A-Ball Sunday: Aderlin Rodriguez Plays First Base

A+: Dunedin Blue Jays 5, @ St. Lucie Mets 3 (7 innings)
@ St. Lucie Mets 8, Dunedin Blue Jays 0 (7 innings)

Chase Huchingson had a rough game one and the Mets were three hit. Huchingson’s line: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 6 K, WP. Since beginning the season with 17.2 scoreless innings over three starts, Huchingson has yielded 10 runs, nine earned, on 17 hits and 12 walks in his last 14.2 IP. The walks are particularly damning. He’s issued a 16 in 32.1 IP for a 4.4 BB/9 ratio.

CF Cesar Puello (pictured) was 3-for-4 with a double to lead a 15-hit onslaught in game two. The 21-year old is now hitting .291/.344/.407. He has not drawn a walk since April 21 when he was hitting .222/.300/.361 so he still has a long way to go on his approach. He’s a fascinating prospect because he has so much potential, with an enormous range of potential outcomes.

Kyle Allen in a spot start: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. He’s issued just one walk in eight innings this year, a fairly significant departure from 2010 and 2011 when he walked over 4.8 BB/9 both years.

The St. Lucie Mets are right back at it with a 10:30 start Monday morning. Yeesh.


A: Lakewood BlueClaws (PHI) 4, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 0

Rafael Montero, who had walked just one batter in in 27.1 innings entering Sunday, walked the #8 batter twice on a day when he did not have his good command: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.

SS TJ Rivera was 2-for-4. The 23 year old is hitting .368/.459/.544.

Aderlin Rodriguez started at first base for the third time in 2012. He made some nice scoops on low throws and a good stretch on a bang/bang play at first, but is still learning the position, obviously. If the move becomes permanent, it will put even more pressure on the bat to produce monster numbers. Right now, the 20-year old is sitting at .197/.266/.350 in 29 games. On a plate appearances basis, he’s hitting more extra-base hits, walking more, striking out more than he did in 2011. Once again, though, his overall line is crushed by a low BABIP.

Year            XBH%                 SO%               BB%              BABIP
2011              7.6                          19.2                5.2                 .245
2012             8.6                          22.7                7.8                 .235

The increase in his walk rate is a very welcome development. However, the low BABIP is a reflection of too many pop ups and harmless fly balls.

A-Ball Saturday: Hot Sluggers and Michael Fulmer’s First Professional Win

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 5, Dunedin Blue Jays 3 

Another day, another win for St. Lucie which improved to 23-5 and holds a 9.5 game lead for first place in the FSL South.

RF Cory Vaughn was 1-4 with three strikeouts, but ripped his FSL-leading 8th home run of the year. The recently turned 23 year old is bopping along at .292/.376/.604 in 25 games and leading the FSL in slugging after launching six home runs in his last eight games.

Cory Mazzoni: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. I am officially concerned about the lack of strikeouts: 18 in 30 innings, against eight walks for a K/BB of 1.9.

You know who’s not having trouble missing bats? Adrian Rosario. With three strikeouts in a perfect ninth, he’s whiffed 21 and walked just three in 15.1 innings in the FSL.

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 5, Lakewood BlueClaws (PHI) 3

Michael Fulmer (pictured) earned his first professional win in this one for five shutout innings in which he did not allow a runner to third base as the Gnats won their sixth straight games. His line: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He was throwing hard – he always does – but right from the beginning Saturday night, he was using his secondary pitches more than in any other start I have seen in 2012. He showed four pitches, a curve, a slider and a changeup to go with his heat. He was able to steal first pitch strikes with his breaking balls. I counted 44 of 74 strikes (59%). There was at least one ball driven to the warning track in right that would go out of smaller parks but Grayson Stadium held. Bottom line: an encouraging outing for Fulmer who has now struck out 20 and walked six (K/BB: 3.3) in 22.2 IP.

