After the fun and promise of far-away toolsy outfielders like Champ Stuart and Ivan Wilson and young faraway arms, this list takes a turn towards the mundane and focuses on a series of guys who are likely to be Major Leaguers relievers.
#20 – LHP Jack Leathersich
Height/Weight: 5’11”/205 lbs
Acquired: 5th rd (UMass Lowell)
Born: 7/14/90 (Beverly, MA)
2013 Rank: 31 (2012 34 )| Stats
Why Ranked Here: The high-strikeout minor league reliever has a chance to be a solid Major League reliever.
Leathersich’s stuff is ok, but it plays up thanks to a deceptive delivery. Batters just do not seam to see the ball out of his hand from a short-arm delivery. He’s picked up many of his strikeouts up in the last few years, and upper level hitters might not chase or punish those kind of elevated offerings.
Leathersich added a tick to his fastball last year, sitting 91-93, touching 95 up from 90-92, 93 in Savannah the year before. He used to work with a curveball in the upper 70s, but had a tendency to pull it outside the strike zone against lefties.
2013: The move to AAA was a very tough one for Leathersich, who walked a batter an inning, and gave up more than a run an inning.
Leathersich had fairly dramatic reverse left/right splits in which he was better against righties than lefties in 2013.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A left-handed reliever who is effective against both lefties and righties.
Debbie Downer Says: A AAA reliever
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: 2014
#21 – RHP Luis Mateo
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs
Acquired: NDFA ‘11
Born: 3/22/90 (Nizao, DR)
2013 Rank: 14 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Mateo has a big league body, big league stuff, and had Tommy John surgery in June 2013, which continues a pattern of elbow trouble. If everything clicks, there’s an elite level reliever in here for a few years. This is not Mateo’s first brush with elbow trouble – his 2008 contract with the Giants was voided due to bone spurs in the joint.
First, the good. Mateo throws hard, sitting 92-95 mph, and can touch 96 mph. His slider, which he throws frequently, could be a plus big league pitch. I saw a raw changeup in the New York Penn League.
Now, the bad. Mateo will miss at least the first half of the 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He threw only 11.2 innings in 2013. Even if he returns one year post-surgery, he will throw a very limited number of innings. It’s hard to see him surpassing 75 innings, and even that feels extremely optimistic. That means at 25 entering 2015 – his next full, healthy (ideally season), he will have thrown under 100 innings in the previous two years. He cannot get to a big league rotation from that spot. Rather, his future is in the bullpen.
2013: Mateo had a weird year, throwing only 11.2 innings over only four appearances, three in advanced-A and one in AA. His first start in A+, April 9 was sharp: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. Promoted to AA Binghamton, his first AA start was rough: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. He was diagnosed with an elbow strain immediately thereafter. He attempted to return in late May in advanced-A, and following a on inning, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 2 K outing on June 2nd, shut it down for Tommy John surgery June two weeks later.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Very good MLB reliever
Debbie Downer Says: Aggressive mechanics prevent him from staying healthy long enough to cash in on his strong arm.
Projected 2014 Start: Disabled List
MLB Arrival: 2015
Most of the attention following Monday’s Spring Training game was focused on Zack Wheeler’s 2014 Spring debut and Curtis Granderson’s two homeruns. That’s sensible, if the Mets are going to be good in 2014, they’ll need big seasons from both of those two. How about the prospects that are unlikely to make the 2014 Opening Day roster, but could help the team at some point in the future?
- Brandon Nimmo looks terrific. He added 10 pounds of muscle for the second straight season, but said that in doing so, he has maintained his speed.
Monday, he ripped an RBI single to right on a hanging breaking ball.
In 2013, he was often content to work to the right-center and left-center field gaps. As a developmental matter, he needed to learn to use the whole field. Now, it’s satisfying to see him let his hands go, and show off good bat speed as he ripped the ball hard into right field. It’s encouraging.
Also of note: when Nimmo entered the game with Matt den Dekker and Cesar Puello, Nimmo played center and den Dekker shifted to left.
