This continues our unsexy section of the Top 41 – the MLB Spare Parts category. These guys could carve out big league roles, but they will never be average (or above) Major League regulars.
#21 – 1B/3B Zach Lutz
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 220 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd ’07 (Alvernia College)
Born: 6/3/86 (Reading, PA)
2012 Rank: 28 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: As we’ve written in this space every year for going on three years running “when he’s healthy, Lutz can really hit. But he’s often not healthy.” Lutz has some strength in his swing and he’s disciplined. He’s not really a bat speed guy, and will strike out more in the big leagues against the world’s best fastballs to the point where it should really take a bit out of his batting average. Still, he could be a useful bench bat with a little pop.
The issue for Lutz is that he provides very little value when he’s not in the batter’s box. He’s a below average runner, who plays a below average third base. He’s played a grand total of 38 games at first base in his minor league career so he is far from natural there.
Lutz has never played the outfield as a professional and would likely be a liability defensively were he to play leftfield.
2012: A standard Lutz season: an injury (this time a broken hammate bone), a nice offensive line in AAA and lookee here, a MLB debut.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A useful bench piece. His minor league numbers are better than “pinch-hitter extraordinaire” Willie Harris‘s were.
Debbie Downer Says: Teams often won’t/can’t carry a 1B/3B righty bench bat in the era of 12 and 13-man pitching staffs.
Projected 2013 Start: AAA Las Vegas (where he should be up big numbers)
MLB Arrival: He’ll be back in 2013.
#22 – LHP Darin Gorski
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 lbs
Acquired: 7th rd ’09 (Kutztown U)
Born: 10/6/87 (Mt. Joy, Pa)
2012 Rank: 13 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Gorski drops nine spots because he was an average pitcher in AA. In a League that allowed 4.3 runs per game, Gorski allowed 4.4. He works with a below average fastball. When I saw him early in spring training he was mostly 86-88. Even if that goes to 87-89, as the weather warms, it will not change the math of the pitcher/batter confrontation very much.
As I wrote earlier this spring: “His changeup at 79 mph remains his best weapon. He has good armspeed with the offering and a little sink.”
Gorski’s breaking ball is now a curveball at about 74 mph. It’s shorter and tighter than when he was in a-ball, which is a good thing. Even so, it’s clearly his third pitch. If he is to succeed, it’s as a fastball/changeup southpaw. I do not think the breaking ball is good enough yet that it makes sense to put Gorski in the pen. Besides, the Mets might need a few extra starting pitchers along the way and Gorski is depth in that valuable category.
2012: How close to Eastern League average was Gorski? The EL as a whole fanned 7.3 batter per nine, and walked 3.3. Gorski: 7.6 and 3.2 respectively.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Backend starter
Debbie Downer Says: Up and down, AAA journeyman.
Projected 2013 Start: AAA Las Vegas.
#23 – OF Matt den Dekker
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 205 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd 2010 (Florida)
Born: 8/10/87 (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)
2012 Rank: 18 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Den Dekker slips five spots from a year ago because he “hit” .220/.256/.373 with strikeouts in 28% of his plate appearances in AAA in the second half of 2012 in the season in which he turned 25. That’s not going to play in AAA and it certainly means he is not ready to play in the big leagues. Now, he will miss the first half of 2013 with a broken wrist.
Den Dekker can really go get it in centerfield. There’s little question about that. He’s not a burner, but he gets excellent jumps, covers ground well, and is fearless. His arm is below average, but plays in center.
At the plate, lefties and good breaking balls give him fits.
2012: Den Dekker crushed AA Eastern League pitching, but more experienced AAA pitchers ate him up.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A 4th outfielder.
Debbie Downer Says: A AAA veteran.
Projected 2013 Start: Las Vegas (late)
MLB Arrival: 2013 (maybe)
Due to today’s game being the Mets last home game until next Thursday most of the regulars saw extensive action. While it was nice to see Duda and Davis handle the LHP I’ll concentrate on Matt den Dekker and Wilmer Flores.
den Dekker worked a very patient full count ground out in his first AB against a righty, laying off low breaking pitches. His AB’s against the lefties were not so encouraging getting his knees buckled on a steady diet of breakers. He will certainly need to be more competitive against same side pitching for him to see success at AAA, much less on the big league level. There was of course this sweet catch which have become spring training regulars from den Dekker.
