A-Ball Friday and Saturday: Back-to-Back Sweeps for the Gnats

Nimmo Dugout High FivesFriday: 
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 5, Greenville Drive (BOS) 4 (7 innings)
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 5, Greenville Drive 2 (7 innings)

@ Savannah Sand Gnats 4, Greenville Drive 2 (7 innings)
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Greenville Drive 4 (7 innings)

The Gnats have beat up on the worst team in the SAL the last two days and have now won five in a row as the team tunes up for the playoffs, which begin on Wednesday.

Final Playoff Tuneup Starts
Friday, Steven Matz, who is scheduled to start game two of the playoffs made his final regular season start: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K with 8 groundouts and zero flyball outs. Matz dealt with a small strike zone by SAL standards and did not work a 1-2-3 innings, but kept the Drive off the board through five innings. He walked two batters in the first inning, and settled down thereafter. It appeared to me that he hit his spots better when he had men on base. If he had enough innings to qualify – he’s five short – Matz’s 2.62 ERA would be good enough for third in the SAL. His health, low-mid 90s velocity, leftiness, effectiveness, and feel for his changeup are enough to make him one of the top Mets pitching prospects.

Saturday, Luis Cessa, who is scheduled for game three of the playoffs, if the Gnats get that far, fired a complete game to begin the doubleheader: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K. I missed this start because I was broadcasting football, where I saw Georgia Southern beat Savannah State 77-9. Yup, it was lopsided: 11-1 in touchdowns. Southern run a fake punt up 63-9 with under five minutes left. Stay ho.


Lineup Lengthening Herrera
Dilson Herrera has hit safely in three of his five games as a Gnat since the Mets acquired him from the Pirates. He’s 5-for-13 (.385) with a walk and three strikeouts almost all from the cleanup spot.


Nimmo, still Nimmo-ing
CF Brandon Nimmo doubled off a lefty on Friday and was 2-for-5 with a walk on Saturday. He finished August at .324/.473/.412 in 32 games, thanks to doubleheaders. .

A-Ball Thursday: Ynoa Tunes up for the Playoffs, Dilson Herrera’s Savannah Debut

A+: @ Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 12, St. Lucie Mets 3 

This decisive loss eliminated St. Lucie from playoff contention.

Alex Panteliodis (6-6, 4.75): 4.2 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. The 23-year-old has fanned 56 in 102.1 innings this year. There’s no way he can go to AA as a starter next year.


A: Savannah Sand Gnats 5, @ Rome Braves 3 

After 10 days off, Gabriel Ynoa (15-4, 2.72) made his final tuneup for the SAL playoffs. After allowing two runs in the first, he settled down to finish six innings: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.  Yesterday, Ynoa was named the 2013 Most Outstanding Pitcher in the SAL (more on that later).

2B Dilson Herrera had a busy night in his Mets system debut: 2-for-3, two runs scored, an RBI, and a stolen base from the cleanup spot. While it could not have been the primary motivation behind the trade, adding Herrera to the Gnats’ lineup makes this a much more dangerous offense headed to the playoffs and gives this team a significantly better chance of winning the SAL title.

A-AA Thursday: Everybody Loses.

AA: @ Akron Aeros (CLE) 7, Binghamton Mets 3

A day after clinching the Division Title, the B-Mets put together a performance that looked like a hangover with four hits and four errors leading to five unearned runs which the team’s own official recap called “ugly.”

CF Alonzo Harris had a nice night at the top of the order: 2-for-4, 3B. The 24-year-old has hit .219/.284/.306 overall, weighed down by a .170/.261/.245 line in the last 34 games after the All-Star Break.

A+: @ Palm Beach Cardinals 6, St. Lucie Mets 3 

C Kevin Plawecki was 2-for-4 to move his average back over .300 to .302/.402/.397 in 52 games in the FSL as a 22-year-old. Between Savannah and St. Lucie, he has 35 doubles and 8 homeruns in 117 games. And yes, he will start in AA next year.

Also, at 22, SS Matt Reynolds drove in a couple of runs, but has hit just .231/.305/.335 overall in 108 games. I thought there would be a little more average in there for last year’s second round pick.


A: @ Kannapolis Intimidators 1, Savannah Sand Gnats 0 

The Gnats finished up their 10-game road trip to Rome, Augusta and Kannapolis at 3-7 while scoring just 25 runs (2.5 runs/game).

CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-4, with a strikeout.

