Top 41: #3 – RHP Rafael Montero

LV_MonteroBats/Throws: Right/Right
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 185
Acquired: NDFA 1/20/11
Born: 10/17/90 (Higuerito, Banico, DR)
2013 Rank: #9 (2012: #38) | Stats

Why Ranked Here: In blowing through the minors, from the Dominican Summer League to AAA in the last three years, Montero looks poised to contribute in 2014 as a mid- to backend rotation piece.

 

Montero succeeds first and foremost because he has a slightly above average fastball that plays up thanks to pinpoint command. He can hit both corners of the plate to both left and righthanders. The called-strike three at the knees on the black might well be his signature weapon. Montero is mostly 92-94 with his heat, although he can reach back for more, as he did in the XM Futures game in which he showed 95 mph, while sitting 94.

 

I like his changeup as his second pitch. He throws it mostly to left-handers and it has good arm speed with just enough sink.

 

His slider looked like it had more depth in the spring of 2014, than it did in spring training 2013. He’s played around with different formulations on his breaking ball in 2012 and 2013, but 2014 was the best it’s looked – as it approaches MLB average.

 

Montero is not the biggest or most physically imposing prospect, but he repeats his delivery exquisitely well and has been durable in professional baseball. In consecutive seasons, he’s made 17, 20 and then 27 appearances while moving from 71 innings to 122 to 155 last year.

 

If Montero becomes a star, he will be succeeding against type: there just are not very many successful right-handed starting pitchers in the big leagues at 6’ and shorter. Oh, sure, Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux, two Hall of Famers, are the patron saints of six-foot righties. I’ll do a similar study to the one I did for Dominic Smith. Since 1984, in the last 30 years, there have been 118 pitcher seasons in the Baseball Reference play index of 3 WAR or greater by a starting, right-handed pitcher at 6’0” or shorter. Sixty-seven of these 3+ WAR seasons, or 57% of our sample, have been compiled by nine separate pitchers.

This is the list of elite 6’0” righthanders in the last 30 years and their number of 3+ WAR seasons.

1. Greg Maddux – 17
2. Pedro Martinez – 11
3. Bartolo Colon – 8
4. Roy Oswalt – 8
5. Dave Stieb – 5
6. Mike Boddicker – 5
7. Juan Guzman – 5
8. Tim Lincecum – 4
9. Anibal Sanchez – 4

 

These nine pitchers account for the top 17 and 38 of the top 42 seasons (!) seasons in our sample. Only Kevin Tapani (6.8 – 1991), Johnny Cueto (5.9 – 2012), Francisco Cordova (5.5 – 1998) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (5.3 – 2008) join our nasty nine as 6’0” righthanders with seasons with better than five WAR in last thirty years. Think about that for a second. Phrased another way, there are only 13 guys who stand six foot even, who throw with their right hand who accounted for at least five WAR in a season in a 30 year span.

 

There are 71 pitcher-seasons at 4 WAR or better in the last thirty years, or 2.3 per year.
2013:  Montero was sharp in his first eight starts in AA – 3.47 ERA, 54 K/6 BB in 46.2 IP – to earn  AAA spot start on May 21 against Iowa.

Returned to AA, he allowed roughly nothing over his next three starts: 20 innings, 11 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 18 K/4 BB and an opponents’ line of .155/.200/.155 in 75 plate appearances. He was promoted to AAA for good on June 15 and for his final 15 appearances ran a 3.07 ERA over 82 innings with 73 K/24 BB while opponents hit .259/.310/.364 against him in 340 plate appearances.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A solid mid-rotation starter
Debbie Downer Says: Big league time, but not a big contributor
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: June 2014

 

Recent Stats

ERAG/GSIPHRERHRBBSOHBPWP
12 SAL2.5212/1271.3612420485412
12 FSL2.138/850.673513122115620
13 EL2.4311/1166.675121182107200
13 PCL3.0416/1688.678535304257801
13 Total2.7827/27155.34136564863515001

 

 

