First Cuts. One of These Things is Not Like the Others

The Mets made their first round of cuts Monday. This is largely a clubhouse management exercise in which teams send players who have no chance to make the Opening Day roster back over to the minor league side. This accomplishes two goals: the players sent down can pick up more game repetitions and the guys playing for Major League spots for Opening Day and callups later in the year can impress the big league staff.

 

 

Highest 2013 Level Primary 2013 Level 40-man Roster
LHP Josh Edgin MLB MLB Yes
LHP Steven Matz A A Yes
RHP Erik Goeddel AA AA Yes
SS Wilfredo Tovar MLB AA Yes
OF Cesar Puello AA AA Yes
LHP Jack Leathersich AAA AA/AAA No
RHP John Church AAA AA No
RHP Logan Verrett AA AA No
LHP Adam Kolarek AAA AA No
RHP Chasen Bradford AA A+ No
C Kevin Plawecki A+ A/A+ No
INF Danny Muno AA AA No
3B/LF Dustin Lawley AAA A+ No
CF Brandon Nimmo A A No
OF Cory Vaughn AA AA No

 

And yet, look at the list above. There is one name unlike the others: Josh Edgin

Edgin was a big leaguer the last two years and the only guy among the first cuts who spent the majority of his 2013 in the big leagues. The only players still with the Mets who made more appearances than Edgin’s 68 in 2012 and 2013 were Bobby Parnell (123) and Scott Rice (73). On the whole, Edgin was not particularly effective overall (-0.5 WAR) in the last two years, but he threw hard and he was left-handed. And no, he has not been good this spring (3 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K). He’s done this, in 19 batters against an opponents’ quality of 7.5, according to Baseball Reference, which is halfway between AA and AAA. His velocity appears to be down.

The timing of this move seems curious. What was the harm in letting Edgin throw another week or two in big league camp to regain his velocity and show that he can be effective? It’s not like the Mets have lots of other left-handed options for the bullpen in camp. The only other lefties on the 40-man roster, aside from Jon Niese, are Steven Matz, who is headed to advanced-A and Scott Rice. Among the non-roster invitees, Adam Kolarek and Jack Leathersich do not look ready for big league duty, and neither was effective above double-A in 2013. And that leaves only John Lannan, has been equally (in)effective against lefties (.333 wOBA) and righties (.334) in his career. This does not suggest future success as a left-handed relief specialist.

The Sandy Alderson Mets have operated largely in a (small c) conservative manner, in which the have kept as many options as possible as long as possible. The cost to keeping Edgin around in big league camp was extremely small, so this move seems like a very minor departure from that pattern. Or spin it around the other way: the Mets are absolutely convinced that Edgin will not be an asset in the big leagues early in the 2014 season.

The rest of this list is composed of minor league guys of varying potential from Brandon Nimmo and Steven Matz, both of whom will begin 2014 in advanced-A, on down, who had no chance to make the Mets Opening Day roster.

I think it’s worth pointing out here that the Mets added Erik Goeddel to the 40-man roster in November 2013, but that did not save him in March 2014. Instead, he will begin the season in AAA.

Other Notes
- Plawecki was promoted to AA Binghamton for their playoff series at the end of 2013, but was never activated as a B-Met. He’s been all but guaranteed to start in Binghamton in 2014.

- Dustin Lawley had 21 AAA regular season AAA plate appearances after spending 122 games in advanced-A where he hit .260/.313/.512 with 25 homers. He’s really, for the purposes of this exercise, an advanced-A guy. He went to AAA late in the year to help the Las Vegas 51s, rather than Cory Vaughn because Vaughn was already helping a playoff-bound affiliate in AA Binghamton.

- In 2013, Leathersich ran a 7.76 ERA in 29 innings in AAA with as many walks as innings pitched.

- Tovar made 19 plate appearances in the big leagues beginning with his MLB debut on September 22, 2013 after hitting .263/.323/.340 in 133 games in AA Binghamton during the season.

- In 20 games in AA, Bradford ran a 0.71 ERA.

Here Comes Josh Edgin (Mets Minor League Report with Video)

New Mets Minor League Report on new Mets’ lefthander Josh Edgin, who for the moment has taken Dillon Gee’s roster spot and gives the Mets a second left-handed arm in the bullpen.

