Archive for Mets

Daily Prospect Notes: 7/11

Notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

Andres Gimenez, SS, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: Hi-A   Age: 19   Org Rank: 3   FV: 50
Line: 3-for-5, 2B, 3B

Notes
Gimenez is a 19-year-old shortstop slashing .280/.350/.430 in the Florida State League. That’s good for a 107 wRC+ in the FSL. Big-league shortstops with similar wRC+ marks are Trea Turner (a more explosive player and rangier defender than Gimenez) and Jurickson Profar, who have both been two-win players or better this year ahead of the break. Also of note in the Mets system last night was Ronny Mauricio, who extended his career-opening hitting streak to 19 games.

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The Prospect of a Trade Looms over Rehabbing Syndergaard

It’s been awhile since something went right for the Mets, but on Sunday, Noah Syndergaard traveled the 20-odd miles from Citi Field to Coney Island and didn’t gorge himself on 74 Nathan’s hot dogs in 10 minutes. Nor did he suffer a sword-swallowing mishap, or have his hair charred by a fire-eater with questionable control. In his first competitive outing since May 25, a rehab start for the Low-A Brooklyn Cyclones, the 25-year-old righty singed Staten Island Yankees hitters with fastballs that sat at 98 mph and touched 99 during a five-inning, 71-pitch outing that could pave the way for his return to the majors later this week, and perhaps an audition for a blockbuster trade later this month.

Syndergard hasn’t pitched in the majors since being scratched from his May 30 outing due to a strained ligament in his right index finger. Unsurprisingly, he had a bit of extra adrenaline early in his return, beginning with six straight balls. He issued a four-pitch walk of leadoff hitter Alex Junior, who followed with a steal of second. Junior took third on a single by Josh Breaux and scored on a wild pitch, the first of two that Syndergaard uncorked on the afternoon. That run was the Yankees’ only one of the day, however, and after Breaux’s single, Syndergaard retired nine of the next 10 hitters and allowed just one additional hit, a fourth-inning single by Frederick Cuevas. That single was followed by another steal and a wild pitch on a strikeout that put Syndergaard under pressure, but he escaped by getting Eduardo Torrealba to line into an unassisted, inning-ending double play. Syndergaard then completely overwhelmed the Baby Bombers in a 10-pitch, two-strikeout fifth. Read the rest of this entry »


Getting the Orioles and Royals to 120 Losses

Great teams may dream of winning 116 games in a season, but for losers, whether of the lovable or non-lovable stripe, 120 is the number at which they gaze, gimlet-eyed. The 1962 Mets, with their inaugural band of cast-offs, left behind a legacy of being great at being not-so-great, losing 120 games and planting their flag in the Mt. Everest of Terrible.

Yes, 120 losses isn’t actually the MLB record, that feat being accomplished by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who lost 134 of their 154 depressing games. But it took a bit of chicanery to reach that sum. Frank and Stanley Robison owned both the Cleveland Spiders and St. Louis Perfectos and transferred most of the good 1898 Spiders over to St. Louis in an attempt to build one superteam and one comedy legend. Cleveland was doomed by design, though the Perfectos failed to be a superteam.

Incidentally, the Brooklyn Superbas pulled this off more successfully, looting the Baltimore Orioles to put together a 101-win roster (though I’d have penalized them a few wins for the confusing team name, which was swiped from an acrobatic act of the time and awkwardly made into a plural noun).

The 1962 Mets earned their infamy on the square and now serve as the gold standard for seasonal ineptitude. But as we head towards the trade deadline, we have two teams trying to make it interesting, the 25-66 Baltimore Orioles and the 25-65 Kansas City Royals.

Both teams stand slightly behind the Mets’ fierce pace, with winning percentages that round to 45-117, tantalizingly close to bleak greatness, but not quite there. Like when a batter tries to hit .400 over the course of the season, you want to have a cushion over the mark, since the natural course of regression will stamp down on the extremes.

But there’s at least a chance, which is really all that matters. What fun is a record if it’s likely to be surmounted? And it gives an additional layer of excitement to losing seasons when you need a break from wondering in what wacky way the Baltimore Orioles will mess up a Manny Machado trade or being astounded that the Royals actually advertise that it took them years to spare the roster from even a single game of Alcides Escobar’s services.

Powering up the ZiPS SuperComputer (it’s really just a regular computer), I cranked up the old simulations to get the latest probabilities that either the Royals or Orioles pull off the 120-loss feat.

