A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 6, Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 5
Jacob deGrom was ok, but not great: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
RF Cory Vaughn was 1-for-3 with a homer, his 22nd of the year, and a walk. I’m a broken record on Vaughn: the power (21 2B, 22 HR) and the speed (19 of 22 stealing bases are great), but the .243 batting average at age 23 in the FSL is scary. The physical tools are there, but scouts as one scout gently put it, the swing is “complicated.”
In his third game back from the disabled list, DH Darrell Ceciliani was 2-for-4. It’s been a pretty wasted year for Ceciliani, who has played in just 17 games. At 22 now, I’d think he would be a good candidate for the one of the Mets’ Arizona Fall League a-ball exemptions.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 6, Rome Braves 2
C Cam Maron was 2-for-3 with a homer, his fifth and two walks. The 21-year old, whose game is Josh Thole-ish, is hitting a healthy .302/.401/.415 in 87 games in the SAL.
A+: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 9, @ St. Lucie Mets 0 (7 innings)
@ St. Lucie Mets 8, Jupiter Hammerheads 1 (7 innings)
Lets skip past game one to game two, where 3B Aderlin Rodriguez was 3-for-3 with two homers and 3 RBI. In 15 games in August, the 20-year old is hitting .298/.344/.632 with six homers. That’ll play. He’s up to 24 homers this year as part of a .266/.326/.492 in 117 games between Savannah and St. Lucie playing his home games in two places that are tough to hit homeruns. Rodriguez has struck out less in the FSL – 18% – than he did in either of his two periods of play with Savannah. There are plenty of questions here, but the man has tremendous power. If the Mets were willing to put Wilmer Flores on the 40-man roster last winter, Rodriguez should go on this year. In fact, I think you could make the argument that Rodriguez at the end of 2012 is closer to the big leagues than Flores at the end of 2011.
Cesar Puello homered in game two as part of a 1-for-3 night with two strikeouts and no walks. He’s been playing a lot of right field, but played center in game one. The 21-year old is having a nice August (.304/.385/.543 with seven extra-base hits) but has a 15/1 K/BB ratio. His on-base percentage in the month is supported by five hit by pitches. I’m not sure he has played well enough, long enough with enough plate discipline to earn his way to AA for Opening Day 2013.
Also, in the outfield, CF/LF Alonzo Harris keeps raking and running. A hit in game one, and two in game two, took him to .370/.400/.593 in 19 games and .293/.363/.449 in 108 games. The 23-year old has clearly punched his ticket to Binghamton for the Opening Day 2013 and raised his status significantly. Harris also stole three bases in game two and one in game one and is now up to 39-for-49 this year. He leads the Mets organization in steals by a lot – by 15 over Fred Lewis and 10 over Juan Lagares.
In game two, Logan Verrett had a very nice outing: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR. His 0.94 FSL WHIP is even better than his SAL mark, which was a smidge above one. In the FSL, he’s walked 1.1 batter per nine, but, and it’s a big but, his strikeout rate is down to 6.3 K/9. That control is pretty outstanding, but the strikeout rate slip is a red flag.
Savannah: Ppd by Rain
It poured for along time Thursday. The Gnats and Rome Braves will make up Thursday’s game in a double-dip Saturday.
A+: Jupiter Hammerheads (MIA) 7, @ St. Lucie Mets 5
Darrell Ceciliani, who has been out since June 27 with a strained hamstring, returned as the DH and was 3-for-4 with a strikeout. He’s played a whopping 15 games this season in a season essentially lost to his hamstrings. When he’s played, he’s hit: 18-for-57 (.316/.375/.474). The issue is that he has barely played and will probably have to repeat St. Lucie to begin 2013.
RF Cesar Puello was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI. In 12 games in August, the 21-year old hit .293/.383/.488 with six extra-base hits (good) and 1 walk against 13 strikeouts (alarming). Again, note that he’s playing right, while Alonzo Harris plays center. That’s interesting.
