The Farm Cannot Help Replace Bobby Parnell Yet

parnellThe bad news: Bobby Parnell is going to have Tommy John surgery, and is done for the 2014 season. The good news: none. The bad news: the Mets farm system cannot offer a Parnell replacement right now. Instead, the Mets bullpen is going to have to muddle along with the pieces they have for now. (At right is an old picture of Parnell from his AA days.)

The Mets of course, have already replaced Parnell on the active roster with Kyler Farnsworth, outrighting Ryan Reid to triple-A Las Vegas, removing him from the 40-man roster in the process.  That means for the short-term, it’s all about righthanders Jeurys Familia, Kyle Farnsworth, Gonzalez Germen, Carlos Torres and Jose Valverde and lefties Scott Rice and John Lannan, a man with no career platoon splits, miscast as a situational left-hander.  There is risk nearly everywhere in this group. Farnsworth and Valverde no longer throw as hard as they once did. Scott Rice appeared in 73 games in 2013, in his rookie year, more than 15 more than in any of his 14 (!) minor league seasons. Gonzalez Germen and his marvelous changeup are probably not going to strike out 3 out of every 8 opponents.

What can the farm offer now, and in a two months? Crucially, these are different questions.

Bobby Parnell was the Mets’ best reliever in 2013. Losing him will hurt.

 

Now
The AAA Las Vegas bullpen features: righties Giancarlo Alvarado, Vic Black, Joel Carreno, Ryan Reid, Miguel Socolovich, and Jeff Walters and lefties Josh Edgin and Dana Eveland.

Black and Edgin are the two guys to watch for here.

- Black’s spring training control problems have continued in Las Vegas as he walked two batters in his only appearance so far. Scouts who saw him in Spring Training were also concerned that he did not create enough contrast with his pitches. “Everything was hard, his fastball was hard, his breaking ball was hard” one NL evaluator told MMiLB. Over short outings thats ok, as long as he can locate, which he has struggled to do. The smart bet here is that Black and his 98 mile an hour fastball will be back in the big leagues as soon as he starts throwing more strikes.

- Josh Edgin’s velocity dipped in July of 2013 from its 2012 peak. As a guy with only so-so command, he will either need to find the velocity or improve his command. He’s still left-handed and throws hard enough, if he had a better idea where it was going.

- Jeff Walters, the reigning Binghamton saves record-holder has found AAA to be tougher going so far. He picked up the always fun blown save/win combo on Sunday when Zach Lutz doubled home the winning run. He gave up four runs on five hits, including a homer, in his first outing. After striking out 27% of opposing hitters in 2013 in AA, Walters has not fanned any of the first 13 to face him in 2014. Yes, it’s only two outings. But those two outings do not scream: Big League Ready!


. (Audio courtesy Doug Greenwald, Fresno Grizzlies)

- Erik Goedel gave up a couple of runs Saturday to Fresno, as he transitions back to the bullpen fulltime.

 

Later
Fan favorite, LHP Jack Leathersich was sent back to AA in 2014 to improve his command. So far, it’s more of the same with lots of strikeouts and lots of walks: 2.1 innings, 13 batters, seven strikeouts and three walks.

 

There’s something inherently silly about citing less than a week’s worth of stats for any player, or two outings for a reliever. And yet, none of the preceding four pitchers looked ready to help the Mets in Spring Training. None helped their case in the season’s first week.

 

Two Months?
Lets fast forward two months. Rafael Montero, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have all been healthy and effective in the AAA rotation. They have made 10-12 starts, and thrown ~60-80 innings. These are the guys who are supposed to help the rotation this year, and in the case of Thor and Montero, become cheap building blocks in future seasons.

But lets proceed. Lets say the rotation is intact. But the bullpen needs help. With 80 innings under their belt, the Mets could transfer one guy, say deGrom or Montero to the bullpen and still get him enough innings that he could transition back to a starting role in 2015 or even later in the year. (Scouts are still split on whether deGrom should be a starter or reliever long term.)

Jeff Sullivan at Fangraphs found that on average, teams need 32 starts from pitchers beyond their five most frequently used pitchers. Montero, deGrom and Syndergaard need to be ready to provide these innings. Fine, include Daisuke Matsuzaka for completeness here too.