Also, Travis Taijeron is completely locked in. After going 3-for-4 on Saturday, his third straight game with three hits, he has hit safely in his last six games over which time he is 14-for-25 (.560). His hot streak has pushed his season totals to .323/.441/.625. The 23-year old is third in the league in slugging percentage and tied for third in total bases (60)

A-Ball Friday: Travis Taijeron is Punishing Baseballs

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 10, Delmarva Shorebirds 0

Travis Taijeron (pictured) is totally locked in. After going 3-for-4 with a double and a home run, the 23-year old is 11-for-21 (.524) in his last five games with seven extra-base hits. The triple was a missile to the right-centerfield gap well over 400 feet away from home plate. That ball is a home run in almost every other professional baseball facility, but not Savannah, where an angle in right-center is deeper than straight-away center. Taijeron’s recent hot streak has taken him to .304/.430/.620 for the year. He is fourth in the SAL in slugging percentage (.620) and fifth in total bases. He begins his swing with a very deep load, which helps him create power. He gives himself plenty of time to get set, and is just crushing everything he sees right now.

RHP Tyler Pill had a strange night, working around baserunners in every inning to finish six shutout frames. His line: 6 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. Basically, the ‘Birds were attacking early count fastballs. Five of the eight hits he allowed were on the first pitch of the at-bat. One was on the second and one on the third of a confrontation. His slider and curveball were effective and producing swings and misses once he was ahead, which explains the season and career-high eight whiffs. The question for Pill is whether he can use location and sequence to keep hitters off his fastball moving forward.

LHP Jack Leathersich might have had his best outing as a Sand Gnat, throwing two perfect innings with two strikeouts. After falling behind the first two hitters he faced 2-0, he got ahead of each of the next four batters. His curve was sharper than in the season’s first week.

Taijeron photo courtesy Fred Devyatkin.

A+: St. Lucie was off. Seriously. A baseball team was scheduled for an off day on a Friday night.

A-Ball Thursday: Cory Vaughn is Hot. Domingo Tapia is Cool.

A+: Jupiter Hammerheads 6, @ St. Lucie Mets 1

Lets start with the dude who’s smoking hot: RF Cory Vaughn who homered for the fifth time in seven games. Vaughn, who was 1-for-4, is hitting .293/.381/.587 overall. He’s leading the Florida State League in homers (7) and is second in slugging, tied for second in extra-base hits (13).

3B Wilmer Flores was 1-for-3 with a walk, his fifth of the season. The 20-year old is hitting .316/.343/.495 in 26 games with a walk rate (4.6%) that is nearly a dead ringer for last year (4.8%). The difference between this year and last year? He’s stopped striking out, with just seven strikeouts, he’s whiffed in 6.5% of his plate appearances, and hitting for more power as his extra-base hit rate has ticked up (from 6.6 to 8.3%) while his HR rate has more than doubled (from 1.6 to 3.7%).

LHP Angel Cuan: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR.

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3, Delmarva Shorebirds 1

This is a story about Domingo Tapia. He dominated through seven innings almost exclusively on one pitch: his turbo sinker. It was mid-upper 90s with life down and armside run.

The 20-year old’s line after seven innings: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K, 67% strikes( 46 strikes/69 pitches).

Tapia was visibly tired in the eighth when he allowed a single and a walk that turned into a run in the hands of reliever Estarlin Morel. His sinker did not have the same bit down. His final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K – 65% strikes (58 strikes/89 pitches).

The Shorebirds picked up two ground ball singles in the first, but Aderlin Rodriguez threw out a runner at the plate on the chopper to third for the second out, and that began a string of 14 batters in a row retired by Tapia. The amazing thing was that the Delmarva hitters knew what was coming – the fastball – and still could not hit it. Tapia threw just a handful of changeups, and I do not remember him even attempting a slider until the seventh or eighth inning (but I might have missed one or two from up in the press box).