C Blake Forsythe was 2-for-3 with a triple and a homer. The double was his 16th and the homer his 8th as part of a .262/.361/.427 line in 80 games. Scouts are still at least a little intrigued by the 23-year old’s size and strength.
RHP Erik Goeddel followed up seven shutout innings in his last start with a clunker variety: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K. He’s now allowed 103 hits in 96 innings while working to a 3.75 ERA in an FSL where the league-average is 3.88.
A: Asheville Tourists 8, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 7
The Gnats had a 5-0 lead after two innings and a 6-5 lead after three but could not hold it in a mess of a game that featured: 15 runs, 30 hits, 37 AB combined with RISP, a disputed inside the park HR call, two Gnats thrown out at home plate in the third inning, and all in a brisk 3 hours and 42 minutes.
Before we get to the game, a pair of minor injury updates.
- CF Gilbert Gomez returned to the lineup for the first time in a week. He had been out with a bruised hand sustained when he took a throw off the palm sliding to break up a double play.
- SS Matt Reynolds, the 2012 second round pick, missed his second straight game with a strained groin. The timing is poor for the 21-year old who had just started to hit: .333/.412/.500 in 16 games in August.
Domingo Tapia: 4 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 5K, 1 HR.
The homerun was the first he had allowed in 102.1 innings this year. It came on an inside-the-parker on a ball that should have been a double pulled on the ground down the leftfield line into the corner. However, the ball lodged itself under the bench in the Asheville bullpen. The rule is that the ball stays in play unless it is stuck. Pron threw up his hands to ask the umps to stop play. 1B ump Mike Patterson did the same. The Asheville runners kept running and both scored. Pron, seeing the runners continue, kept digging under the bench, and eventually found the ball and threw it very late home. The key to the ruling is that the ump put his hands up during the play, to signal dead ball (and double) but that allowed the runners to continue running. It was an awful interpretation of a bad rule.
Anyway, as for the 20-year old Tapia, who gave up a season-high 10 hits. He looked untouchable in the first. He lost a little location in the Tourists five-run third. Many of the balls were hit hard, and a whole bunch of grounders some snuck through the Gnats infield including replacement SS Ismael Tijerina. However, this is what happens when you try to attack a good lineup with fastballs and no breaking ball. As hard as he throws and with his changeup, location can get him through the South Atlantic League.
Someone asked me on Twitter whether, with one start remaining, the Mets should shut Tapia down. Unless he’s hurt, the answer is “no.” This is part of what development is about: learning to pitch deep into seasons. He threw 56 innings last year, and is up to 102.1 this year with just 85 hits allowed.
Lets take a look at what’s going on in the St. Lucie, in the advanced-A outfield.
Three of the four guys getting regular playing time, CF/RF Cesar Puello (#6), RF Cory Vaughn (#32) and LF Travis Taijeron (#40) appeared on my pre-season Top 41 prospects list, while the most productive perhaps is CF/LF Alonzo Harris, who was unranked this year. Harris topped out on my list at #26 in 2010, but that was a postion ago, back when he was playing second base.
Coming into this year, I was highest on the youngest member of the outfield: the very strong Puello. He’s responded with a lost year as a hammate bone fracture kept him off the field for much of the summer, and when he’s played his strike zone control has deteriorated. His 2.4% walk rate just will not play regardless of how often he gets hit, as it reflects a more fundamental problem at the plate in identifying good pitches. Often hammate bone breaks result in power declines (or pauses in development), so it is hardly a surprise to see him hit relatively few homeruns. Still, he leads this list with a 9.6% extra-base hit rate. Puello was the FSL Mets’ primary centerfielder in April and May when Darrell Ceciliani was out with his own hamstring problems. However, since his return to action on August 4th, he’s played more rightfield (6 games) to center (3 games) out of deference to Alonzo Harris. I still like the tools, but the age clock is starting to tick a whole lot louder.
