Opening Day Starting Pitchers

LV_MonteroThe minor league season begins tonight and it brings three of my Top 25 Mets prospects to the mound to make starts for their teams.

Each affiliate’s starter is listed in bold.

AAA: Rafael Montero

Wally Backman on Montero:

“He can spot both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down,” Backman said. “He doesn’t walk anybody and throws all his pitches for strikes.” (Las Vegas Review Journal)

This is the second straight year that Montero has made an Opening Day start after taking the ball for AA Binghamton last year to begin the season. If all goes well for Montero, my #3 Mets prospect, he will be in New York by mid-summer.

AA: Darin Gorski

This is the third go-round at AA for Gorski, who turned 26 last October.

Gorski on the Opening Day start:
“It’s exciting. You know, they’re putting the ball in your hand for the first game to go out there and set the tone for the rest of the season so I think it’s a big deal. I’m excited for the opportunity.” Lynn Worthy (Press & Sun Bulletin)

Worthy points out that Gorski joins a lineage of Binghamton Opening Day starters that includes:
’11: Josh Stinson
’12: Colin McHugh
’13: Rafael Montero
A+: Gabriel Ynoa

After a big 2013 with Savannah, Ynoa, my #13 prospect, will get the nod for Advanced-A St. Lucie at the tender age of 20.

 

A: Robert Gsellman

This is the second year that Gsellman has made an Opening Day start. He actually made the Opening Day start for Brooklyn last year on June 17. The funny part: that was already Gsellman’s eighth start of 2013. He made a pair of spot starts for St. Lucie and then five starts for Savannah, mostly in May. He was absolutely dominant in the New York Penn League on his way to my #25 ranked prospect in the system.

Gnats pitching coach Marc Valdes explained that while Gsellman was the most worthy choice to go on Opening Night for the Gnats, logistical issues, like throwing schedules matter too at this level: “The rotation is not really set up as a 1-2-3-4-5-6 guys. It was his time to throw. In a way, he did deserve it the way he was throwing in spring training and leading up from the end of last year. We felt he’s a guy, who had 6-7 days; he’s ready to pitch….. He is a good guy to go out there game one, especially with his command of his pitches. I think, right now, he gives us the best chance to win game one.”

Gsellman, had a nice spring in Port St. Lucie. Valdes reports that he impressed the AAA staff in an intra-squad game, “One example, he pitched against the AAA team, went five innings – no problem. Wally Backman said he held his composure – he gave up a couple hits, maybe a home run –  just pretty much breezed through the five innings, moving his pitches in and out and changing speeds.”

AA Thursday: Gorski Leads Binghamton to Win

AA: @ Binghamton Mets 1, Altoona Curve 0 

Gorski Delivery ST 13 (Baron)Darin Gorski: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. In nine starts and one relief outing in AA, the 25-year-old is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA and 47 K against 16 walks thanks to a .159 opponents’ batting average with just 28 hits allowed in 51 innings. He was given a chance in AAA earlier this year and the results were not pretty: 13.2 IP, 17 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 9 BB, 7 K. I suppose he’ll get another shot at the minors’ highest level in 2014. Instead, Gorski who’s velocity I am told is back in the mid-upper 80s regularly, looks like a guy like Mark Cohoon who can get outs in AA, but struggles in AAA.

Jeff Walters locked down his 33rd save of the year for the B-Mets striking out a batter in the ninth. Walters needs three more saves in the season’s final three weeks to equal Tim Lavigne’s Binghamton Mets record.

C Travis d’Arnaud, who was promoted to AAA Las Vegas after the game: 0-for-2, BB

AAA Friday: A Classic PCL Slugfest – Gorski Roughed Up; d’Arnaud & Flores Hit

Once again Robert Brender contributes this from Vegas.

Poor starting pitching put the Las Vegas 51s in a hole they couldn’t dig out of, falling for the 2nd straight night to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox 11-6 in front of 5,848 at Cashman Field.

Tonight, Darin Gorski (0-1) was the victim of the hot-hitting Sox, surrendering five runs (all earned) in just two innings, collecting the loss. Gorski had difficulty with command, walking four in his brief outing and throwing 72 pitches, 38 for strikes (53%).

Gorski’s final line: 2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 0 K. Woof.

As they did Friday night, the Sky Sox (6-3) sent all nine batters to the plate in the opening inning, scoring three times. Back to back doubles from Nolan Arenado and Ryan Wheeler started a run of five consecutive batters to reach in the frame. Nine of the Sky Sox 17 hits went for extra bases.