BB/9SO/9SO/BBHR/9H/9R/9BB%SO%HR%TBF
12 SAL1.06.86.80.57.73.02.818.91.4286
12 FSL2.09.95.10.46.22.35.729.01.0193
13 EL1.39.77.20.36.92.83.827.60.8261
13 PCL2.57.93.10.48.63.66.921.51.1363
13 Total2.08.74.30.37.93.25.624.01.0624

Top 41: #4 – OF Cesar Puello

 Puello Swing Finish ST 14Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Height/Weight:  6’2”, 200
Acquired:  NDFA 7/27/07
Born:  4/1/91 (La Romana, DR)
2013 Rank: #27 (2012: 62011: 5) | Stats 

Why Ranked Here: Puello is back in the top ten for the third time in four years because he finally turned his prodigious tools into production in 2013 and he should make his MLB debut in 2014. There’s a chance that he puts together an MLB career as a right fielder who adds value to his team through plus defense, some homeruns and stolent bases.

 

Puello has some of the best physical gifts in the Mets’ system. He’s a plus runner. He owns a plus arm. He’s jacked with big shoulders and arms. He plays extremely hard. He’s willing to wear pitches to get on base, and enjoys stealing bases and getting dirty. The question is simply whether he will hit enough to play everyday.

He’s an extremely aggressive hitter who eats up fastballs. He has the batspeed to get around and pull even good heat. Sliders and soft stuff generally, can fool Puello and catch him out front. He puts his whole body into swings when he identifies pitches early as he does in the homer below.

The range in opinion on Puello among scouts was predictable. Some saw the tools to be an everyday rightfielder. Others were concerned about his approach and the Biogenesis connection. Even the guys who liked Puello expressed some hesitation. The guys who were skeptical of Puello recognized the tools that could play.
2013:  For the first 100 games of the 2013 baseball season, in his age 22 season, Puello was the best player in the Eastern League. He raked at .326/.403/.547 with 16 homers and 24 stolen bases in 31 attempts in 91 games. His .391 BABIP is unsustainable, but knock 70 points off that, and his power and speed still play in the big leagues.

 

Puello was suspended for the duration of the 2013 season for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic on August 5. The Mets were convinced that the usage was during 2012, but he played 2013 clean.

 

Puello got better as his year went on.

First 46 games April 4 –May 31: .289/.372/.488 with 7 HR, and 12 walks (6.4%), a .347 BABIP in 188 PA.

Final 45 games from June 2-August 1: .364/.434/.606 with 9 HR, and 16 walks (8.5%) and a .436 BABIP in 189 PA

Well much of his better performance was the result of better results on balls in play, his isolated slugging percentage rose from .199 to .242 in this run. Also, BABIP in the minors reflects hard contact and Puello was hitting the ball very hard, very consistently.

 

Puello absolutely terrorized lefthanded pitching in 2013, putting up a .421/.483/.842 (!) line that reads like a series of types against them with eight homers in 87 PA. That compared to .298/.379/.459 in 290 PA against righties. As it happens, the Mets are carrying at least one corner outfielder in 2014 who does not hit lefties.

 

For what it’s worth, Puello went down to the Dominican this winter and hacked at everything, hitting .200/.252/.261 with 30 strikeouts against five walks in 41 games. I don’t know what to make of it other than a stark reminder that he’s no sure thing.
Dr. Pangloss Says: I still think there’s all-star level talent in here if everything clicks. There’s also a fairly wide spread of outcomes for a guy on the brink of triple-A and the big leagues.
Debbie Downer Says: The best 22-year-old in the Eastern League over the last few years has turned into a big leaguer, even a low-level one. At worst, he’s a bench bat with situational value against lefties.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas 
MLB Arrival: 2014

 

A Long Homerun

 

Recent Stats

ABH2B3BHRBBSOHBPAVGOBPSLG
12 FSL22759174475816.260.328.423
12 AFL852111082910.247.379.282
13 EL33110821216288216.326.403.547

 

 

 

XBH%BB%SO%HR%BABIPISO
12 FSL9.92.823.01.59.333.163
12 AFL1.97.828.20.00.375.035
13 EL10.37.421.84.24.391.221

Tom Signore will Fill in For Frank Viola in AAA

While Frank Viola is recovering from open heart surgery, the Mets will ask Tom Signore, who had been scheduled to serve as the pitching coach for SSA Brooklyn to fill in (Per Kevin Burkhart on Thursday’s SNY broadcast).