That subtle positional shift reflects how far Harris has come as a player this year on both sides of the ball. Harris has raked at a .319/.389/.469 rate with 23 walks and 25 strikeouts in 50 games in the second half. He’s walking plenty, not striking out, hitting for a little pop and stealing bases. Oh, and he’s playing centerfield. He was recruited as a Division I defensive back in football out of high school, so I think he has the speed and explosiveness for the postion. Harris’ playing time went up when Ceciliani and Puello went down with injuries, and he’s taken good advantage of the opportunity. It’s hard to see an everyday player in a 23-year old in advanced-A, but his speed and defensive versatility (CF/LF/2B) could make him a fit on a big league bench.
Vaughn has cut his strikeouts down a little bit and shown the ability to hit the ball over the wall. Still, as a 23-year old corner guy, the .240 batting average indicates a serious problem making good consistent contact with a complicated swing. Vaughn has a persistent platoon split – .924 OPS vs. LHP in 139 AB this year and .747 in 281 AB vs. RHP. Scott Hairston has stuck around the big leagues because he crushes lefties and plays centerfield. Vaughn offers one of the two. For reference, Hairston blew through the hitters’ paradise of Lancaster with a .405/.442/.797 mark in 18 games at age 22, and then hit .276/.345/.469 with 10 homers in his first crack at AA in 2003 as a 23-year old.
How does all of this affect prospect status? I’ll still take the youth and massive shoulders of Puello among this group. However, Harris’ very nice season at the plate, combined with the positional value in centerfield, should vault him over Vaughn.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 6, Palm Beach Cardinals 0
The star of the game is an easy call. RHP Erik Goeddel: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. The seven innings and eight strikeouts were both season-highs. At times, scouts have had nice things to say about his curveball and slider and fastball at 89-92. However, the results have not been there for the 23-year old. This is not just a step in the right direction, but a leap to suggest he’s figured something out. Now, he just has to do it again.
1. 3B Aderlin Rodriguez returned to the lineup after a week off with an irritated eye, and was 0-for-4.
2. RF Cory Vaughn was 1-for-4 with his 20th homerun of the year. He’s second to Aderlin Rodriguez in homers in the Mets system, but hitting just .240/.351/.452 with 106 strikeouts in 111 games in advanced-A. On the plus side, he’s also drawn 59 walks. Almost half (43 of 97) of his hits have gone for extra-bases.
3. LF Travis Taijeron hit his fifth homerun in St. Lucie and his 17th of the year. In 40 games in the Florida State League, he’s hit .191/.298/.344 with 44 strikeouts at age 23.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 8, Lexington Legends 2
Twenty-three year old 1B Brian Harrison, who began August in a 2-for-24 rut, was 3-for-4 with a double and a homerun to lead the Gnats to a series win and their fifth victory in six tries on the team’s second-to-last homestand.
A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 9, Palm Beach Cardinals 8
This one had a good, crazy ending. The Mets took a 8-2 lead to the ninth when the Cardinals tied it up with six runs against relievers Kyle Allen and Adrian Rosario. The Mets then won it with two outs in the bottom of the ninth when SS TJ Rivera singled, advanced to second on 2B Danny Muno’s bunt and scored on C Blake Forsythe’s RBI single.
The 23-year old Rivera hit his way out of the SAL and had two knock on Tuesday. While he’s still hitting .307/.346/.411 in the FSL, his power and walk rates have declined versus the SAL. He’ll play in the upper minors as a a nice organizational middle infielder.
Fellow 23-year old Danny Muno had a monster night, going 4-for-4 with a triple and a homerun. He’s hitting .386/.429/.553 in 10 games in August and .286/.378/.437 overall in 65 games in the season in which he was busted for an anabolic steroid metabolite. Most impressively, his Metsian plate discipline: 35 walks against 39 strikeouts.
Jack Leathersich fanned five of the six batters he faced in relief of Chase Huchingson: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.
No Aderlin Rodriguez again. The 20-year old has not played in a week. I’m not sure why, yet.