Tapia’s pitch count by inning:

1st – 22
2nd – 6
3rd – 8
4th – 11
5th – 7
6th – 7
7th – 8
8th – 20

Tapia faced 26 hitters and went to three-ball counts on only four: batters 1, 4, 25 and 26 (who walked).  Tapia has walked just four batters in 26.2 IP, or 1.4 BB/9.

DH Travis Taijeron stayed hot, going 3-for-4 with a double to push his season line to .284/.418/.580 in 25 games. His double was a screaming line drive that hit about two feet from the top of the fence in straight-away centerfield, 14′ up the 16′ wall above the 400′ sign.

C Albert Cordero is starting to get going. He lined a homerun over the wall in the leftfield corner in his first at bat to give him hits in four straight. Want proof it’s still early? He’s raised his batting average 75 points in those four games from .105/.205/.132 to his current .180/.254/.300 in 15 games.

The bottom five hitters in the Gnats’ batting order, RF Charley Thurber, 3B Aderlin Rodriguez, LF Gregory Pron, C Albert Cordero and CF Tillman Pugh all finished the night batting below .200.

I was impressed too by Shorebirds’ RHP Parker Bridwell. A tall slender right-hander, he came into the season ranked in the Orioles Top 10 by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He gave up some hard contact early, but found some touch with his two breaking balls, a hard slider and a curve and kept the Gnats off-balance in the third through fifth innings. He fanned four and did not walk a batter.

Wednesday in A-ball: Two Wins. Who Can Stop St. Lucie?

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 3, Jupiter HammerHeads (MIA) 2

The St. Lucie Mets are 22-4. That’s … surprising.

Erik Goeddel: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 5 BB, 5 K. He’s allowed more walks (8) than hits (7) in his 12 innings of work this year.

Cory Vaughn reached base safely in all four of his plate appearances, going 2-2 with a walk and a HBP, his fourth. With five hits in his last two games, he’s lifted each of his triple slash stats over 30 points each to their current .295/.386/.568 levels.

With two more hits, Cesar Puello extended a little hitting streak to four games. With eight hits in those four games, he’s lifted his batting average 60 points to its current .293/.354/.413. It might be time to work in a walk, however as he’s gone walk-less in his last 10 games.

Wilfredo Tovar doubled in three trips, but after making a play defensively to end the top of the 8th inning, was removed for a pinch-hitter, Alonzo Harris, in the  bottom of the eighth. I suspect the substitution was not strategic.

LHP Adam Kolarek did not allow a run in his 1.1 innings and is how up to 14.1 scoreless to start the season.


A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 7, Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL) 1

Alex Panteliodis: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. The five whiffs are a new season (and career) high for the large lefty. The interesting thing is that he told Don Heath of the Savannah Morning News after the game that he did not really have a feel for his breaking stuff at all. “I only had the fastball, but I have a great team behind me. And I know when I throw a ball, it’s going to be caught,” he said.

The Gnats had seven hits and drew seven walks including four, two to force in runs, in a four-run seventh that put the game out of reach.

CF Travis Taijeron drilled a screaming line drive to left field for his seventh home run of 2012.

C Albert Cordero, who struggled put together four good plate appearances, going 1-for-1 with an RBI single, a walk and two sacrifice flies. I think he’s going to be fine. I pointed out on air that he’s already drawn more walks (5) than he did in 45 games in the first half in 2011 (4).

Panteliodis photo courtesy Fred Devyatkin.

St. Lucie in April and One Day of May

The St. Lucie Mets were on fire in May. The team finished at 20-4, the best record in minor league baseball, and the best record for a St. Lucie Mets team in any month in their history.

(All further stats include the team’s blowout win on May 1.)

As a team, St. Lucie currently leads the FSL in home runs (19) and doubles (57) and slugging (.413). In fact, the Mets are the only team in the FSL slugging over .390. The team is second in the FSL in runs scored (118) while hitting .265/.332/.413 overall.