This is a return to Vegas for Signore, who was the Jays’ AAA pitching coach in 2011.

Signore, who had been with the Toronto Blue Jays sine 2005, had worked as their double-A pitching coach for the last three years.

 

Signore, 52, also joins the Mets organization for the first time in 2014 after spending the previous two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays as the pitching coach with New Hampshire (AA) of the Eastern League.

 

Also, this cannot be said enough: get well soon, Frank.

Terry Collins on Cory Mazzoni (Triceps)

injury-red-crossTerry Collins on Cory Mazzoni on SNY, who left Thursday’s game early, in the second inning pointing to his triceps near his shoulder:

He complained of a strain on his tricep on the last pitch he threw. He’s a young, talented guy. We’re very, very concerned about it because he’s … one of those guys we were counting on seeing this summer. You hope his arm bounces back ok.

 

Mazzoni had elbow neuritis last April and athroscopic surgery on his knee in August. He also missed a start in late July 2012 with a finger issue. 

 

Today’s Releases and Links

Releases
Link- The Mets released RHP Marcos Camarena, LHP David Wynn and OF Alonzo Harris and OF Jonathan Clark.
- At age 24, the speedy Harris hit .218/.285/.305 in 101 games in Binghamton in 2013 while going 25-for-34 stealing bases. I had Harris ranked #36 in the system entering last year coming off a productive 2012 with St. Lucie when he hit .287/.354/.424 and was 40-of-51 stealing bases. Even in 2010, when I ranked him #26, his highest ranking, Debbie Downer pointed out, “Or he continues to struggle defensively and swing at everything and never really even plays everyday in AA.” Pay attention to Debbie!
Camarena put up an 8.83 ERA thanks to 28 hits and 12 walks allowed in 17.1 innings in advanced-A last summer.
Clark hit a combined .180/.258/.230 in 52 games between Brooklyn and St. Lucie in 2013 in his age 22 season.
The left-handed Wynn, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent, put up solid numbers with Brooklyn the last two years in his age 22 and 23 seasons: 1.88 ERA, 52.2 IP, 49 K, 29 BB, 32 H.

I think there are more releases coming.

Guillorme
Mack’s Mets talked to SS Luis Guillorme.

Uniforms
- Paul Lukas at Uniwatch, does his great season preview for MLB uniforms.

Columbia, SC
The City Council of Columbia, SC, which gave preliminary approval for a new ballpark on March 4th, has postponed the second vote on the issue until April 8. The first vote was 4-3. Now, writes Eva Moore at the Columbia Free Times: “Councilman Cameron Runyan, the likely swing vote, says he’s still doing his due diligence — last week, he visited Greenville to discuss its recent baseball experiences with city officials there.”

The Sand Gnats are a potential candidate for a move to Columbia if the city builds a new stadium and Savannah does not.

Vic Black vs. Gonzalez Germen

Vic Black ST HeadThe Mets optioned Vic Black to the minors Wednesday, which opens the door for Gonzalez Germen to make the roster.

Black’s delivery relies on a very unusual glove tap, which complicates his timing, and this spring was messed up. In the Wall Street Journal, Jared Diamond explains that Black’s tap might well have saved his career.

Black had a lousy spring, in 10 outings against competition that averaged a AA level, he gave up 24 baserunners (13 H, 10 BB, 1 HBP) in 9.1 innings. That’s bad. If AAA Las Vegas is the place to get his mechanics right, so be it.

