A-Ball Tuesday: Gnats Take First Place; Nimmo Reaches Base 4x; Logan Taylor Returns

A+: Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 5, St. Lucie Mets 0

Meh. The Mets had four hits, all singles.

LHP Alex Panteliodis (2-2, 3.06): 5.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Lexington Legends (KC) 2 

Nimmo Stance (Devyatkin)Just too much Gnats as Savannah used a six-run second inning to cruise past the Legends and, with the help of a Charleston loss, into first place in the SAL Southern Division with 12 games to play in the first half.

Logan Taylor, who has been sidelined since April 21 with a strained oblique was limited to 65 pitches, but did good work after allowing the game’s first two batters to score runs. His line: 3.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. He got the first two strikeouts on curveballs for a called strike three and then used fastball up to finish off his next victims. Given the time away, it was a nice performance. I’ll get velocity readings on him Wednesday, but he had plenty on his fastball.

Julian Hilario also continues to make progress in the Savannah bullpen, giving the Gnats two shutout innings with three strikeouts. In his last five outings, he’s thrown 12 innings with 6 H, 1 BB and 13 strikeouts. He’s been 92-95 in recent outings.

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo (.314/.410/.415 – 30 gms): 2-for-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB
It was a very nice night for Nimmo (pictured).
Nimmo’s first three plate appearances were against a left-handed starter. In his first at-bat, he saw nothing in the strike zone, earning a four-pitch walk. In his second, he sat back nicely on an 0-2 offering and laced it over the shortstop’s head for a lined RBI single into left-center. He swung at the first pitch he saw in the fourth, and made solid contact, flying out to center. Facing a right-handed reliever in the sixth, he pulled a crisp single through the right side before walking in the bottom of the eighth. He’s still looking for his first extra-base hit against a lefty in 2013, hitting .250/.308/.250 (6-for-24 with one walk, six singles and seven strikeouts).

Nimmo was charged with an error in the first inning. Speedy Lexington LF Ethan Chapman dropped a single to shallow left-center. Nimmo got caught in between and dealt with a high hop that he fumbled, allowing Chapman, who’d taken a good hard turn at first, to race up to second.

SS Philip Evans: 0-for-4 with four strikeouts and two errors (his 18th and 19th of the year). He’s down to .180/.250/.232 and lost at the plate. Strikeouts had not been his problem: entering Tuesday the 20-year-old had a moderate 15.6% strikeout rate and had not struck out more than twice in any game this year. Defensively, he fumbled a ball in the seventh that ended up rolling between his legs. Then, on the subsequent plate, Hilario induced what should have been a double-play ball. His throw to second was not great – a little to Evans’ left and a little low. However, Evans could not catch the ball and was charged with his second error in as many plays. After the game, a friend asked me what the Mets should do with Evans. I think they’ll continue to run him out basically everyday in Savannah. While playing Yucarybert De La Cruz more might be defensive upgrade, the team is more invested in Evans.

Monday in A-Ball: Taijeron on a Tear

Lakeland Flying Tigers (DET) 2, @ St. Lucie Mets 1

Taijeron St. Lucie HeadNoah Syndergaard was just fine: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Adam Rubin had him hitting 94 on the stadium gun. Want something nice? In his last 19.1 innings, Thor has walked just two batters, while fanning 21. Yum.

At the plate, RF Travis Taijeron just keeps getting hotter. Named the FSL Player of the Week earlier in the day, he celebrated by going 3-for-4 with a homer to extend his hitting streak to eight straight games. He’s homered four times in his last three games and five times in his last five while hitting .471/.500/1.029 in his last 10 to push his season line to .313/.405/.582 in 53 games. At 24, he’s old for the FSL, and he’s repeating the circuit, but this is still awfully impressive.

 

The Gants, who start a three-game series at home on Tuesday, were off.

A-Ball Sunday: Travis Taijeron Smacks Three Homers; Gabriel Ynoa Throws Complete Game

A+: @ Charlotte Stone Crabs 7, St. Lucie Mets 4 (7 innings)
St. Lucie Mets 5, @ Charlotte Stone Crabs 3  (7 innings)

 

Taijeron St. Lucie Head- Have a day Travis Taijeron. The LF/RF combined to go 3-for-5 with three homers, and two walks.