The Las Vegas bats made a charge in the middle innings, scoring all six runs between the 3rd and 5th. Travis d”Arnaud and Wilmer Flores had two doubles each in the game. d’Arnaud crushed a pair of line drives off the 20’ high wall in left field, coming just a few feet shy of homeruns each time. He drove in two runs on the night and now has six runs batted in this season.

Josh Satin continued his red-hot start, going 2 for 3 with 3 RBI, including a long 2-run homerun in the 5th inning off Colorado Springs starter Drew Pomeranz. Satin has now hit safely in nine of 10 games this season and has a club leading 4 long-balls to go with 12 RBI.

Pomeranz (1-0) was the benefactor of great run support, collecting the win despite allowing six runs (all earned) in five innings.

Trailing 8-6 in the bottom of the 7th inning, the 51s (5-5) loaded the bases with nobody out against Sky Sox reliever Manuel Corpas. However, two shallow fly balls from Zach Lutz and pinch hitter Jamie Hoffmann followed by a Reese Havens strike out got Corpas out of the jam without surrendering a run. The 51s would not get any closer as Colorado Springs tacked on a single run in the 6th and three more in the 8th.

Six Las Vegas pitchers combined to allow 11 runs and 17 hits, the highest total for a 51s opponent in each category this season. Every starting position player for both teams reached base at least once.

Top 41: 21 – Zach Lutz, 22 – Darin Gorski, 23 – Matt den Dekker

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
Bats/Throws:  Right/Right
Height/Weight:  6’1”, 220 lbs
Acquired:  5th rd ’07 (Alvernia College)
Born:  6/3/86 (Reading, PA)
2012 Rank: 28 | Stats

Lutz Bisons HeadWhy 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.

Basic

GABH2B3BHRBBSOAVGOBPSLG
2012 AAA7224473161104275299.410.496
2012 MLB711100005.091.091.091
AAA Career1384841443212271148.298.395.504

Advanced

XBH%SO%BB%HR%BABIP
2012 AAA9.225.514.33.4.391
2012 MLB0.045.50.00.0.167
AAA Career9.726.112.53.9.386

 


#22 – LHP Darin Gorski
Bats/Throws:  Left/Left
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.
MLB Arrival:

Basic

ERAG/GSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWP
2010 SAL4.5825/1811412570581243109109
2011 FSL2.0827/21138.671094032112914077
2012 EL4.0025/24139.6712868622050118413

Strong

BB/9SO/9SO/BBHR/9H/9R/9BB%SO%HR%TBF
2010 SAL3.48.62.50.99.95.58.421.32.3511
2011 FSL1.99.14.80.77.12.65.225.22.0555
2012 EL3.27.62.41.38.24.48.620.23.4584

 


#23 – OF Matt den Dekker
Bats/Throws: Left/Left
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)

Basic

GABH2B3BHRBBSOSFSACHBPAVGOBPSLG
2012 EL582388121482064415.340.397.563
2012 IL772956510491490512.220.256.373
2012 Total1355331463181734154927.274.321.458

 

Advanced

XBH%SO%BB%HR%BABIP1B rateISO
2012 EL12.323.97.53.0.42917.9.223
2012 IL7.328.44.42.8.27913.2.153
2012 Total9.626.35.82.9.34815.4.184

Darin Gorski Thoughts

Gorski Delivery ST 13 (Baron)Darin Gorski had a rough Wednesday afternoon. He he had trouble throwing strikes. I counted 48 pitches, of which 25 were balls. (I might have missed a pitch or two – Adam Rubin had him at 49 pitches.) Either way, Gorski’s strike percentage was under 50%. By my count, he threw first-pitch strikes to just five of the 12 hitters he faced.

Gorski acknowledged his location was not sharp and it was a problem: “It was just a matter of some close misses and not really having the fastball command that I wanted, but it’s still early so it’s something to work on,” he said after the game. As for why he struggled, “Maybe [I was] trying to be bit too fine. Could be a little bit of the approach and being able to find that command.”

His two part cure: mechanically “keep everything smooth and consistent and go from there” and in approach, be “aggressive in the zone.”

Gorski’s fastball was anywhere from 85-90 on the Tradition Field stadium radar gun which today matched the scouts’ guns behind home plate exactly. He touched 90 once, but mostly worked at 86-88 mph.

His changeup at 79 mph remains his best weapon. He has good armspeed with the offering and a little sink. I have notes on at least eight changups, and I think that he threw a few more, giving changeup usage of at least 16% (and I think closer to 20%).  By the standards of Major League pitchers, that would put him in the most changeup reliant category were he to maintain that rate all year. In fact, the list of the top eight guys who threw the most changups in 2012 includes a whole bunch of lefties who share Gorski’s profile with a fastball around 88 mph (more or less): Mark Buehrle (less – 85 mph), Jason Vargas, Chris Capuano, Cole Hamels (more – 91 mph) and Tommy Milone. Again, lefties who do not light up radar guns can carve out careers by keeping batters honest with their changeups and fastball command.

