This post concludes our three-part series on potential middle reliever prospects that spanned the #15 through #21 spots in my Top 41 ranking of Mets prospects (Part one and two). Part three has a bunch of really good fastballs from a trio of pitchers listed at 6’4″ and two of these three should be MLB contributors in 2014.
#15 – Vic Black
Height/Weight: 6’4”/215 lbs
Acquired: in trade with Pirates with Dilson Herrera for Marlon Byrd and John Buck
2013 Rank: N/A | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Black, who will be 26 in May, is ready to help a big league bullpen now. It’s that simple. He’s big and he throws hard. His average fastball is 95-96 mph. He can hit 98. His second pitch is a hard curveball in the low 80s averaging 82+ mph. That’s plus velocity on a curve, and a tick above average on a slider, although it moves more like a curveball.
He struggled with his control as a younger pitcher, running walk rates above 12% in 2010 and 2011. Even in 2013, he walked 11% of his opponents in AAA with the Pirates. He can be a big leaguer at 8-11% walk rate, which would be average to a little below average. He could be a really good big leaguer if he walks fewer.
2013: Hey, the Mets picked up Black and 2B Dilson Herrera for a month each of Marlon Byrd and John Buck. That’s nifty!
Black fanned 33% of opposing hitters in AAA with the Pirates.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Closer/Bullpen Ace
Debbie Downer Says: Too many walks = replacement level guy.
Projected 2014 Start: MLB bullpen
MLB Arrival: 2013. 2014 fulltime
#16 – RHP Jacob deGrom
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 185 lbs
Acquired: 9th rd ’10 (Stetson U
Born: 6/19/88 (Deland, FL)
2013 Rank: #8 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: deGrom’s fastball, good pitcher’s body, easy delivery, and ability to throw strikes will get him to the big leagues. In the most likely scenario, he will become a hard-throwing reliever, but there still is a chance that he becomes a starter.
A shortstop at Stetson, deGrom’s professional career began slowly. He was diagnosed with a strained UCL ligament in 2010, but tried to rehab it instead of opting for Tommy John surgery immediately. However, he did eventually go under the knife, and that cost him the 2011 season. While rehabbin in St. Lucie, he learned a two-seam fastball from Johan Santana. He was excellent, as a 24-year-old across the two a-ball levels in 2012.
His fastball is 92-96 with sink and he now has a four-seamer to spot to both sides of the plate.
The question I had with deGrom was whether his breaking ball and changeup would improve to the point where they could help him face the same lineup three times as a starter. On this front, the results are mixed. The Mets shifted him from a slider to a hard curveball during the summer of 2013. The one breaking ball I saw from him this spring was upper 80s with depth, a useful pitch down and out of the zone. His fastball is ready for primetime now, in his age-26 season, but I’m not sure the breaking ball supports a starter’s role. And the bullpen is the safest place for his heat.
2013: deGrom made two starts in St. Lucie in April, then moved to AA Binghamton, where he made four appearances and then kept right on moving to AAA for a spot start on May 6. Returned to AA, he made six starts before moving permanently to AAA on June 18. In July, the PCL hit .326/.360/.543 for a .903 OPS against him while that dropped to .283/.333/.457 for a .790 OPS in six August starts.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A rotation regular, but more likely a good, hard-throwing reliever.
Debbie Downer Says: No weapon other than his fastball. Too hittable. Fodder.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: 2014
17 – RHP Domingo Tapia
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 190 lbs
Acquired: NDFA 12/16/09
Born: 12/16/91 (Santo Domingo, DR)
2013 Rank: 10 (2012: 14) | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Tapia had a bad 2013 season, but he still throws a heavy sinking fastball at 96 mph that can get up to 98 or more. That fastball is one of the best pitches in the Mets’ system.
He’s big, with long arms and legs that generates tremendous whip, so the velocity comes relatively easily. However, his natural motion relies on a low arm slot, which has made it hard to find a viable, repeatable breaking ball. Moving his arm up didn’t really help the breaking ball, and hurt his fastball command.
He does have a hard, diving changeup at 88-89 that can be very effective. The bet here is that fastball/changeup can move up system to the big leagues.
2013: The best thing about Tapia’s 2013 is that he stayed healthy. The bad part: his walk rate spiked from 7.1% in the SAL in 2012 to 14% in 2013. He was particularly walk prone on the road, where he issued free passes in 16.8% of opposing plate appearances on his way to a 7.13 ERA away from St. Lucie. At home, where he had a 2.79 ERA, his walk rate was a still high, but more manageable 11.9%. Mets Pitching Coordinator Ron Romanick called him a “front-runner” in the sense that when things were going well, he could keep them going, “His stuff moves so much. He’s probably one of our best front-runner pitchers. [When] he gets out on a roll, he rolls it out of there. But that first or second inning, when he’s just missing, he’s had his struggles.”
