The Weekend in A-Ball: Matz Marvelous

Saturday: @ Lexington Legends 2, Savannah Sand Gnats 0  
Sunday: @ Lexington Legends 4, Savannah Sand Gnats 3 

Matz Gnats Head22-year-old Steven Matz on Saturday: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K. You want to know what it looks like when a pitching prospect starts to really get it? Maybe this. Matz’ last two starts: 11.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 19 K. He’s been throwing his fastball 92-96 mph to go along with a changeup at 83-86. I do not know how much he threw his slider on Saturday, but in his last start at home, he only threw the pitch four times. I’m a broken record on this, but he will need to throw the pitch more as he moves up. Matz has more than enough raw stuff to succeed in the big leagues someday. The most optimistic projection I have heard from a scout was a #2 level starter.

A 1-for-9 weekend, and a 2-for-18 in the first four games out of the All-Star Break have taken 20-year-old CF Brandon Nimmo to .285/.384/.391 in his 46 games in Savannah.

After two hits Saturday, and two walks Sunday, SS Philip Evans is up to .303/.368/.394 in his last 10 games spanning the All-Star Break. He’s still at .191/.262/.247 overall in 69 games, but it’s a long way back.

Friday in A-Ball: More Hits from Plawecki and Boyd in the FSL

Advanced-A: St. Lucie Mets 5, Palm Beach Cardinals 3

1B Jayce Boyd had a solid night, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. C Kevin Plawecki added a 1-for-4 with a double.

Rehabbing CF Matt den Dekker was 1-for-5 and is now 4-for-20 (.200/.261/.200) over his five rehab games.

Little LHP Angel Cuan started.

 

A: @ Lexington Legends (KC) 6, Savannah Sand Gnats 2 

Where are the Gnats’ runs going to come from in the second half? On this night, SS Philip Evans, who was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer, his second longball of the year. The 20-year old is now hitting .188/.255/.245 in 67 games in one of the most disappointing performances by a Mets’ position player prospect this year.

Matt Koch was ok (5-3, 4.71): 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo (.294/.396/.406 – 44 games): 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. The walk was his 24th and the strikeout his 51st.

A-Ball Thursday: Kevin Plawecki and Jayce Boyd (Surprise!) Help St. Lucie Offense

A+: St Lucie Mets 8, Palm Beach Cardinals 6 

Plawecki Face Swing Follow ThroughIn his first at-bat at advanced-A, C Kevin Plawecki announced his arrival in nearly the best way possible: a three-run homerun. He finished 2-for-5 with 4 RBI. After the game, Plawecki told MiLB.com, “I’m glad to get my first one out of the way,” Plawecki said. “I was pretty nervous, just anxious, trying to get a pitch I could drive. It just happened to go out.

Batting in front of Plawecki in the #5 hole, 1B Jayce Boyd was 2-for-5 with an RBI. Not suprisingly, Plawecki likes having Boyd, who is always on base batting before of him, “Jayce and I have been batting back-to-back all season, so it was nice to have him tonight,” Plawecki said. “It’s nice to have him in front of me.”

Rehabbing CF Matt den Dekker was 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored from the leadoff spot.

The dangers of pitching prospects part 8,510,926: Domingo Tapia, staked to a five-run lead, gave it all back in a five-run third inning. His line: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 2 BB, 6 K. I think his sinker which is regularly 96 mph, and can touch 98 is worth more than a 4.08 ERA in the FSL, but he has walked 12% of the batters he has faced (12 of 224).

Cam Maron, working as the DH, was ejected in the sixth inning. He has good reason to be grumpy after hitting .228/.333/.302 in his first 53 games, he is about to lose almost all of his playing time to Plawecki.

No Aderlin Rodriguez who was placed on the disabled list with a strained right thumb sustained a week ago on a tag play. It sounds like he’s still at least a few days out, as he is not taking batting practice yet.

 

A: Savannah Sand Gnats 5, @ Lexington Legends (KC) 1 

Logan Taylor is big (6’5″, 205+) and he throws hard and that is plenty in the South Atlantic League. His line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. He’s allowed one run in 12 innings over his last two starts to drop his ERA to 2.83 ERA for the year. Taylor lasted four innings in two of his first three outings this year, so he has improved markedly. Like many Sand Gnats in the last two years, he has developed, and fairly quickly, under Frank Viola.

