- 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.
Mets catching prospect Kevin Plawecki, my #11 prospect in the system, turns 23 today.
In his age 22 season, Plawecki hit .314/.390/.494 in 65 games for Savannah in the SAL, and then .294/.391/.392 in 60 games for St. Lucie in the Florida State League. In the move to the higher level, his extra-base hit rate dropped from 11% to 6.7% while his isolated slugging percentage slipped from .180 to .098. His walk and strikeout rates held steady. Plawecki fanned just 53 times in 125 games last year, a rate of 10%.
In the New York Times, Tim Rohan examined the Mets’ young catching depth with Travis d’Arnaud. Plawecki explained that he doesn’t like to strikeout: “Strikeouts are going to happen, but I try to limit them as much as I can…Usually, if I have a good eye at the plate and a good approach, it’s not that difficult.”
Marc Carig in the NYPost also did a Plawecki feature. Here’s General Manager Sandy Alderson on Plawecki: ”He’s somebody we feel very highly about….He does have our approach and we like what he does behind the plate.”
This is a fun pair of toolsy outfielders from the 2013 draft. They’re both raw, athletic types. Either might never hit in advanced-A, or either could figure it out and become an above average MLB contributor. Combined with Brandon Nimmo, these three give the Mets the most upside in centerfield that I can recall in the last 10 years.
#22 CF Champ Stuart
Height/Weight: 6’0”/175 lbs
Acquired: 6th rd ’13 (Brevard College)
Born: 10/11/93 (Freeport, Bahamas)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He has the tools to really play centerfield. If he can hit at all, he’s a big leaguer. If he hits more, he’s a good big leaguer.
It’s pretty rare these days that when I see a Mets prospect for the first time, I think his tools are better than what I’ve read/been told. Such was the case with Stuart.
He has centerfield tools. He can really, really run. His routes in center can be curious, bordering on circuitious at times, but with time and repetition, he will learn to take a more direct path. His arm is easily plus. However, he is still learning how to use it. For example, he was willing to let the thing fly rather than keep his throws down (to allow for a potential cutoff) or hit his cutoff man. This too will come in time.
Stuart is no twig; there’s strength in his arms and chest.
Will he hit enough? At the plate, his hand path seems fine. However, he gets jumpy. Both in the batting practice and game clips from last summer, he made contact with a pitch way out in front of the plate. In BP, for example in the video below, he’s working a very common drill among Mets prospects, placing a ball or two middle away on the front edge of home plate to give himself a target and remind himself that he wants to make contact in that rough area. The game swing shows him lunging after a fastball. At yet in BP, when it all comes together, as it does in the last swing in the video below, he generates plenty of power with his fast hands to put the ball over the wall.
2013: Food for thought or small sample-size silliness? In 71 PA against younger pitchers in 2013, Stuart hit .328/.451/.466. In 117 PA against older pitchers, he hit .185/.350/.283.
Oh, and he was 11-for-13 stealing bases overall.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Above average Major League Centerfielder
Debbie Downer Says: .220 hitter in advanced-A
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah
MLB Arrival: 2017/2018
#23 OF Ivan Wilson
Height/Weight: 6’3”/220 lbs
Acquired: 3rd rd ’13 (Ruston HS)
Born: 5/26/95 (Simsboro, LA)
2013 Rank: | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He’s big, he’s strong, he runs well, plays centerfield for now, has power potential and he struck out 35% of his Gulf Coast League plate appearances in his professional debut in 2013.
At the time the Mets drafted him, MLB.com said, his “combination of tools and athleticism is among the best of this year’s prep outfielders. … with good strength and plus speed. Wilson, …has good power and can hit home runs to any part of the ballpark.
ESPN’s Keith Law called Wilson, “very crude but has big upside, the kind of high-reward pick the Mets should be making more frequently.”
It looks like from the few swings I saw on this video that he has a deep load, and then a small drop in his hands before he attacks the ball. He clearly likes to hit with his arms extended in an almost arm bar. He will need to drive his hands through the ball more in professional baseball rather than relying on nearly straight arms to create leverage otherwise pitchers will bust him in with fastballs.
If everything clicks here, there’s a very good MLB player.