A: Lexington Legends 10, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 1
After giving up just one earned run in his previous three starts, Alex Panteliodis gave up six in 5.2 innings Tuesday. The lefty’s line: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. I thought the Legends had a really good approach against Panteliodis. They realized at some point that his curveball was a non-factor and were able to poke line drives back into centerfield.
Friday: St. Lucie Mets 2, @ Fort Myers Miracle (MIN) 1
Saturday: St. Lucie Mets 3, @ Fort Myers Miracle 0
Lets start on Satuday, with RHP Jacob deGrom’s St. Lucie Mets debut. The 24-year old was very good: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K. Listed at 6’4″, 185, deGrom uses those long, loose limbs, to generate one of the best fastballs in the system, regularly throwing 95 and 96 mph. On any given night, he might be 92-96. He uses both a two-seamer with sink, and a four-seamer to spot and use as a chase pitch up. At times, he’s shown a usable changeup and slider, while in other starts, he’s struggled with feel on his breaking stuff and pitched almost exclusively off his heat.
DeGrom’s fastball is among the top five in the Mets system from the right side clearly behind only Domingo Tapia and Zack Wheeler and in a class with Michael Fulmer and Jeurys Familia. I think deGrom’s fastball is enough to get him to the big leagues. How his secondary stuff, specifically his slider, develops will dictate whether he can remain a starter. At 24, deGrom (pictured at right, in Savannah) has given up just 78 hits in 96.2 innings between the two a-ball levels this year with a K/BB ratio of 5.1 (86 K/17 BB). He had Tommy John surgery in the fall of 2010, and did not throw a professional inning in 2011, but even at 96.2 innings now, the Mets plan to push deGrom’s innings, and have him pitch all the way through the playoffs for St. Lucie.
Mets pitching coordinator Ron Romanick described deGrom’s as having a “young arm.” Degrom was largely a shortstop in college, and only converted to pitching full-time in his junior year at Stetson. Even so, deGrom has taken to pitching quickly, leading Romanick to praise him for his “real aptitude for what he’s doing.”
An 0-for-7 weekend dropped RF Cesar Puello down to .241/.303/.371 with a 48/5 K/BB ratio in 48 games at age 21.
Three hits Friday, and a triple on Saturday, pushed CF Alonzo Harris to .291/.366/.437. The 23-year old has a 51/42 K/BB ratio in 99 games. That increase in plate discipline from his former hack-tastic days in Savannah is a really remarkable development for Harris. The speedster is on the old side for a prospect in advanced-A, but as a former 2B, could emerge as a 4th OF/bench type who can also slide down to play second.
Age matters. It always does. What kind of numbers do you think Puello would put up in the FSL in 2014 as a 23-year old?
Friday, Logan Verrett hada nice start: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. In 18.2 innings in the FSL, he’s fanned 11 and walked two. Verrett has a better slider than deGrom, but a more ordinary fastball. When he’s been good, it’s 90-91, touching 93, and when he’s been off, it’s 88-91.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 5, Palm Beach Cardinals 2
After an off-night Wednesday, Cesar Puello returned to the St. Lucie lineup and was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Now 21, he’s hitting .252/.311/.387 with 45 strikeouts against five walks in 46 games. So, in a system that prioritizes plate discipline, and yes walks, Puello, in a year in which he has missed considerable time with injury, has not put the message into game action.
RHP Tyler Pill (pictured) lasted only two innings, and gave up both Cardinals runs on three hits. If the Mets are limiting the 22-year old’s innings, a two-inning start is not the ordinary way to do it. Something’s going on here, but I don’t know what it is yet. Pill, last year’s 4th round pick, threw 107.2 innings between Fullerton and professional baseball and is at 113 right now.
LHP Jack Leathersich led the reliever parade by striking out four in his two innings of scoreless relief work. He’s now fanned 64 and walked 20 in 40.1 innings in the Florida State League. For what its worth, he has a slight revers platoon split, as lefties have posted a .713 OPS against him in 55 AB in the FSL, while righties have a .671 OPS in 100 AB.