Wilmer Flores lined up at 3B in today’s game which was unfortunate because just about every play went to Justin Turner at 2B. I think even Justin Turner grounded out to Justin Turner at one point… In the 7th Flores finally saw his first defensive play. He may have drifted off, or he might be really slow. On a slow roller he charged and had no play on Brandon Barnes. After a routine play followed, Flores had another slow roller in the 8th, with men on 1st and 2nd. On a play that David Wright would have charged to field in front of the runner and sent to second to possibly start a double play, Flores had to play it behind the runner and barely threw out the Astro’s catcher Carlos Perez. After liking what I saw from Flores at 2B earlier in the spring, I came away from today’s game wondering if Flores might actually be too slow to even play 3B regularly.
Zach Lutz had a bad series at 1B and he only played 4 innings. Botching a grounder, failing to catch a foul pop near the railing, and then short arming a throw to Parnell that they called an error on Parnell, but the throw was well low.
Gorski and McHugh had uneventful innings of work. Only really of note because these suspected AAA starters made short relief outings. Rob Carson walked Fernando Martinez and gave up a homer to Carlos Pena, but then recovered to retire two more lefties. As someone in the loogy competition this was a rough outing.
All in all my first trip to a spring training game was enjoyable, if a little light on the prospects to view. - NateW
We’ll go through each affiliate to recap their month.
The Buffalo Bisons finished April 2012 in second place in the IL North, at 14-10, 1.5 games behind the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Bisons are second in the IL in bating average and third in OBP, SLG and runs scored as part of a .281/.355/.450 line. The Herd’s 30 homers are tied for first on the circuit.
Despite ranking near the bottom in the IL in strikeouts (12 of 14), the Bisons are third in the IL in ERA (3.04) because they have allowed the third-fewest hits (185).
No Fuss Lutz
How does a .333/.425/.556 month sound with eight extra-base hits, 10 walks and 20 strikeouts? Thanks to Mets’ injuries 25-year old Zach Lutz even found some big league time where he made his MLB debut and was 1-for-8 in picking up his first MLB hit. A third baseman throughout his minor league career, Lutz picked up his only MLB start at first, and looked a little awkward there. His lack of defensive versatility hurts his bench value, so the Mets might consider exposing him to other positions in AAA in the near future.
The Old Guys Hit
34 year old Bobby Scales: .413/.522/.600 – 17 BB, 8 K – 21 games. Scales’ .413 OBP leads all full-season minor leagues.
32 year old Vinny Rottino: .315/.356/.435 – 8 2B – 7 BB, 14 K – 24 games. He’s worked exclusively in left field, but the Mets will begin working him back in at catcher, the position that he says is his “favorite” and where he is comfortable. Mike Nickeas, you have been warned.
33 year old Valentino Pascucci: .306/.392/.565 – 4 2B, 6 HR, 12 BB, 28 K. Ho hum, another .950 OPS in AAA for “The Big Guy” as Bisons’ broadcaster Duke McGuire calls him.
The Jordany Story
After playing second base for Buffalo on the first two nights of the season, the Mets and Bisons moved Jordany Valdespin out to centerfield after Kirk Nieuwenhuis was promoted to the Mets to take Andres Torres’ place. His play in centerfield, not surprisingly for a guy who has spent a month at the position, remains a work in progress. He has the athleticism to play out there, but does not yet have an outfielders’ feel for reads off the bat or the long arm stroke for throws. At the plate in 17 games in AAA, he hit a rather pedestrian .276/.321/.368 in 76 AB with five walks against seven strikeouts and just three extra-base hits.
So what’s he doing in the big leagues? First and foremost, with Ronny Cedeno on the shelf, Valdespin is the best back-up shortstop option. The Mets are clearly not comfortable with Justin Turner, who has played just two MLB games at short stop, and only 53 games at short in the minors, as the team’s only back-up shortstop option. Valdespin is primarily insurance for Ruben Tejada, who happens to be two years younger than Valdespin. At the same time, Valdespin is a second another left-handed bat off the bench alongside Mike Baxter. He is merely the sixth outfielder behind Lucas Duda, Nieuwenhuis, Torres, Baxter and Scott Hairson.