LF Stefan Sabol powered the Gnats’ offense, going 2-for-5 with a triple, two RBI and three strikeouts. Sabol is strong and has shown some range out in left field, but he is hitting just .219/.311/.362 with 65 whiffs in 59 games as a 21-year-old in the SAL.

Daily Nimmo
Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, his 49th and 50th of the year in his 43rd game. Why is Nimmo still in Savannah and not St. Lucie with Boyd and Plawecki? Because the 20-year-old belongs in the SAL. He missed a month of time dealing with his hand bruise. Overall, he has struck out in 25% of his SAL plate appearances and is at 28% since his return to the lineup on May 28. Recently pitchers have been giving him fits working him inside. He knows it, and is working on getting to the pitch.

A-Ball Sunday: Gnats Win Sixth Straight To Close First Half

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 8, Greenville Drive (BOS) 0 

Ynoa Delivery (Devyatkin)RHP Gabriel Ynoa rolled through five innings. He allowed just three singles, did not allow a runner to third or a walk and fanned six. The Mets had Ynoa (pictured), who turned 20 at the end of May, on a 80-85 pitch count, and he was lifted after finishing five innings at 76 pitches. I was told there is “no way” he will throw in the SAL All-Star game, to which he was elected, on Tuesday in Lakewood. So, the Mets limited his workload. Why? Does this portend a promotion to St. Lucie in short order, or is the team just starting to manage his workload already? I was told by a scout that Ynoa was 92-95 and sitting 93-94 in his previous start, last Monday, but did not get velo on Sunday’s outing. That increase in velocity from a year ago, combined with a slider and changeup will bring him a whole lot more attention by season’s end. Ynoa’s last six starts: 41.1 IP, 30 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 32 K. That’s a 1.52 ERA and a .194 opponents’ batting average (30 H/155 AB).

 1B Jayce Boyd finished up a ridiculous series against Greenville by going 2-for-2 with three walks. The 22-year-old has hit safely in his last eight games, but in the four games against the Drive, he reached base safely in 17 of 19 plate appearances as part of a 11-for-13 binge, with a triple, two homers and six walks to boost his season line to 361/.441/.494 in 65 games in the SAL. I would be shocked in Jayce Boyd did not fly directly from the SAL All-Star Game Tuesday to the Florida State League on Wednesday.

 

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo’s first four plate appearances came against LHP on Sunday and he was 1-for-3 against the southpaws. Facing Greg Larson, a 6’8″ right-handed reliever, in the eighth, he rifled a single back up the middle that almost decapitated Larson. The 20-year-old Nimmo is hitting .302/.404/.420 overall in 42 games.

A-Ball Saturday: Thor Wins FSL All-Star Game; Jayce Boyd and Luis Cessa Are Really Hot

A+: FSL South All-Stars 8, North All-Stars 1

The Mets and the South won the FSL All-Star Game. Noah Syndergaard scooped up the win for a scoreless fourth inning in which he allowed a double, but nothing more. TJ Rivera was 0-for-5 at secondbase while LF Dustin Lawley was 3-for-4 with two runs scored while playing leftfield.

Minor league All-Star games are like their big league cousins, a fun exhibition. There’s no sense in putting any special weight on the results of the game. Noah Syndergaard is one of the Mets’ best young arms in the minors – like Top two once Zack Wheeler makes his MLB debut – but that status does not change based on one scoreless inning in the FSL All-Star Game.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 7, Greenville Drive 2 

Boyd underhands ball (Devyatkin)Speaking of All-Stars, 1B Jayce Boyd, one of five Gnats’ All-Stars, is enjoying what is likely his final week in Savannah. The 22-year-old 1B was 3-for-4 with a homer and two RBI Saturday. In three games against Greenville, Boyd (pictured) is 9-for-11 with three walks, a triple and two homers. After going 14 games coming into this stretch without an extra-base hit, Boyd is right back up to .356/.431/.490 with 32 walks against 32 strikeouts in 64 games. He will likely play in the SAL All-Star game on Tuesday in Lakewood, and then fly to Florida to join St. Lucie.

Boyd has a nice, easy swing and is comfortable going to right field or getting out and yanking a pitch over the leftfield wall. The issue he faces is simply the extremely high bar to be a productive MLB first baseman. He’s on the old side for a prospect in either the SAL or the FSL, and likely will not really face a age appropriate competition until Opening Day 2014 in AA when he will already be 23.

