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.

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.


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.