The video feature on Edgin from Spring Training is here.

The hard-throwing rotund lefty comes to the big leagues off a nice stretch in triple-A where he’s allowed just one run in his last 10.1 innings with 10 strikeouts and five walks. Overall, in 37 innings in AAA, he has a 3.89 ERA with 40 whiffs and 18 walks. That strikeout rate of 9.7 K/9 is great, but the walk rate of 4.4 BB/9 is nearly equally illuminating.

He has swing and miss stuff, but has trouble controlling it. He throws hard and can touch 97, but usually works more 93-95 mph with his four-seam fastball. His low-mid 80s slider is vicious on lefties. He’s mess around with adding a third pitch including a two-seamer, a changeup, but I’ve never seen them as important pieces of his arsenal.

He’s the key to Edgin’s promotion: he’s tough on lefties, who have just three extra-base hits, all doubles against him in AAA this year as part of a .220/.324/.271 line with nine walks and 21 strikeouts in 59 AB. So, he’s fanned 30% of the left-handed batters he’s faced. However, righties have hit .256/.333/.366 with nine walks against 19 strikeouts in 82 AB. He’s whiffed 20% of the right-handed batters he’s faced. Terry Collins would do well to limit Edgin’s exposure to right-handed batters.

If you’ll allow me to toot my own horn for a moment, I had Edgin ranked at #33 in the Mets system coming into 2011, and #19 coming into 2012.

 

April in Buffalo.

We’ll go through each affiliate to recap their month.

The Buffalo Bisons finished April 2012 in second place in the IL North, at 14-10, 1.5 games behind the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Bisons are second in the IL in bating average and third in OBP, SLG and runs scored as part of a .281/.355/.450 line.   The Herd’s 30 homers are tied for first on the circuit.

Despite ranking near the bottom in the IL in strikeouts (12 of 14), the Bisons are third in the IL in ERA (3.04) because they have allowed the third-fewest hits (185).

No Fuss Lutz
How does a .333/.425/.556 month sound with eight extra-base hits, 10 walks and 20 strikeouts? Thanks to Mets’ injuries 25-year old Zach Lutz even found some big league time where he made his MLB debut and was 1-for-8 in picking up his first MLB hit. A third baseman throughout his minor league career, Lutz picked up his only MLB start at first, and looked a little awkward there. His lack of defensive versatility hurts his bench value, so the Mets might consider exposing him to other positions in AAA in the near future.

 

The Old Guys Hit
34 year old Bobby Scales: .413/.522/.600 – 17 BB, 8 K – 21 games. Scales’ .413 OBP leads all full-season minor leagues.

32 year old Vinny Rottino: .315/.356/.435 – 8 2B – 7 BB, 14 K – 24 games. He’s worked exclusively in left field, but the Mets will begin working him back in at catcher, the position that he says is his “favorite” and where he is comfortable. Mike Nickeas, you have been warned.

33 year old Valentino Pascucci: .306/.392/.565 – 4 2B, 6 HR, 12 BB, 28 K. Ho hum, another .950 OPS in AAA for “The Big Guy” as Bisons’ broadcaster Duke McGuire calls him.

 

The Jordany Story
After playing second base for Buffalo on the first two nights of the season, the Mets and Bisons moved Jordany Valdespin out to centerfield after Kirk Nieuwenhuis was promoted to the Mets to take Andres Torres’ place.  His play in centerfield, not surprisingly for a guy who has spent a month at the position, remains a work in progress. He has the athleticism to play out there, but does not yet have an outfielders’ feel for reads off the bat or the long arm stroke for throws. At the plate in 17 games in AAA, he hit a rather pedestrian .276/.321/.368 in 76 AB with five walks against seven strikeouts and just three extra-base hits.

So what’s he doing in the big leagues? First and foremost, with Ronny Cedeno on the shelf, Valdespin is the best back-up shortstop option. The Mets are clearly not comfortable with Justin Turner, who has played just two MLB games at short stop, and only 53 games at short in the minors, as the team’s only back-up shortstop option.   Valdespin is primarily insurance for Ruben Tejada, who happens to be two years younger than Valdespin. At the same time, Valdespin is a second another left-handed bat off the bench alongside Mike Baxter. He is merely the sixth outfielder behind Lucas Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Torres, Baxter and Scott Hairson.