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The Not-So-Triumphant Return of Jenrry Mejia

Before Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, before Steven Matz, the face of the New York Metropolitans’ pitching rebuild was a young fireballer named Jenrry Mejia. When he first arrived in the big leagues in 2010, Mejia had a mid-90s cutter that was compared to Mariano Rivera’s, but it was complemented by a collection of underdeveloped secondary pitches. Over the next couple of years, Mejia refined his arsenal and his command; he broke out in 2013, flashing four average or better pitches (cutter, sinker, changeup, slider) and a real ability to miss bats. In that 2013 season, Mejia struck out 24.1% of hitters while walking just 3.6%, en route to a 65 ERA- and identical 65 FIP-. Mejia quieted any small sample concerns the following year, striking out better than a batter per inning (23.5% overall) and posting a mid-3.00s ERA, FIP, and xFIP across 93.2 innings alternating between the rotation and bullpen — and even recorded 28 saves as the Mets’ closer.

And then it all fell apart. Twice in 2015, Mejia was suspended for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Although he was his old dominant self between suspensions — recording a 25.9% K, 7.4% BB, 53 FIP-, and 0 ERA- in 7.1 innings — his absence opened the door for the next wave of Mets pitchers, including Jeurys Familia, who supplanted Mejia as the team’s closer in the Mets’ historic run to the World Series. Still, there seemed ample room for for the fireballing Mejia to rejoin the Mets in 2016, either in a setup role or as a starter.

And then, on February 12, 2016, just before spring training was scheduled to begin, Mejia tested positive again. Per MLBTradeRumors:

Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia has been banned permanently from the majors after his third positive PED test, according to a league announcement. Remarkably, Mejia tested positive for the banned substance boldenone after earning two suspensions just last year.

And with that, Mejia became the first player ever banned from the majors on the basis of repeated positive tests, per the terms of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Mejia did not take it well, accusing MLB of a “witch hunt,” saying the league had set him up, calling out the MLBPA for not defending him, and later threatening to sue MLB for his ban.

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Daily Prospect Notes: 7/5

Monday through Wednesday notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.

7/2

Brewer Hicklen, OF, Kansas City Royals (Profile)
Level: Low-A   Age: 22   Org Rank: HM   FV: 35+
Line: 4-for-6, 2B, HR

Notes
Hicklen has some statistical red flags if you’re unaware of the context with which you should be viewing his performance. He’s a 22-year-old college hitter with a 30% strikeout rate at Low-A. But Hicklen hasn’t been committed to playing baseball for very long, as he sought, late in high school and throughout college, to have a football career. He went to UAB as a baseball walk-on and eventually earned a football scholarship as the school’s defunct program was to be reborn. But Hicklen’s physical tools stood out as he continued to play baseball (plus speed and raw power), so he was drafted and compelled to sign. He hasn’t been focusing on baseball, alone, for very long and has a .300/.350/.525 line in his first full pro season. He’s a toolsy long shot, but so far so good.

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The Best Call of the Season

If you’re like me, then, before Tuesday, you didn’t know the name Stu Scheurwater. We all know the names of some umpires, and maybe you know the names of most umpires, but it’s almost impossible to keep track of all of them. Scheurwater, previously, wasn’t anywhere on my radar. And honestly, that’s probably a good thing, since we get to know umpires in the first place because they do something that ticks us off. We don’t seize many opportunities to congratulate umpires for a job well done. In that way they’re kind of like closers — their success is almost assumed. They’re supposed to get it right. They can’t always do that. Every little mistake makes thousands of people upset.

I’d like to take this moment to applaud Scheurwater’s performance. One call in particular has placed him on my good side. Scheurwater didn’t do anything he wasn’t supposed to do. He simply followed the rule book, which is much of an umpire’s job. Yet many other umpires wouldn’t have made the same decision. When it comes to how baseball is played, I don’t have many strong opinions. I’m open to the pitch clock, I’m open to changing the mound, and I don’t care either way about the DH. With Brandon Nimmo at the plate Tuesday, Scheurwater called a ball. I strongly believe any such sequence should be called the same way.

