Catching up with Catchers & Mejia

A few things I wanted to get caught up on from last week.  By the way, Opening Day should be a national holiday.  Pitchers and catchers and the first full workout of the year clearly should not, but they start the good feelings leading up to Opening Day.

Philosophy Change?

At Baseball America, Adam Rubin talked to new Mets Field coordinator Terry Collins.  Collins talked about the success of Dodgers’ youngsters during his years with LA:

“We put together a program with what you have to be able to do to execute to have some success in the major leagues, such as for a pitcher, ‘Hey, you have to command your fastball.’….If you can’t command your fastball, you’re not going to be able to have success at the major league level.

Notice that although Collins uses pitchers’ commanding the fastball as an example here, he began by referring to a program for all players.  Now, back to the pitchers’ example:

“Before any of those kids moved from level to level, one of the things we asked is for there to be some criteria accomplished before we move them. One was, obviously, to be able to command your fastball on the outside of the plate.”

I’m curious what the criteria looked like for position players.  I haven’t heard Mets people talk in recent years about specific benchmarks they were looking for from a player before he was promoted.  The existence of a structured set of expectations to be accomplished at each level seems to be a fairly significant break from the recent Mets practice of assigning a player to the highest level the team thought he could handle.  A shift towards Collins’ view that there are specific types of skills to be learned at each level could result in more clear instruction, and even more wins in Savannah, Port St. Lucie and Binghamton.

Mejia vs. Withrop

Our very own Mike Diaz made an appearance in Kevin Goldstein’s last chat at Baseball Prospectus.

mikediaz (MO): Who would you take Mejia or Withrow? And why?

Kevin Goldstein: Obviously this isn’t everything, but if I give you two guys with similar power righty plus-plus velo profiles, and one is 6-foot-3 and one is 5-11, who are you favoring

KG had Withrop ranked as the Dodgers #2 prospect and Mejia the Mets #1 prospect.    KG had nicer things to say about Withrop’s curveball than Mejia’s.

Mejia A+ 1.97 50.1 41 18 11 0 16 44 2.9 7.9 0.0 2.8 65.4 3.23
Withrow – A+ 4.69 86.1 80 50 45 3 45 105 4.7 11.0 0.3 2.3 39.5 5.23
Mejia AA 4.47 44.1 44 28 22 2 23 47 4.7 9.6 0.4 2.0 56.3 5.71
Withrow – AA 3.95 27.1 24 14 12 2 12 26 4.0 8.6 0.7 2.2 34.9 4.65

Numerically, both guys have excellent strikeout rates and walk rates that are a touch high. The major statistical difference is the pitchers’ groundball rate where Mejia blows away Withrop. It’s all well and good to prefer bigger pitchers in the abstract. Usually the reason to like bigger pitchers is because 1. they’re expected to be more durable than their smaller counterparts, and 2. they should be able to stay on top of the ball better and get more downward plane. Mejia at least, renders the second argument moot. His gb rate ranks alongside anyone’s.  With his ability to keep the ball down and generate sink, he just does not give up homers, and extra base hits are hard to come by.

Mejia to 8th Inning?

The New York Post’s Kevin Kernan tweets that Jerry Manuel has been so impressed with RHP Jenrry Mejia, that Mejia is now competing for the 8th inning role in the Mets bullpen.  My take from here?  Really?  I just don’t believe that Mejia is ready to contribute to an MLB bullpen on Opening Day.  Why would you believe Manuel at this point in spring training? Escobar hasn’t thrown yet….  The rest of the veterans are still easing back into game action.

Barajas’s Arrival Hurts Santos More than Thole

Rod Barajas will be a Met when (if) he passes a physical.  This is the same guy who hit .226/.258/.403 for the Jays last year on the heels of a.249/.294/.410 2008.  He’s not a good hitter.   Driveline Mechanics catcher’s defensive rankings last year had Barajas +4 runs, and he’s a few runs above average in Baseball Reference’s Total Zone, but Baseball Prospectus has him a few runs below average.  Is his defense strong enough to outweigh the extra outs he’ll make in place of Josh Thole?  I still think Thole will be catching games for the Mets this summer.  Signing Barajas just means that either Thole will have less opportunity to prove he belongs on the MLB squad during camp or he’ll just have to wait until June for his time.

Santos offers nothing that Barajas doesn’t; not at the plate, nor behind it.

Also, thanks to Mike Diaz for his coaching in the opening rounds of my scoresheet draft.  In a 10-team AL-only universe, keeper league where we can/must keep 13 players every year, picking #4 in odd-numbered rounds, I now have Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee and Gordon Beckham.  Suggestions always welcome.

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