Prospect Links: Dom Smith’s D, Puello on His Approach, Law on Matz

Link- At MiLB.com, Jake Steiner writes about the top defensive right fielders and first basemen in the minors, or the position where glove is least valued and the players have to hit to be really valuable.

“Elite” is how a rival front office person described Smith’s defense this offseason, adding he had the “potential [to win] multiple Gold Gloves.”

Mets Infield Coordinator Kevin Morgan:

“He’s really just one of those guys who naturally gets it with the glove. He has great hands, soft hands, and actually has a strong, accurate throwing arm. He has a lot to work with.”

Here’s the thing about first base defense: it’s not as important as hitting. Being a good defender at first will help his value, but it cannot carry him.

Just for fun, I looked at all first basemen in baseball who played at least 1,000 innings at first over the last three seasons, 2011-2013. The best defender: Adrian Gonzalez and his 12.2 UZR/150. That’s basically saying Gonzalez is worth a full win or more with his defense at first. The other guys above 10 UZR: Mark Teixera and Anthony Rizzo. By fWAR over the same time span, Gonzalez was the third most valuable 1B in baseball (behind sort of 1B Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto, both hitting savants). Teixeira, hurt by his lousy 2013, was the 14th most valuable 1B in baseball. Rizzo was 22nd.

Again, first baseman have to hit, and hit a lot. Smith’s defense will be a nice bonus but for him to be an impact player in the big leagues, he’s going to have to be a superlative hitter.

- Relatedly, at Grantland, Michael Baumann points out that 1B are very underrepresented on prospect lists. Of course, many future MLB 1B play other positions as amateurs and in the minors.

- David Conde at MetsMerized spoke to RF Cesar Puello, who told him, about his approach:  “If you focus on putting the bat right on the ball, the home runs will follow, but I have to first think about my on-base percentage, my average and then everything else will follow with good results..”

- Some good pithy fun from Keith Law in his latest ESPN chat.
Danny Abriano (Brooklyn, NY): Thoughts on Steven Matz? He’ll open in High-A and likely make it to Binghamton before the season ends. Rotation piece for you?
Klaw (1:07 PM): Not with that delivery.

Gary (NY): If Bartolo Colon and EYJ both appear in the same game with Juan Lagaras on the bench, should Terry Collins be fired right then and there?
Klaw (2:23 PM): Yes. The EYJ fascination befuddles me. He has demonstrated so many times that he’s not a viable regular that I can’t grasp benching a 70 defender for him.

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