2013: Wilson made progress over his first professional season in the GCL which began on June 21. He struggled through a .195/.275/.244 July in which he struck out 39 times (!) in 92 plate appearances over 22 games – that’s 43% of the time. In August, he cut that down to 22 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances, a 30% whiff rate as part of a .226/.351/.371 line. He had three extra-base hits in July and a .049 isolated slugging percentage; he had five in August including his first professional homerun and a .141 iso. He drew eight walks in July and upped that to 12 in August in 17 fewer plate appearances.
Wilson played all of his 46 games in 2013 in centerfield. There’s some chance as he ages, he fills out more and loses a step and will be forced to a corner, but that’s some ways away.
In 2013, he was 13-for-15 stealing bases.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A high-strikeout centerfielder with power? That’s an all-star.
Debbie Downer Says: Or he fills out and cannot stay in center. Or his power does not come. Or he strikes out all the time.
Projected 2014 Start: Kingsport, barring a monster Extended Spring Training in which he earns his way to Brooklyn
MLB Arrival: 2018 (or never)
Note: Wilson is one of only two players in my Top 25 who I have never seen play baseball live.
- Steven Matz had knee surgery in October, reports Adam Rubin at ESPNNY.
- Rob and Friends at Amazin’ Avenue finished their Top 25 Mets Prospect list. It comes with lots of good research.
- The Minor Leaguers are working hard in STEP camp, and at least one is tired.
Did I miss anything?
Both of these pitchers have upsides as guys who can pitch at the back of a big league rotation and both showed me that they could get outs in a-ball. They are both above 6’3″ and are solidly built (again, adding to the case that they can be rotation pieces down the road). On the other hand, they have incomplete arsenals at the moment, and their raw statistics could overstate their prospect profile.
#24 RHP Luis Cessa
Born: April 25, 1992 (Cordoba, Veracruz, MX)
2013 Rank: 42 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Cessa has size, a major league fastball, some feel for his off-speed pitches, and success at a-ball to recommend him as a future big league starter if everything works out. Scouts were willing to say he could be a #4 starter.
The converted infielder stands 6’3”. He’s not lean and he’s not bulky – he’s in the middle with a little bit of meat on his bones. His delivery works, and he repeats well. He rarely walked a batter.
Cessa added a tick of fastball velocity from 2012 to 2013 and by June was sitting 92-93, in outings in which his velocity spanned 91-95 mph. His slider is slurvy at times, but it has a chance to be average. His changeup comes out of his hand well, and it too has a chance to be an average pitch.
Cessa had a tendency to work up in the zone with his fastball. In the expansive Historic Grayson Stadium this was no problem; a-ball hitters were not strong enough to make him pay regularly. However, on the road, this became a bigger issue. This ranking hedges against the idea that he could be a Grayson Stadium pitching mirage.
2013: Cessa pitched the bulk of the 2013 season as a 21-year-old in the SAL where he was durable and effective. In fact, he pitched so much, and so well early in the year, that the Mets had to put him on the phantom disabled list in the second half to keep his work load down to pitch in the SAL playoffs.
I was a little disappointed by his work in the playoffs too. When Gabriel Ynoa and Steven Matz were electric, Cessa’s stuff seemed flatter by comparison. Perhaps he was tired at the end of the long year, but the contrast sticks out to me.
Dr. Pangloss Says: #4 starter
Debbie Downer Says: Tops out at AA with no MLB out pitch
Projected 2014 Start: Advanced-A St. Lucie
MLB Arrival: 2016
#25 – RHP Rob Gsellman
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 lbs
Acquired: 13th rd ’11 (Westchester HS)
2013 Rank: NR | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Gsellman is a big guy with the potential to have an average MLB fastball, which plays up because he throws strikes, and land at the back of a big league rotation. He’s ahead of the kids behind him because he’s picked up some outs in a-ball.
I saw Gsellman three times in May and early June with the Gnats. He threw lots of strikes with his fastball that lived 89-92. His solid, 6’4” frame supports that kind of velocity easily.
At his best, he threw his fastball for a strike 67% of the time. He had good feel for his changeup, which he threw a lot – up to 25 times in a start and over 70% of the time for strikes. He threw fewer than five curves in each of the starts I saw. So the best I can say is that it exists.
I want to see more fastball velocity from Gsellman or a better hook to move him into the top-20 next year.