A number of commenters have raised the issue that Valdespin needs to be playing everyday to continue his development. It’s a reasonable argument, but it falls short here. At some point, a prospect’s development becomes secondary to helping the big league team. In this case, Valdespin is providing big league depth while allowing the Mets to weather an injury without making a 40-man roster move. His positional flexibility allows the Mets roster flexibility.

 
The Big Two – Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia
Lets start with the simple one first: Familia is just not throwing enough strikes. In 21.2 innings in 2012, he has issued 22 walks. For the year, he has thrown 56% of his pitches (261 of 463) for strikes where MLB average is 62%. Primarily, this is about locating his fastball. The Mets were working hard with Familia in spring training to repeat a cleaner delivery to improve his command. Obviously, the lessons have not taken yet.

Is the early-season cold a viable excuse? Not for more than a walk an inning. Also, even though it’s cold in Buffalo, it’s plenty cold in many MLB destinations early in the season including New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

Harvey has put together two good outings in a row and seems to be locating his fastball better and using all four of his pitches. He’s getting swings and misses with a hard-mid 80s breaking ball. In his last 13 innings: 15 K, 3 BB and 3 runs on eight hits.

The Mets insist that they will be patient not just with Harvey and Familia, but with all of their pitching prospects. Do not expect to see Harvey anytime soon in Queens. With 26 innings at AAA this year, and 59.2 at Binghamton last year, he’s at 85.2 above a-ball. If the team’s goal is really 130 upper-level innings, he will need another month and a half in AAA or the middle to the end of June. The only way he gets to the bigs faster? Pure domination.

 

Bullpen Help Soon?
The Mets promoted Josh Edgin to Buffalo on April 23 and he’s allowed just one run on three hits with five strikeouts in his four innings of work in AAA. For the year, between AA and AAA, the big, hard-throwing lefty has fanned 10 and walked four in 10.1 innings while yielding two runs. It’s not just that he’s missing bats; Minor League Central counts him with a 69% gb rate.

 

Position Player of the Month
Bobby Scales

Pitcher of the Month
Chris Schwinden. His line at Buffalo: 4 GS, 2.05 ERA, 22 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 13 K. It’s not terribly sexy, but he allowed fewer runs than Jeremy Hefner and Garrett Olson and neither Harvey nor Familia deserved it. The ‘pen guys like Fernando Cabrera, Chuck James and Jack Egbert have nice low ERAs without accompanying pretty K/BB ratios.

Upper Levels Monday: Dylan Owen Makes Homer History and Josh Edgin Makes his AAA Debut

AAA: Buffalo Bisons 5, @ Lehigh Valley 1


Dylan Owen was solid over 4.2 innings in a spot start for Jeremy Hefner and launched a solo home run off Pat Misch in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 1-1.  The home run was the first for a Bisons’ pitcher since August 6, 1994 when John Hope went yard back when the Bisons were a Pirates’ affiliate. Owen told Bisons’ broadcaster Ben Wagner that the homer was his first since high school in 2004 and that he “had no idea what the pitch was” that he hit out. The rest of the Bisons’ offense was good too: five different players had multi-hit games.

In his first game in AAA, recently promoted LHP Josh Edgin relieved Owen with a runner at second and two down in the fifth and struck out Rich Thompson looking to end the inning. He gave up a single, but fanned two and recorded a groundout in a scoreless sixth. His line in his AAA debut: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. If I set the over/under on Edgin’s MLB debut as June 25, giving him two full months in AAA, would anyone take the over?

With two aboard in the ninth, Brad Holt struck out two batters to preserve the win and pick up his first AAA save.

Meanwhile, Zach Lutz continues to rake. After going 2-for-4 with a walk, he’s sitting at .333/.425/.556 after 19 games in AAA this year.

Monday Transactions and Links: Josh Edgin to AAA, Savannah Pitching and a AA Award

1. Transactions

It starts in the big leagues. The Mets DLed Ronny Cedeno and replaced him with RHP Jeremy Hefner. Likely, eventually, they will add Jordany Valdespin too.

That opened up a spot for LHP Josh Edgin in the Buffalo Bisons bullpen. Edgin, the talk of spring training, had given up one run, on a solo HR in his 6.1 innings over six outings in AA. He’d fanned five, walked two and given up five hits. Edgin appears to be on the fast track to the big leagues. His stuff is basically ready – he’s regularly 92-95 with his fastball with a slider that’s at least MLB average.