The Mets cannot and should not move any of these three to the bullpen now, or before June. Moving them too early takes away valuable development time this year and cuts into their innings which will affect their ability to work without innings caps in future years.

 

Hang With Em
The hope? Edgin rediscovers his lost mph and tightens up his command. Vic Black throws more strikes. Goeddel turns back the clock to his UCLA days when his fastball and slider were plus pitches. Jeff Walters figures out more advanced hitters.

There are lots of potential paths to bullpen help, but all have twists and roots that could knock one off balance. There is no easy paved road to a bullpen savior.

Noah Syndergaard’s (Thor) AAA Debut with Video

Noah Syndergaard, the consensus top prospect in the Mets’ system made his triple-A debut Friday night.

He was solid: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K. Facing a maximum of 85 pitches, he threw 51 of his 76 pitches (67%) for strikes. His most impressive piece of pitching came in the fourth inning. After a walk, double and single scored a run, and put runners on second and third, Syndergaard buckled down. He struck out consecutive batters and then induced an inning-ending groundout.

Here are the highlights from GEICO SportsNite.

Rafael Montero – Strong on Opening Night and Closer than You Think

Rafael Montero easily turned in the top pitching performance by a Mets farmhand on Minor League Opening Night (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K).

Pitching Coach Tom Signore, filling in for Frank Viola was impressed:

“That’s the way Rafael does business. He was amazing. His walk-to-strikeout ratio is always good. He’s going to make you put it in play or he’s going to strike you out.”

Signore thought that the four hits Montero allowed were solid offerings:

“He really didn’t [make mistakes with those pitches]. I’m looking at the spray chart right now and those were pitches that were down and hit on the ground. We’ll take our chances with balls hit on the ground, especially here in the thin air.” (Josh Jackson, MiLB.com)

 

Old friend Doug Greenwald, longtime Fresno Grizzlies broadcaster added, “command of the fast ball.  Excellent control.  Sets up hitters well using his slider.  Gets ahead of hitters.  Very poised.  Made the pitches when it counted.  Didn’t seem to overthrow.”

 

It’s one start. But it was a very nice start to the 2014 season.

One thing to keep in mind about Montero; he made 16 starts in AAA in 2013, and with his 2014 debut, he’s up to 17 starts and 94.2 innings in AAA. He is now comfortably in the range of AAA experience that the previous two Mets starting pitching prospects  - Matt Harvey in 2012 and Zack Wheeler in 2013 – had when they were called to the big leagues. Compare the AAA tenure of the three hurlers.

GSIPTBFERAK%BB%TBF/IP
Matt Harvey201104733.6823.710.14.30
Zack Wheeler1368.672913.72259.34.24
Rafael Montero1792.673842.85226.54.14

At first, I was going to skip ERA because the three pitchers pitched in different run environments, but it’s still worthwhile enough, and Montero performs extremely well in the comparison. All of Harvey’s 20 starts were with Buffalo in the International League. Wheeler made 13 starts in Buffalo in 2012 and six with Las Vegas in 2013. Montero has done all of his work in the Pacific Coast League.

Montero has the best control of the group. He has been the best of the three hurlers at actually keeping runs off the board. He’s walked the fewest batters. And he’s worked the most efficiently, seeing the fewest batters per inning of the group.

Of course, Montero also trails Harvey and Wheeler in perhaps the most important rate category: strikeout rate. The other two have bigger fastballs and fan more batters. They have more pure stuff.

Montero is just about ready to be a Major League starter. While the Mets bullpen has been bad through the first three games of the 2014 season (a 10.61 ERA, second-worst in the Majors), there is absolutely no reason to move Montero to the pen. First of all, it’s three games. Rather, the nature of pitchers and pitcher injuries suggest that Mets will need another starter at some point in the not too distant future. At that point, Montero will have the AAA experience to warrant a big league look.

In baseball in 2014, with a team as budget-conscious as the Mets, it is impossible to discuss promoting a player from AAA to the big leagues without a nod to the finances. Players become free agents after six full seasons in the big leagues. If the Mets keep Montero in AAA for another week – past April 11, he cannot pick up a full year of service time in 2014 and the Mets would control his rights through 2020. If they call him up in May or June, they run the risk of his achieving Super Two arbitration status where he would have four years of arbitration eligibility instead of three. That could cost the team roughly zero – $15 million depending on Montero’s efficacy in the big leagues.