Dr. Pangloss Says: Elite late-inning reliever
Debbie Downer Says: Not enough good strikes to become effective. However, his velocity will earn him multiple shots to figure it out. Hi, Henry Rodriguez.
Projected 2014 Start: AA Binghamton. If he throws strikes, he’ll get guys out regardless of what league he’s pitching in.
MLB Arrival: 2015
The other day we looked at hitters playing in the Caribbean so today we’ll check on the pitchers. It’s not a long or thrilling list.
Domingo Tapia (Gigantes del Cibao): 2 G, 2 IP, 1 H, 4 BB, 1 K
Looks like the control problems that plagued Tapia all season followed him south this winter as he’s walked two batters in each of his first two appearances.
Armando Rodriguez (Leones del Escogido): 5 G, 0 GS, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HBP, 1 BB, 9 K
I believe Rodriguez, who is off the Mets’ 40-man roster can become a 6-year minor league free agent this year. So in essence, he’s auditioning for all 30 teams to find one willing to sign him to a nice raise and perhaps a 40-man spot.
Miller Diaz (Leones del Caracas): 5 G, 0 GS, 4 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1/1 SV/Opp
A starter for Brooklyn in 2013 where he struck out 31% of opposing hitters, the hard-throwing 21-year-old Diaz should be ticketed for Savannah to start 2014.
Justin Hampson (Tigres de Aragua): 6 G, 0 GS, 2.08 ERA, 4.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Marcos Camarena (Tomateros de Culiacuan): 5 G, 0 GS, 7.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
Octavio Acosta (Algondoneros de Guasave): 2 G, 1 IP, 1 H
Acosta, at age 23, struck out over a batter an inning in the GCL and almost a batter an inning in two starts in the FSL.
AA: @ Bowie Bay Sox (BAL) 11, Binghamton Mets 0
In Norse mythology, Thor slays the serpent Jörmungandr, and then ties himself from the snake’s venom. In another story Thor’s hammer Mjollnir is stolen, and eventually Thor tricks the thief using an age-old cross-dressing strategy before killing all who tried to steal his treasured hamer. Lets just say we’re at the point in the story without a hammer.
Noah Syndergaard is alive, but had a bad outing Monday night: 3 IP, 9 H, 11 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. Hey at least he threw 64% of his pitches (55 of 86) for strikes. He was pitching on nine days rest because the Mets are limiting his innings down the stretch. Prior to Monday’s meltdown, since a homerun alllowed on 7/28, Thor had been untouchable: 20.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 26 K, .106 OBA, 239 pitches/178 strikes (74%). One bad start does not seem like a big deal. I suspect he will get an extra day or two of rest and then throw in game one or two of the B-Mets’ playoff series next Wednesday or Thursday.
The B-Mets had two hits, singles from 3B Josh Rodriguez and C Xorge Carillo.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 5, Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 2
Domingo Tapia walked three batters in the first inning and then allowed two unearned runs in the second thanks to an error by 3B Robbie Shields. He settled in nicely after that facing three over the minimum from the third through the seventh innings thanks to two walks and a double. His final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 4 K. A night like this counts as a step forward for Tapia.
Dustin Lawley was 2-for-4 with a double. The 24-year-old has hit .260/.313/.512 this year in St. Lucie with 63 extra-base hits and 111 strikeouts in 122 games. He’s also 24.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 6, @ Palm Beach Cardinals 4
@ Palm Beach Cardinals 7, St. Lucie Mets 0
Game one was the completion of Tuesday’s suspended game. The Mets scored twice in the top of the seventh on a 3B Robbie Shields (.248/.301/.337 – 83 gms; age 25) double to grab the lead.
Game two was a repeat of the Domingo Tapia (2-9, 5.24) show. He worked through the first three innings without a major incident, allowing a second inning single and then a pair of walks in the third. It all fell apart for him in a six-run fourth that went: walk, double, strikeout, walk, walk, single, single, double, pitching change. His line: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 5 BB, 6 K. Tapia has now walked 57 batters in 89.1 innings in one of the most disappointing years by a Mets’ pitching prospect in the whole system.