The 26-year-old Germen was ok for the Mets last year (3.93 ERA, in 34.1 IP, 22% K, 10.7% BB) and worse this spring. In his 10.1 innigns, he’s allowed 15 baserunners against an opponents’ quality somewhere between AA and AAA. Germen is a fastball (55%)/changeup (28.4%) heavy pitcher who gives up lots of fly balls (41.4% last year). He also was very lucky in 2013 thanks to a HR/FB ratio of 2.4% where league average was 10.5%. Unless Germen is one of those pitchers who has some special ability to keep fly balls in the yard, regression is coming for him and it’s going to hurt.

Black throws harder. His average fastball was 95.5 mph to Germen’s 93 in 2013.

I did a brief twitter poll about which right-handed reliever would spend more days on the active roster in 2014, and the unanimous response was: Black.

The bet here: Black will be a significant part of the 2014 Mets bullpen by May. The pathway might not just be Germen’s regression. “Closer” Bobby Parnell’s velocity was 88-92 in his final spring training outing. He’s averaged 96+ in the big leagues. Jose Valverde, who lost his job with the Tigers a year ago thanks to a 5.59 ERA, is supposed to be the 8th inning guy.  Jeurys Familia has battled control problems nearly his entire career. John Lannan, of the 148 career starts, is miscast as a LOOGY. He has no platoon splits (.755 OPS vs. LHH and RHH). Maybe a move to the bullpen will help his ordinary stuff.

Black will be back.

 

Top 41: #5 – INF Wilmer Flores

Flores Throwing ST 14#5 Wilmer Flores

Bats/Throws: Right/Right
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Acquired: NDFA (8/6/07)
Born:  8/6/91 (Valencia, VZ)
2013 Rank: #4 (12: 17) | Stats

Why Ranked Here: At age 22, Wilmer Flores hit his way to the big leagues. He still has some of the best hands at the plate I’ve seen in a decade of minor league baseball. He is still searching for a position to play defensively.

 

That Flores put up gaudy numbers (.321/.357/.531) in the Pacific Coast League in 2013 was not a surprise. His numbers were driven by an increase in his batting average on balls in play from .326 in AA in 2012 to .342 in AAA in 2013 and a slight increase in his extra-base hit rate from 10.2% to 11.9%. That last number is not totally a desert mirage: he’s growing into his power. His winter working out in Michigan

 

However, and this is crucially important, his walk rate slipped from 7.3 in AA to 5.4% in AAA. Basically, Flores’ simple aggressive approach worked extremely well in the minors. It will be trouble in the big leagues and in fact was a problem in his first exposure to big league pitching when he fanned in 22.8% of his plate appearances with walks in just 5%.

 

Now, about that defense problem. Despite the fact that the Mets returned to Flores to shortstop in Spring Training, 2014, and plan to play him there in Las Vegas in the regular season, I still do not think he will have adequate range to play the position. His hands work fine, and he has more than enough arm for the left side of the diamond. This is about feet and quickness. The 2014 Mets might do better with Flores playing shortstop over Ruben Tejada if the difference in value between their bats is larger than the difference in their gloves. That does not mean that Flores is a longterm answer at short. He’s not. I’ve seen enough from him that I think aggressive positioning and shifting will allow him to be adequate – like a few runs below average, to maybe even average in his best years – at second base.

 

Flores’ bat is certainly an asset at three infield positions: shortstop, which he can’t play, third, which he can’t play because of David Wright, and second, which he will play eventually. If he has to slide all the way down the defensive spectrum to first base, is his bat still an asset? I don’t think it is, unless he finds more plate discipline and more power (and yes, often those come together).

 

It’s worth pointing out that Flores has modest platoon splits – a .799 OPS against righties in 2013 and a .889 against lefties against whom he bopped .313/.358/.531 in 162 PA. Flores is more than ready to step in to crush lefties if the Mets need an extra infielder. He’ll return to MLB after the next infield injury.
2013:  After 107 games in AAA Las Vegas, Flores made his big league debut on August 6 in a 3-2 win over the Rockies.
Dr. Pangloss Says: Really good 2B, with some All-Star games in his future.
Debbie Downer Says: First baseman without enough pop to make a big impact.
Projected 2014 Start: AAA Las Vegas
MLB Arrival: Happened already, and will happen again in 2014.