Luis Cessa had a nice outing for the Gnats: 7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K. It was fourth-straight outing of six innings or longer for the 21-year-old from Mexico. On May 19, Cessa allowed six runs on 11 hits in Augusta. Since that start he has been very good: 27.1 IP, 22 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 31 K – 0.98 ERA. Cessa does not throw very hard – (I think he was sitting 90-91, but will have to double-check), but he throws strikes, and has feel for a changeup and can spin a breaking ball. That’s plenty of stuff to have success in a-ball. Ok, so apparently Cessa was 91-95 with his fastball Saturday night, while sitting 92-93. That’s a materially important difference from 90-91 where he had been last year and even early this year. Anyway, that, combined with his feel for his changeup makes him a lot more interesting. He calls his breaking ball, which can have an inconsistent shape, a slider.

 

Thursday in A-Ball: Boyd and Kuebler Carry Gnats Close to Playoff Spot

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 

gnatslogoThe 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.

Daily Nimmo
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.

Wednesday in A-Ball: Matt Koch was Cooking

A+: @ Clearwater Threshers 6, St. Lucie Mets 0 

The Mets picked up two hits.
RHP Rainy Lara was pretty good: 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HR.

Aderlin Rodriguez (0-for-3) was back at third after a few games at first.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Asheville Tourists (COL) 2 

Matt Koch (5-2, 4.56): 6 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 K. The right-hander from Louisville took advantage of a nice, large strike zone to set down the first nine batters in a row. He Koch Delivery (Devyatkin)gave up a couple runs in the fourth. In the sixth, with his pitch-count north of 80, two singles and a double-steal put runners at second and third with no outs in a 6-2 game and Koch (pronounced: Cook) responded by striking out the next three batters in a row, all swinging. Koch (pictured) got most of his strikeouts with high fastballs. He works aggressively, throwing in on batter’s hands when he needs to to week contact and for swings and misses. He was ahead a lot, throwing first pitch strikes to seven of his first nine batters. There’s plenty of arm strength in here, as he’s 91-95 on any given night, sitting 93-94. He threw his curve and change sparingly, but got a few swings and misses with the curve. A scout who saw him a few weeks ago liked his cutter (at 87-91 mph), but truth be told, I had trouble picking it out from the press box. Easily the most impressive set of numbers of Koch’s season: 51.1 innings and 52 strikeouts against ONE walk. ONE. Oh, and he’s getting better. His ERA by month: April – 6.75, May – 4.00, June – 3.27.

3B Cole Frenzel was the most productive Gnat with an RBI single and a two-run double.

This was a very a-ballish game: twice, the Tourists missed getting an out when their second baseman Juan Ciriaco left second too early on force plays. The Gnats’ two-run rally without a hit in the third inning began when SS Philip Evans reached on a strikeout and wild pitch. Evans had a productive game, going 1-for-3 with a single, two runs scored and a sac fly.

The Gnats’ win kept Savannah one game ahead of the Charleston RiverDogs for first place in the SAL Southern Division with four games to play for the Gnats and five for the Dogs.

 

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo was 0-for-2 with two walks, a strikeout and a HBP. Nimmo also committed his second error of the year in CF, overrunning a single up the middle that allowed the batter/runner to take second base.

A-Ball Tuesday: More Extra-Inning Nonsense

A+: St. Lucie Mets 4, @ Clearwater Threshers 2 (10 innings)

LF Dustin Lawley lifted a two-run homer, his 12th, in the top of the 10th inning to give St. Lucie the extra-inning win. The 24-year old Lawley is strong (33 XBH) but is hitting just .226/.288/.485 overall.

Alex Panteliodis was meh: 6.1 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR.

Aderlin Rodriguez (.263/.299/.432 – 61 gms), who was 2-for-4 played first base for the second straight night. It was the seventh time in his last ten games that he has played first. Hi, position change.

 

A: Asheville Tourists 4, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3 (8 innings)
@ Savannah Sand Gnats 1, Asheville Tourists 0 (11 innings)

I called 19 innings of baseball Tuesday. That might be a new personal-high.