RHP Taylor Whitenton finished off the game with a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. The righthander has a good fastball, and is missing bats, but like Leathersich, control remains a problem. Since June 1, the 24-year old Whitenton has 39 strikeouts against 19 walks in 31.2 innings.
The Gnats and Greenville Drive played one whole inning before rain washed out the rest of the game. They’ll finish that one and start a second game today.
A+: @ Palm Beach Cardinals 4, St. Lucie Mets 2
3B Aderlin Rodriguez was 1-for-4 with a two-run homer in the first inning. That’s back-to-back games with a bomb for the 20-year old and four in his last five contests. After a three week adjustment period in July in advanced-A when he hit .206/.260/.353, Rodriguez is banging .321/.387/.786 wiht four homers in seven games in August. For the year, he’s up to 26 doubles and 22 home runs as part of a .266/.327/.493 line. More than half of his 110 hits have gone for extra-bases.
He might not stay at third, although apparently he’s working harder at improving at the position. On the other hand, his bat has the power to carry across the diamond and make an impact at first base. I get at least an email a week asking if it makes sense for the Mets to move Rodriguez to the outfield to solve two problems: fortifying the Mets’ future bleak outfield and moving Rodriguez from a position where he might be blocked by David Wright. The answer remains a resounding, “no.” Rodriguez has well below average speed and at best, would be a below average outfielder. If he can’t stick at third, he’s going to first.
His 22 homeruns put him in the top-20 in minor league baseball on a list mostly populated by aging AAA types, the Royals’ Wil Myers, the Rangers’ Mike Ott and the Twins’ Miguel Sano. Remember too, Rodriguez played the first half of the year in power-suppressing Historic Grayson Stadium.
Erik Goeddel appeared out of the bullpen, working behind LHP Angel Cuan. It was Goeddel’s first bullpen outing since April 20, after 16 starts in a row. He was solid, striking out four without walking a batter while giving up an unearned run on five hits. There is more help on the way to the St. Lucie rotation but it would be interesting for Cuan to keep the rotation spot over Goeddel.
A: @ Savannah Sand Gnats 9, Greenville Drive 1
Alex Panteliodis and a late offensive surge helped the Gnats snap a six-game losing streak, their second of the first half.
Panteliodis, the big lefty out of Florida, who the Mets drafted in the 9th round last year had some of his best control of the year: 6 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K. In his last four starts, he has struck out 34 batters, walked three and pitched to a 2.08 ERA (3 ER/25 IP). He’s largely lived off his fastball in this run, but his control is much improved over earlier this year.
CF Gilbert Gomez was 3-for-5 with a triple up the left-center field gap and two singles into leftfield. The 20-year old is hitting a patient .265/.376/.356. He is unlikely to be a centerfielder in the end, and with one homerun this year, the power will have to come in a big way to support a move to leftfield. He has some time, however.
A+: St. Lucie Mets 9, @ Palm Beach Cardinals 1
I was wondering, early Tuesday evening, whether the minor league games meant less to me this time of year. At this point in the year, I have relatively well-defined opinions on most of the Mets’ prospects.
And then Tuesday happened. Rafael Montero took a no-hitter into the bottom of the eighth when he was pulled after 107 pitches and 7.2 scoreless/hitless innings. One outing did not change my opinion of Montero, but listening to him chase history was fun. His final line: 7.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K. Kyle Allen gave up a leadoff double in the bottom of the ninth as the two Mets’ farmhands combined on a one-hitter.
Montero gave up two runs on five hits with 14 strikeouts in his previous start in Clearwater. St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis explained that location separated the two starts, “They were each very good in their own right. In Clearwater, he left some pitches up and out over the middle of the plate and those fell in for hits,” Ellis said. “Tonight, there was nothing over the middle of the plate. He hit the corners with his fastball. He mixed in his slider and and his changeup. It seemed like he had an extra gear whenever he needed it.”