Gorski used his changeup early in counts and often in classic hitter’s counts like 1-0 and 2-1 when other pitchers would throw their fastball. This usage was very conscious, as Gorski said of his changeup, “It’s how I keep guys off the fastball. I’m trying to make that pitch work for me in certain counts.”

That preceding list of lefties though, all feature above average Major League control. Their career walk rates: Beuhrle (5.4%), Vargas (7.2%) -and 6.7% and below in each of the last four years –  Capuano (7.4%), Hamels (6.1%) and Milone (4.4%). Gorski last year at AA: 8.5%.

Gorski showed a short curveball at 74. He’s tightened up the offering in the last few years, and I liked it better than the sweepier slider he used to throw. He did not use it very much, focusing on his fastball/changeup combo.

So, a lefty like Gorski, can have success working off a fastball averaging 88 mph, needs 1. to throw his changeup a lot, and 2. keep runners off the base paths via above average walk rates. Wednesday, when he walked three batters, and did not strike out a single one, in two plus innings he did one of the two.

Of course, this outing took place on February 27 in a game that did not matter. Gorski, who spent all of 2012 at AA, is not really pitching to make the big league team. Rather, in addition to preparing for his AAA season, he’s learning what does, and does not work against Major League caliber hitter. Hint: it helps to throw strikes.

 

Darin Gorski on his 2012 Improvements

Slightly under the radar, LHP Darin Gorski has put together a solid season for the AA Binghamton Mets.

Overall, he is 9-7 with a 3.66 ERA (where league average is 3.90) with a 2.4 K/BB ratio (where 2.2 is league average).

In the first half, he had a 3.89 ERA with a 1.9 K/BB ratio (66 K/34 BB) in 88 innings. In eight starts after the All-Star Break, he trimmed his ERA to 3.26 while increasing his K/BB to 3.3 (50 K/15 BB) in 49.2 innings. Notably, he has improved on both sides of that key ratio: his strikeout rate has risen, from 18% in the first half to 24% in the second half, while his walk rate has fallen from 9% in the first half to 7% in the second half.

Gorski told Lynn Worthy of the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin:

“Some of my mistakes in the middle of the year had to do with not being able to find the strike zone, falling behind guys, walking guys, stuff like that,” Gorski said. “I put myself in a hole. Recently, I’ve been more around the strike zone. I make mistakes inside the strike zone sometimes, but for the most part you stay as close as you can to the zone and try to keep the ball down. That’s the biggest thing.”

At ESPNNY, Gorski told Adam Rubin:

“I feel now, as opposed to the start of the year, I’m more polished and I have a better understanding what I’m trying to do with my pitch set and what I like to do when I go out there,” Gorski said. “I definitely feel a lot more comfortable than at the start of the year, so I take that as a positive.”

Home runs remain Gorski’s major statistical red flag. He’s allowed 19 HR in 137.2 innings this year (1.2 HR/9; 3%).

Gorski has clearly done enough to earn a promotion to AAA Buffalo for the 2013 season. From there, it might be a a short hop into the back end of a big league rotation.

Upper Minors Friday: Frank Francisco Rehabs in B-Mets DH Sweep

AAA: @ Louisville Bats (CIN) 3, Buffalo Bisons 1 

Lucas Duda was 1-for-4 and played right for the second straight night as a member of the Bisons.

CF Matt den Dekker: 0-for-4 with a strikeout to slip to .201/.229/.414 in 41 games in AAA with 56 strikeouts in 41 games.

LHP Rob Carson threw two innings in his AAA debut: 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.

 

AA: @ Binghamton Mets 2, Portland Sea Dogs 1 (7 innings)
@ Binghamton Mets 3, Portland Sea Dogs 1 (7 innings) 

Yeah, when the two starting pitchers combine to allow one run over 12 innings, that will make a sweep easier.

Game 1, Cory Mazzoni: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Game 2, Darin Goski (pictured): 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Despite a 3.21 ERA, Mazzoni has fanned just 5.8 batters per nine IP (27 K/42) in AA. I don’t see an MLB starter here. Maybe a bullpen arm.

Frank Francisco handled the save in game one, yielding one hit in his first save in AA.

Gorski’s key ratios in 104 innings in AA: 7.1 K/9, a  3.5 BB/9 and a 1.2 HR/9 on the way to a 3.98 ERA.

