Lefty pitching prospect Steven Matz is hot

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Thursday, in his third start of the 2014 season, and his second straight against the Fort Myers Miracle, LHP Steven Matz took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The only two hits he allowed all night were a bunt single and a bloop into right. His pitching line: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K and 11 groundball outs.

In three starts this year in St. Lucie, Matz has allowed five runs, four earned in 18 innings for a 2.00 ERA. He’s struck out 17 and walked only three, on his way to a 24 percent strikeout rate and a 4 percent walk rate. For reference, in 2013, in the South Atlantic League, he struck out 29 percent of opposing hitters and walked 9 percent.

Matz Delivery ST (Getty)Last week, Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen compared Matz to Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw. There’s obviously some hyperbole in comparing a pitcher in advanced Single-A with the best lefthander in baseball over the last five years, and one of the game’s top five pitchers overall, but his excitement is understandable.

Add St. Lucie Pitching Coach Phil Regan to the chorus of Matz fans. Earlier this week, in a phone conversation, Regan said of Matz,

He’s got a perfect pitcher’s body. He’s throwing the ball 95-97 miles an hour with a pretty good breaking ball and changeup. That’s pretty good.

After his first start against the Miracle, on April 11, in which he limited Fort Myers to three runs, two earned in six innings, with six strikeouts, Regan reported that his old friend and former big leaguer Doug Mientkiewicz, who is now managing Fort Myers told him after the game:

“Boy, tall left-hander, throws like that, and he gets everything over. We weren’t going to do much with him.”

Matz relies on his fastball and changeup, as his primary off-speed pitch. He told MiLB.com that those were working for him Thursday.

“My command was there. I was able to throw all my pitches for strikes. My fastball and changeup and the contrast between the two was really working for me, and I was able to keep them down and in the zone.”

Over the course of the last few years, he has gone back and forth over whether his breaking ball was a slider or a curveball. Now, after tightening up the break, it’s a true curveball and he can throw it for strikes. Regan again,

“It’s got a sharper break. Now it’s a definite curveball. The nice thing is that he’s getting it over.”

Matz has been generating enough groundballs to damage the Florida State League’s infield grass. Thursday, at one point, he induced seven straight groundouts. His ground out to air out ratio for his three starts is now 28-5.  Overall, his 60 percent  groundball percentage is fourth among qualified pitchers in the FSL.

In the larger picture, Matz, my pre-season No. 7 prospect, who will be 23 years old after Memorial Day is off to a great start. He’s well on his way to pitching for the Double-A Binghamton Mets for most of the summer. His promotion might even come in the month of May if the B-Mets have a rotation opening. Generally, top pitching prospects under Sandy Alderson and Paul DePodesta have made at least eight starts in advanced Single-A before moving on.

PitcherGames in A+Age
Jacob deGrom624.8
Luis Mateo323.1
Steven Matz322.9
Rafael Montero822.5
Matt Harvey1422.3
Zack Wheeler2221.9
Noah Syndergaard1220.8

Age is the player’s age at the time he was promoted from St. Lucie to Binghamton, except for Matz where age is his age today.

The timing on Mateo and deGrom’s promotions were each driven by injuries in Double-A. Mateo was only supposed to be making a spot start in Double-A last spring, filling in for Cory Mazzoni, but Mateo strained his elbow during the start and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery. After Mateo was hurt, the Mets promoted deGrom from advanced Single-A to take Mazzoni/Mateo’s spot in the rotation.

So, if there’s a need in Double-A, Matz could move soon. Otherwise after another 5-7 starts, he might just force the Mets to make room for him in Double-A anyway. From Double-A, Matz, who is already on the Mets 40-man roster, could be looking at a big league debut as soon as 2015.

Mets Minors Recap: Thursday, April 17

las vegas april 17

Las Vegas clubbed 14 hits, four for extra base hits. Wilmer Flores doubled and tripled, with three RBI. Allan Dykstra hit a two-run home run. Eric Campbell added three more hits, scoring twice. >> Read more at MiLB.com

bingo april 17

Matt Bowman struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings for the B-Mets. He walked just one. Darrell Cecilliani had three hits, including a double, and is now hitting .400 on the year. Cory Vaughn continues to struggle, hitting just .083 this year. >> Read more at MiLB.com

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Minor League Q&A: Triple-A RHP Vic Black talks switching mechanics

The Mets had been counting on RHP Vic Black to be key piece of their bullpen in 2014. However, after walking 10 batters and allowing 13 hits in 9.1 innings during Spring Training, he was demoted and started his season with Triple-A Las Vegas.