A number of commenters have raised the issue that Valdespin needs to be playing everyday to continue his development. It’s a reasonable argument, but it falls short here. At some point, a prospect’s development becomes secondary to helping the big league team. In this case, Valdespin is providing big league depth while allowing the Mets to weather an injury without making a 40-man roster move. His positional flexibility allows the Mets roster flexibility.
The Big Two – Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia
Lets start with the simple one first: Familia is just not throwing enough strikes. In 21.2 innings in 2012, he has issued 22 walks. For the year, he has thrown 56% of his pitches (261 of 463) for strikes where MLB average is 62%. Primarily, this is about locating his fastball. The Mets were working hard with Familia in spring training to repeat a cleaner delivery to improve his command. Obviously, the lessons have not taken yet.
Is the early-season cold a viable excuse? Not for more than a walk an inning. Also, even though it’s cold in Buffalo, it’s plenty cold in many MLB destinations early in the season including New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
Harvey has put together two good outings in a row and seems to be locating his fastball better and using all four of his pitches. He’s getting swings and misses with a hard-mid 80s breaking ball. In his last 13 innings: 15 K, 3 BB and 3 runs on eight hits.
The Mets insist that they will be patient not just with Harvey and Familia, but with all of their pitching prospects. Do not expect to see Harvey anytime soon in Queens. With 26 innings at AAA this year, and 59.2 at Binghamton last year, he’s at 85.2 above a-ball. If the team’s goal is really 130 upper-level innings, he will need another month and a half in AAA or the middle to the end of June. The only way he gets to the bigs faster? Pure domination.
Bullpen Help Soon?
The Mets promoted Josh Edgin to Buffalo on April 23 and he’s allowed just one run on three hits with five strikeouts in his four innings of work in AAA. For the year, between AA and AAA, the big, hard-throwing lefty has fanned 10 and walked four in 10.1 innings while yielding two runs. It’s not just that he’s missing bats; Minor League Central counts him with a 69% gb rate.
Position Player of the Month
Pitcher of the Month
Chris Schwinden. His line at Buffalo: 4 GS, 2.05 ERA, 22 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 9 BB, 13 K. It’s not terribly sexy, but he allowed fewer runs than Jeremy Hefner and Garrett Olson and neither Harvey nor Familia deserved it. The ‘pen guys like Fernando Cabrera, Chuck James and Jack Egbert have nice low ERAs without accompanying pretty K/BB ratios.
Damn it, internet, I spent an hour this morning answering a mailbag question about when Lutz will be called up, and then minutes after I press “Publish,” the Mets placed Jason Bay on the DL and called up Lutz.
Some of this will be excerpts from that post, some will be new-ish.
He’s a high strikeout, high walk, high-power, guy off to a great start in AAA this year (.333/.419/.556) supported by an unsustainably high .439 BABIP. All the same, in his 303 career AB in AAA, he’s hit .304/.387/.521 with an 11% walk rate, 27% strikeout rate, extra-base hits in 10% of his plate appearances, and a .393 BABIP.
In his AAA career since 2010, he’s hit .278/.412/.544 against lefties in 79 AB. Big sample? Nope, but it’s all we have, and what we have is a guy with a .956 OPS vs. AAA lefties.
He’s primarily a third baseman, with 223 professional games at the position, although he’s played a little first (31 games) in the minors. He would probably be a below average defender in the majors at third. I don’t see especially nimble footwork or lightning quick hands. He could play the position, but just end up costing his team some runs if he did it everyday.
Lutz has never played a professional game in left field. Unlike Jordany Valdespin, who has made the transition to center field, he is not fast. In his minor league career, he is 1-for-6 stealing bases. His lone stolen base came back with St. Lucie in 2009. I suspect that, at best, he would end up being a below average defender in left field.