The 24-year-old is raking at .455/.474/.939 (!) with four homers in his last 10 games to push his season line to .303/.398/.562 in 52 games. Taijeron (pictured) had a fairly miserable April (.228/.347/.380 with 1 homer) but turned it on in May and is off to a loud start in June. He’s also second in the FSL with 20 doubles. He’s not going anywhere for a little while. The room ahead of him – the AA outfield – is full with Cesar Puello, Cory Vaughn, Darrell Ceciliani and Alonzo Harris sharing playing time and rotating through the DH spots. Both Vaughn and Puello are younger than Taijeron so he will need either a promotion or an injury to open a hole ahead of him. Taijeron, in his first exposure to the FSL last year, hit only .203/.304/.373 in the second half with 52 strikeouts in 48 games. He used to use an arm-bar to begin his swing which helped his power, but made him susceptible to fastballs in.

- Aderlin Rodriguez, who had two hits and a walk, his seventh of the year, in game one, played both ends of the double-dip at first. The 21-year-old hit hitting .264/.292/.458. Rodriguez has one more home run than Taijeron, six fewer doubles, and four more singles, but has walked 16 times fewer giving Taijeron a healthy advantage in all three slash categories.

- RHP Matt Bowman, who was off to a fast start in the FSL put together a more pedestrian effort Sunday: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 2 HR.

- RHP Luis Mateo made his second rehab appearance with St. Lucie, and it did not go well. Mateo threw on Thursday, so he was appearing on two days’ rest. The line was ugly: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 2 K. With extended spring training shut down  this week, it makes sense to get Mateo into games as part of his rehab. The surprise to me is that he’s not doing so on a starter’s schedule and working every five days with a bullpen and a side in between.

 

A: Savannah Sand Gnats 7, @ Kannapolis Intimidators (CHW) 1 

Gabriel Ynoa is getting the hang of this South Atlantic League thing becoming the first pitcher in the League to throw a nine-inning complete game this year: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. Since giving up six homers in a two-start span in early May, Ynoa has learned to keep the ball down and been excellent: 29.1 IP, 19 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 HR, 3 BB, 23 K. That a 1.23 ERA and a 7.7 K/BB ratio for those of you playing along at home. Ynoa just turned 20, and sits 91-92 with a developing slider. At a lean 6’2″, he is certainly a name and arm to watch.

Daily Nimmo
CF Brandon Nimmo (.304/.396/.409 – 29 games) was 2-for-5 with a double, his second game in a row with a two-bagger. The strikeouts were numbers 32 and 33 in 29 games and push his strikeout rate to 25% so far this year. It’s an issue. On the other hand, he’s walking at a 10% clip, which is very nice.

A-Ball Thursday: Lara’s FSL Debut Extra-Inning Heartbreak…

A+: Jupiter Hammerheads 4, St. Lucie Mets 3 (10 innings)

Lara Delivery (Devyatkin)Rainy Lara’s advanced-A debut was very nice: 8 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. One opposing manager in the SAL who I talked to thought Lara (pictured) could be a mid-rotation starter because of his strike-throwing ability, but that’s a much more optimistic assessment than most scouts, the most optimistic of whom think he could be a back-end starter or middle reliever.

Both members of the left side of the St. Lucie infield 3B Aderlin Rodriguez and SS Matt Reynolds committed errors, their 10th and 9th respectively. Yeesh. On the more positive defensive side, LF Dustin Lawley  threw out a pair of runners at the plate, which is cool.

DH Travis Taijeron had two hits, including his fifth homer of the year to push his season line to .292/.383/.503 in 49 games. The 19 doubles are nice, but the 51 strikeouts are scary. The 24-year-old is lean and strong, but he’s old for the FSL and there’s too much swing and miss in there for me to think he’s a big league regular.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 8, Kannapolis Intimidators 2  (continuation of suspended game from May 3)
@ Kannapolis Intimidators 5, Savannah Sand Gnats 4 (11 innings)

These two teams played a lot of baseball on Thursday. They picked up game one, which was suspended by rain at the beginning of May, in the fourth inning and then took the nightcap, which was scheduled for seven innings, all the way to 11 for a 17-inning evening of baseball.

LF Stefan Sabol had a big game one, going 4-for-4 with a homer, his second of the year. Oh, and C Kevin Plawecki had two doubles in game one and two more hits in game two? Of course he did.