Montero is not coming to the big leagues in the next week. But anytime after tax day, when the Mets have a rotation need, Montero will be ready. The Mets could bring him up to help the bullpen, but if they do so, they must keep him stretched out so that he can return to starting when the need arises.

 

Upper Levels Thursday: Montero Surgical in 51s Win

AAA: @ Las Vegas 51s 9, Fresno Grizzlies (SF) 2 

Rafael Montero ST 13 (Baron)- Rafael Montero turned in the pitching performance of the night in the Mets system: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 55 of 79 pitches for strikes (70%). According to one eye-witness, he was sitting at 93 and made the Grizzlies look “silly” at times.

- Meanwhile, have a day LF Kirk Nieuwenhuis. The 26-year-old was 4-for-4 with a homer, threw out a runner at the plate, and made a nice running catch near the stands.

- Vic Black is still having control issues. He issued two walks and committed a throwing error, but used a pair of strikeouts to escape the eighth inning without allowing a run.

- Bobby Abreu singled as a pinch-hitter in the 7th inning.

- Erik Goeddel worked out the bullpen for the first time as a professional (not counting a few piggy-back appearances with Savannah two years ago) and struck out one in a three-batter ninth.

 

AA: Akron RubberDucks (CLE) 7, @ Binghamton Mets 1 

The B-Mets had four hits, while their pitchers issued 11 walks. That’s not a winning combination.

LHP Jack Leathersich pitched a very Leathery eighth inning in a 4-1 game: 3 strikeouts, 1 walk, no hits. In 29.1 innings in AA last year, he allowed almost as many walks (16) as hits (19) to go with his 55 strikeouts.

Opening Night in A-Ball: A Slam and Five Hits for the First Rounders

A+: @ St. Lucie Mets 6, Palm Beach Cardinals 5 

Nimmo Stance ST '14Batting second, and playing CF, Brandon Nimmo was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a strikeout.

TJ Rivera’s fifth inning grand slam snapped a 2-2 tie and put St. Lucie ahead for good. The 25-year-old Rivera played his first professional game at first base in this one, while going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, and 5 RBI. This will be the third separate season Rivera has played at St. Lucie after earning a promotion from Savannah in 2012. I thought coming into this year, that Rivera had a chance to break spring training as a backup middle infielder in AA, but the BMets are only carrying two middle infielders: Wilfredo Tovar and Matt Reynolds. Rivera is probably a more productive hitter in advanced-A than Cole Frenzel or the recently released Chris Garcia.

Gabriel Ynoa’s night was not crisp: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. He did not work a single clean inning in his six tries. He induced 10 flyball outs.

 

A: Lakewood BlueClaws (PHI) 6, @ Savannah Sand Gnats 3  

Despite early scoring opportunities, the Gnats could not move the scoreboard until the bottom of the ninth, when CF Patrick Biondi launched his first professional homerun, a three run shot to right field. The left-handed hitting also singled into center in his first at-bat and dragged a bunt for a knock in his second to finish 3-for-4. Biondi went 50 games with Brooklyn without homering in 2013 on his way to a .249/.348/.301 line. He spent much of his offseason working out with the Barwis crew since the gym is about 40 minutes from his Michigan home. Biondi also showed off his speed, cutting off a ball in the right-centerfield gap, to hold a runner to a single.

SS Gavin Cecchini had a solid night at the top of the order, going 2-for-4. The 2012 first rounder singled sharply on a grounder that nearly hit the second base bag in his first AB, and slashed the first pitch he saw in the eighth for a clean single to right. He lined out to left field in the third inning, and bounced out up the middle to end the game in the ninth. He’s clearly trying to work up the middle of the field in batting practice and was able to take that approach to the game Thursday. He nearly made a spectacular play defensively in fourth inning. With a runner at third and two down, he fielded a chopper on the rightfield side of second. However, his throw to first was errant.

1B Dom Smith was 1-for-4. He singled up the middle in his second AB. He launched a fly ball to rightcenter in the ninth, that was his best piece of contact, but at Grayson was merely a harmless fly ball out.