A: @ Kannapolis Intimidators (CHW) 4, Savannah Sand Gnats 3
While the Gnats are 3-6 on their current 10-game road trip that ends Thursday, CF Brandon Nimmo is just smoking hot. He was 2-for-3 with a walk and no strikeouts Wednesday. On the trip, Nimmo is hitting .480 (12-for-25) with two doubles, 10 walks and six strikeouts. In August he’s up to .406/.553/.516 with 19 walks against 18 strikeouts in 20 games to push his season line to .285/.405/.376 in 96 contests.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 4, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 3
Better from Domingo Tapia: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.
Tapia is one of the most confounding prospects in the Mets’ system. He has one of the best fastballs in the system, showing 95-96 mph with sink regularly with plenty of 98 and a few 100s mixed in. His changeup, when it’s right, dives like a splitter out of the zone. He’s struggled in years past to find a release point for his slider as it used to come out loopy from his low 3/4 arm slot and he basically stopped throwing it at the end of the 2012 season in Savannah.
This year, Tapia got off to a strong start in April in St. Lucie (2.73 ERA, 26.1 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 10 BB, 24 K) but has had an ERA above 4.50 every month thereafter, with an 8.53 ERA in May and an 11.37 ERA (8 ER/6.1 IP) in August. Simply, he’s walking too many guys. In August, he’s walked seven in those 6.1 innings. In July it was 15 walks in 21.2 innings.
Excluding a rainout on April 30, Tapia has failed to finish his second inning five times, and thrice in his last five starts. As Mets Pitching Coordinator Ron Romanick explains, bad things can snowball on Tapia, “He just misses out of the zone, and he has a hard time recovering,” he explained on Sunday. “His stuff moves so much. He’s probably one of our best front-runner pitchers. [When] he gets out on a roll, he rolls it out of there. But that first or second inning, when he’s just missing, he’s had his struggles.”
The velocity is still there. As a scout told me in late June/early July: “Tapia threw the sh-t out of the ball.”
And yet on August 9, Baseball America as part of their weekly Hot Sheet, Baseball America wrote, “Tapia’s stuff hasn’t been the same as it was in 2012, when his fastball hit 98 mph and his changeup looked like a potentially plus pitch. The 21-year-old has struggled ….
Romanick too, disputed that the raw stuff has declined, “Everything is there, the reports I get. His changeup, which I think is his second best pitch, we’re trying to get him to be aggressive with it and throw it, when maybe his fastball is missing with it. At times, he’ll try to force the fastball all the time, when he has a plus second pitch.” Romanick thinks the slider too has improved, “we’ve tightened that up; it’s gotten a lot better.”
All of this sounds good and the FSL is still only hitting .240/.354/.331 against him and has 3 homerus in 86 innings. But if he cannot throw strikes, none of it matters.
Tapia was my #11 Mets prospect entering the 2013 season. He’ll drop this coming year, and probably not that far anyway, but a few realy good starts in August would make for a smaller dip.
A: @ Rome Braves 3, Savannah Sand Gnats 2
CF Brandon Nimmo: 1-for-3, 2B, BB. In 13 games in August, the 20-year-old Nimmo is hitting .364/.517/.500 with three doubles, a homer and 12 walks against 14 strikeouts. That a good way to end a season. For the year, he’s up to .272/.389/.366 in 89 games.
Nimmo is not one of the SAL’s 20 youngest players overall, but he is one of just 28 hitters to qualify for the SAL’s batting title at age 20 or younger. According to Baseball Reference, 55 of his plate appearances have come against pitchers younger than himself, while 344 have come against his “elders.”
A+: @ Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 8, St. Lucie Mets 6
Oh, Domingo Tapia: 1.1 IP, 4 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 2 K. That’s three times in his last four starts he has not finished the second inning. In those four outings, he’s fanned eight and walked 14 in 9.2 innings while allowing 16 runs on 13 hits. That’s not good. As long as he’s fully healthy there’s just no reason to think, based on his season-long performance (5.00 ERA, 73/49 K/BB in 81 IP), and his recent work, that he’s ever going to be a Major League starter. Instead, he should be ticketed for the AA bullpen to start 2014.
C Kevin Plawecki and DH Jayce Boyd were each 0-for-3 with a walk.
A: Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) 9, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 7
CF Brandon Nimmo: 3-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI. In his first four plate appearances vs first a left-handed starter and then a left-handed reliever, he was 3-for-4 with a double. Against lefties in the three games against Charleston, he was 5-for-7 with two doubles, and his second and third extra-base hits against a lefthander all year. Nimmo is now hitting .233/.341/.274 against southpaws in 85 plate appearances. This week, he’s hanging in better against the breaking balls and seeing fastballs better. His approach has clearly been to let the ball get deep and try to hit it out to left-center.
