ESPNNY: Paul dePodesta on the State of the Farm

DePodestaAt ESPNNY, Mets VP for Scouting and Player Development Paul DePodesta discussed the state of the Mets’ farm system.

Remember, whenever you see quotes from a team official, here, or at ESPNNY, or anywhere else, discussing their own prospects, to apply a filter.

 

Some notable quotes:

“First, I think the system when we first arrived was underrated,” Paul DePodesta insisted. “It included current big leaguers like Dillon GeeRuben TejadaLucas Dudaand Kirk Nieuwenhuis, among others…”

 

Player                                   2012 fWAR        Career fWAR
Gee                                         1.5                              2.1
Tejada                                    2.1                             3.6
Duda                                      -1.1                            -0.5
Nieuwenhuis                         0.9                            0.9

On Opening Day, 2013, Ruben Tejada will be 23. Kirk Nieuwenhuis 25, and Lucas Duda 27. Dillon Gee will turn 27 in late April. One of these things is not like the others: Tejada, who has been one of the most pleasant surprises since I’ve been covering the Mets minor league system in 2004. The others fall into a slightly different category, with it looking unlikely that any of them will reach the level of average Major Leaguers. It is of course better to pay Major League minimum for replacement level performance than to pay millions in veteran-level guarantees, but lets not pretend that any of the other trio has yet has established themselves as franchise cornerstones – or ever will. Of the trio, Gee is a perfectly useful back-end starter. Nieuwenhuis and Duda have a lot to prove in 2013.

 

Admittedly, our position players are behind our pitchers ….- our pitchers led all of minor league baseball in ERA — but we think we added some key guys in last year’s draft, and some of our international players continue making progress. There are some position players we’re very excited about. But, collectively, it’s not as deep as the pitching.

We rate the bolded section 100% true.

We rate the second part of this statement as yet to be determined. The Mets said in part that they took Brandon Nimmo with their first pick in 2011, because they did not think they would have another chance at an impact-level position player, but liked the depth of arms in the draft. Indeed, Michael Fulmer was a better pitching prospect at #44 than the position guys available. In 2012, the first three players the Mets took were all up the middle position guys – SS Gavin Cecchini, C Kevin Plawecki, and Matt Reynolds (who I like best at 2B). I also like 8th round catcher Tomas Nido and 4th rounder Brandon Kaupe, who has serious speed, although he was overmatched in his professional debut in the Appalachian League.

 

“We never get caught up in the rankings, because ultimately, it’s about producing quality big leaguers……

“All in all, more than a dozen of our players who haven’t appeared in any top-10 list have been asked about this winter in major league trades, so other teams out there certainly like our depth.”

 

Oh. So rankings do not matter until they do.

 

“Thanks to both our scouts and our development people, this is the most talented and deepest group of pitching prospects that I’ve been a part of in the past 20 years, and I’ve been fortunate to have been around some good ones. Our teams finished first in the league in ERA, WHIP and K/BB ratio — a good trifecta — in the Florida State League, the South Atlantic League, and the New York Penn League, and we did that with six-man rotations at each spot. Further, those staffs didn’t include guys like Wheeler, Familia, Mejia, Harvey, etc. The best part, in my mind, is that our guys aren’t just touch/feel guys who are old for their league and are good performers. Rather, these guys have stuff, command and performance. Of course, not all of them will make it, but we have enough of a mass to believe that some of them should.

I agree 100% with the basic point here. There are a number of interesting arms at the lower levels behind Harvey/Wheeler and the likely bullpen guys – Familia and Mejia at the upper levels – working through the lower minors like Michael Fulmer, Domingo Tapia, Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero, Luis Mateo, Gabriel Ynoa and Luis Cessa to say nothing of the 2012 draftees.

For reference, allow me to present the park factors from Minor League Central for 2011 (where 100 is league average) for the Mets’ three affiliates, and their rank in their respective league, where 1 is the most hitter friendly, DePodesta discussed here:
St. Lucie – 111 (2 of 12)
Savannah – 92 (12 of 14)
Brooklyn – 93 (11 of 14)

In two of the three cases, Savannah and Brooklyn, the Mets’ affiliate calls one of the most pitcher friendly parks in the league home. Phrased another way, Savannah and Brooklyn should be right near the top of their leagues in ERA every year.  Both WHIP and ERA will be heavily influenced by park. K/BB less so. Moreover, team ERA is influence not just by the prospect types, but by guys in the bullpens who will never pitch in the big leagues. Team-level stats just are not a great measure of a team’s prospect heaviness at any individual level. Lets not confuse park effects, and noisy data with a dominant stable of young pitching prospects.

Again, the point is valid, there are lots of young arms, but team-level ERA and WHIP is just a rather imperfect measure of proving this point. And no, there is no perfect measure.

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