- RF Cesar Puello was 1-2 with a double. Again, he ripped a double down the leftfield line on a fastball. He can really hit fastballs.
- C Juan Centeno singled softly into left field. The left-handed hitter uses the opposite field well.
- Danny Muno played shortstop for the final two innings. He should have been charged with his second error of the spring on a grounder that snuck under his glove on a backhand attempt. It was the kind of play where a guy with quicker feet would have gotten closer to the ball and made for an easier pickup. He’s not really a shortstop; he played 17 games there in 2013 in AA and 18 games there in advanced-A in 2012. At this point, I do not think Muno can play short at a level required to be a big league backup. Given the Mets’ weakness at the position, this will be one of the things to watch in the next few weeks of Spring Training games.
- Erik Goeddel: 1.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR. I saw two pitches only, his fastball and curveball. The SNY gun had him 89-90 with his fastball and 72-74 on the curve, but I think the gun was light so add like 2 mph to each reading. Jonathan Villar took a belt-high fastball deep out to left, an opposite field shot.
- Jeff Walters: 1.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K. Again the SNY gun had him 88-90 with a slider around 80. I think it was two mph slow for him too, making him more like 90-92, with an 82 mph slider. Walters was solid, coming into a bases-loaded situation after Vic Black walked them full and induced a groundout to end the threat with his slider.
- Chris McShane at Amazin’ Avenue talked to Mets’ VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Paul DePodesta about everything in the Mets farm. They discuss the Mets’ near-MLB ready pitching, Rafael Montero, Gabriel Ynoa, Luis Cessa, Marcos Molina, Domingo Tapia, Amed Rosario, Cesar Puello, Brandon Nimmo and the system moving forward.
His comment on Molina:
”super-good athlete, also repeats his delivery well. At the time, he had a nice little sinker, showed some feel for the baseball. But it wasn’t big power or anything like that. Since then, he’s continued to grow. Last year in the Gulf Coast League he was up to 96 miles per hour, typically pitching at 92, 94, has a feel for three pitches….We had some scouts who saw him during the course of the summer—amateur scouts—who told us that if he had been a high school player he would have been a first-round pick in 2013.
DePodesta also offered a theory on Tapia’s 2013 struggles: his armslot dropped and he struggled with his release point.
- Baseball Prospectus ranked all Major League franchises by their under-25 talent. Jason Parks and friends ranked the Mets 12th. The rankings suggest that the National League East is going to be very competitive in the coming years: as there are three teams in the top five: Nationals (#2), Braves (#3), Marlins (#5), and then the Phillies (#29) bringing up the rear.
- MLB.com has released an updated Mets Top Prospect list. The top five (and ten and 20) is now very consistent with my Composite Top Prospect List from BP/ESPN/BA.
- Jonathan Singleton of the Astros discussed his addiction to weed. Remind me why baseball suspends players for this?
- Cubs prospect Javier Baez, one of the top hitting prospects in baseball absolutely crushed this pitch oppo. It is vicious.
In his first spring training start, RHP Noah Syndergaard was more than up for the moment: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K. Five of the seven guys he faced were real Major League hitters: Jason Heyward, BJ Upton, Justin Upton, Evan Gattis, Ryan Doumit and Tommy La Stella and Mark Hamilton.
- His fastball was 96-98. And he threw, by one count, five changeups, which were around 89 miles per hour.
- He began his outing by fanning Jason Heyward on a 98 mph fastball. Later, Syndergaard struck out Evan Gattis on a 96 mile an hour heater.
- Ryan Doumit, who had the only hit off Syndergaard, had the line of the day, “I didn’t know anything about the kid coming into today, but I sure won’t forget his name now.” (Mike Vorkunov, The Star-Ledger)
- Syndergaard is calling himself Thor, which we heartily approve of. He said he heard the Mets fans and “I heard a lot of ‘Thors’ too,” (Vorkunov).