The 20-year-old is back to .264/.379/.360 overall in 83 games in the SAL. Nimmo struck out three times in the series against Charleston, all three times chasing breaking balls in the dirt from RHP. I was talking about this with someone on Wednesday, but in his first 62 games in the SAL in 2011, as a 19-year-old, Christian Yelich, another young, left-handed hitting centerfielder hit .272/.352/.401. My point is not that Nimmo is Yelich, who was younger than Nimmo, and playing in a more hitter-friendly ballpark in Greensboro. The general point is that young players sometimes take a little bit in the SAL. Yelich, to finish the thought, was unconscious at the end of 2011, hitting safely in his last 11 games and 18 of his final 19 to help carry his Grasshoppers into the playoffs as part of a .354/.423/.568 line with 10 homeruns in the second half.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Daytona Cubs 3 (7 innings)
@ Daytona Cubs 7, St. Lucie Mets 0 (7 innings)
Game 1, Rainy Lara was fine: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. He’s fanned 18% of his opponents in advanced-A, while walking 7% on his way to a 2.92 ERA. He gets his outs with his slider and has a chance to be a slider heavy middle reliever if he can tighten the pitch.
Game 2, Domingo Tapia was wild: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 0 K. It’s the third time in 17 starts this year that he has failed to finish the first inning with four walks. It’s the second straight start in which he has not finished the second. He’s up to 43 walks in 73.2 innings, a 13% walk rate. Major, major uh-ohs here.
Kevin Plawecki (.323/.406/.419 – 27 gms in A+) caught game one and moved out from behind the dish to play first in game two, going 1-for-6 between the two contests.
A: @ Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL) 9, Savannah Sand Gnats 2
The Shorebirds pounded out 19 (!) hits against Luis Cessa and three relievers. Cessa, a strikethrower for whom I have a soft spot was roughed up: 5 IP, 13 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. At Historic Grayson Stadium, he owns a 2.36 ERA, but that hops up to 4.18 on the road. He has walked more batters on the road (4.8% to 2.6%) and given up more homers (3% to 1.1%).
CF Brandon Nimmo (pictured) was 2-for-3 with a strikeout before he was ejected in the fifth inning. Signs of life from Nimmo? He’s 8-for-20 (.400) in his last five games with a triple, three walks and eight strikeouts.
By the way, SS Philip Evans was officially placed on the Savannah DL with a lower back strain, retroactive to July 18.
A+: @ Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 5, St. Lucie Mets 1
Through six innings tonight, Domingo Tapia had allowed one unearned run on two hits without walking a batter and against six strikeouts. After getting two groundballs to start the seventh, he gave up a walk and two singles to load ‘em up before departing the game up against his pitch count. All three runners he bequeathed to RHP Cody Satterwhite, making his Mets’ organizational debut, scored.
As he always does when he’s on, Tapia induced a bunch of groundballs, in this case, eight.
Satterwhite, was untouchable for independent Sioux City in the American Association this year fanning 31 against seven walks while allowing 14 hits in 27.2 innings for a 0.65 ERA. A former 2nd round pick, Satterwhite, 26-years-old, reached AA with the Tigers in 2009 and then missed all of 2010 with labrum surgery. In February, 2011, David Tokarz of the Tigers’ blog Bless You Boys wrote about Satterwhite:
Satterwhite had a good fastball that sat in the mid 90′s and touched 98 with brutal sink, and he also threw a pretty good slider. He had issues with control, and the shoulder injury certainly isn’t helping him fix that. He’s a grade C due to his high draft status in 2008 and his pre-surgery stuff, and could certainly come back to produce at a high level. But don’t bet on it.
By February of 2012, he was “mid to high 80s,” per John Verburg of Motor City Bengals.
LF Dustin Lawley (.262/.313/.529 – 83 gms) was 1-for-3 with a homer, his 18th of the year. He’s 24 and a corner outfielder in a-ball. No, he’s not a Top 41 guy.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 8, Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 1
Every Gnats’ starter had a hit, but the real story was Gabriel Ynoa who was perfect through three and in command all night. His line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. One difference between his night and Tapia’s? When Ynoa left the bases loaded for Estarlin Morel, Morel needed one pitch to induce a comebacker to end the threat. Ynoa really has made progress with his slider. He threw the pitch more than I can ever remember on Tuesday night and was getting both swings and misses and weak contact and of course some hard contact on hangers. I said on air that I thought he was throwing the slider more than was strictly optimal for getting guys out – that it is, it was a developmental priority, in a good way.