On the pitching side, St. Lucie leads the FSL in ERA (2.45) and total runs allowed (70) despite mid-pack standing in strikeouts (183, 6 of 12). Instead, the St. Lucie staff has succeeded because they have limited baserunners: they have issued the third-fewest walks (65) and the fourth-fewest hits (189) on the circuit.


Wilmer Flores; Still a Prospect
The 20-year old Flores (pictured) is hitting .318/.340/.511 in 24 games. He’s tied for third in the FSL in homeruns (4), seventh in batting average, eighth in total bases (45) and 10th in OPS. Scouts were mixed on his defense at third early on, but he seems to have settled in and has gone 13 games without an error at the position and committed just two overall in April. His hands and arm will surely play at the position the question will be his feet.


Cory Vaughn; Atoning for 2011
Cory Vaughn turned 23 on May 1. He celebrated by homering, grabbing the FSL lead in the category with six to improve to .279/.361/.558. He leads the league in slugging percentage and is third in OPS (.919). As he will happily tell anyone who will listen, he’s in a better place mentally and physically than he was a year ago. In 2011, he hit just four home runs in 68 games in Savannah and then hit .219/.308/.395 in 63 games in the second half in St. Lucie.  Binghamton has outfield at-bats available, Vaughn can use the next month to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he deserves them. Given his quick start, it would be disappointing to see him in the FSL past the League’s All-Star Break.


That’s a Fine Double-Play Combo You Have There
Wilfredo Tovar, at age 20: .312/.376/.429 with six walks and six strikeouts to go with three errors in April. A gifted defensive shortstop, Tovar has lightning fast hands, a quick release and plenty of arm for short to go along with balletic feet and a gymnast’s balance. Will he hit enough to play in the big leagues? The beginning of 2012 looks promising.

Danny Muno, at age 23: .295/.368/.474. He leads the FSL with nine doubles, and is tied with Cory Vaughn for the team lead with 12 extra-base hits. He’s not real big (listed at 5’11″, 175) but he has some strength and generates plenty of pull-side power. With his defensive versatility – he can play second, short or third – he could well be Justin Turner with a little more power.


How is This Team Leading the FSL in ERA?
Well, five different relievers – Adam Kolarek, Adrian Rosario, and Kyle Allen – accounting for 30 innings, all have ERAs under 1.00.
Cory Mazzoni, my top-rated pitching prospect on the FSL Mets has been fine, but not sensational: 24 IP, 26 H, 10 R, 8 ER, 6 BB, 17 K. Strikeout rate, strikeout rate and strikeout rate. From a top prospect type, I want more than 6.4 K/9 IP.
Erik Goeddel has given up just one run in his two outings since returning from a muscle strain in his legs, while Ryan Fraser and John Church have also been good out of the ‘pen.

Rosario who has fanned 17 in 13.1 innings and given up just three hits and three walks, is trying to ensure that the Mets got something back on the field aside from salary relief from the K-Rod trade in 2011.

Just a Huch
Chase Huchingson is working with a 1.32 ERA in 27.1 innings. His strikeout rate has dipped and his K/BB is an ordinary 1.75 while his BB/9 is pushing 4.0 and via rounding is an even 4.0.  It’s still early and all, but the left-handed Huchingson actually has a reverse platoon split as righties are hitting just .194/.295/.254 in 67 AB against him while lefties are stilling at .241/.324/.379 in 29 AB. His changeup was ahead of his curveball in 2011, and the numbers suggest it still is. His arm slot and motion scream left-handed specialist, but his performance (in a you guessed it, small sample size) does not.


Player of the Month
Picking Vaughn or Flores is tough, but I’ll take the younger Flores, his higher batting average and many fewer strikeouts (7 to Vaughn’s 21).

Pitcher of the Month
Huchingson edges Rosario on the strength of more work. Huchingson pitched more than twice as many innings – 27.1 – to Rosario’s 13.1.