 

Recent Statistics

ABH2B3BHRBBSOAVGOBPSLG
2012 FSL24270120101830.289.336.463
2012 EL2517818282030.311.361.494
2012 Total493148302183860.300.349.479
2012 VWL1404110061319.293.363.493
2013 PCL424136364152563.321.357.531
2013 MLB9520501523.211.248.295

XBH%SO%BB%HR%BABIPISO
2012 FSL8.111.06.63.7.286.174
2012 EL10.210.97.32.9.326.183
2012 Total9.111.06.93.3.306.178
2012 VWL10.111.98.23.8.302.200
2013 PCL11.913.65.43.2.342.210
2013 MLB5.922.85.01.0.264.084

Links: Frank Viola will Have Open Heart Surgery, New Hitting Coach in Bingamton and…

LinkAccording to Adam Rubin at ESPNNY, and then confirmed by the Mets, Las Vegas 51s pitching coach Frank Viola will have open heart surgery on Wednesday, April 2. He is “expected” to be replaced in Vegas by pitching coordinator Ron Romanick. Get well soon Frank.

Luis Rivera will join the Binghamton Mets as the AA hitting coach replacing the recently promoted Luis Natera. Rivera worked the last two years as the Mets’ short-season hitting coordinator, overseeing the GCL/Kingsport/Brooklyn and complex teams. Rivera played for the B-Mets in 2007, hitting .316/.409/.351 in 18 games. An organizational soldier, he reached AAA with Buffalo in 2009. In 2010, he was a player/coach for Savannah, and saw action in 21 games before the Mets suggested he move into coaching fulltime and assigned him to the Kingsport staff.

At the new FiveThirtyEight.com, Neil Paine writes about the expected value of the Top 100 prospects on the Baseball America list. I’d like to see a little more about the variance on each spot, and the raw data, but … oh well.

The Guardian has this very funny read about attending the season-opening games in Australia from an Aussie perspective.

Mostly Mets pres by Caesars AC: As The Rotation Turns, Braves preview 

Robert Brender and I look at the latest news concerning the starting rotation, as well as the final cuts from big league camp.  The guys also wrap up their NL East preview with guest Ben Duronio, who covers the Braves at Talking Chop.com.

Rate, review and subscribe on itunes here.

Stuff we talked about:

Rundown:

Mejia, Dice K, and Niese – as the rotation turns

Final cuts – Wilmer Flores, the future shortstop?

NL East Preview: Braves edition, with Ben Duronio from Talking Chop.com (17:10)

One Good Thing, One Bad Thing (33:40)

Good: Mets Winning, Roster Flexibility

Bad: Opener in Australia, Tuesday off day next week

Top 41: #6 CF Brandon Nimmo

Nimmo Stance (Devyatkin)Bats/Throws: Left/Right
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 195 lbs
Acquired: 1st rd #13 overall (East HS)
Born: 3/27/93 (Cheyenne, WY)

2013 Rank: #5 (‘12:Rank: #5) | Stats
Why Ranked Here: Nimmo moves down one spot in my rankings from a year ago, but that masks the fact that I think I’m higher on him than I was at this point last year as he was jumped only by Cesar Puello and Rafael Montero, two guys who succeeded at AA and at AA and AAA respectively. The Nimmo I saw at his best in Savannah could play centerfield, and sprayed line drive around the yard with a keen plate eye and shower power potential. That’s a star level guy. The problem is that he did not do it all year long.

 

Nimmo has really grown into his 6’3” frame and has put on roughly ten pounds of muscle each of the last two winters and is now a more powerfully built ~205 pounds. He says he’s as quick as ever.