Robert Gsellman did not look really sharp in his first start of the year. He did not work a clean inning in his six tries. On the other hand, his changeup got some bad swings. He did not throw many curveballs, but when he did, I thought it was a better offering than he showed with Savannah in 2014. The 20-year-old’s line: 5.1 IP, 10 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.

Opening Night Gameday Thread

Opening night, for the kids. Thirsty Thursday and fireworks all across America. Have fun.

 

AAA: Fresno Grizzlies (SF) (0-0) @ Las Vegas 51s (0-0) – 10:05 pm
LHP Mike Kickham v. RHP Rafael Montero
Scoreboard | Listen

It’s pretty unusual for a AAA team to have three of the top five prospects in the system, and my top two ranked arms (Thor, Montero, and Cesar Puello). It would have been four, but Wilmer Flores was in New York to fill in for Daniel Murphy. Las Vegas should be really good, especially early this year. 

 

AA: Akron RubberDucks (CLE) (0-0) @ Binghamton Mets (0-0) – 6:35 pm
ScoreboardListen
RHP Cody Anderson v. LHP Darin Gorski

And the flipside is that the AA team has only two my preseason top 20 prospects: #11 Kevin Plawecki and #20 Jack Leathersich. 

 

A+: Palm Beach Cardinals (0-0) @ St. Lucie Mets (0-0) – 6:30 pm
ScoreboardListen
RHP Mike Mayers v. RHP Gabriel Ynoa

Three top ten prospects (#6 Brandon Nimmo, #7 Steven Matz and #10 Dilson Herrera) on the advanced-A roster seems like just about the right number. The race is really in the rotation here as Fulmer and Tapia who were each on the roster in 2013, battle with Matz to prove themselves ready for AA. Ynoa, the Opening Night starter, is so young, it’s hard to see him as anything other than a very long horse in the first to AA competition. 

 

A: Lakewood BlueClaws (PHI) @ Savannah Sand Gnats – 7:05 pm
RHP Mark Leiter v. RHP Robert Gsellman

This is a fun Gnats lineup.  Gavin Cecchini leads off, Jared King is in the cleanup spot, L.J. Mazzilli hits fifth, followed by Dominic Smith hitting sixth.  

Opening Day Starting Pitchers

LV_MonteroThe minor league season begins tonight and it brings three of my Top 25 Mets prospects to the mound to make starts for their teams.

Each affiliate’s starter is listed in bold.

AAA: Rafael Montero

Wally Backman on Montero:

“He can spot both sides of the plate and keeps the ball down,” Backman said. “He doesn’t walk anybody and throws all his pitches for strikes.” (Las Vegas Review Journal)

This is the second straight year that Montero has made an Opening Day start after taking the ball for AA Binghamton last year to begin the season. If all goes well for Montero, my #3 Mets prospect, he will be in New York by mid-summer.

AA: Darin Gorski

This is the third go-round at AA for Gorski, who turned 26 last October.

Gorski on the Opening Day start:
“It’s exciting. You know, they’re putting the ball in your hand for the first game to go out there and set the tone for the rest of the season so I think it’s a big deal. I’m excited for the opportunity.” Lynn Worthy (Press & Sun Bulletin)

Worthy points out that Gorski joins a lineage of Binghamton Opening Day starters that includes:
’11: Josh Stinson
’12: Colin McHugh
’13: Rafael Montero
A+: Gabriel Ynoa

After a big 2013 with Savannah, Ynoa, my #13 prospect, will get the nod for Advanced-A St. Lucie at the tender age of 20.

 

A: Robert Gsellman

This is the second year that Gsellman has made an Opening Day start. He actually made the Opening Day start for Brooklyn last year on June 17. The funny part: that was already Gsellman’s eighth start of 2013. He made a pair of spot starts for St. Lucie and then five starts for Savannah, mostly in May. He was absolutely dominant in the New York Penn League on his way to my #25 ranked prospect in the system.

Gnats pitching coach Marc Valdes explained that while Gsellman was the most worthy choice to go on Opening Night for the Gnats, logistical issues, like throwing schedules matter too at this level: “The rotation is not really set up as a 1-2-3-4-5-6 guys. It was his time to throw. In a way, he did deserve it the way he was throwing in spring training and leading up from the end of last year. We felt he’s a guy, who had 6-7 days; he’s ready to pitch….. He is a good guy to go out there game one, especially with his command of his pitches. I think, right now, he gives us the best chance to win game one.”