- Syndergaard still thinks he has work to do. “I think I have a few things to work on. Being more consistent with my pitches, being able to hold runners on better, being a little quicker to home plate. …. One of the pitches I still need to work on is my changeup. My curveball can always be sharper and my fastball command as well.” (Matt Ehalt, NorthJersey.com) So, that’s a little bit of everything.
- Terry Collins praised Syndergaard as passing “a big test” in his two innings against the Braves. “There are certainly some things we’ve got to get him to do better. But, right now, he’s on track to be special.” (Adam Rubin, ESPNNY)
- Andy Martino at the NY Daily News tells a great story of Syndergaard telling Mets’ Pitching Coordinator Ron Romanick “I don’t f—ing cheat” in a drill. Which is great. Other nuggets about Syndergaard in the story, one Mets person said he was better than Wheeler and an evaluator on another team said, “He can get big league hitters out right now.”
- Tim Rohan in the NY Times again revisits the story of high school-aged Syndergaard, and his late growth spurt and velocity increase. And there’s this gem of a quote from Syndergaard, “What else are you striving for if you’re not striving to be the best, for perfection?… The Hall of Fame is the ultimate goal of mine. Get a few World Series in there, a couple of Cy Youngs maybe, and call it a career.”
This is a fun time of Spring Training, when top prospects get to throw in big league games before teams tighten up their rosters to more closely reflect their regular season 25-man personnel.
Rafael Montero: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Montero was 91-93 in his two innings of work. He used his changeup at 87-88, and one at 84, early in counts at 1-0, 0-1 and 1-1 to set up his fastball.
He threw a solid changeup at 88 on a 0-1 count to Danny Espinosa and then tied him up with a 92 mph fastball to induce a weak groundout. He missed with the changeup on 0-1 to Ryan Zimmerman and the came back with a slider at 81 that Zimmerman fouled off before ringing him up with a 91 fastball on the black at the knees. On 1-0, he got a swing and a miss from Adam Laroche at a changeup at, froze him with a second changeup to get to 1-2 and then finished him with a fastball looking at about 91. Ian Desmond fouled off a first-pitch changeup at 88 mph.
Montero threw a first pitch slider to Wilson Ramos. He did not throw many sliders but it looked like it had better depth than ht one he was using early in 2013.
Jacob deGrom: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Fastball, fastball and fastball. deGrom sat at 92-93 mph and thew one changeup down at 88 mph. He blew away Matt Moore on a fastball up at 93. After fastballs early in the count, he induced a swing and a miss from Scott Hairston on a slider down at 85mph.
deGrom admitted that facing a big league lineup gave him butterflies, “I was nervous. I had some butterflies, but I feel like everybody does when they get out there to pitch.” (DiComo, MLB.com)
Travis d’Arnaud on deGrom: “He threw his fastball really well…He fell behind to one guy 3-0 and came right back at him. He’s so tall and long, his release point is so much closer it’s hard for hitters to pick up.” (Kristie Ackert, NY Daily News)
Erik Goeddel: 1 IP, 2 H , 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K
Adam Kolarek: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Jeff Walters: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
From Andy Martino in the Daily News, “The Mets like righty relief prospect Jeff Walters, but were a bit confused and disappointed when he did not throw one of his best pitches, the slider, in his Grapefruit League debut Friday.”
Cory Mazzoni: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Mazzoni, who walked the first two guys he faced, was throwing 92-94. He missed up with what I think was his first split/changeup and then later in his inning found the bottom half of the zone with the pitch. He also threw a few sliders at 85-87.
Vic Black: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
94-96 mph? Yes, please.
He worked heavily off his fastball, but missed down with a good-looking curve at 83 mph. Juan Diaz punched a curve at 79 back up the middle for an RBI single on the first pitch of his atbat.
Danny Muno bobbled a ball at second base that extended the inning and helped lead to a run.
Steven Matz: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Matz fell behind Yadier Molina, his first batter 3-0, before recovering to strike him out with high heat. Matz was throwing 95-97 mph, or 94-95 depending on the gun, threw a few nice curveballs and a changeup. At the end of the 2013 season, his changeup was ahead of his curve among his non-fastball offerings. His goals this year include tightening up his fastball location and curveball development. The curve will be important, not so much for getting outs in the Florida State League, where he should start 2014, but for levels above and beyond.