Until Andres Torres returns, the choices are:
Left-handed hitters: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Mike Baxter, Lucas Duda, Jordany Valdespin
Right-handed hitters: Scott Hairston
Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin and Hairston can all play center field to some degree.
Against right-handers, I’d go with the lefty-swinging kids. I’d put Valdespin in center, Nieuwenhuis in right and Duda in left. Valdespin is the fastest of the three. Nieuwenhuis, an amateur pitcher, has the best OF arm. Valdespin has played 14 games in the outfield as a professional and they have all been in center field. He’s never seen a ball slice to the corner at game speed. Nieuwenhuis played a little right field in Buffalo in 2011 and in Brooklyn in 2008 and just has seen more balls of all kinds in the outfield. I would understand if Terry Collins and the Mets wanted to keep Duda in right and put Nieuwenhuis in left to honor the work Duda has put in to improve in right-field. There would even be some statistical justification for this: left-fielders and right-fielders see roughly the same number of balls in play. The kids should play.
Whether it’s, left-to-right: Duda, Valdespin, Niuewenhuis (preferred) or Nieuwenhuis, Valdespin, Duda or even Valdespin, Nieuwenhuis, Duda, matters less than that they’re all in the lineup.
Against lefties, Hairston should start. Whether he starts for Duda or Valdespin can be a case-by-case question. When Hairston starts, Nieuwenhuis plays center, as he’s been doing.
Also, against lefties – Lutz should start at first base. This accomplishes the twin goals of getting him in the lineup and getting Ike Davis, who might or might not have Valley Fever, some regular rest.
When Andres Torres Returns…
That’s a lot of variables. Lets pick that up in a week.
Use the contact form on the site or shoot me an email. We’ll try to run at least one mailbag per week.
Dear Mr. Hyde,
when do you think Zach Lutz comes to the majors. He seems to be a hitter, but limited as a fielder. Besides , the 2 positions that he fields are taken with Key Mets. Is there a path to the Majors for him with the Mets. Also , are you surprised by Greg Peavy’s dominance? Does this make you change what you deem his potential is?
Bte, I am very happy with all the home-grown players in the current Met line-up. I hope the Wilpons realize that seeing all the former farm players on the field makes the fan experience better.
Three things here: home-grown players/fan experience, Lutz and Peavey. And bonus points for addressing me as Mr. Hyde – something about that is funny to me.
1. The thing fans like most is winning.
I think there is a small bonus when homegrown guys help produce those wins. However, the reality is that the only way to build a sustainable winner is through player development. This applies to the dynastic late 90s-early 2000s Yankees, the Phillies of the last half-decade (Utley, Howard, Rollins, Hamels, pitchers acquired in trade for prospects (Halladay)), the recent Rays teams and their ridiculous home-grown starters (Price, Shields, Hellickson) and on and on.
To read more of this story, click here
We’re two weeks into the season, so it’s a decent time to check back in with each affiliate to see what’s going on. The Bisons are 5-7, in fourth place in the International League North, five games behind the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI) at 10-2.
1. Kirk Nieuwenhuis is Gone
Yeah, Mets fans know this. Andres Torres pulled his calf on Opening Day, Kirk Nieuwenhuis played one game for the Bisons in 2012, and now the 24-year old is doing his part to prove that he’s a capable big leaguer by hitting .292/.370/.417 in his first nine big league games and playing solid defense in center. Why this item? Just a simple reminder that the fate of any triple-A team, whether its the Bisons, the Pawtucket Red Sox, or the Sacramento River Cats, is linked closely to the performance and injuries of the team’s MLB affiliate.
2. Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia Have Been Wild
I had this pair ranked as the Mets’ top two prospects overall coming into the season.
Harvey: 13 IP, 20 H, 12 R, 8 BB, 9 K, 4 WP
Familia: 13.2 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 12 BB, 15 K, 1 WP.
I’ve caught some of Harvey’s starts through MiLB.tv, but have missed most of Familia’s. It’s not a stuff issue, it’s just primarily about location and secondarily pitch sequencing. In my Bisons’ season preview I wrote, “Harvey and Familia could well each go through growing pains early.” It might not have been bold, but it looks accurate.
