A+: @ Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 5, St. Lucie Mets 3
Kevin Plawecki just keeps on hitting. After going 2-for-4 with two RBI he’s up to .321/.424/.410 in 40 games in Advanced-A with nine doubles, a homerun, 14 walks and 15 strikeouts. The batting average and on-base percentage are great, but note that Plawecki has hit for significantly less power in the FSL than the SAL as his isolated slugging percentage has dropped from .180 to .089. Whether that’s fatigue, or adjusting to a new level, or just a hint of the kind of hitter Plawecki will be a the higher levels, it’s something to watch for the duration of this year and to begin 2014. Again, MLB catchers as a group are hitting .248/.312/.388, with a .140 isolated slugging.
Matt Bowman, eh: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Hickory Crawdads (TEX) 3
Two things/players are worth talking about in this game, one more important than the other.
First, CF Brandon Nimmo was 3-for-5 for the second straight night. Facing another lefty in the eighth, he lined a single to right-centerfield. Nimmo is now hot. He’s 9-for-17 (.529) on the Gnats’ homestand with two doubles and a homer.
Even better, much of the damage has come against lefties; he’s 6-for-9 on the homestand with a pair of doubles. For the year, he’s up to .269/.383/.364 in 84 games and .240/.345/.280 in 87 PA vs. LHP. He just looks different against the southpaws he’s seen this week. He’s tracking the ball much better and waiting longer to make his swing/no swing decision.
Second, Julian Hilario, making his second start as a Gnat was solid: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He mostly threw the fastball, but tried his change (his primary off-speed offering) and slider. He has a solid arm, working low 90s and up to 94, although I still think he’s a middle reliever in the end, it was a nice start.
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 – @ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Charleston RiverDogs (NYY) 0
There were two stars in this one for the Gnats: RHP Luis Cessa and CF Brandon Nimmo.
Cessa’s line: 8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K. He was every bit as good as that pitching line suggests. He did not allow a runner to second until the seventh inning. He ran four three-ball counts. He mostly worked off his fastball and changeup although he few a few solid breaking balls down in the zone. In recent outings, he had been sitting 92-93 and touching higher. I will confirm that he was working in that range on Monday. He threw his fastball up, he threw it down. He threw it in, he threw it out. Then he threw a few changups that had RiverDogs’ hitters looking silly. He got a couple strikeouts with guys swinging over top of his curveball. Cessa, a former infielder who didn’t hit much, converted to pitching for the 2011 season and is a lock to move up this off-season’s rankings from his spot at #42 this past winter.
CF Brandon Nimmo: 3-for-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI. The double was a linedrive to left-center off a lefty (!) in the first inning. The single was a liner to center off the same lefty, Eric Wooten in the third that helped set up the Gnats’ first run. I thought the ball hung up long enough to be caught, but the ‘Dogs CF Jake Cave did not see the ball well at twilight. That does not remove the fact that Nimmo made good contact. In his final at-bat, with the Gnats up 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth and a runner at third, Nimmo just needed a sacrifice fly to score the runner. Instead, he parked one over the right field wall, way back there at Historic Grayson Stadium.
Now the context. The double was his second extra-base hit against a lefty in, at the time, 79 plate appearances. Now at 81 plate appearances this year, he’s hitting .203/.321/.232 vs. lefties with two extra-base hits, both doubles. Monday, he layed off a few sliders from Wooten that he very likely would have chased in April. The homerun was a real poke out towards the big part of the ballpark in rightfield. Nimmo’s seven total bases in the game were his most in any contest this year (by my count) and raised his OPS from .713 to .736. It’s nights like Monday that the 20-year-old Nimmo looks like he can grow into an above average everyday centerfielder. Now, he just needs more of them.
A+ – Ppd by Rain
AA – Off
The Gnats took three of four from Greenville over the weekend to finish up a road trip to Asheville and Greenville at 5-2.
Brandon Nimmo had a hitless weekend, going 0-for-10 Friday-Sunday with seven strikeouts Saturday and Sunday, but he drew four walks Friday and one Saturday to get on base five times. The 20-year-old is now hitting .249/.367/.332 with an eye-popping 108 strikeouts in 80 games. The strikeouts have really become a problem in the second half: he fanned 48 times in 42 games in the first half, but 60 times (against 26 walks) as part of a .187/.323/.230 line in 38 games in the second half.
Ok, this is pretty bizarre. The official box score from Sunday’s game shows Nimmo 0-for-5 with 4 K. The game video from Greenville clearly has him going 1-for-3 with a strikeout and two walks. The single was a liner into center. I do not have the slightest clue how that could happen.
Friday night, Matt Koch (pictured) took a line drive off his head in the second inning. He was hospitalized overnight and placed on the team’s disabled list. I’ll have more on this in the next week.
DL Time/Roster Movement
SS Philip Evans was placed on the disabled list again, for the second time this year, with a lower back strain. He had been 0-for-12 in his last four games before the DL trip as part of a .245/.293/.321 line in 17 games in July.