Ynoa’s strikeout rate of 20.8% is just fine for a guy still learning his slider, but it looks lower on a per-inning basis (7.46 k/9) because he does not walk batters 3.2% walk rate.
AA: Altoona Curve (PIT) 6, @ Binghamton Mets 3
Cory Mazzoni (4-3, 4.38): 6 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 6 K – 66% strikes (66 of 99) – 5 ground outs/4 fly outs. Mazzoni’s been missing bats over his recent starts, but also giving up lots of hits and runs. The Mets second round pick in 2011 has allowed at least three runs in each of his last eight starts, and five runs or more in half of those octet.
No one had more than one hit including RF Cesar Puello (1-for-4) and LF Travis Taijeron (1-for-4, 2B).
A+: St. Lucie Mets 1, Jupiter Hammerheads 0
Domingo Tapia: 6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, WP, HBP, 7 groundouts/5 fly balls. It’s funny when I talk to a scout who has just seen Tapia for the first time. They love him. He’s still big, and he still throws 96-98 bowling balls with movement. A guy who saw him recently told me, “You’d need a shovel to lift that,” of his fastball. And yet his results have been disappointing this year. His fastball command still comes and goes. However, part of the reason he has struggled is a focus on development rather than ERA. The word is that he’s been throwing his slider a lot. It’s still a below average pitch, and he picks his arm slot up to throw it above his fastball/change-up release point which is low 3/4.
Rehabbing Tim Byrdak finished up with a scoreless inning with two strikeouts.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Hickory Crawdads 1
SS Philip Evans 2-for-3 with a double. In his last 18 games the 20-year-old is hitting .339/.403/.458 with six walks and eight strikeouts. He’s been much, much better. I wrote about it a little here. I have to transcribe a few of his comments on his recent hot streak too.
Not so Good/Daily Nimmo
Facing nothing but lefties, CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts. The 20-year-old is down to .266/.364/.355 in 55 games and .196/.275/.217 with one extra-base hit in 51 PA vs. lefties and .154/.228/.154 in 13 games in the second half.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 4
The Mets scored the go-ahead run in the ninth when CF Gilbert Gomez walked and scored on T.J. Rivera’s single into right field.
The most notable thing in this box score was ugly as Domingo Tapia walked five. His line: 4 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K. He induced four groundouts, but the bottom line is that he walked five of the 22 batters he faced. That’s not good. Tapia has now walked 25 in 47.2 innings thus far and 12 in 15.1 since returning from his burned hand on May 24.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Greenville Drive (BOS) 4
The Gnats moved this close to clinching a playoff berth Thursday. Savannah’s win, combined with Charleston’ double-header split versus Augusta dropped the Gnats’ magic number to two with three games to play.
1B Jayce Boyd, who had done 14 games in a row without an extra-base hit, broke out, going 4-for-4 with a double and a three-run homerun in the third inning that put the Gnats up 4-0. The homer was a line drive down the leftfield line on a hanging curveball. The 22-year-old Boyd is now back up to .346/.420/.471 with 16 doubles and four homeruns. Surely, he’ll be headed to advanced-A St. Lucie immediately after the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
On the hill, converted 1B Jake Kuebler dominated the Drive through five innings. He set down the first 13 batters in a row, nine on groundballs. He did not give up a hit under a chopper kicked out of his own glove with one out in the fifth. He was using his two-seamer a lot, and letting Greenville beat it into the ground. I was told coming into the start that his two-seamer has been 90-92 and he possesses the ability to reach back for 94 mph. The 23-year old’s batting average against and ERA by month: April: .322/3.60, May: .200/2.45 and June: .156/2.45. His breaking ball is pretty raw, but Kuebler has size and a decent enough arm that he might show up in a Major League bullpen with continued progress.
Signs of life from SS Philip Evans’ bat? He was 2-for-4 with two runs scored. One of the hits was a gift on a lousy throw from the Greenville 3B, but he hit a few balls hard on a line. After going 5-for-10 in his last three games, the 20-year-old is UP to .186/.251/.233.
CF Brandon Nimmo was 1-for-5 with an RBI triple in the eighth. He struck out twice. The triple was crushed to right-center and was the classic Grayson Stadium triple in that it was a home run in almost every other professional stadium in America. Nimmo (.300/.404/.413 – 39 games) now has more triples (5) than doubles (4). A scout pointed out to me that Nimmo does not handle the inside pitch well. Opponents have started recognizing this, and have worked to pound him inside with fastballs.