A-Ball Tuesday: St. Lucie Hammers Hammer Heads

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 15, Jupiter Hammer Heads 6

St. Lucie rolled along to 21-4 behind a 19-hit that included five homers, three doubles and a nine-run second inning.

Six different FSL Mets had multi-hit games led by 3B Wilmer Flores, who was 4-for-6 with a homer, his fourth. He’s still just 20, young for the FSL, and he’s now hitting .318/.340/.511. He’s back to more extra base hits (9) than strikeouts (7).

Flores told MiLB.com that his timing is getting better:

“The last three games, I have been going forward too much. When I’m going forward, I’m pulling the balls and hitting ground balls to short and ground balls to third. When I’m staying back, I see the ball longer and I’m able to go the other way.”

Cory Vaughn (.279/.361/.558) homered for the fourth time in five games on his 23rd birthday as he and Flores went back-to-back in the fifth inning. Vaughn (pictured) made a little adjustment last week, he told MiLB.com and it’s paying off:

“I really have to give a lot of credit to hitting coach Benny DiStefano,” the San Diego State product said. “Last week, I was not loading my hands. I was going from standing still to swinging and he told me to have separation so that I could get the bat out there…”

Vaughn again credited his off-season routine which made his stronger and more flexible and his new mental approach as well, issues we discussed on video here.

Little SS Wilfredo Tovar homered and stole a base in a 2-for-5 effort to run his season line to .312/.376/.429 in 23 games. He’s half-way to last year’s HR total already.

DH Robbie Shields and 1B Richard Lucas also went big fly.

2B Danny Muno and CF Cesar Puello were each 3-for-5 with a double. Muno (.295/.368/.474 – 24 gms) added a walk and a stolen base. Puello is up to .278/.333/.403 in his 18 games.

Yohan Almonte was not good, but it certainly did not matter: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K.

Cory Vaughn photo courtesy Michael Baron.

A-Ball Monday: DJ Carrasco Rehabs. A Big Day for Travis Taijeron. Two One-Run Wins

A+: St. Lucie Mets 2, Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 1 

Sick of Manny Acosta? DJ Carrasco made his third FSL rehab appearance, starting for the Mets on Monday, and working a scoreless first inning with a hit and a strikeout.  In his three rehab appearances in the FSL, he’s allowed just one hit and a walk while striking out two. He has not pitched on back-to-back days.

Chase Huchingson came in after Carrasco and for the second straight outing, issued four walks. His line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 WP.

CF Cesar Puello was 1-for-3 with a hit by pitch and is back to running wild with two more stolen bases. In 17 games in April, he was a perfect 7-for-7 stealing bases.

C Blake Forsythe’s (.167/.200/.286 – 13 G) seventh inning home run, his first, broke a 1-1 tie and put the Mets in front.

LHP Adam Kolarek extended his scoreless innings streak to 13 to start the year by working a scoreless 8th and 9th innings. In those 13 innings, he’s fanned 20 and walked just one. Lefties are hitting .111 (2-for-18) against him.


A: Savannah Sand Gnats 10, @ Lexington Legends 9 (12 innings)

Now this is the way to end a seven-game road trip with a winning record. CF Travis Taijeron, who had already homered twice in the game, doubled in the top of the 12th, and after moving to third on an Aderlin Rodriguez groundout, scored on a wild pitch. The 23-year old Taijeron (pictured), who has hit .263/.406/.538 overall, is hitting .333/.500/.733 in 13 games on the road and .171/.268/.286 in 10 games at home. That’s all small sample size stuff, but he has crushed the ball on the road. Away from Savannah, he’s drawn 12 walks and fanned 14 times, while at home he’s walked three times and whiffed 10.

Rafael Montero struggled: 5 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 2 HR. Even on a day when he was hittable, he still did not issue a walk. In 27.2 innings this year for the 21-year old, he’s fanned 21 and walked one. That’s awfully tasty.