Thus far, in eight starts in the Florida State League, Montero has run a 2.13 ERA with a 5.1 K/BB ratio (56 K/11 BB) in 50.2 innings.
Early in the year, Montero could survive, and even succeed in the South Atlantic League by locating his fastball and mixing in changeups, while his slider lagged as his third pitch. That appears to be no longer the case according to Ellis, “He can throw his slider when he’s ahead in the count, when he’s behind in the count and he can throw it when he’s even. He can throw any pitch at any point.”
While Montero was sitting around 93 mph with his fastball through the middle innings, his approach caught Ellis’ eye, “What’s really impressive is that he’s not pitching away from contact,” Ellis said. “It’s his control more than his stuff. His control is getting him swings and misses. He’s a very smart kid. He’s very composed.”
Montero can come very close to locking up a spot in the double-A Binghamton rotation in 2013 with another few good starts down the stretch and in the playoffs in the Florida State League this year. He’ll be 22 in October, so he would be age-appropriate in double-A. This year, the Mets promoted Cory Mazzoni from St. Lucie after 12 starts while last year the team gave Greg Peavey 10, Matt Harvey 14 and Jeurys Familia, who was repeating the league, 11 starts before moving them up to Binghamton. With eight starts to his credit in the Florida State League already, Montero will be right in line with his fellow farmhands in starting 2013 in AA.
CF Cesar Puello, who returned to the St. Lucie lineup from a pulled hamstring on Saturday, was 3-for-4 with two doubles, two stolen bases, and an RBI before leaving for a pinch-runner in the eighth. In the third inning, Puello stole home on a double-steal when TJ Rivera took second. Ellis explained that Puello “was just a little tired. He did a lot of running around out there and made some nice catches in the outfield.” Puello, now 21, needs a big August to avoid a precipitous drop down my Mets prospect rankings after hitting just .258/.318/.396 with a 43/5 K/BB ratio in 45 games. As of late Tuesday, Ellis was not sure whether Puello would be back in the lineup on Wednesday.
LF/CF Alonzo Harris had a big night, going 4-for-4 with a double and a homerun. He’s up to .290/.365/.434 in 95 games with a career-high 40 walks against 50 strikeouts while going 31-for-40 stealing bases, also a career-high. The 40 walks are not just a career-high, he’s never drawn 30 in a season before. The Mets moved the speedy Harris off of second last year for centerfield and left. He can really run and plays hard. In the past, he fell in love with his power, and took a big swing, but the drop in strikeouts this year and the rise in walks is a welcome sign that he’s starting to tailor his game around his speed. Ellis, who was his hitting coach in Savannah in 2010, and managed him in 2011, said that Harris had “Transformed in front of my eyes the last two years. He’s starting to hit the ball the other way and take a pitch when he needs to, and be aggressive when he needs to.” Harris is up to .323/.399/.457 in 40 games in the second half.
Coming into this year, Harris had never stolen 20 bases in a season. Now, he’s the only guy in the Mets’ organization with more than 20 thefts. “He’s become a lot smarter on the bases. Now, he just wants to go, to go. Last year, you just had to push, push, push,” Ellis explained. Harris is a more confident runner this year, a confidence born out of knowledge. “He’s a lot more savvy on the bases. He’s studying pitchers and reading moves. It’s just all of the experience he’s gotten the last few years, is finally coming to fruition,” his skipper said.
Harris’ listed birthday is 11/16/89, but I believe that’s an old typo and his actual birthday is 1/16/89, making him already 23. It’s a significant difference. Given his age, it’s hard to put an average regular ceiling on him, but life as a bench piece for his speed is possible.
3B Aderlin Rodriguez launched his fifth homerun in 25 games in St. Lucie and his 21st in 108 games between Savannah and St. Lucie this year. After a slow three weeks in July, the 20-year old has raked at a .333/.407/.750 rate with a double and three homers in his six games in August. Ellis, who managed Rodriguez a year ago sees a young player working smarter now, “I see a big difference [versus 2011]. He’s working a little bit more on his weaknesses.”