lutz (.303/.413/.508 – 55 games) had one, and earned a walk.
LF Lucas Duda was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
CF Matt den Dekker (.204/.238/.394 – 57 games) was 0-for-3 with two whiffs. That’s now 70 strikeouts in 57 games. The strikeouts have eaten his batting average.
I could not watch this game, so what did I miss for those of you who were tuned into SNY?
AAA: Buffalo Bisons 10, @ SWB Yankees 3
The Bisons won four straight to head into the AAA All-Star Break on the strength of an offense that has scored 31 runs in those four games.
Sunday, CF Matt den Dekker led the way in a 3-for-5 effort with a homerun, 3 RBI and a strikeout. In 25 games with the Bisons, he has six homers, and 13 extra-base hits overall as part of a .211/.235/.459 line with four walks and 33 strikeouts.
Adam Loewen is back with the Bisons and hitting. After a 2-for-4 with a double and a homer Sunday, he’s 7-for-15 in July with 4 extra-base knocks in four games. Another left-hitting corner guy is pretty low on the Mets’ needs right now.
Collin McHugh earned his first AAA win on Sunday: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K. He threw 64% of his pitches (52 of 81) for strikes.
The Bisons got all the hard-throwers in their bullpen (Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin and Elvin Ramirez) some work on the final day before the break.
And yes, that’s former Met, and “habitual liar” John Maine who started for SWB.
AA: Binghamton Mets 10, @ Altoona Curve (PIT) 9
The B-Mets built a 9-3 in this one, and just held on at the end when the Curve scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning.
CF Juan Lagares (pictured) was 3-for-6 with two doubles to help construct the B-Mets’ advantage. Lagares (.274/.332/.364 – 84 games) already has four doubles in July, equalling his total from the entire month of June. The 23-year old had a more patient season versus a year ago – his walk rate is up to 7.8%, but oddly at the expense of his power. He has just one homerun, and his extrabase hit rate has dropped from about 9% in 2011 to 6% in 2012. Usually, when batters become more patient, their power production goes up.
1B Alan Dykstra was 3-for-5 with a homer. Having him back and active will certainly help the B-Mets’ offense.
While Wilmer Flores was off playing third for the World Futures Team, 3B Jefry Marte was 0-for-3 with two walks and a strikeout for Binghamton while 2B Reese Havens was 1-for-3 with a double, two walks and a strikeout. Marte, who turned 21 in June, is hitting .230/.304/.351 since May 1. Like Lagares, his increased walk rate (up to 9.7%) since May 1, has come without a corresponding power surge as his extra-base hit rate is down to 5.7% since May 1 as his overall line sits at .260/.331/.381 in 80 games.
The 25-year old Havens is hitting .218/.352/.354 in 61 games in Binghamton.
Gonzalez Germen’s ERA rose to 4.27 when he walked five and gave up five runs on five hits in 7.1 innings.
AAA: Buffalo Bisons 7, @ Scranton/WB Yankees 6
All he does is hit homeruns and strikeout. Well that and play a mean centerfield. CF Matt den Dekker: 1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, 3 K. When you combine his strikeout rate (28.8%) and his HR rate (4.5%) in AAA, it runs to 33.3% of his plate appearances. He’s hitting .192/.218/.423 with a .217 BABIP and 32 strikeouts in 24 games.
In case you were concerned, Justin Hampson cleared waivers and is savely back with the Bisons. (Note: savely was originally a typo, but I left it in because Hampson earned a save with a scoreless inning of work Saturday. We’ll call Freudian-typo.)
Manny Acosta continued his dominance of the International League: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K. Yes, he was terrible as a big leaguer early this year, but in 19.2 innings in AAA, he has 22 strikeouts against one walk.
AA: Binghamton Mets 8, @ Altoona Curve (PIT) 2
Cory Mazzoni: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K.
Numerically, this wasn’t just Mazzoni’s best start in four tries in AA, it beat any of his 12 starts in advanced-A St. Lucie. The 22-year old, who the Mets picked in the second round a year ago, did not have a single seven-inning shutout outing at any level before Saturday.