For what it’s worth, International League hitters have a .320 BABIP against Familia thus far and a .424 BABIP against Matt Harvey. Again, high BABIPs in the minors, or even just high batting averages, are sometimes just an indicator of good strong contact rather than the chance-based explanations one might prefer dealing with big leaguers.
3. Hey Dillon Gee, Don’t Get Hurt
No one should have expected Harvey or Familia to be ready to contribute to the Mets in the first half of 2012. But what happens when a major league pitcher does get hurt and the Mets need to add someone? No one has looked really good. LHP Garrett Olson has been the best of the group with a 10/7 K/BB ratio in 10 innings, but of the five runs he’s allowed, three have been unearned. Jeremy Hefner has yielded 15 hits in 11 innings. Chris Schwinden has walked as many batters (8) as he’s struck out (8) in nine innings.
4. Jordany Valdespin: Versatility is Good
The Bisons have started Jordany Valdespin in center field 10 times, at second base twice and at shortstop once. He’s still learning centerfield. Even if he’s not an everyday shortstop, that defensive profile – with the ability to fill in at all three non-catcher up the middle positions – will go a long way towards helping him keep an MLB bench job. He has not hit a whole lot (.255/.305/.327) but 1. it’s early and 2. he’s drawn four walks in 12 games which for him is a sign of progress. He’s still fast, and still has good bat speed.
5. Zach Lutz is Healthy and Hitting
Zach Lutz has played nine games at third and three at first and is bopping .341/.449/.561 with three doubles, two homers, eight walks and 13 strikeouts in his 12 games. He’ll be 26 in June, so this is more or less his peak. The Mets are pretty set at first and third base, so will Lutz ever get a chance with the Mets?
6. Did Josh Satin miss his chance?
Satin was in the big league clubhouse last Saturday, ready to be activated if the Mets needed to put David Wright onto the disabled list. Returned to Buffalo, Satin is off to a slow start: .242/.289/.394 with 12 strikeouts in 10 games. It’s just two weeks, but he’s 27. He’s played 1B exclusively for the Bisons, and he just does not have the power to profile for the position in the big leagues. The next time the Mets need a body, will he still be at the top of the list ahead of Lutz, Valdespin or even Adam Loewen?
As of this writing, David Wright’s broken pinkie is still swollen, and it appears “likely” that he will head to the disabled list. While he is on the disabled list, the current plan is to move Daniel Murphy from second to third base and play Justin Turner and Ronny Cedeno at third, and call up a utility infielder, probably Josh Satin to man the bench. This is a mistake. If indeed, the Mets do plan to put Wright on the disabled list Saturday, they should call up Zach Lutz. Lutz is younger than Satin (by a year and a half) and a more powerful hitter.
Lutz been injured regularly, but when he’s played, he’s hit. Thus far in Buffalo in 2012, he’s on an eight-game hitting streak as part of a .323/.382/.581 start in nine games. He’s no Adrian Beltre at third, but he’s played at the hot corner his whole professional life.
I touched on this possibility issue earlier this week and concluded that Lutz was a better option to man third than Josh Satin or Vinny Rottino. At the time, I was operating under the premise that if the Mets were going to DL Wright, they would not want to move Murphy off of second, consistent with Terry Collins’ early spring proclamations that Murphy was his second baseman and the team was not interested in moving him for a temporary absence. Two weeks on the DL counts as temporary. If that was the plan in March, it should the be plan on April 14. A week of baseball is fun to watch, but analytically, nearly useless.
As Wright’s injury made it appear that he would miss significant time, Collins’ public stance shifted, and he indicated that he would be willing to Murphy over to third, his natural position. Ted Berg argued Friday simply and correctly that “Daniel Murphy should play second.” I agree. Ted approached it from the premise that Collins was rational to want to move Murphy to third, his best position, and that doing so, and putting either Turner or Cedeno, who appear more comfortable at second, could lead to more runs/better results in 2012, but that 2012 does not matter as much for a team that appeared headed for last place as recently as Opening Day. Instead, the focus should be on 2013 or 2014 and figuring out how the pieces fit together, and whether Murphy, and his bat, can be an asset for the Mets at second.