RHP Matt Koch (3-2, 4.91) started game two and was ok: 6 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K. He’s 92-95, sitting 93 or 94 on good nights and he’s fanned 34 and walked just one. However, he gives up hits – 49 in 40.1 innings. There’s plenty to work with here, but the results have been less impressive than the fastball velocity might suggest.

Daily Nimmo
After sitting in game one, CF Brandon Nimmo was 2-for-5 with two strikeouts in game two, his first two hits since returning from the DL on May 28. The 20-year old is now hitting .304/.405/.402 in 26 games.

Wednesday in A-Ball: St. Lucie Survives the Rain; A New High for Aderlin Rodriguez

A+: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 4, @ St. Lucie Mets 1
@ St. Lucie Mets 7, Jupiter Hammerheads 4 (7 innings)

Game one was the resumption of Tuesday’s suspended game. The Hammerheads scored the go-ahead run off Jeurys Familia, making his second rehab appearance with St. Lucie, in the seventh inning.

In game two, the Mets scored four in the first and never led by fewer than three runs the rest of the way.

After going 4-for-6 in the two games, “3B” Aderlin Rodriguez is up to .269/.295/.477 in 49 games this season. This is the highest his OBP has been after any single game in 2013.  The 21-year-old has hit .350/.380/.600 in 25 games in May. He also committed an error in game two, his ninth of the year, and his second in three games. The bat is real, but I really think it’ll have to play at first.

SS Matt Reynolds was 0-for-3 in game two with a pair of errors. After a quick start, he’s down to .249/.333/.362 in his 48 contests.

LHP Alex Panteliodis (2-1, 2.03) was ok: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.

 

A: @ Greenville Drive (BOS) 5, Savannah Sand Gnats 1 

Robert Gsellman: 6 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. I wrote about the 19-year-old after his last start in Savannah, where he worked nearly exclusively off his fastball and changeup.

The combination of CF Brandon Nimmo, DH Jayce Boyd and C Kevin Plawecki were 1-for-10 with two walks (both by Nimmo) and six strikeouts.

Before this game, the Gnats placed Steven Matz, who left his Tuesday start with a blister problem, on the seven-day DL.

The Holiday in A-Ball: Lets Talk about Arms.

A+: Sunday: @ St. Lucie Mets 8, Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 2

The FSL did not play baseball on Memorial Day, which seems almost un-American.

They did play on Sunday, and Matt Bowman was sharp again: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K. Bowman’s been great in four starts in the FSL: 27 IP, 2.57 ERA, 21 H, 4 BB, 33 K. The Princeton product has a full five-pitch arsenal, two and four seam fastballs, curve, slider and splitter, which replaced his changeup this year. There’s a little bit of deception in his Tim Lincecum-like delivery. Bowman, who will turn 22 in five days, is rolling through a-ball because he throws strikes, can spin his off-speed pitches for strikes, and can out-smart hitters. His strike-throwing ability will move him up the ladder, but there’s just a really sharp limit on the ceiling on a 6′ right-hander with a fastball regularly at 89-91 mph.


Sunday: Augusta GreenJackets  (SF) 3, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1 (12 innings)
Monday: Savannah Sand Gnats 4, @ Greenville Drive (BOS) 1

 

The Drive are lousy (14-36), but Gabriel Ynoa was still really good on Monday in South Carolina: 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. Ynoa, who turned 20 on Sunday has really started to roll. In his last three starts, he’s gone a combined 20.1 IP, with 14 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB and 19 K for a 1.33 ERA. He hits at 91 and can touch 92 or 93. Ynoa is a stronger prospect than Bowman because he is younger, bigger, throws a few ticks harder on his fastball and gets more outs with his fastball.

Sunday, Luis Cessa threw well (6.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K), but the team didn’t score enough for him as Jayce Boyd and Kevin Plawecki combined on five of the Gnats’ 10 hits.

A combined 1-for-8 in the last two games dropped SS Philip Evans to .183/.261/.238 in 48 games.

Still no Brandon Nimmo.

A-Ball Saturday: Philip Evans Delivers Walkoff Saturday

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 1, @ Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 0 

Little Angel Cuan was outstanding: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K. St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis told MiLB.com that it was the best he had ever seen the soft-tossing Cuan.