RHP Julian Hilario (7-6, 3.67) was very solid, but took a tough loss: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

A-Ball Wednesday: Typical Tapia; Brandon Nimmo is Scorching

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 

Nimmo Gnats HeadWhile 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-AA Tuesday: Brandon Nimmo and Gabriel Ynoa Shine

A: Savannah Sand Gnats 5, Kannapolis Intimidators (CHW) 2 

Ynoa Delivery (Devyatkin)The Gnats put up a five-spot in the top of the seventh in a rally started by a couple of walks from guys at the bottom of the order. Batting with the bases loaded, CF Brandon Nimmo then singled into left field to drive home two runs to give the Gnats a 2-1 lead at the time. Nimmo was 3-for-5 with a run scored of his own and a strikeout. A ridiculous August (.393/.543/.508 in 19 games with 18 BB and 18 K) has lifted the 20-year-old’s his overall line to .282/.401/.374 with 22 extra-base hits, 61 walks, and 118 strikeouts in 95 games.

Gabriel Ynoa was good enough: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HR. After a slight rough patch at the end of July, Ynoa (pictured) has bounced back to finish well, going 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his last four starts with 16 strikeouts against just one walk in his last 26 innings while holding opponents to a .200/.209/.278 batting line. His velocity has moved around a little bit this year, but while sitting 90-92 in his last start in Savannah, a scout told me he saw three major league pitches in Ynoa’s fastball, changeup and slider. Just 20 years old, Ynoa the strike-throwing Ynoa, who has walked just 14 batters all year, a rate of 2.7%, is working towards a reasonable shot at a Major League rotation future.


AA: Bowie Baysox (BAL) 4, @ Binghamton Mets 1

The Baysox scored three runs in the final two innings against the B-Mets’ bullpen to break a 1-1 tie.

Danny Muno played shortstop for the 17th time this year while Wilfredo Tovar nurses a bum wrist.


A+: St. Lucie Mets 4, Palm Beach Cardinals 2  (4.5 innings)

They’ll try to finish this one Wednesday evening.

C Kevin Plawecki is already 2-for-3 in the game.

Nothing impressive about Rainy Lara’s line: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K. After running a K/BB of 8.5 in the SAL in 50.2 innings, Lara, the slider specialist, is down to 3.06 (49 K/16 BB) in 69.1 inning in the FSL.

A-AA Monday: Nimmo’s August is Now Absurd

AA: @ Binghamton Mets 3, Bowie Bay Sox (BAL) 2 

Closer Jeff Walters walked in a run in the top of the ninth to blow his fourth save of the year, but C Blake Forsythe picked him up with a game winning homerun in the bottom of the tenth.

It was the 10th homerun of the year for the 24-year-old catcher and his third in his last four games. In 80 games this year, Forsythe has hit .197/.276/.376 with 28 extra-base hits, 29 walks and 91 strikeouts. He has more extra-base hits (28) than singles (27).

Darin Gorski gave the B-Mets a fine outing: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.


A: Savannah Sand Gnats 3, @ Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 2
Augusta GreenJackets 4, Savannah Sand Gnats 0 

Nimmo Gnats HeadBrandon Nimmo in game 1: 0-0, 3 BB, 0 K. And game two: 2-for-3, K. Nimmo is now up to .277/.399/.370 in 94 games this year, on the strength of a quick start and an absurdly good August. In August, he is hitting .375/.539/.500 with 18 walks and 17 whiffs and five extra-base hits in 18 games. Right now, August is the only month in which he has fewer strikeouts than games played.

SS Philip Evans, in his second game back from the DL with a lower back strain, was 0-for-3 in game one. The 20-year-old is sitting at .210/.275/.274 in 94 games this year.

Seth Lugo was good enough in game one: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HR.

Jake Kuebler, who had been on the shelf for three weeks with shoulder inflammation, made the start in game two and was solid in a short outing: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K. The converted infielder has been solid all year, working to a 2.86 ERA, and a K/BB of over 3 (50 K/14 BB) in 72.1 innings.

The Weeked in A-Ball: Gnats and Augusta Enjoy the Rain

Savannah 2 @ Augusta GreenJackets 1 (7 innings)
@ Augusta GreenJackets 7, Savannah Sand Gnats 6 (7 innings)

The Gnats and GreenJackets were rained out of a doubleheader on both Friday and Saturday nights, but settled for two games on Sunday. They’ll try for two again on Monday with 60% chances of rain every hour beginning at 4 pm.
Nimmo Stance (Devyatkin)When they actually played baseball on Sunday, Brandon Nimmo continued his very strong August: he was 1-for-4 with an RBI single in game one with a pair of strikeouts and a perfect 2-for-2 with a double, two walks and two RBI (and no strikeouts) in game two. His 3-for-6 day raised his August line to .358/.514/.491 with 15 BB and 16 K in 16 games. His .358 batting average in August is his highest in any month this year. Moreover, his secondary skills are his best as well, with his close to 1:1 K/BB ratio, his lower strikeout rate, and .133 isolated slugging percentage, which would be his best in any month in 2013. Overall, his .760 OPS is the highest it has been since June 24th.