 

Coming into the 2013 season, I was concerned about whether Nimmo would stay in centerfield, or would have to move to a corner as he aged, added weight and lost speed. For now, I can offer a stronger endorsement of his work in center. He handled the enormous expanse of Historic Grayson Stadium very well. He gets good reads on the ball, and takes long strides that allow him to cover plenty of ground. He retreated well on balls to both sides. As the season progressed, he became more comfortable playing aggressively shallow on weaker hitters as well. He does not leave his feet often, in part because he did not have to. Nimmo’s weak spot defensively is his arm. There’s an awkwardness to his throwing motion that just does not look fluid. At best, it’s an average arm for center, although it plays a little below most of the time.

 

At the plate, Nimmo has tweaked his swing and setup since entering professional baseball. He’s now a little more upright, with a short stride, rather than hitting out a wider base as he did after he was drafted. When he’s going well, his hands go right to the ball. When he struggles, his hands cast away from his body leaving him extremely susceptible to pitches on the inside part of the plate. He was comfortable going to the left-center field gap and working the other way. Nimmo showed power in batting practice, but in games was more hesitant to let his hands go and attack the baseball in the same way.

 

Nimmo is extremely coachable and easy to please his instructors. He’s worked hard on learning the Mets patient approach and will go deeper into counts than is common for young players. He walked in 14.8% of his plate appearances in the SAL, which is very good, but also struck out in 27% of those same plate appearances, which is awfully high.

 

Nimmo, is an outstanding interview. He listens to questions, and answers them as honestly as he can. If he becomes as good a hitter as he is a talker, he will be an All-Star.

 

Nimmo became the first player from Wyoming ever drafted in the first round when the Mets plucked him 12th in 2011.

 

Nimmo hit righties (.284/.410/.385, 20 XBH – 367 PA) much better than lefties (.240/.354/.281, 4 XBH – 113 PA). He did better against lefties towards the end of the year, but he will need to continue to improve against southpaws, and his performance against them will have a lot to say about his eventual value.
2013: It’s hard to separate Nimmo’s 2013 from an injury – a bruised hand he suffered in Lakewood at the end of April. I wrote a lengthy piece about Nimmo’s hand and season here.

Opening Day- April 21: .424/.513/.576 – 17 games

April 20/21: Bruised hand.  

Next six games: 1-for-27 (.042) with 10 strikeouts in 27 PA, a strikeout rate of 37%.

May 28 -July 21:  .228/.343/.305 with 76 strikeouts in 234 PA a strikeout rate of 32.5%. His isolated slugging percentage dipped to .077. 

July 22-Season’s End: .300/.453/.379… 35 BB/43 K in 179 PA… 24% k rate… 19.5% BB rate

 

When Nimmo returned from a month-long stay on the disabled list, at the end of May, he just was not the same player. He did not trust his hands. That led to a cascade throughout his swing. He started striding too close to the plate, which locked up his hips and prevented him from making hard contact on anything on the inner half. He collapsed on his lower half. He casted with his hands. He let hittable pitches go by early in the count. Fastballs beat him in, and low and away.

 

By August he was a different hitter. He was standing taller and letting his hands work right to the ball. He was using both gaps, and waiting longer to decide on each pitch. It was a joy to watch.

 

On August 5th, Nimmo hit his second homerun of the 2013 season. It was a missile out to right-center, the big part of Historic Grayson Stadium. A scout who saw the game and the swing believed that was enough to write him up as big league power potential.
Dr. Pangloss Says: A star for the Mets in centerfield
Debbie Downer Says: Not enough pure hit tool to play everyday in the big leagues.
Projected 2014 Start:  Advanced-A St. Lucie.
MLB Arrival: Heat of Summer 2016.
Twitter: @You_Found_Nimmo

 

Recent Stats

GABH2B3BHRBBSOAVGOBPSLG
2012 NYP692666620264678.248.372.406
2013 SAL110395108166271131.273.397.359

 

 

 

XBH%SO%BB%HR%BABIPISOOPS
2012 NYP8.724.314.31.9.328.158.778
2013 SAL5.027.314.80.4.402.086.756