Friday, April 08, 2005

4/7 - Opening Night - Pitching Rolls

Opening Day is fun!
The Mets affiliates threw out their big name pitchers on opening night, and everyone - Brian Bannister, Philip Humber, and Gabby Hernandez - was impressive. I can’t think of a better balm for an 0-3 big league start.
This year Minor League Baseball switched stat companies from the SportsNetwork to BAM, the same company that runs MLB’s stats. It doesn’t look like BAM was ready for the minors because only a select few box scores are available, and they haven’t made their way to team or league sites. I’m getting error messages that say things like: Content available when season starts. Not a pretty opening night for BAM.


Norfolk
Postponed – Doubleheader Saturday

Binghamton 4, Akron 1
A theme of the night: No Box. The B-Mets picked up two unearned runs off a rehabbing CC Sabatia, and that was the difference per the Akron Beacon Journal. In the first inning, Mike Jacobs singled home Aarom Baldiris who had reached on a two base error. Baldiris also singled home Wayne Lydon, who created a run with his speed in third inning .
Brian Bannister was sharp, fanning nine, while allowing nothing but two singles.

Vero Beach 1, St. Lucie 0
No Box available. Per the St. Lucie website: “Humber, the Mets first round draft pick in 2004 (third overall), pitched five strong innings striking out six and giving up the lone run scored in the top of the first inning. Rafeal Lopez and Eddie Camacho pitched equally strong in relief combining for four innings and only surrendering one hit.
For the Dodgers, Tiffany threw five innings giving up one hit while striking out 11 Mets.
Offensively the Mets could only muster four hits as Lasting Milledge, Brett Harper, and Andy Wilson each went 1-for-3 and Blake Whealy went 1-2.”
To which I say: YIPPEE. The best possible news: Humber looks like the real deal after one start. Yeah, I know it’s one start, but this sounds good.

Hagerstown 9, West Virgina 1
Guess what? No box. Hagerstown scored 4 in the first off the Brewers top Draft pick Mark Rogers and it was enough for Gabby Hernandez and Michael Devaney. Hernandez went the first 4 1/3 giving up only two hits while wiffing 6 at one point retiring ten in a row. Devaney earned the win by giving up just 1 run over the next 3 plus innings. Devaney was 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 69.1 IP in Brooklyn last summer, his first professional year. He allowed one home run while striking out 56 and walking 29. Worth keeping him in mind too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Rosters and Exhibitions

Mets Minor League Report returns for its first full season here in 2005. I began reporting on the Mets Minor League system last spring, and enjoyed it, so here I am again. I believe in baseball and the New York Mets. I want nothing more than a Mets World Series, and hope that maybe, some of the guys I learn about and write about will contribute to the next Mets World Championship. I also think that fans become better fans by following their team’s minor league system. They learn about stars of the future, and organizational strengths and weaknesses. Met minor leaguers are also easy to root for because we all want to see them in the show and their success will only help the big club.
I work in Stockton, CA as the broadcaster for the Stockton Ports, Single A affiliate of the Oakland A’s, so it’s unlikely that I will see a single Mets minor league game this summer. However, I can read and listen. I read box scores, play-by-plays, newspapers, websites, and magazines. I listen to as many webcasts as I can. I talk to scouts, writers and executives, all of whom have opinions, some of which have to do with the Mets, and some of which I pass along to the reader.
Because of my sources and limitations, this is effectively a performance analysis site, because numbers are usually trustworthy. I will not do fake scouting. If I read a scouting report by authors who are credible, (ie Baseball America) I will cite it. However, one of the things that scares me about minor league scouting reports from people outside the business is that they tend to make every prospect seem like a future All-Star, -- an outcome only possible in the magical land of erehwon.
Today, I take a look at the rosters that have come out, and an exhibition game.
If you like what you read, please pass this along to friends.

Toby


Norfolk (AAA – International League)
No roster released on the team’s website, but the Tide’s beat the Old Dominion Monarchs 5-0 in a seven inning scrimmage Tuesday in front of 1,622. Tides pitchers threw for both teams which must have been fun. Aaron Heilman, throwing against the Tides didn’t give up a hit in 2 innings, but walked 2 and struck out 2. Heath Bell, gave up one hit in an inning. Jeff Keppinger had a pair of RBIs: one on a groundout in the third inning, and a single in the fourth, but the Tides mustered only 6 hits against themselves, and no player had more than one.