I want to take this argument a step further. Regardless of whether the Mets’ primary goal is winning in 2012, or diagnosing which players are part of a playoff team in 2013/2014, Zach Lutz is a better option than Josh Satin if David Wright goes to the DL.
Lets start with the 2012 wins/runs matter most case. In this case, with Wright on the DL, the Mets are looking at filling two positions, second and third with any two of the following players: Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Ronny Cedeno, Zach Lutz, Josh Satin, or Jordany Valdespin. Murphy is going to play.
The Mets’ current plan has Murphy at third, Turner/Cedeno at second and the call-up off the bench. In this case, the AAA guy would be the right-handed bench bet. Lutz, who is a year and a half younger is the better bat. Leave aside all position questions for the moment. Which stick do you want coming up late in a game? The following table compares the AAA performance of Lutz and Satin.
Both are relatively high strikeout and high walk guys. However, Lutz has shown a game power and an ability to drive the ball at the highest level in the minors that Satin has not. More of Lutz’s plate appearances have turned into extra-base hits and many of his extra-base hits have gone over the wall. Satin’s only advantage over Lutz is that he can play second. However, if he joined the Mets, Satin would be third on the depth chart at second behind Turner and Cedeno. He would be third in line at third. His only role would be to hit. Thus far in 2012, Sating has played first base exclusively for AAA Buffalo. You want versatility? Fine. Satin has played one position – first, in competitive games in 2012. His glove is not an asset. If the Mets are going to call up a guy to be a bench bat, they should call up the better hitter – Lutz.
And how about consistent logic?
Terry Collins argued on Friday that it made sense to bat Justin Turner third in the batting order to keep everyone else in their normal spots where they are comfortable. Why would that same argument not apply in the field, except more-so? In that case, Murphy stays at second where the Mets want to figure out if he can become an everyday player, and Cedeno and Turner stay in their bench/defense roles.
And More 2012 Wins
And Lutz is a Better Hitter than Cedeno AND Turner
Plug Lutz’s career AAA numbers into the wonderful Minor League Equivalency Calculator and it spits back an MLB line of: .249/.318/.417. That doesn’t look too sexy, does it?
Ronny Cedeno is a career .246/.287/.353 hitter in over 2300 MLB plate appearances. Justin Turner is a career .249/.325/.339 hitter in his 535 MLB plate appearances.
Lutz is a better hitter than both, and yet, the plan seems to be that one of the two of Turner and Cedeno who will be playing everyday at second while Murphy shifts across to third, while Satin, an inferior hitter to Lutz, rides the bench in the big leagues. If the Mets were to call up Lutz, and play him, Turner and Cedeno would still be hanging around as defensive replacements if the team had a lead late in games.
The Future Matters Too
The Mets need to be in the business of maximizing the value of their talent on hand. Murphy is healthy, is a big leaguer hitter, and is most valuable if he can learn to play second. He won’t get better playing second, if he’s playing third.
Wright is under contract for 2012 and 2013 with a Mets-only option on 2013 that would make it difficult, if not impossible to trade him this year. If Murphy’s going to be part of the Mets lineup in 2012 and 2013, second base is his best, if not only, best option.
Lutz is younger than Satin
Zach Lutz – born June 3, 1986
Josh Satin – born December 23, 1984
If the goal is winning games in say 2013 or 2014, Lutz, who is younger than Satin and more powerful, has a better chance to be a part of the puzzle.
The only way it makes sense to move Murphy to third while Wright is on the disabled list is to begin the process of determining whether Murphy is Wright’s replacement at the hot corner. Is this the part of the story that no one dares discuss?
There will be thousands of words written about this subject Saturday and Sunday. But if Wright’s broken pinkie forces him to the DL, it’s time to see whether Zach Lutz can hit big league pitching and play third in the show. The argument here is not that Lutz is a star. The argument is simply that he’s a better hitter, and a better fit for a Mets’ roster missing David Wright, than Josh Satin.
David Wright has a “small fracture in the middle joint of his right pinky.” It sounds neither serious nor fun. Wright is heading to see a hand specialist today, Wednesday, and Terry Collins seems to hope that he will be back by Friday.