Gsellman, had a nice spring in Port St. Lucie. Valdes reports that he impressed the AAA staff in an intra-squad game, “One example, he pitched against the AAA team, went five innings – no problem. Wally Backman said he held his composure – he gave up a couple hits, maybe a home run –  just pretty much breezed through the five innings, moving his pitches in and out and changing speeds.”

Reading: BA Says the Mets are #10 in Talent; Signore Profile

- This is a nice profile of Tom Signore, who will be filling in for Frank Viola as the Las Vegas 51s Pitching Coach while Frankie recovers from open heart surgery. Signore has worked with the Expos, Marlins and Blue Jays and at Onandaga Community College, Flagler College, Quinnipiac and as a grad assistant at Western Connecticut State University. That’s paying dues.

baseball-america-logo.jpg- Baseball America lists the Mets at #10 in their preseason organizational talent rankings.

Their “High Ceiling Sleeper”: “RHP Rob Whalen’s fastball exhibits good life and low 90s velocity, and his ability to throw it for strikes should help him move quickly and stay in a rotation role.”

Whalen will begin the year as a piggyback starter in the Savannah Sand Gnats’ rotation.

An Almost St. Lucie Mets Roster

stlmetslogoTC Palm photographer Xavier Mascarenas passes along St. Lucie Roster, or at least a group of guys where were at a workout Tuesday night.

There are 29 players listed, so obviously, some of these guys will not be on St. Lucie’s active roster on Opening Day on Thursday. Take your guesses in the comments below. Hint: this team is not going to carry eight infielders or eight relievers.

 

Rotation
Steven Matz
Luis Cessa
Michael Fulmer
Domingo Tapia
Gabriel Ynoa
Matt Koch (I suspect)

 

 

Bullpen
Hunter Carvevale
Julian Hilario
Jake Kuebler
Seth Lugo
Bret Mitchell
Paul Sewald
Randy Fontanez
Beck Wheeler

 

Catchers
Albert Cordero
Cam Maron
Nelfi Zapata

Infielders
Philip Evans
Cole Frenzel
Dilson Herrera
Jairo Perez
Jeff Reynolds
TJ Rivera
Aderlin Rodriguez
Robbie Shields

Outfielders
Maikis De La Cruz
Gilbert Gomez
Brandon Nimmo
Eudy Pina

Brandon Nimmo: Breakout Candidate… and the Hand Injury Was Worse Than Originally Diagnosed

Nimmo Dugout High Fives- MiLB.com did a Prospect Primer for every team to get fans ready for Opening Day. They focused on three players:
Shining Star – Syndergaard
Breakout Prospect – CF Brandon Nimmo
At the Crossroads – Hansel Robles. (I can’t hear the phrase “At the Crossroads” without thinking of Bone Thugs N Harmony.)

Mets VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development, Paul dePodesta on Nimmo: “I think we could see Brandon Nimmo have a big year in 2014 … I think his numbers are suppressed by the ballpark in Savannah, though it was still a good year. I think for a guy who spent the year there, his OBP was as high as anyone we’ve seen there. I think Brandon getting out of that environment, not that the Florida State League is more friendly, I think we’ll continue to see an increase in power numbers.” (Rober Emrich, MiLB.com)

- More argument for Nimmo having a big season: his 2013 hand injury was more severe than the Mets originally believed, and in fact lingered all season. Even last August, Nimmo conceded as much. Nimmo, was eventually diagnosed as having a “dislocated joint and partial tear of a couple of ligaments.”

The 21-year-old as quoted by Adam Rubin at ESPNNY, “It was a situation where we got the MRI done in Savannah, and it happens where nothing showed up, so I played the rest of the season with it. I let the people know afterward it still wasn’t all the way there. I went to New York and that’s when we found out everything that happened. And we went to Cleveland, too, and saw a pretty good hand doctor there, Dr. Thomas Graham. He said, ‘It isn’t going to change things. You don’t need surgery. They’ve already repaired themselves. You’re just going to have to get it stronger.’ And, actually, we took a couple of months off.”