The Mets acquired Black and 2B  prospect Dilson Herrera from the Pirates for C John Buck, OF Marlon Byrd and cash last summer.

Black spent a week on the disabled list with a pinched nerve in his neck during early April. He has struck out three, walked two and allowed one hit and no runs during three innings since returning from injury.

Robert Brender: What did the organization say was the reason they felt you needed to be sent to Triple-A?

Vic Black: The biggest deal was just the walks. Everything was kind of off and so I wasn’t getting the results that they wanted or I wanted. It’s not who I am as a pitcher and I didn’t show that very well, but also my Spring Trainings don’t tend to be my strong suit and that’s shown the last two years. I’ve had a deep conversation with an old coach and coordinator from the Pirates and told him the spring is my time to get all the bad out and get ready for all the good. I feel like that’s what I do, but at the same time I’m not on a contract and so there are options and there are guys that threw better and they (the Mets) were trying to get off to a hot start. They took who they though would give them the best shot.

Robert Brender: You mentioned the walks. I read there was an issue with your timing, especially as it pertains to the glove tap in your delivery?

Vic Black: When I get in too much of a hurry everything gets out of whack. At the same time, my last two outings I actually switched back to my old mechanics which is what I had the first four outings after being traded and then we changed it up a little bit. I think at the time it worked because it was late in the season and being tired but I’m a really high energy guy and I think the mechanics I had at the time were the best fit for me. That’s my natural pitching style. It’s nothing that I would recommend teaching anyone because I don’t think it works for anyone [else]. Actually, no one. But, I went back to it and my first outing after a neck injury here, not throwing in eight days and I was 98 to 101 (MPH) with two K’s. I walked the leadoff guy but I hadn’t thrown in eight days. That’s how I pitch. I get ahead, they get afraid and then they cheat and then you can throw breaking balls. I got a lot of confidence in that. I feel like it’s all there. I don’t necessarily know what they’re going to say about me switching my mechanics up but I don’t think you can really argue with results. It’s what got me there and hopefully will get me back.


Robert Brender: When you say “switching mechanics,” did you get rid of the glove tap completely?

Vic Black: No, I’ve always had that. I actually widened out my stance and dropped my hands. From AA to AAA those are the mechanics I’ve had. It still has the glove tap but it’s in a more relaxed, athletic position rather than standing straight up, which I think works for guys but usually they’re not super high energy. I just think I have more energy built up than most pitchers. I consider myself just an athlete not a pitcher so this is what works best, to be in an athletic position and wider stance and get the sign and go instead of up tall and trying to execute mechanics.

Robert Brender: When you heard about Bobby Parnell’s injury, what was your reaction?

Vic Black: My first reaction was just being pissed for Bobby. That’s something that no one wishes to see happen to anybody. He just got over the neck deal. I know it was frustrating for him. I’ve looked at it as I’m supposed to be here right now and this is what happened and I’ll get my opportunity when I get my opportunity. They’re (the bullpen) doing great. We don’t wish for anyone to go down or anyone to do bad because they don’t have to for you to get an opportunity. At the same time, I’m just getting innings under my belt here because I’m back to normal. I’m not worried about that. I’ll get people out. Just waiting for that opportunity again.

Robert Brender: Has the organization given you an idea what they want to see before you get called back up to the big leagues or when it will happen?

Vic Black: No, I haven’t gotten a time table from anyone. I haven’t gotten a plan. I’m probably going to sit down with Wally (Backman) in the next day or so and try to get a grasp of what the view is and what we’re trying to do because the big picture is to get back there but, at the same time, if you’re looking at that every day your trip here is just going to be miserable.

Brender’s entire interview with Black is available in the audio player below:

Law: Syndergaard now has a plus curveball

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Keith Law was on Buster Olney’s Baseball Tonight podcast last week. He discussed Noah Syndergaard.

Here’s what he had to say (emphasis mine):

usatsi_7781177_110579513_lowresFor Syndergaard, the issue has always been the breaking ball…. When he was drafted, he was a big kid who threw hard – really easy delivery –  but no breaking ball. I actually talked to Syndergaard before the Future’s Game last year, and said to him, “What are you throwing now, both curveball and a slider?” He said, “yeah, I’ve got both. It doesn’t really matter to me which one turns out to be the weapon, but I’m going to need a plus breaking ball if I’m going to be a really good Major League pitcher.” It seems like every couple of months, the breaking ball, the curve ball specifically, just improves a little bit. I think the curveball is going to be the weapon for him. It was above average at the end of last year, and flashing a little better than that in Spring Training. I think that’s going to be the separator.