Unimpressive scouting reports mixed with pedestrian advanced-A numbers had made me resigned to the idea that he was destined for the bullpen and I had him over-ranked at #10 pre-season. And then he does this. So, now, I’m intrigued again.
C Francisco Pena was 1-for-3 with a homer, a walk and a strikeout. The homer was the 22-year old’s second in 11 games in AA and five of his 9 hits have gone for extra-bases as part of a .250/.325/.500 line in 11 games.
Again, den Dekker plays a strong centerfield, and was crushing double-A Eastern League pitching to the tune of .340/.397/.563 in 58 games. At the time of his promotion, he was leading the EL in batting average, hits (81), doubles (21), slugging percentage, extra-base hits (33), runs scored (47), total bases (134), and was fourth in OBP and strikeouts (64). One minor blemish in his stat line: he was just 10-for-17 stealing bases.
The 24-year old hit .333/.400/.444 against lefties in 63 AB with six extra-base hits, three walks and four HBP. He mashed righties at .343/.396/.606 with 27 extra-base hits, 17 walks and 1 HBP in 175 AB.
The strikeouts will eventually hurt his batting average, but even if he’s not hitting .340, or even .300, his pop and defense will have major league value.
AAA: @ Buffalo Bisons 4, Norfolk Tides (BAL) 2
Dylan Owen “recovered” from his last start in which he allowed 13 runs, to allow two runs on Sunday, both earned on three walks and four hits. He struck out two in his 4.2 innings. So, anytime the Mets decide Collin McHugh or Zack Wheeler is ready for AAA, making space in the AAA rotation should not be a problem.
1B Josh Satin, C Rob Johnson and DH Corey Wimberly all had two hits.
The Bisons will be on SNY Monday, and make sure to tune in for Jeurys Familia, who is coming off his first start of 2012 last Wednesday in which he did not allow any runs.
AA: @ Trenton Thunder 3, Binghamton Mets 2
After the B-Mets took a 2-1 lead in the top of the 10th, the Thunder won the game with two runs off RHP Adrian Rosario in the bottom of the frame for the win. The runs were the first that Rosario had allowed in 8.1 innings in AA. One of the arms the Mets acquired for K-Rod, Rosario has a 6/6 K/BB ratio in his first eight AA outings.
CF Matt den Dekker was 2-for-4 with a double, the only B-Met with multiple hits. He’s now hit safely in eight straight games and has multiple hits in six straight games. The 24-year old is now hitting .340/.397/.563 in 58 games. His hot streak has taken him to the top of the league in batting average, slugging, doubles (21), extra-base hits (33) and total bases (134) and is fourth in on-base percentage. It’s not a stretch to say he has been the League’s most productive hitter to date.
Some of this is real, and some cannot continue at this rate. Den Dekker’s extra-base hit rate is a career-high 12%, leading to a career-best .223 isolated slugging percentage while his strikeout rate is down a little, from 29% in the Eastern League last year to 24% this year. Even though his strikeout rate has improved, he is still fourth in the League with 64 whiffs. Secondly, his batting line is supported by an enormous .429 BABIP. Even if that indicates the quality of the contact he has made, there is virtually no way that is sustainable at higher levels. The only Major Leaguer with a BABIP above den Dekker’s .429 in AA is Joey Votto (.434). There are four big leaguers above .400: Votto, Melky Cabrera (.405), Kirk Nieuwenhuis (.405) and Paul Konerko (.401).
The good news for den Dekker is that even subtracting 50 points off his BABIP takes him to .290/.347/.513, which combined with good, or even plus defense in center field would have plenty of big league value.
AAA: Buffalo Bisons 5, @ Columbus Clippers (CLE) 1
This was absolutely a positive step for Jeurys Familia: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K. He threw 61% of his pitches (59 of 97) for strikes and induced 10 groundball outs against jsut one in the air. This was his first start of 2012 in which he did not allow a run.