Binghamton (AA – Eastern League)
The roster is out. Yusmeiro Petit, age 22, the Mets top minor league pitching prospect and #2 overall prospect according to Baseball America leads the staff. Petit is the youngest pitcher on the roster by over three years, and is one of just five pitchers born in the 1980s.
The positional side includes some very interesting moves. First, Aarom Baldiris gets his first full season in AA after hitting .222/.273/.284 in 81 AA at bats at the end of last year following his .305/.384/.397 conquest of the Florida State League. The question for the now 22 year old is whether he will develop enough power to stay at third, or has the defensive ability to play at second. Alongside Baldiris, stands the Mets new top shortstop prospect: Anderson Hernandez, acquired for Vance Wilson. Baseball America calls Anderson’s glove, “major league ready,” but his offensive skills have lagged behind. There is hope as Anderson hit .274/.326/.376 in 394 AB as a 21 year-old with AA Erie in the Tigers organization last year. He struck out 89 times, but stole 17 bases, and had 19 doubles, but must be on base more to use that speed.
At first base, we have our first controversial player allocation of the spring. Mike Jacobs earned the Mets 2003 minor league player of the year when he hit .329/.376/.548 as a catcher in Binghamton. However, he played in just 27 games last year in AAA thanks to a cyst and a torn labrum. Now, he returns as a AA firstbaseman. Baseball America, which still lists Jacobs as the #30 Mets prospect, has questioned his defense before, so as far as I’m concerned, this move makes sense. If Jacobs shoulder is healthy, he’ll destroy AA pitching like he did two years ago, and have a chance to move on up. If he can’t handle AA pitching, well, that answers that. The real problem this creates is that it keeps Brett Harper off the AA roster and sitting at St. Lucie again after he hit .350/.440/.564 in 220 AB in the FSL and .247/.309/.437 in 174 AA AB. From here it seems as though Harper, who will turn 24 at the end of July deserves a chance to play everyday in AA and prove he belongs up there. This will create a trickledown.
Speedster Wayne Lydon who in consecutive years has stolen 87, 75 and 65 bases returns to the Binghamton outfield. Prentice Redman, who’s listed twice in the online roster as I write this, so presumably there’s another OF or two.

St. Lucie (High A – Florida State League)
No roster is out, but this team should be fun to watch with top outfield prospect Lastings Milledge, and last year’s top draft pick Philip Humber leading the way.

Hagerstown (Low A – South Atlantic League)
New Low A affiliate for the Mets. Ambio Concepcion drew comparisons to Vladimir Guerrero in Baseball America’s end of the year wraps after putting together a .305/.338/.475 season, in Short Season Brooklyn, his best as a pro. He will start here.
On the pitching side, the two brightest prospects are Gabby Hernandez who dazzled the Rookie Gulf Coast League with a league leading 1.09 ERA in 50 IP. He struck out 58 while walking just 12. The 6-3, 215 lber, Hernandez works with a sinker at 89-94 according to BA. Matt Durkin a hard throwing righthander who the Mets picked in the second round last year out of San Jose State will make his professional debut in Hagerstown this spring. Scouts I talked to, who had seen him throw, had wildly divergent opinions on Durkin.
Some early bad news here as well as top catching prospect Jesus Flores broke his thumb as part of the big Mets exhibition vs. the Nationals in Washington last weekend. This is too bad. Flores hit .319/.368/.532 in the Rookie GCL last year.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wow?

One month between posts is pathetic. Really a pretty standard month in my life, a new job, a new city, a new apartment.

Anyway, what's up with this story?
From Mets.com on 2/28:
"The Mets hired a pair of scouts on Monday, including former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. Scott Nethery also joined the staff after serving as a special assistant to Braves GM John Schuerholz for the last four seasons.

Krause, 65, worked as a special assistant for the Yankees last year and spent 16 years as a special assignment scout with the Indians, A's, Mariners and White Sox before becoming an NBA executive. But he is best known as the general manager of the Bulls, taking over that club in 1985 at the beginning of the Michael Jordan era in Chicago. Krause's teams won six NBA titles, with Jordan leading the way."