For the Mets, the challenge is how long you leave him in a tough environment… where the ball doesn’t necessarily break as much as it will when you’re playing at sea level. Will he be better able to refine the pitch there? Or, are you better off just bringing him to the big leagues once you get to an appropriate date for the service time to say, “Well, he might have to continue his development at the big league level, but the command and velocity are good enough to continue refining the curveball once he’s in the majors”?

This is a more positive assessment of Syndergaard’s curveball than Law offered in January in his Top 100 prospect writeups.

“His changeup is comfortably plus already, but his curveball, a grade-40ish pitch in high school and early in his pro career, is already solid average, and plays up because he gets on top of the ball and releases so close to the plate; hitters swing and miss at it like it’s a sharper, harder pitch.”

Again, in January, Law called it average. In April, he called it plus.

Ranking the rankings

Which prospect list is the best prospect list?

Chris St. John takes a look at each list and how well they’ve ranked the top 100 prospects in the game >> Read more at Beyond the Box Score

Mets Minors Recap: Tuesday, April 15

las vegas april 15

Jacob deGrom tossed seven scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. He walked just one and struck out four. He needed 88 pitches to get through seven innings, 59 for strikes. Wilmer Flores, playing shortstop, hit his first home runs of the season, a solo shot, and drove in three runs. Eric Campbell, playing second, went 2-5 with two runs scored. Chris Young doubled and scored once. The 51s had six extra base hits. >> Read more at MiLB.com

Binghamton’s game was postponed due to rain.

st lucie april 15

St. Lucie connected for 17 hits, including home runs from Dilson Herrera and T.J. Rivera. Brandon Nimmo went 2-4 with a walk, RBI and run scored. Aderlin Rodriguez doubled twice, driving in two and scoring once. >> Read more at MiLB.com

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Mostly Mets, pres. by Caesars AC: The “Young” and the old

Toby Hyde and Robert Brender discuss the spate of injuries in the Mets’ outfield and the ills of the starting rotation thus far through the season. The guys also attempt to answer a difficult question: Why is Bobby Abreu in the Mets organization?”

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Outfield injuries
Why is Bobby Abreu in the Mets organization?
Curtis Granderson’s start
Rob chats with RHP Dillon Gee (31:35)
One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (41:40)

Hot/Not on the Mets Farm

Toby Hyde, Mets Minor League Blog:

Let’s skip the Tax Day jokes and get right to it: who’s had a hot first week and a half, and who’s had a lousy first week and a half in the Mets Farm System and prospect world. Remember, it’s early. Also, it’s really early.

Bobby Abreu:
.478/.556/.609. He’s  11-for-23 with 4 2B, 4 BB and 3 K in his nine games. The opt out in his contract is April 30, so either the 40-year old will be a Met soon, or he will move on.
Eric Campbell: .295/.392/.545, 5 2B, 2 HR, 7 BB, 5 K – 11 gms. Despite a few games at second earlier this year, he’s not a second baseman. He played shortstop Monday night. He’s not a shortstop. Instead, he’s more of a LF/1B/3B type three corner reserve. This is not totally aberrant, he ran a .910 OPS in 120 games for Vegas last year.
28-year-old Zach Lutz has a .500 OBP in his first 12 games and 26-year-old.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis has a .500 slugging percentage thanks to two doubles and two homers. And is now headed to the big leagues to take Juan Lagares’ roster spot.

Cesar Puello has a .317 slugging percentage (thanks to two extra-base hits – both doubles) in his first 12 games.
In eight games, 22-year-old INF Wilmer Flores is hitting .184/.225/.184 with two walks against six strikeouts. Early on in past years, Flores has attacked early count fastballs and put them in play for hits. Later, as he got more comfortable, he would see more pitches. Not so much here, yet.

LV_MonteroRafael Montero has a 18/3 K/BB ratio in his first three starts and took a no-hitter into the sixth his last time out.
Jacob deGrom allowed one earned run in his first two starts.
Josh Edgin: 4.1 innings of relief and 5 runs allowed with a 3/4 K/BB ratio
Erik Goeddel: 3.1 innings of relief and 6 runs allowed with a 2/8 (!) K/BB ratio

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Mets Minors Recap: Monday, April 14

las vegas april 14

Noah Syndergaard struck out five in five innings of work. He allowed two earned runs and walked two. He surrendered a solo home run in the first inning and a sac-fly in the fourth. The rehabbing Chris Young went 2-3 with two walks and two runs scored. >> Read more at MiLB.com

bingo april 14

Jack Leathersich surrendered three hits and one earned run in his inning of work. Matt Clark went 3-4, with a double, home run, two RBI and a run scored. Brian Burgamy hit a two-run home run. >> Read more at MiLB.com

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