And if that doesn’t happen? The people want to know about contingencies.
If you had to call someone up to play 3B for the Mets tomorrow who would it be, Zach Lutz from Buffalo or Jefry Marte from Binghamton? Marte is higher on your list and off to a good start, but a level below with shaky defense.
Jonathan C writes:
Personally, I would really like a look at Lutz in the bigs, the man can hit. He would have (or should have) been here, had it not been for the freakish injuries he has suffered.
The first issue is determining the length of Wright’s absence. If he’ll be back in a few days, the Mets can just play Justin Turner or Ronny Cedeno at third until Wright returns. If it’s looking more like 10 days or so, the team would do well to place Wright on the DL, let him heal fully and make a move.
There are lots of options. Terry Collins has repeatedly said that he does not want to move Murphy from second temporarily. Lets assume, for the purposes of this discussion that even if Wright is placed on the disabled list, he will be back around the minimum (15 days). Even if he’s out a full three weeks, that falls into the temporary category. Under this scenario, Murphy stays at second, and the Mets need to fill third. Here too they have choices: they could call someone up and install him at third, or two call someone up and have him help the combo of Cedeno and Turner as third basemen and depth pawns.
It’s not going to be Jefry Marte. He’s 20 years old, with 19 plate appearances above advanced-a and he’s not on the Mets 40-man roster. He’s always had some pop, and he made some nice strides in cutting down on his strikeouts and increasing his walks at the end of 2011 which seem to have carried over into 2012. However, he needs the development time in the minors.
Here are the choices: Josh Satin, Zach Lutz and Vinny Rottino.
The arguments for Lutz:
- He’s on the Mets 40-man roster
- Dude can hit. He’s hit a combined .296/.378/.500 in 72 games in parts of three seasons in AAA.
- He’s a better third baseman than Josh Satin. Satin, a natural second baseman, began playing a lot of third base in 2011. Lutz has a better range factor at third (2.13) than Satin (1.97)
The arguments against Lutz:
- He gets hurt a lot (but he’s healthy now).
- He’s not a really good 3B. His career .942 fielding percentage in the minors at third is a touch better than Satin.
The arguments for Satin:
- He’s on the Mets 40-man roster
- He hit a combined .323/.411/.495 between AA and AAA in 2011 as a 26-year old
- He’s versatile. He can play 1B, 2B, or 3B
- He’s got strong eyebrows
The arguments against Satin:
- He’s not a third baseman. Drafted as a 2B out of Cal, he’s played 68 games at third as a professional almost all in 2011. I don’t think he has the arm for third base. He committed about one error every 10 games at third, a rate that would put him right near the top (err bottom) among MLB 3B. He has a .931 career minor league fielding percentage at third.
- He has a complicated swing with lots of moving parts that might fall out of whack coming off the bench without regular game exposure.
The arguments for Rottino:
- He’s hit .293/.360/.433 in almost 2,000 plate appearances over seven seasons in AAA since 2005.
- He can play first, the outfield corners and is a former catcher if the Mets want a little help or the flexibility to pinch-hit for a catcher more regularly.
The argument (s) against Rottino:
- The Mets would have to make space for him on the 40-man roster and potentially expose one of the other two guys to waivers.
- He’s not really a 3B. He has not played third in a minor league game since 2009 and looked a little shaky there in spring training.
And the Winner Is
Lutz. Lutz will be 26 in June while Satin’s already 27. For what it’s worth, I had Satin ranked #24 among Mets prospects coming into this year and Lutz #28. Lutz is closer to a third baseman than Satin, who’s played first exclusively for the Bisons this year.
If the Mets need to place David Wright on the disabled list, I’d sure like to see if Zach Lutz can hit in the big leagues.
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 220 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd 2007 (Alvernia)
Born: 6/3/86 (Reading, PA)
2011 Rank: 19
Why Ranked Here: I’m just going to reuse here what I wrote last year: when he’s healthy, Lutz can really hit. But he’s often not healthy. For the second straight year, he played in under 75 games.