In his two starts in June, he’s fanned 10, walked three, and thrown 63% strikes. It’s too early to say he’s turned a corner for sure, but the last two starts have been extremely encouraging.
Bisons’ pitching coach Mark Brewer told MiLB.com he liked what he saw from Familia:
“Tonight primarily he used a really heavy sinking fastball and just was overmatching some hitters with the sinking fastball that he threw across the plate. He got some swing-and-misses and induced ground balls. He mixed his secondary pitches to keep them off the fastball.
“He calls it a curveball but he it has a little more of a slider look. When he has a feel for it, it’s a real good pitch he can throw it front door to righties and he can drop it on the back foot of lefties when he needs to. His change, he’s getting real comfortable with these days.”
Interesting comment too from Brewer about the work ethic on Familia as compared to the rest of his staff:
You don’t run into kids like this very often that have the ethic he does. It’s not overbearing. It’s not the guy who will run through the wall … but being consistent about his work, he’s the best.
LF Fred Lewis was 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. The 31-year old is up to .313/.365/.486 in 36 games with the Bisons. The left-handed hitter has fairly extreme L/R splits, going .265/.308/.327 in 49 vs. LHP and .337/.394/.568 in 95 AB vs. RHP.
AA: @ Harrisburg Senators 4, Binghamton Mets 3
In the seventh inning, with the B-Mets up a run, Collin McHugh left a pair of runners aboard for Rob Carson, who gave up a double to the first batter he faced to score both runners. McHugh allowed a run in each of the first two innings, and then settled in, retiring 13 of 16 batters at one point. His final line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
Adrian Rosario worked a scoreless eighth with a strikeout. In 5.2 innings in AA, he’s walked five and fanned two.
Meanwhile, at the plate, CF Matt den Dekker was 3-for-4 with a double, a triple and a walk. The 24-year old is up to .318/.382/.545 in 54 games. We’ll do this again because it’s so fun: he’s first in the Eastern League in doubles (18), extra-base hits (30), total bases (120), runs scored (41), fourth in slugging and batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, and tied for fourth in strikeouts (60). The Eastern League’s All-Star game is July 11. At this rate, there’s no way he will play for Binghamton on July 12th at home versus Erie.
3B Jefry Marte (.292/.359/.422 – 50 games) was 1-for-4 with a triple, his second of the year.
AAA: @ Toledo Mud Hens (DET) 3, Buffalo Bisons 2
Lets start with the performance with the most immediate big league impact: Pedro Beato allowed a hit and a walk, but struck out the side in a scoreless seventh inning.
SS Brent Dlugach hit the game winning home run, his first of the year, off the Bisons’ Fernando Cabrera in the bottom of the ninth.
Outings like this from LHP Garrett Olson (5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K), will make it much easier for the Mets to find space in the Bisons’ rotation for both Collin McHugh and Zack Wheeler. Olson has walked 12% of the batters he has faced, or 31 in 56.2 innings.
LF Fred Lewis was 2-for-4 with a double. The 31-year old is hitting .297/.348/.461 and plays a good defensive left field. He’s good against righties (.330/.378/.560 in 91 AB this year) but struggles against southpaws (.216/.275/.216 in 37 AB). I’m not sure that’s good enough to become Mike Baxter’s replacement, but he has to be under consideration.
AA: @ Binghamton Mets 5, @ Akron Aeros (CLE) 4
Something simple, and good: CF Matt den Dekker (pictured) was 2-for-4 with a home run, his eighth to put the B-Mets up 1-0 in the third inning. The 24-year old is hitting .301/.367/.526 with 28 (!) extra-base hits in 51 games. He’s tied for the Eastern League lead in extra-base hits, doubles (17) and is all alone in first in total bases (110) and is fourth in strikeouts (58).
Darin Gorski put together his longest outing of the year (6.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). One of the runs scored when he bequeathed a runner at third base with one out to Brad Holt in the seventh.