SS TJ Rivera homered in a 1-for-4 day with two walks. He ripped four home runs on the Gnats’ seven-game road trip and is now hitting .389/.478/.600 in 24 games. He committed two errors, numbers five and six, on the year. He’s hitting over .385 both home and road, but his slugging .447 at home and .702 on the road.


A-Ball Sunday: Another Vaughn Homer Amid Lots of Offense

A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 1

Wilmer Flores was one of two St. Lucie starters who did not have a hit, snapping his 13-game hitting streak, but everyone else just kept on rolling around him to support a fine effort from RHP Gonzalez Germen.

RF Cory Vaughn (.276/.368/.539) homered for his third straight game. The 23-year now has more home runs (5) in 20 games in St. Lucie than he had in the entire first half last year in Savannah.

SS Wilfredo Tovar was 2-for-4 with a double and is up to .319/.390/.406 and still has drawn more walks (6) than strikeouts (5). A premium defender who makes the pitchers in front of him much better, the 20-year old Tovar is one of the more underrated prospects in the Mets’ system.

2B Danny Muno, who the Mets skipped over Savannah this year also collected two hits to push his season line to .282/.358/.471 in 21 games as a 23-year old.

RHP Gonzalez Germen (3-0, 3.04) recovered from a mess of a start his last time out to allow just one run on five hits in seven innings, fanning seven without walking a batter.

Pitching for the third time in four days, Adrian Rosario worked a spotless ninth with a strikeout, his 17th in 13.1 innings. He’s allowed just one run so far. The better he pitches, the less the K-Rod trade to the Brewers looks like just a salary dump.


A: Savannah Sand Gnats 9, @ Lexington Legends (HOU) 3

Marcos Camarena made his first start of the year, and the offense rapped out 12 hits to pull the Gnats back to even (3-3) on their current seven-game road trip.

LF Dustin Lawley was perfect at the plate, reaching base safely in all five of his plate appearances by going 3-for-3 with two walks. The versatile 23-year old is now hitting .284/.379/.477.

3B Aderlin Rodriguez was 2-for-5 with a double to lift his batting average back over .200 all the way to .202/.272/.383 in 23 games. Right now, his BABIP is a crazy-low .235. For reference, it was .245 in 2011.

Camarena in his first start: 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K. He had a good year for Brooklyn in 2011, and there were Mets people who felt he “deserved” to a spot in the Savannah rotation out of spring training when he was bumped to the bullpen.

A-Ball Saturday: Vaughn Homers Again and Wilmer Goes to 13

A+: St. Lucie Mets 4, @ Fort Myers Miracle 0

Cory Vaughn homered for the second straight game as the juggernaut St. Lucie Mets improved to 18-4. St. Lucie leads Charlotte by seven games already for first place in the FSL North. After back-to-back 2-for-5 nights, Vaughn is up to .278/.366/.514 with nine extra-base hits in 19 games.

Wilmer Flores was 1-for-4 to push his hitting streak to 13 straight games.
Cory Mazzoni gave St. Lucie five shutout innings, spreading out six hits and a walk, while fanning four. In 24 innings in the FSL, he’s struck out 17 and walked six, but has not allowed a home run.

LHP Adam Kolarek worked the ninth to extend his scoreless innings streak to 11. He’s running a sweet 17/1 K/BB ratio.

A: @ Lexington Legends 5, Savannah Sand Gnats 4 (11 innings)

The Gnats overcame a rocky start by Michael Fulmer, evening the game in the top of the fifth on a home run by 2B TJ Rivera, who drove home all four Savannah runs Saturday.

Fulmer’s line: 3.2 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 2 HR, WP, HBP.

After going 2-4 with a double (his sixth) and a homer (his third), Rivera is leading the SAL in batting average (.407) while sitting second in OBP (.490) and third in total bases (52). Commenters have suggested leap-frogging the 23-year old Rivera over St. Lucie where Wilfredo Tovar is playing shortstop and Danny Muno is playing second with Robbie Shields working into the rotation as well, straight to AA Binghamton. It makes some sense.