Meanwhile CF Juan Lagares is not just hitting, he’s starting to hit for power: a triple in game one, and a double in game two to take him to .327/.342/.477 in 25 games in July and .282/.331/.387 in 101 games for the year.

Upper Minors Friday: Not Enough Pitching

AAA: @ Scranton WB Yankees 8, Buffalo Bisons 7 (10 innings)

This was a classic AAA affair in which the prospects flopped early while the old men decided it late when Jack Cust homered off Edgar Ramirez in the 10th.

The Bisons got to Dellin Betances for four runs on four walks in two innings, but Jeurys Familia gave the runs right back. His line: 2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 1 K. He was throwing hard, but that’s not enough. For example, in the first inning, with two aboard, he threw Cust two straight fastballs, the second of which was right over the middle, and Cust smacked it for a two-run single. Then, he really started using his curveball, throwing it four times against the subsequent two hitters to help produce a strikeout looking and a groundball out.

It’s frustrating to watch Familia these days. The fastball has plus velo and the curveball can be a hammer. However, he stayed nearly exclusively with his fastball to the first four hitters of the game while allowing two runs. He really had trouble throwing his heater where he wanted it. The curveball was effective for him, but he he just needs to throw it more. I did not see a single changeup in the first inning.

In other pitching news, Pedro Beato hung a curveball that turned into a game-tying two run homer in the 7th.

One of the runs Beato allowed was charged to Josh Edgin, who was also charged with an unearned run in his 1.2 innings.

 

AA: New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR) 9, @ Binghamton Mets 3 

Darin Gorski gave up a couple of home runs in this one, every reliever allowed at least one run to score, and the B-Mets just could not match the Cats’ output.

Gorski: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 2 HR as his ERA rose to 4.63. Gorski will be looking forward to June. In four appearances in May, he’s allowed five homers and 24 hits, and 10 walks in 19 innings for a 7.58 ERA.

Cats Rough Up Darin Gorski Saturday

AA: @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats 9, Binghamton Mets 0

The ‘Cats roughed up Darin Gorski on Sunday: 4 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 WP. He pitched to four batters in the fifth inning, but could not retire any of them.

After the game, he tweeted:

 

After a slow start to the year, RF Juan Lagares is starting to get going. The 23-year old was 2-for-4 with a double, his sixth, to push his season line to .277/.344/.370 on the heels of a six-game hitting streak.

Another 0-for-4 for 2B Reese Havens dropped him to .063 (2-for-32) in his last nine games and .167/.271/.286 overall in just 12 games so far.

CF Matt den Dekker (.291/.359/.500) was 1-4 to extend his hitting streak to eight straight games and stole a base. He’s now 5-for-11 stealing bases this year.

Upper Minors Monday: Misplays in Eighth Sink B-Mets. Progress for Juan Lagares?

AA: @ Akron Aeros (CLE) 3, Binghamton Mets 2

Ok, so the key play or plays in this one occurred in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the eighth. So, with runners at first and second, lets turn it over to the B-Mets game recap:

“Aeros second baseman Ryan Rohlinger sent a chopper to Jefry Marte at third. The ball took an awkward hop, bounced past Marte and rolled into left field, allowing Chun Chen to score from second.

Left fielder Pedro Zapata missed the cutoff man with his throw to home, enticing pinch-runner Ben Copeland to try for third. Centeno’s throw to the bag was on time, but Marte muffed it, allowing the ball to roll into left again. Copeland scampered home, giving Akron a two-run lead.”

Hmm. What else happened Monday?

Darin Gorski (pictured): 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. It does not seem like he had his good command, although he held the Aeros in check as he threw 60% of his pitches (55 of 92) for strikes.

2B Reese Havens was 0-for-2 with two walks and two strikeouts in his second game in 2012.

RF Juan Lagares was 2-for-3 with a walk to finish April at .256/.348/.359 with five extra-base hits, 11 walks and 14 strikeouts in 22 games. Lagares, even while hitting a total of .349/.383/.500 between advanced-A and and double-A began slowly a year ago when he hit .262/.314/.369 in 18 games with four extra-base hits and five walks and seven strikeouts. And Lagares’ 11 walks in April 2012, were not just more than in any single month in 2011, but set a new career-high.

CF Matt den Dekker was 1-for-4 with a strikeout, his 25 in 23 games in April. More strangely, he was caught stealing and is now just 2-for-7 stealing bases in 2012.

 

AAA: Rochester @ Buffalo – ppd by rain

The Bisons and Red Wings were rained out they’ll make it up on the Red Wings’ next visit to Buffalo, August 25-28.

Wait? Rochester does not visit Buffalo again, a whopping 80 minutes away from each other, until the end of August? Stay hot, minor league schedule makers.