Jeurys Familia and Scott Atchison each threw a scoreless inning of relief with one strikeout. According to the gang at MetsBlog, Terry Collins told reporters that Familia will be headed right back to Vegas to continue his rehab.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 2, Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 1 

SEvans Gnats HeadPhilip Evans drove home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a hanging slider. After the game, the 20-year-old told the Savannah Morning News:

“He threw a hanging slider, and I was able to get good wood on it. It’s been a rough season of ups and downs, mostly downs. So that definitely felt good. I hope it gets me back in a groove of playing at the level I feel I can play at.

“I got a little frustrated last night and let that take over. But I realized I needed to be there with my team to finish that game. I stayed focused tonight.”

Evans (.186/.269/.244 – 46 gms) was ejected Friday, and grounded out with the bases loaded in the seventh Saturday, so his game-winner had to feel especially rewarding for him.

DH Kevin Plawecki (.358/.438/.600 – 45 gms) was 0-for-4 to snap his consecutive games on base streak at 34. TRAID. Or PROMOAT.

Jake Kuebler, a converted position player, made his first career start and was solid: 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K.

A-Ball Friday: Nice Nights for Aderlin and Plawecki in Wins; Tapia’s Return from the DL was BRIEF

A+: Bradenton Marauders (PIT) 8, @ St. Lucie Mets 6 

Rodriguez Aderlin St. Lucie HeadThe Mets scored five times in the final two innings, but it was not enough to overcome an early 7-0 deficit. Why were the Mets down big? Domingo Tapia was wild in his return from the DL with a burned (non) pitching hand: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 0 K, HBP. Just yuck. It was his first game in 19 days, but that’s not good.

At the plate, 3B Aderlin Rodriguez (.261/.287/.484 – 45 games) was 3-for-5 with an RBI. The 21-year old is bopping along at .345/.376/.632 in 21 games in May.

SS Matt Reynolds, who has had a tough May for average (.233/.321/.384) was 2-for-2 with three walks. The 22-year-old is now hitting .253/.337/.365 with 19 walks against 32 strikeouts in 44 games.

 

A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Augusta GreenJackets (SF) 5 

Matt Koch has a good arm, but the results have not really been as good as his low-mid 90s fastball: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 12 gb; 1 fb. On this night, his defense, which committed three errors, did not help him.

C Kevin Plawecki (.366/.447/.615 – 44 games): 2-for-3 with a three-run homer (his sixth), a bases loaded walk, and four RBI. He’s reached base safely in 34-straight games. As discussed Friday, there’s little developmental reason for the 22-year old Plawecki to still be in Savannah. However, keeping him in Savannah both helps keep the Gnats alive for a first half title (after Friday’s win, the team is 0.5 games out of first) and buys Cam Maron a few more advanced-A at-bats. Plawecki now has more extra-base hits (27) than strikeouts (20).

It’s hard to have a worse night than SS Philip Evans: 0-for-3, 2 errors (in the ‘Jackets three-run second) and an ejection after a sixth-inning strikeout looking with runners at second and third. In 45 games, the 20-year-old Evans is hitting .184/.269/.243 with 16 errors, tied for the second-most among SAL shortstops.

A-Ball Wednesday: More Hits for Kevin Plawecki

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

Syndergaard Stl HeadNoah Syndergaard (2-2, 2.86): 5.2, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

In all three of the innings in which the Jays scored against Syndergaard, they stole at least one base off Syndergaard and Cam Maron. Maron has thrown out 24% of opposing base stealers this year (12 of 50), which is a major improvement over last year’s 12.5% (10 of 80). Anyway, this was Thor’s shortest outing and most runs he has allowed in over a month, since he gave up seven runs in three innings against Fort Myers on April 18. What me worried? Not at all. Fun fact, after walking 10 batters in 25 innings in April, he’s walked just five in 25.1 innings in May.

 

A: Charleston River Dogs (NYY) 4, Savannah Sand Gnats 2 

This game, in which the teams combined on six runs, 25 men left on base, and 5-for-29 (.172) with runners in scoring position took three hours and nine minutes.

RHP Rainy Lara did not have his good location and was punished a little for it: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. As usual, he threw his slider A LOT. The Gnats made his life more difficult by committing three errors behind him, allowed a run to score and helping pushing his pitch up.