Ranking Lutz in front of Tovar feels funny. There’s a really good chance Tovar will have a longer MLB career with more plate appearances. However, there’s also a much higher chance that Lutz provides some value now, say in 2012 than Tovar. That counts for something here. The two are kinda the reverse player. The questions around Lutz have to do with everything when he’s not in the batters’ box. Where is he? What’s hurting now? Can he play third base? For Tovar, the questions about his game start and end in the batter’s box. He’s never been injured and he’s a brilliant defender. I certainly don’t think you’d be wrong to flip the two.
Also, Lutz is on the 40-man roster and will play in the majors this year.
2011: He was limited to 35 games at third, 14 at first and 61 overall for Buffalo thanks to a hamstring issue, a broken finger, and then a concussion.
Dr. Pangloss Says: David Freese
Debbie Downer Says: Nick Evans called from parts unknown (somewhere near Bradenton, FL on his way to Pirates’ spring training: he wanted to point out how tough it is to make a roster as an unproved, defensively limited right-handed bench bat.
Projected 2012 Start: Buffalo
MLB Arrival: 2012
|2011 – AAA
|2011 – AAA
We’ve gone through catcher, first base, second base and shortstop, so lets slide over to third base to finish up the infielders in the Mets minor league system.
At the big league level, even coming off the worst season of his professional career, the Mets are set with David Wright. I am willing to bet a full paycheck (of mine, not Wright’s) that Wright, who from 2006-2008, was one of the very best players in baseball, will be the Mets third baseman to begin 2012. I believe that he will Met for Opening Day 2013, too, but after that, it’s unclear whether he and the Mets will be right for each other. Moving Citi Field’s walls in will help him, although by how much is difficult to say. For the Mets to be contenders in 2012, Wright would need to turn back the clock four years, shucking aside the concussion related problems, and yes, more recently, his broken back.
Secure in the knowledge that thirdbase is occupied, at least for the next year, and likely two, lets take a look at guys who played third base in the minors.
If you had Michael Fisher as the Bisons’ leader in games played at the hot corner in 2011 with 51, entering the season in your office pool, raise your hand and take a bow. The 26-year old Fisher also played 13 games at second for the Bisons while hitting .259/.327/.351 in 66 games. The switch-hitter began the season with Binghamton, where he saw action at first, second and third while hitting .290/.329/.425. The Mets signed the 26-year old switch-hitter in May of 2010 to provide organizational depth, and in part, help the Gnats with a first-half pennant race.
Oh, you want to hear about Zach Lutz in this space? Sure, he hit .295/.380/.500 while turning 25 last June. He was limited to 35 games at third, 14 at first and 61 overall for Buffalo thanks to a hamstring issue, a broken finger, and then a concussion. He’s a high-walk, high strikeout guy with walks in 11% of his plate appearances and strikeouts in 28%. What happens when he sees big league stuff? Lutz can hit, but he’s played more than 72 games in a season just once in his five-year professional career. Injury prone just doesn’t even seem like the right term. Anyway, finding employment as a bat-first right-handed corner guy off the bench is tough, just ask Nick Evans.
Eric Campbell, led the Binghamton Mets with 56 games played at third in 2011. After a very disappointing first half (.210/.334/.272), Campbell rebounded with a .311/.363/.466 line after the All-Star Break. Bottom line – he’ll be 25 in 2011, coming off a down year in which he hit .247/.345/.343 in 126 games.
I guess this is the moment to address Josh Satin. Here are his games played by position and level:
AA AAA MLB
2B 37 7 0
3B 37 22 1
1B 10 10 8
Tot 94 38 15
The 26-year old hit a combined .323/.411/.495 over 132 games between double-A Binghamton and triple-A Buffalo. That’s a great season from a production standpoint. He works counts, as evidenced by his 13% walk rate and his 22% strikeout rate combined over AA and AAA. He started playing third, although he doesn’t have the arm for the position. He doesn’t really have the power for first, where he played in the big leagues. Maybe, if he learns to play left field, that, plus his ability to play all three infield positions, will earn him more big league time as the 25th guy. Essentially, I think he’s a replacement-level guy.
Satin’s peak is now. He’ll be 27 in 2012.