Pitching Coach Dan Warthen on Matz: ”I love the kid’s arm…He’s getting the ball down better each and every time. He threw a couple of great curveballs and a nice changeup today. It’s a very positive outing for Steven.” (Marc Carig, Newsday)
Adam Rubin at ESPNNY quotes a scout in attendance, “He has a good arm to work with. He needs to command the strike zone with the fastball down better. I do like him once he does command better.”
Logan Verrett: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
Verrett was up in the zone, and gave up multiple pieces of solid contact.
Jack Leathersich: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
- The Brooklyn Cyclones announced their 2014 coaching staff with three new members from 2013. Tom Gamboa, entering his 41st year in baseball and first with the Mets, will be the manager. Gamoa, who has been on the big league staffs with the Cubs and Royals is perhaps most famous for being the victim of a stupid attack in in Chicago, which caused permanent hearing loss. Pitching Coach Tom Signore comes to the Mets from the Blue Jays. The 52-year-old was a teammate of Mets Special Assistant to the General Manager J.P. Ricciardi’s in Helena in 1985. Benny DiStefano returns to Brooklyn as a Hitting Coach after working in Savannah in 2011 and St. Lucie for the last two years. Benny is not just a solid hitting coach, he’s also hilarious.
- At Amazin’ Avenue, Chris McShane talked to Mets Scouting Director Tommy Tannous about the team’s last two first round draft picks: Dom Smith and Gavin Cecchini. Tannous thinks both players are stronger than they were last year. McShane also posted a gallery of pictures of Mets guys throwing in spring training. Of note to me is that Miller Diaz, #29, who came to camp out of shape last year, looks really, really good.
- At the Crawfish Boxes, CRPerry argues that analysts should stop relying on K/BB ratio because the importance of strikeouts and walks are different and it does not justify putting walks in the denominator. He comes up with his own metric. I’ll again point out that K% and BB% are more useful than K/9 and BB/9. The real question is now likely a pitcher or batter is likely to walk or strike out in a given plate appearance rather than per 27 outs since better pitchers will see fewer batters to record 27 outs than worse ones.
- The Toledo Mud Hens will wear Ghostbuster uniforms. Just amazin.
Noah Syndergaard became the star of the Mets’ intra-squad game Thursday for his two innings of work. His line: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.
You can watch his work here.
His fastball was 95-97 and touched 98 (Carig) and he worked his his curve at 81, touching 84.
Thor on Thor
“I felt pretty good out there. I kind of shocked myself a little bit. I wasn’t expecting that my first time out there.” (Marc Carig, Newsday)
Wise David Wright urged caution after just two meaningless innings against sub-Major League level competition. In not so breaking news, David Wright really gets it.
“It was impressive. …. He looked good, judging by some of the swings, he looked very good, but so did [Jeurys] Familia and [Steven] Matz. I’d rather see Syndergaard against other teams when hitters get a little more ready, and I’ll be able to make a better judgement, but what I’ve seen so far looks like the real deal.’’ (Kevin Kernan, NY Post)
Brandon Nimmo on Thor
“You just notice he’s different than the other guys”… “I was just telling him,” Nimmo said, motioning toward Verrett, “that just him being up on the mound, he feels like he’s only 48 feet away. He’s just huge up there. And he even had more giddy-up today than he did on the back field, which is understandable. You get a little more adrenaline on the big field.” (Adam Rubin, ESPNNY)
Terry Collins on Thor
“How can you not like what you saw? For heavens sake… Everything you heard, you saw,You heard he had a great arm, you’ve got it. You heard he has a great presence and pounds the strike zone, he did that. There’s going to be some more discussion as we get into this camp because he’s going to light some eyes up. (Mike Vorkunov, The Star Ledger)
Enjoy Syndergaard during Spring Training, but he’s not going to break camp with the big Mets. There are two reasons: development and roster control/money.