Also at AA, infielder Sean Kazmar (.222/.317/.306 – 11 G) was placed on the DL.

At advanced-A, Darrell Ceciliani was placed on the disabled list as well. RHP Kyle Allen took his spot on the active roster.

C Jean Luc Blacquiere who was placed on the Bisons’ roster for a day when Josh Satin was put on the MLB taxi squad, has been added back to the Herd.


2. Baseball America Gushes About Savannah Pitching

Frank Viola is effusive in his praise of his young pitchers – Domingo Tapia, Rafael Montero and Michael Fulmer - at Baseball America. I’ll have more about Tapia later this week. Again, he’s sitting 96-98 mph ish with sink. It’s filthy.

On Tapia:

“This guy is an incredible talent. He’s regularly 98 (mph) with life, and it’s a heavy ball with plus sinking action.

Viola on Fulmer:

“This kid is mature beyond his years. He wants to take everything in, he wants to hear all kinds of angles. It’s incredible watching his mind work to figure out what pitching is all about. He’s 94-96 (mph), touches 97, and has an improving slider. It seems like his changeup gets better each time I see him.”

 

3. Josh Rodriguez Named EL Player of the Week

Tough to argue with the guy who hit .500  (13-for-26) for the week and slugged .807 with two doubles and two home runs. Except for the fact that the 27-year old is in his fifth year in the Eastern League.

Upper Level Affiliates Tuesday: Chris Schwinden and Collin McHugh Lead the Way to Wins

AAA: @ Buffalo Bisons 4, Lehigh Valley IronPigs 1

Why the Bisons won: RHP Chris Schwinden (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K) out-pitched Pat Misch (5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR).

CF Jordany Valdespin (.237/.286/.305 – 13 G) and 1B Josh Satin (.216/.262/.351 – 11 G) were both 0-for-4.

You know who hits, because he always hits? Zach Lutz who was 2-3 with a double to push his season line to .364/.462/.591 through 13 games.

2B Bobby Scales was 2-for-4 with a homer to extend a fairly remarkable run: he’s reached base at least twice in every one of his 10 starts for the Bisons.

 

AA: Binghamton Mets 10, @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats 6

Six of the nine B-Mets starters had two hits in this one, leading to a six-run third inning and an 8-1 B-Mets lead. However, 3B Jefry Marte nursing a strained hamstring, was not among them.

Notable nights from the bats:

CF Matt den Dekker (.315/.375/.500) was 2-for-5, RBI, with 2 K to extend his hitting streak to nine games.

RF Juan Lagares (.231/.348/.359 – 11 G) was 2-for-5 with a double, his second of the year.

Collin McHugh had a nice start: 5 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 HR.

Josh Edgin yielded a solo home run in the ninth, and struck out a batter.

 

Mets Minor League Report: Josh Edgin

This is definitely worth a watch. In addition to some video I shot of Edgin in spring training, both Field Coordinator Dickey Scott and Bisons’ Manager Wally Backman offer insight.

Josh Edgin. Too Soon.

Josh Edgin will not make the Mets out of Spring Training. Yes, he throws hard, and was up to 94 yesterday. Yes, his slider looks like it can be a useful weapon. Yes, I liked him enough as a pitcher to rank him as my #19 prospect in the Mets system.

All the same, he’s never thrown a pitch above advanced-A St. Lucie. That’s three levels away from the big leagues. He still must improve his command. His change-up is fairly rudimentary, and he freely admits that he has room to improve the offering. He’s never seen the world’s most patient, disciplined powerful hitters. Nor has he seen the roughly next most 900 patient, disciplined hitters in double-A and triple-A.

(To answer an issue raised in the comments: Edgin will survive in the big leagues, if he gets there, on his fastball/slider. His third pitch is … Well a tertiary concern.)

He’s pitching for his spring assignment. Entering Spring Training 2012, he was surely headed to AA-Binghamton. Now, Wally Backman wants him at AAA. Of course he does. Edgin has a nice arm. All the same, there’s no reason to skip him over AA. Let him enjoy the sights and sounds of NYSEG Stadium in April. If he’s great for a month or two, swell. Move him up to Buffalo. He still needs he can retire advanced hitters.