Lets go backwards through the day. The Gnats won game two when CF Brandon Nimmo drew a bases-loaded walk. Apparently, in the big leagues, this is cause for a #shrinpalert. I had no idea. Anyway, the at-bat was impressive. He fell down 0-2, took two pitches to get to 2-2, then fouled off six in a rown. Finally, the reliever threw two more out of the zone to put him aboard and force in teh winning run. The win kept hte Gnats one full game in front of Charleston for first place in the SAL Southern division with five to play for the Gnats and six for the RiverDogs.

SS Phllip Evans (.178/.247/.226) snapped an 0-for-23 skid with a pair of singles in game two.

I thought Logan Taylor threw the best he has all year against a tough Asheville lineup: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K. I’ll have to get accurate velocity readings Wednesday, but I suspect he was back in the 92-94 range. It looked like his secondaries have made a little progress, but still he’s mostly about the fastball for now.

In game one, the Tourists scored the go-ahead run when Francisco Sosa came around from second base on a wild pitch by Beck Wheeler that catcher Jeff Glenn could not find off to his right. Second base!

Gabriel Ynoa rolled through the first five innings, in game one before giving up a homer and then two more runs on some bleeders, bloops and infield hits in the sixth inning that evened the game at 3-3. His line: 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 3 K.

1B Jayce Boyd had a single in each game of the double-header, but the first baseman has now gone 13 games without an extra-base hit as part of a .336/.413/.444 overall line in 60 games for a .108 isolated slugging percentage.

A-Ball Sunday: Extra, Extra in St. Lucie.

A+: @ Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 2, St. Lucie Mets 1 (8 innings)
St Lucie Mets 4, @ Jupiter Hammerheads 1 (14 innings)

The advanced-A affiliates of the Mets and Marlins decided to match their parent clubs and play a pair of extra-inning games on Sunday.

SS Matt Reynolds doubled and 3B Aderlin Rodriguez walked to start a three-run St. Luicie rally in the top of the 14th inning in game two to ensure that the Mets did not come up empy in extra-innings this weekend. Neither player has hit well recently as Reynolds is down to .242/.325/.354 in 58 games, and Rodriguez to .255/.287/.430 in 59 contests.

Matt Bowman made a decent start in game two, but without strong peripherals: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

 

A: @ Rome Braves 6, Savannah Sand Gnats 3 

The Braves’ Josh Elander hit a game-winning three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off Savannah reliever Bret Mitchell. The Savannah loss, combined with the Charleston win, left the RiverDogs six one-thousands of a percentage point in front of the Gnats for first place in the SAL Southern Division with seven games to play in the season’s first half.

The Gnats took a 3-0 lead in the seventh inning on a Brandon Nimmo RBI double, a wild pitch and a 1B Jayce Boyd single. After a 3-for-4 day with a double and a walk, Nimmo is hitting .316/.409/.426 in his first 35 games in the SAL. Nimmo was also picked off on the bases and threw out a runner at the plate.

RHP Luis Cessa was strong: 6 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K.

SS Philip Evans was 0-for-3 with a walk and a throwing error, his 20th error of the game in his 59th contest. Evans is hitless in his last six games, a span of 19 at-bats to slip to .173/.244/.223 for the year.

Friday in A-Ball: Matt Koch is Improving….

A+: St. Lucie @ Jupiter – ppd by rain.

They’ll play two Saturday with a little Domingo Tapia action.

 

A: Savannah Sand Gnats 6, @ Rome Braves 4 

This one didn’t look like it was going to happen either, but the teams waited out a 53 minute rain delay in north Georgia. Tyler Vanderheiden tweeted this sweet picture of left field at 5:30 pm.

Once the game started, the Gnats scored five times in the first two innings to grab the early lead.

Matt Koch (4-2, 4.76) pitched well enough to earn the win: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 1 HR. In 45.1 innings this year, Koch has an insane 41 strikeouts against ONE (!!!) walk while throwing in the low-mid 90s. The downside? The 54 hits allowed and .284 opponents’ batting average. Still, there’s progress here over the course of the year, a big body (6’3″) and a MLB caliber fastball.

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo (.302/.399/.413 – 32 gms) was 1-for-4 with a triple and a HBP. Fun Nimmo fact: he has more triples (4) than doubles (3).

A Break for Evans
On Tuesday, Philip Evans was 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and two errors (his 18th and 19th of the year) while his batting line slipped to .180/.250/.232 in 56 games. He did not play Wednesday or Friday sandwiched around a rainout on Thursday. Hmm.