Sunday, the GreenJackets picked up two unearned runs against Steven Matz in the first inning and then three earned against him in the fifth as part of a five-run frame. Matz left the bases loaded with no one in the fifth, and Tyler Vanderheiden allowed all three runners to score. Matz’s line: 4 IP, 1 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. It was Matz’s first start in nine days, as the Mets and Gnats try to manage his innings down the stretch to get him a start in the playoffs. Given his layoff, his control struggles are somewhat understandable and even when he has thrown regularly, he has fought his control at times this year. He’s sitting at 95 innings right now, and the goal was to get him to 100 or 105. At this point, given his command problems on nine days rest, I’d just like to see him start twice more on regular rest and call it a year. If that leaves him with a playoff start, so much the better. If not, well, he’s had a productive season developmentally without the “tension” of a SAL playoff game.

Thursday in A-Ball: Is Three Runs Enough?

A+: Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 5, St. Lucie Mets 3 

There’s really very little in this box score that deserves special recognition, good or bad.

DH Jayce Boyd had a couple of knocks in a 2-for-5 evening. He’s hitting .280/.358/.439 in 45 games in St. Lucie. The 22-year-old has hit for very little power in the last four weeks. Since homering four times in his first 26 games in St. Lucie, he’s hit .231/.351/.292 in his last 19 games.

Matt Bowman (6-4, 3.18) was meh: 4.2, 7 H, 5 R,  ER, 3 BB, 4 K.


A: @ Rome Braves 4, Savannah Sand Gnats 3 

The Braves finished off a three-game sweep of the Gnats in which Savannah scored a combined six runs over the three games. Actually, the Gnats have lost four in a row and five of six while scoring 10 runs total in those six games (1.67 runs per game).

To be fair, on Thursday, the Gnats ran into Lucas Sims, the Braves first round pick in 2012, who is a very good prospect in his own right, and one who’s made important strides this year from shaky relief outings early to recent dominance.

CF Brandon Nimmo: 0-for-3, BB. He grounded into a double-play and flew out twice. It was the first time in nine games that he has not struck out. He’s doing a much better job making contact in his .340/.500/.468 August with 13 walks against 14 whiffs.

A-Ball Wednesday: Domingo Tapia is a “Front-Runner”

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 St. Lucie HeadTapia 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.”

Full-Season Levels A-AA Tuesday: Nimmo, Ynoa, Wild Pitch Walkoffs and Go Ahead Homers

AA: @ Reading Fightin’ Phils 7, Binghamton Mets 6 

Walters B-Mets HeadFor the second time this year, the B-Mets lost a game on a walk-off wild pitch. This time the offender was Jeff Walters who blew his first save in 21 attempts, dating back to June 6. A recent scout’s pithy report on Walters, “He has a chance. Nice sinker.” Walters (pictured) has run a 3.9 K/BB ratio in AA (51 K/13 BB) with over a strikeout an inning (49 innings). He’s a fastball slider guy, who with a fastball in the low-mid 90s, certainly profiles as a middle reliever. Walters, like deGrom, who I wrote about in AAA today, seem like extremely strong bets to be added to the Mets’ 40-man roster this off-season.

LF Cory Vaughn was 2-for-5. He’s bopping along at .379/.406/.724 with a double, three homers, one walk and six whiffs in eight games since his return to AA at the beginning of August. He had six homers in his first 46 games in AA this year before this run. It’s interesting too that Vaughn is playing left while Travis Taijeron plays right for the B-Mets.

Erik Goeddel, Meh: 5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.


A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 5, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 4 

C Kevin Plawecki’s two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Mets the runs they needed in a comeback win. Plaweckis is up to .322/.426/.430 with a 17/17 K/BB ratio to go with 12 extra-base hits against 10 HBP in 44 games in advanced-A. I had Plawecki ranked as my #11 prospect pre-season. He will move up a couple of notches in 2014.

Rainy Lara, meh: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1 HR. Lara’s working a 49/16 K/BB in 69.1 innings in advanced-A.

By the way, 19-year-old Twins prospect Byron Buxton was 3-for-4 in the game to lift his line to .300/.365/.456 in 38 games in the FSL.


A: @ Rome Braves 2, Savannah Sand Gnats 1 

CF Brandon Nimmo: 1-for-2, 2 BB, 1 K. The 20-year-old is rolling along at .366/.519/.488 in 12 games in August with 11 walks and 13 strikeouts. It’s particularly important to see him get his strikeout rate under control after fanned 69 times in 49 games in June and July. I strongly suspect, because I watched him that either his hand was not 100% healed in June/July, or if it was “healed” he didn’t trust it, because he was trying to compensate mechanically.

Gabriel Ynoa just rolls along too: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 4 K. After a pair of rough starts at the end of July, Ynoa has been untouchable in his last three: 18.2 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 13 K. That’s a 0.96 ERA, a 1% walk rate and a 19% k/rate. This is why K% is better than k/9. By K/9, Ynoa’s at 6.3 K/9, but he faces so few batters, because he allows few hits and almost never walks a batter, that he’s actually fanning a healthy, if not overwhelming, number of batters.