From a baseball and development perspective, he’s very close. On the other hand, he has made just 11 starts, and thrown just 54 innings above advanced-A. He could use a little time in AAA against more advanced hitters. There, he can work on setting up guys with a plan. Beyond sequencing, the major thing he could improve is commanding and trusting his changeup. It was his primary offspeed pitch in 2012, and took a back seat to his curveball in 2013. There’s nothing wrong with the pitch, and it has a chance to be pretty good, it will just get better when he throws it more.
Money and control. Players become free agents after six full years. If the Mets bring Syndergaard north for Opening Day, and he spends the year on the big league roster, his six years would start in 2014 and cover 2014-2019, making him a free agent between the 2019 and 2020 seasons. If the Mets wait even a few weeks before putting Syndergaard on the active MLB roster this year, they will have 2014 and then six more years covering 2015-2020. How good would Syndergaard have to be in three or four starts in 2014 to justify punting control of his entire 2020 season? Of course, he’ll be arbitration eligible in the last three (or four) depending on his promotion date. If the Mets keeps Syndergaard in the minors past the deadline for Super Two arbitration status, roughly six weeks or so, but a date that moves around every year depending on other big league players, they will only go to arbitration against him three times instead of four. Since arbitration salaries build on each other, such a move could save $10 million for maybe five starts. Delaying free agency at the cost of three to four starts could be worth $20 million or more on the open market. Given those numbers, and the Mets chances of contention in 2014, there is no reason, regardless of how he looks in Spring Training to bring Syndergaard north rather than sending him west to Las Vegas.
Rob Brender sat down with Brandon Nimmo, and Jon Mayo of MLB.com to discuss Brandon Nimmo. He learned that Nimmo is a great interview.
Nimmo has really filled out nicely after putting on about 10 pounds of muscle each of the last two off-seasons.
He hit .273/.397/.359 as a 20-year-old in the South Atlantic League last year, but I think the power will come for him. Remember, Historic Grayson Stadium is the pitcher-friendliest ballpark in full season ball in America with just 7.0 runs per game, and absolutely brutal on left-handed power in particular. Nimmo will like St. Lucie. Games in St. Lucie saw 2.57 more runs per game than those in Savannah. That’s the third-largest jump in baseball between any team’s A-ball and Advanced-A affiliate and the biggest outside of the California League.
- At Mets.com, Anthony DiComo has a great piece on Noah Syndergaard, tracking his rise as a prospect when he added velocity in his senior year of high school, his feats of strength in the weight room and of course, the Thor nickname. I’m pretty sure that the Thor nickname started around here early last season here with NateW.
Thor, on Thor:
“It’s not a bad nickname at all. …Being the god of thunder is a pretty cool thing.”
On his his intense lifting regimen:
“I don’t like the whole aspect of days off… I’m always wanting to do something. I’m always wanting to get better in the weight room. It makes the game easier.”
There are extended quotes from his high school coach and Paul dePodesta in the outtakes here.
Composite Top 100
Jon Mayo combined the Top 100 prospect rankings at MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, Keith Law and Fangraphs, to create a composite Top 100 list.
Here are the six Mets on his 135-deep player list: Syndergaard (14), Travis d’Arnaud (33), Rafael Montero (79), Dom Smith (81), Wilmer Flores (111), and Brandon Nimmo (123).
Fangraphs had a great piece from Tony Glengino, an area scout, about the Phillies/Ben Wetzler mess, about the process of developing a relationship with a high school player.
Jason Parks and the Baseball Prospectus prospect crew ranked the Mets’ farm system the 8th-best in baseball this year, up from #10 last year.
Two of their comments:
State of the System: Solid blend of pitching and positional talent, ranging from high-risk/high-reward types at the lower levels to safer high-floor prospects nearing the major-league level.
Farm System Trajectory for 2015: Steady. The Mets will likely graduate four of the top five prospects in their system, but the helium from low-level talents like Rosario, Molina, and Meisner could keep the system holding strong in the top 10 in the game, despite the graduations.