Quarterly Review

Believe it or not, the minor league season is more than a quarter done. That gives me an excuse to take a look at some of the stories from the first quarter of the season and their implications moving forward.  Some of the notes below stand on their own, and some I’ll explore in more depth in the coming days.

Here’s what stands out to me:

- A more careful approach to roster construction, which includes signing veterans at the higher levels has led to more competitive minor league teams all the way around the system and prospects playing at more developmentally appropriate levels.  Check the records for each affiliate:
Buffalo: 23-17
Binghamton: 19-19
St. Lucie: 19-20
Savannah: 24-16
Winning is more fun than losing and creates a better atmosphere for development.  It’s not a substitute for development, but a potential catalyst.

- Top prospects are certainly being moved along more slowly now that Terry Collins is in charge.

- Now that we’re a quarter of the way into the season, it’s no longer “early.”  The numbers are starting to mean something.  Improvements, trends and context are still crucial, but guys are starting to accumulate a body of work.

- The Ike Davis Era has begun and he has graduated from our coverage here.  This is good.

- Jenrry Mejia appears headed back to the minors to resume his development as a starter.   His work the rest of the summer promises to be one of the biggest stories around here.

- Wilmer Flores is leading the SAL in batting average at .352 and is top four in OBP (.407) and SLG (.562).  He’s hit fastballs.  He’s hit breaking balls.  He almost never gives away AB, and has shown top shelf bat speed and hand-eye coordination which leads to excellent consistent barrel contact.  I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by his defense.  His hands are very quick and he’s got a cannon for an arm.  Can he stay at short?  He’s working hard on it, but either way, the bat looks very, very real.

- Can Dillon Gee (4.21 ERA, 47 IP, 45 H, 14 BB, 40 K in Buffalo) and Tobi Stoner (4.83 ERA, 41 IP, 49 H, 15 BB, 25 K in Buffalo) take the final step from solid AAA starters to MLB contributors?

- Standing Out

  • -Juan Lagares – finally healthy after dealing with back problems, wrist problems and aggressive assignments, he’s hitting for power going .302/.320/.517 at age 21, the average in the SAL.  He’s shown a real ability to drive the ball into right-center.  He can play all three OF positions.  He’ll play at the upper levels and has resurrected his prospect status from the dead to something.  Kudos.
  • -Ruben Tejada – Got to hang with the MLB team in early April and after a very slow start with Buffalo is up to .290/.333/.355 at age 20 thanks in part to a .317/.354/.350 May.  He’s some kind of big league part.
  • -Kirk Nieuwenhuis – hitting .302/.339/.475 with 12 doubles, 4 HR and 10/11 SB at age 21 in AA, he’s looking like a big leaguer.  Big, physical and fast, there’s a lot to like here.   He’s hit both lefties and righties.  However, he’ll still need to refine his approach moving forward as his walk rate sits at just 4.6%.
  • -The Slugging Corners – though LF Lucas Duda (.303/.439/.555) is now on the shelf at AA, both he and 1B Nick Evans (.289/.376/.529) are each on pace for 20-HR seasons.  Don’t ask me what the plan is for Evans.  I don’t know anything beyond, “let him play everyday and hit everyday.”  LF/3B/1B Eric Campbell has been blasting away in the FSL (.346/.419/.536) and at 23 should spend the entire second half in AA.
  • -I could put Jimmy Fuller, Brandon Moore and Mark Cohoon here, but really, I expected them to be really good in the SAL in the Jeff Kaplan/Chris Schwinden mold from last year.
  • -Mike Hessman has been a monster (.319/.409/.715, 15 2B, 14 HR) in the middle of the Buffalo batting order.  He leads the IL in HR, RBI (47), SLG, XBH (29) and total bases (103).
  • -RHP Manny Alvarez has been untouchable for St. Lucie.  In 25.2 IP, he’s given up just two unearned runs on 12 hits with a K/BB ratio of six (24 K/4 BB).  At 24, he’s on the old side for the FSL, but you can’t argue with the results, and he should get his shot at AA shortly.

- Waiting on More

  • -Fernando Martinez is hurt again.  He’s played in just 22 of the Bisons’ 40 games and is hitting .244/.300/.378.
  • -Brad Holt – Mike and I touched on this yesterday. 5 GS, 10.95 ERA, 12.1 IP, 22 H, 16 R, 7 BB, 12 K.  Injured initially and ineffective since.
  • -The St. Lucie Rotation – The only rotation where I had each starter ranked among the Mets’ Top 41 prospects entering the season.  If I had to redo the rankings today, every single one of Jeurys Familia, Robert Carson, Kyle Allen, Scott Moviel and Eric Beaulac, would be down.  This will get its own post probably Friday or Monday.
  • -Josh Thole: .194/.267/.312 in 25 games for Buffalo.  Did sitting on the big league bench for a week help?  Nope.  Still, this is obviously unimpressive.
  • -Helping Put Wilmer’s Development in perspective: fellow 18-year old Jefry Marte missed the first two weeks with a strained hamstring, and since his return has hit .212/.325/.317 while committing a team-high 13 errors for Savannah.  On the plus side, he’s improved his approach tremendously and is tied with Flores for second on the team in walks.   Just 19, Cesar Puello (.217/.294/.254) has done his damage on the bases where he’s 14/16 stealing bases.  He’ll get his own post, but he’s rawer than I thought.  He’s been hard at work making mechanical adjustments to his swing.  Will they show up in games?
  • -Just above Marte in the system, 3B Richard Lucas is hitting .194/.263/.315 for St. Lucie.

Use the comment section for other big themes I might have missed.

Update: obviously, 3B Zach Lutz belongs in the “Slugging Corners” section above.  Lutz, who will be 24 in June, is hitting .270/.407/.516 with six doubles and is second in the EL with eight homers, putting him on a 30 jack pace. He’s walked 24 times and fanned 34 times.   Here’s the question: is he the guy who hit .307/.447/.600 in April or the guy who’s hit .213/.339/.383 in May?  Clearly, the answer is somewhere in between the two poles, but where?