The fact that Edgin has recorded a few outs in spring training games (and Monday gave up a game-tying double) does not mean much. He’s pitched mostly against minor leaguers (not prospects) and well below average major league hitters. In fact, he’s faced 12 hitters in Major League Spring Training games this spring and has not seen a single MLB average hitter yet.

The best hitter he saw, Andy Dirks, doubled against him. Dirks owns a career OPS+, accumulated during 2011, of 90. Of the 12 hitters he’s faced, five have seen MLB time. Their median career OPS+, where 100 is league average, is 72 (Eric Patterson). The five hitters he’s faced with MLB time are a murder’s row of in chronological order: Eugenio Velez, Andy Dirks, Omir Santos, Argenis Diaz and Eric Patterson. Three of the 12 guys he’s seen have never played as high as double-A.

Again, Edgin is a nice story with a good arm. He’s not going to make the Mets Opening Day Roster.

The full list of batters Edgin has seen in Spring Training follows after the jump.

To read more of this story, click here

Notes from Minor League Camp Thursday

I hung out at the STEP Camp for the Mets top prospects on Thursday afternoon. Mostly, the guys worked on various defensive drills and then the batters took BP. I took a bunch of video of swings and some infielders fielding grounders that we’ll post over the next week or so.

Sandy Alderson and his assistant Buddy were also paying close attention to the kids.

Some stuff that stood out Thursday.

 

1. Josh Edgin threw live batting practice. 

This would hardly deserve comment were he in major league camp where all of the pitchers are throwing two simulated innings these days, including some guy named Johan.  What makes this significant to my mind is that Edgin (my #19 prospect) was the only minor leaguer to throw live BP Thursday. One, this puts him ahead of his minor league brethren, and two, keeps him on schedule with the big leaguers. Afterward, he said he felt “good.”

I think it is exceedingly likely at this point that Edgin will make some appearances in spring training games. There is nearly zero chance that he will break camp with the big team, but he will get a chance to showcase what he can do with everyone watching.  Given his lefty-ness, and plus velocity, and the fact that he’s going to start in double-A, there is a chance he could show up in Queens this year.

Also arguing in Edgin’s favor is that I haven’t seen Robert Carson doing much since I’ve been down in St. Lucie.  On February 27th, Carson tweeted that he’d had a “minor set back” (sic). I’ve just made a mental note to ask after him on Friday.

 

2. Darrell Ceciliani Hits Better with a Broken Foot

Lets be clear, that’s a joke.  However, he told me that he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his foot during instructional league in Fort Myers. I knew that at the end of the Savannah Sand Gnats season had had been playing through pain, but he really wanted to stay in the lineup. Why? Well, he seemed to put it all together at the plate at the end of the year. In the 36 total games leading into game five of the SAL Championship series, he hit .326/.428/.440 with 11 extra-base hits and 24 walks.

He spent six weeks in the fall in a boot, and then was held to limited activities for another six weeks – nearly to New Year’s, putting him a little behind a player’s standard off-season weight/conditioning progression begins in November.

 

3. Technical Difficulties Suck

I did an interview with Cory Mazzoni, the Mets second round pick in 2011, but for some reason, the audio is full of static, and unusable.

The most interesting thing he said is that in college, he played nearly baseball year-round. Now, with a four-month break between the end of fall-ball and the beginning of spring training, his arm and body “recuperated better… and are more prepared for the season.”

He’d like to be able to mix in a curveball to his fastball/slider/splitter mix, but for right now, his focus is on his “fastball command, you can never do that enough… up and down, to both sides of the plate.”

When I followed up, he noted that even after eight bullpens, including those before arriving in Port St. Lucie, his feel is “still getting there. I still feel a little off. I’m just trying to get back to feeling smooth again; it feels a little herky-jerky, but the arm feels good.”

It is after all, March 2.

 

4. The STEP Campers Enjoyed a Nice Meal Thursday

The twitter reactions say as much about the three pitchers as the meal:

Jack Leathersich: What an unreal meal with the #mets step camp! So bomb

Zack Wheeler: This dinner is crazy. 5 courses of food #clutch#stuffed thanks METS @MetsGM

Collin McHugh: Great dinner and convo with @MetsGM and friends! I wasn’t too nervous, unless you ask my sweaty undershirt.