DH Kevin Plawecki, who had the night off from catching was 3-for-5 with a pair of clean singles  to center and a bloop off the end of his bat into shallow right that scored a run in the ninth. Plawecki, at .364/.445/.597 is now leading the SAL in average and OBP and doubles (19).

One other night deserves note: SS Philip Evans. With the bases loaded and two outs in the second, with the Gnats down 1-0, he bounced out to first to end the inning. With the Gnats down 2-0 in the fourth, and runners at second and third, he popped out on a que shot foul to first. Frustrated, he smashed his bat over his knee. Evans doubled and scored in the ninth to finish 1-for-4. His frustration is understandable, he’s carrying a season line of .185/.273/.247 in his first 43 games. Evans also committed his 14th error of the year on a routine ground ball to the left of the second base bag.

Tuesday in A-Ball: A Really Fun Pitching Night in Savannah

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

Not much exciting here in the box score.

22-year-old LHP Alex Panteliodis was ok, but not special: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, with 5 ground outs and six flyouts.

A pair of 24-year-olds – 2B TJ Rivera and RF Travis Taijeron -were both 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. Taijeron is hitting .270/.385/.482 thanks to a big May (.323/.432/.613 with 9 2B and 3 HR) but he has major contact problems, for an offensively oriented position (LF), having struck out 44 times in 41 games. Rivera, a non-drafted free agent out of Troy is hitting .300/.362/.371. He’s stretched at shortstop, but makes a fine second baseman in a-ball.

 

A: Charleston RiverDogs 2, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 0 

Matz Gnats HeadThis one, played in perfect weather – 77 degrees at first pitch – featured a really fun pitching matchup: NYY’s Rafael De Paula and the Mets’ Steven Matz (pictured).

Both Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America rated De Paula as the Yankees’ #10 prospect coming into this year, and he has more than lived up to the billing, leading minor league baseball in strikeouts with 73. De Paula lied about his age and identity and MLB investigated him for 16 months before finally approving his contract last year (more background here). De Paula’s line actually might understate how good he was: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. He did not allow a runner to third. I didn’t get gun readings on him during the game, but he was throwing damn hard (BP had him topping out at 99 entering the season and BA at 98). Gnats’ hitters could not square up his stuff. He showed both a breaking ball and a changeup with a chance to be plus. I believe I described one change on air as “unfair.” The one blemish on De Paula’s game: control: he’s walked 19 batters in 45.1 innings. For a guy making the jump from the DSL to the SAL, that’s understandable. I think he’s the top pitching prospect I’ve seen against the Gnats this year.

Steven Matz was almost as good: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, and 93 pitches and first pitch strikes to 15 of 22 batters. Matz gave up a run in the first that should never have happened and a run in the fourth that should have happened. In the first, leadoff man Taylor Dugas slapped hard one-hop single past 3B Jeff Reynolds who was drawn in against his speed to begin the inning. I thought it was a ball Reynolds should have fielded. After Dugas stole second, Matz gave up a single the other way to light-hitting SS (bust) Cito Culver to put runners at the corners with no outs. He induced a double-play grounder, but the run scored three batters into the game. In the fourth, Matz gave up a pair of triples blasted up the right-center field gap for the ‘Dogs’ second run. After that, he set down the final eight batters he saw in the game.

Matz was sitting at 92 mph, was 90-93 and touched 95, according to those sitting behind home plate. He worked heavily off his fastball early, before working in more sliders and changeups as the night went on. He got back-to-back strikeouts off the slider in the fifth. Many of his other whiffs were on elevated heat. The good news is that he was 1. more comfortable throwing his slider in games and 2. getting swings and misses with it. The nine strikeouts were a new season-high, tying his career high from last year in Kingsport.

C Kevin Plawecki (.356/.441/.597 – 41 games) was 0-for-2 with two walks, and has now reached base safely in 31 straight games. I asked Mets’ Special Assistant to the GM JP Ricciardi before the game what else Plawecki had to prove in the South Atlantic League. Not much, he conceded, saying it was “only a matter of time” until he earned his promotion to advanced-A. I had a scout praise Plawecki’s “quick release” the other day to me and he was 1-for-2 throwing out runners Tuesday.