2013: In his age 19/20 summer, Gsellman actually moved down the system from advanced-A through A-ball and then to the New York Penn League. He made two spot starts in St. Lucie for Hansel Robles, then moved down to Savannah, when the Gnats’ roster thinned out. He then dominated the New York-Penn League.
Gsellman was also responsible for one of the more poignant moments of the 2013 season. He threw for Savannah on Breast Cancer Awareness night in May. His own mother Trisha passed away from the disease in 2009.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Backend big league starter.
Debbie Downer Says: A righty without a breaking ball is an iffy profile, but he’s young and all.
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah, maybe on Opening Night.
MLB Arrival: 2017
Lets look at a cohesive group of young arms in my Top 41, young pitchers with better than average fastballs who have not played full-season ball yet. I tend to be pretty conservative with young pitchers especially those below full-season ball since there are just so many misses.
This trio begins the fun part of the rankings.
#26 – RHP Chris Flexen
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215 lbs
Acquired: 14th rd (Memorial HS)
2013 Rank: 32 | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Big league pitcher’s body, big league fastball. There’s a mid-rotation MLB starter in here if everything works out (or even #2), and the downside as a bullpen flamethrower if they don’t. Flexen is a loose-limbed 6’3”. He’s lean and moves easily. His fastball was sitting 93-94 at the end of 2013 and touching 96. The Mets had him scrap a lousy cutter to trim his arsenal to focus on his fastball, curve and changeup. The Mets went overslot to sign Flexen to a $374,400 contract in the 14th round in 2012 when his raw talent dictated a much higher selection.
Flexen moves ahead of the 2013 draftees behind him because he’s a year ahead developmentally and has, for the moment, the best fastball of the group.
2013: Flexen repeated the Appalachian League in 2013 through no fault of his own; the Mets did not field a Gulf Coast League team in 2012 so the Appy was the lowest level for high school draftees like Flexen. In his second time around the League, Flexen improved dramatically: cutting his walk rate from 9.3% to 4.4, while bumping up his strikeout rate from 17% to 23%.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Good MLB starter
Debbie Downer Says: Young pitchers and…
Projected 2014 Start: Savannah
MLB Arrival: 2017
#27 – RHP Casey Meisner
Height/Weight: 6’7”/190 lbs
Acquired: 3rd rd ’13 (Cypress Woods HS; Cypress, TX)
Born: 5/22/95 (Cypress, TX)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: He’s 6’7”! He was throwing 93-94 mph in the Gulf Coast League in 2013 in a borderline dominant August. The Mets seemed pleased with the progress his curve and changeup made. According to Jason Parks at Baseball Prospectus, he repeats his delivery reasonably well for a huge guy.
2013: In four starts in August, Meisner went five or six innings in each on his way to a 2.86 ERA and a K/BB of 3.4 (17K/5 BB) in 22 innings.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Frontline starter
Debbie Downer Says: Or nothing. Injuries, etc.
Projected 2014 Start: Brooklyn Cyclones
MLB Arrival: September 2017
#28 – RHP Andrew Church
Height/Weight: 6’2”/190 lbs
Acquired: 2nd Rd ’13 (Basic HS; Henderson NV)
Born: 10/7/94 (Henderson, NV)
2013 Rank: NA | Stats
Why Ranked Here: The Mets’ 2013 second-rounder has a chance to be a mid-rotation starter. At the time he was drafted, Mets VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development said of Church: “We feel like he has a chance to be a solid middle of the rotation starter. It’s three pitches, all for strikes. We think he has a chance for a plus breaking ball. Could also log a lot of innings. Athletic. Works fast. Fits into our overall organizational pitching philosophy.”
Baseball America had him throwing 90-93, touching 95 at the time of the draft with a curveball that “flashed” plus.
Church had a messy high school career that spanned three high schools and prevented him from pitching a full high school season until 2013, but the Mets saw him multiple times in the summer of 2012 and early in 2013.
2013: Church made three relief appearances from July 3rd through the 13th before making his first of six starts on July 20. Statistically, there’s little significant in his work in the GCL.
Dr. Pangloss Says: As the Mets’ brass said, maybe there’s a #3 starter in here.
Debbie Downer Says: He’s a long way away.
Projected 2014 Start: Brooklyn Cyclones
MLB Arrival: 2018