Interesting.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Mets Raid Farm Again

Horrible. Stupid. Embarrassing. Yup. Those words can now be used once again to describe the Mets front office. Harsh? Yup. Deserved? Believe it. The Mets traded their top first base prospect Ian Bladergroen for Doug Mientkiewicz.
Do Omar and friends deserve a little grace period for their successful winter? Not at all. They paid good money, and lots of it, to sign the best position player and best pitcher. They still have a team with lots of holes that is a few pieces shy of contending for the playoffs. To recap the winter's bad moves: Omar overpaid for Benson, missed out on Delgado, and overpaid for an essentially useless firstbaseman in Mientkiewicz. On balance, with Pedro and Carlos, that's two good moves, two bad, and one not made.
Minky is supposed to provide defense and leadership at first base, neither of which are all that usefull if a team is interested in winning baseball games. Remember, Minky was a late inning defensive replacement for the Sox following his mid-season acquisition. He hit just .238/.326/.350 for the season with six HR.
I'm not sure I'd rather have Minky at first base than Bladergroen in 2005, although there are developmental reasons not to put Bladergroen at the big league level. PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus' fine forecasting system agrees with me wholeheartedly.
PECOTA sees Bladergroen hitting an adjusted .259/.319/.431 with a VORP, that is Value Over Replacement Player, measured in runs of 11.4 given 103 games.
For Mientkiewciz, PECOTA sees an adjusted line of .267/.361/.413 for a VORP of 12.7 based on 96 games at first base.
I’m not actually arguing that the Mets should have started 2005 with Bladergroen at first base. Nor is Mientkiewicz the worst option around. What is frustrating is that the Mets gave up their best first base prospect for a guy the Red Sox didn’t want. Do the Mets think that poorly of Bladergroen? This feels like the Huber trade last summer, where the Mets gave up a valuable prospect for very little.
Bladergroen, who will be 22 in February is coming off a huge year in Low-A Capital City where he hit: .342/.397/.595 in 72 games. The Blade tore ligaments in his wrist on July 1st, but is expected to return in time for 2005. The Mets originally selected Bladergroen in the 44th round in 2002 as a draft and follow out of Lamar CC.
Upside: Minky: Nil. Bladergroen: considerable.
Downside: Minky: $3.75 million. Bladergroen: Zero.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Baseball America's Top 10

I thought just for fun, I'd take a look at BA's Mets Top 10 list.

1. Lastings Milledge - Clearly the top position prospect in the Mets system.
2. Yusmeiro Petit - Clearly the top pitching prospect who's actually thrown a minor league inning.
3. Gaby Hernandez - Keeping the seat warm for Phillip Humber. Dominated in the GCL, 58 K, 12 BB, in 50 IP in rookie ball.
4. Ian Bladergroen - .342/.397/.595 in Capital City as a 22 year old, but those numbers are ridiculous. His rebound from a snapped wrist ligament will be very interesting. His 2004 numbers certainly justify this spot as the #2 position player.
5. Ambio Concepcion - Young, toolsy outfielder who hit .305/.338/.475 as a 21 year old in Brooklyn.
6. Alay Solar - Based solely on scouting reports. As a Mets fan I can only hope he deserves this spot.
7. Shawn Bowman - I'm not sure why he jumped over Aarom Baldiris as far as the best 3B in the Mets system after a .258/.338/.459 in Capital City as a 20 year old while Baldiris connected for .305/.384/.397 in 406 FSL at bats for St. Lucie. It is true that Baldiris struggled in 21 AA games: .235/.296/.284, but he's just 21 and in AA already.
8. Victor Diaz - This is way too low for a guy who as far as I'm concerned should be in the New York Mets starting outfield in 2005. Diaz followed up his .292/.332/.491 line in 528 AAA AB with a .294/.321/.529 debut in 15 games for the Metropolitans. Look, I want him to take a walk too, but he can hit.
9. Jesus Flores - As a 20 year old, the catcher hit .319/.368/.532 in the GCL.
10. Matt Lindstrom - has never struck out more than a batter an inning at any of his minor league stops until fanning 64 in 56 innings in Capital City innings in 2004. He dropped off with 50 punchouts in 79.2 IP in St. Lucie. This seems a little high for the 25 year old, although the scouts like that his FB sits 94-96, according to BA.