With Koch out, the Mets promoted Jacob Lugo from Brooklyn. He was sharp on Sunday: 6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K. Lugo was ok in the New York Penn League: 4.19 ERA in 34.1 innings with 27 strikeouts against 13 walks. It’s telling of course that the Mets did not move any of the Brooklyn starters with better ERAs like Rob Gsellman (2.09), Miller Diaz (2.34), or John Gant (2.47) because after all, the Cyclones have a pennant to win. As long as we’re on the subject, Akeel Morris has a 0.66 ERA and 36 strikeouts against 13 walks in 27.1 innings in the NYP>
After the Mets skipped Steven Matz the last time through the rotation he can back and was awfully hittable on Saturday: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K.
The Gnats will start Luis Cessa and Gabriel Ynoa the next two nights.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 10, Tampa Yankees 4
Jon Niese: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Niese was sharp in his first FSL rehab start.
Lucas Duda was 2-for-5 with a double, his second in four games. He’s 3-for-17 in advanced-A and 3-for-30 (.100/.182/.167) in eight games.
Cory Vaughn who was 0-for-2 with a few walks is hitting .172/.314/.241 in 29 AB over 9 games.
3B Dustin Lawley: 2-for-5 with 2 HR, 5 RBI. At 24-years-old, Lawley is hitting .266/.315/.542 with 29 doubles, five triples and 23 homers in 101 games. He’s leading the Florida State League in homeruns (23), total bases (212) and second in slugging (.542). None of the players who has led the FSL in homeruns among players 24+ in the last seven years has gone on to become a Major Leaguer. As nice as his season is, Lawley is fighting the odds here.
Hansel Robles: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Robles has allowed 64 hits 58.2 IP in the FSL this year.
A: Savannah Sand Gnats 4, @ Greenville Drive (BOS) 3
The Gnats scored the winning run in the top of the ninth on an RBI groundout by 24-year-old Jeff Reynolds, which scored 24-year-old Brian Harrison.
LF Maikis De La Cruz had a nice night, going 2-for-4 with a homer, his third of the year. He’ll be 23 the first week of September and is hitting .274/.348/.415 in 63 games. He can run a little, he plays a fine defensive left field, but he’s more an nice organizational player than a potential MLB player.
CF Brandon Nimmo: 1-for-4, BB, K. If you had told me before the start of the year, that Nimmo would be hitting .258/.368/.344 in 77 games (which he is) as a 20-year-old in the SAL I probably would have nodded, and said, “sounds about right.” On the other hand, the 101 strikeouts in 77 games is awfully high.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 5, Tampa Yankees 4
C Kevin Plawecki doubled and scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as the two teams each scored two runs in their half of the final inning.
The 22-year-old Plawecki (.308/.408/.411 – 32 games in A+) was 1-for-3 with a walk.
Rainy Lara: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. Bad sign for Lara statistically: he’s not missing bats. His last five starts: 13 strikeouts, 8 walks in 26.1 innings. As with all the young pitchers in their first full season, fatigue could be an issue here as he’s up to 107 innings pitched after 68 last year.
A: @ Asheville Tourists (COL) 5, Savannah Sand Gnats 4
LF Stefan Sabol took advantage of the Gnats’ first trip to the thin air of beautiful Asheville with his eighth homerun of the year. Sabol, at 21 has hit .209/.304/.357 with a little pop (25 XBH) and speed (13 stolen bases). Still, if he’s going to be a big leaguer on the corner, he needs to hit for a little more average.
CF Brandon Nimmo was 1-for-5 with a double, his 8th of the year. The 20-year-old Nimmo is enjoying his best stretch since May, hitting .297/.422/.378 in his last 10 games with seven walks and 15 whiffs.
Jake Kuebler was ok: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K.
A+: @ Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 3, St. Lucie Mets 0
Michael Fulmer: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP. The 20-year-old struggled with his command early, when I was listening to the game, leaving the bases loaded in the third and yielding a run in the fourth before retiring seven of the final eight batters he faced to finish his outing. At 6.1 innings, it was the first time he has pitched into the seventh inning in his four Florida State League starts.
st. Lucie picked up just one hit, a single by 3B Robbie Shields.
Rehabbing Cory Vaughn was 0-for-3 in left field.
Kevin Plawecki played first, while Cam Maron handled the catching duties.
A: Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 6, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1
The Mets skipped Steven Matz in an early attempt to limit his innings and gave the start to Julian Hilario, his first of the year. Matz has already thrown 81 innings after just 29 over six starts last year for Kingsport. There will be some openings in the Savannah rotation over the final month as the team manages Matz, Gabriel Ynoa and Luis Cessa’s workload. Hilario is the obvious candidate to take those starts as the guy with the best arm in the Savannah bullpen and a starter as recently as 2012 in Brooklyn.
Hilario struggle through four innings Sunday: 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K.
CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-2, but walked twice. Three of his four plate appearances came against a lefty, starter Matt Lujan. In those three, he grounded out twice to second and walked once. He’s now hitting .190/.288/.207 with one double in 58 AB vs. southpaws this year.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Augusta GreenJackets 2 (7 innings)
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Augusta GreenJackets 1 (7 innings)
Matt Koch had a great Saturday night, but was three outs from perfect. Pitching the second game of the doubleheader, he retired the first 18 GreenJackets in a row. However, leading off the top of the seventh, on a full count fastball, Koch’s first three-ball count all night, Augusta LF Rashawn Payne tripled up the left-centerfield gap on an elevated heater to halt Koch’s effort at a perfect game. Koch then retired the next three batters in a row on a sac fly, a groundout and a fly out to face one over the minimum 21 for the seven inning game.
His reaction after recording the final out, and coming oh so close to a perfect game was classic. As the final out settled in third baseman Jeff Reynolds’ glove, Koch walked off the mound towards catcher Albert Cordero and gave a big shrug with his hands skyward.
How did he do it? Fastball mostly. Koch was 90-93 early and touched 95. By the later innings, he was 89-91, and touching 92.
He threw a few good changeups, which is a departure, and an improvement from where he was early in the year when there were outings when he only threw his fastball. (I figured some of Augusta’s lousy swings against him were based on mixing speeds. Koch told me it was more about fastball, and he did not throw a single changeup). He tried a few curve balls (five) too as the night went on, and while one induced a ground ball out, it was not a major weapon for him. In fact, he threw 78 fastballs and five curves, and that was it.
Koch told MiLB.com, the same, ”Tonight it was all about fastball command,” the 22-year-old right-hander said. “Throwing a few off-speed in here and there but not too often. The plan going into the game was trying to reestablish my fastball and being able to command it. Just happened tonight I was able to do it.”
How else did he do it? Defense. CF Brandon Nimmo made a smooth catch in deep centerfield in the second outrunning a drive over his head on the warning track. Against the very next batter, LF Stefan Sabol made a diving catch in shallow left to take a hit away on a bloop. SS Philip Evans preserved the perfecto a few innings later tracking down a grounder up the middle, spinning, and firing a strike to first in one of his better plays of the year. A pair of line drives found the gloves of corner infielders in the fifth and seventh inning that on some other night might have been hits.
In game one, the Gnats scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh for a comeback win that would ordinarily have been the lead story from a day of baseball. In the seventh, Nimmo and Sabol walked and then Eudy Pina and Cole Frenzel delivered RBI singles first to tie and then put the Gnats ahead.
Nimmo was 1-for-5 with two walks and two strikeouts between the two games.
Evans, who has been much better in the second half, was 0-for-5.
AA: Trenton Thunder (NYY) 4, @ Binghamton Mets 1 (7 innings)
@ Binghamton Mets 4, Trenton Thunder 1 (7 innings)
This was a pretty quiet doubleheader for the BMets offense which collected eight hits over 14 innings. One of the hits in game two was a grand slam from 3B Richard Lucas, his 7th of the year. The 24-year-old is hitting .207/.268/.326 in 76 games for AA Binghamton this year.
Erik Goeddel (9-4, 3.99) again struggled with his control in game one: L, 4.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 2 WP.
RF Cesar Puello was 1-for-5 with an infield single that drove home a run and two more walks. He’s drawn a walk in four straight games and is up to 11 in his last 17 games. It’s almost as though someone told him he needed to learn to walk to get to AAA. The 22-year-old is up to .328/.405/.557 overall and .438/.494/.877 (!!) in 73 AB vs. LHP.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 1 (7 innings)
St. Lucie Mets 2, @ Lakeland Flying Tigers 0 (9 innings)
St. Lucie picked up a pair of nice starts and enough late offense to sweep a doubleheader.
Game 1, Matt Bowman: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 10/3 GB/FB
Game 2, Hansel Robles: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Both guys attack the strike zone at 89-91 and can throw a breaking ball for a strike, or in Bowman’s case, a variety of breaking balls for strikes.
Tim Byrdak made his 12th (!) rehab appearances with St. Lucie. Of course, in that time he’s mustered just 10.2 IP total.
Cory Vaughn, whose rehab has moved from the GCL to the FSL had a hit in game one, and two in game two and is 4-for-10 in the advanced-A portion of his rehab.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 4
The Gnats used three two-run doubles to score nine runs in the first three innings and give Gabriel Ynoa plenty of support.
Ynoa was not close to at his best. His command was wobbly, and he was up in the zone regularly. His line: 5 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K. After 76.2 innings last year in Brooklyn, Ynoa has tossed 104 in Savannah this year, a new career-high. I wonder at age 20, how many starts the Mets will have him make.
SS Philip Evans was 3-for-5 with three singles, two to right field. He’s hitting .315/.398/.452 in 23 games in the second half with seven walks and nine strikeouts.
This game took 3:15 to play thanks to a first four innings that approached two hours.
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.