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The Manager’s Perspective: Ron Gardenhire on Players from His Past

Ron Gardenhire’s experience in the game extends far beyond his 14 seasons as a big-league manager. The 60-year-old “Gardy” has also spent time as a coach and a minor-league manager — and, before that, he played nine seasons as an infielder in the New York Mets system. Primarily a shortstop, Gardenhire appeared in 285 games with the NL East club between 1981 and -85.

He’s also a lifelong fan of the game. The bulk of Gardenhire’s formative years were spent in small-town Okmulgee, Oklahoma, where he collected bubble-gum cards, religiously tuned in to The Game of the Week, and cheered for his heroes. Then he got to live his dream. Gardenhire played with and against the likes of Dave Kingman, Rusty Staub, and Pete Rose. As he told me recently at Fenway Park, “I’ve been fortunate.”

———

Ron Gardenhire: “I was an Okie, so I followed the guys who were from Oklahoma more than anything else. Mickey Mantle, Johnny Bench, Bobby Murcer. I also watched the Dodgers, Don Drysdale and those guys, because my dad was in the military and we were out in Arvin, California when he was overseas in Korea. That’s when I really got into baseball. I collected bubble-gum cards, and all that stuff, with my cousins out there.

“Every Saturday we would hunker down in front of the TV and watch the Game of the Week. In our area — this is when we were back in Oklahoma — a lot of the time it was the Cardinals. They were prominent there. We’d also get to see the Yankees quite a bit, and the Dodgers.

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The Mets Might Have the Right-Handed Rich Hill

Ever since Rich Hill tossed convention aside and began using his curveball at an unusually high usage rate, other pitchers have followed the template. That’s how copy-catting best practices typically work. Drew Pomeranz started Hill-ing. So did Lance McCullers and, to a slightly less pronounced degree, Charlie Morton. Other have followed suit, too.

Well, we might have another pitcher on the Hill Plan — or, at least a modified version of the plan.

After throwing his curveball at 16.6% and 17.4% rates in each of the previous two years, Seth Lugo threw his curveball 32% of the time on Sunday night, nearly in line with his 31.2% rate on the season. It worked. While it’s not Hill-level usage, a 100% increase in pitch usage is notable. In his second start of the year against the vaunted Yankee lineup, Lugo allowed just two hits over six shutout innings striking out eight and allowing no walks.

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Trading Jacob deGrom Would Be Foolish

The Mets started out hot in 2018, needing just 12 games to record 11 wins. It would take the club another 30 games to get their next 11 wins, however. Even then, at 22-19, the team’s prospects for contending seemed decent. Twenty-one games and just six wins later, a once-promising season looks much less so. The graph below shows the team’s playoff odds since the start of the season.

Even heading into May, the playoffs looked like a 50/50 proposition. A week later, it was one-in-four, and now the Mets’ odds of making the playoffs are basically 1-in-10. In what figures to be a very competitive National League playoff race, the Mets’ record is better than only the Marlins’ and Reds’. To make the playoffs, they will have to pass eight teams. Unless the club turns things around quickly, they might find themselves as sellers in a month. The question, though — if indeed the Mets do becomes sellers — is “Who precisely do they sell?” The two best players on the team are ace-level starting pitchers controlled beyond this season in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Buster Olney recently argued the team should at least gauge their trade value.

So deGrom is everything that the New York Mets really need right now, in their worst of times, in his dominance and his leadership. But given the current challenges of the organization — the gray-beard age at the major league level, the lack of depth at the top of their farm system — they owe it to themselves to welcome offers from other clubs for deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, to at least understand what’s possible.

If the Mets were to start a rebuilding process, deGrom and Syndergaard would be the first to go. With deGrom in arbitration through 2020 and Syndergaard controlled through 2021, the duo would fetch a huge prospect haul. For sake of comparison, after the 2016 season, the White Sox traded Chris Sale for Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, and Victor Diaz, and then traded Jose Quintana last year for Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete. If the Mets were to trade both deGrom and Syndergaard, they would probably come pretty close to that kind of haul.

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Nimmo Is Finding His Power

Brandon Nimmo’s promise as a hitter had been addressed in these pages during the offseason, so it’s not surprising that, when Nimmo was demoted to Triple-A following a strong start to his 2018 campaign, this author argued on behalf of a quick return to the majors.

The decision had little to do with his talents, of course. Rather, it was due mostly to the outfield logjam created by the Mets after reuniting with Jay Bruce over the winter. Nimmo was quickly freed from Las Vegas in mid-April, however, returning just days after being demoted as the Mets moved Jacob Rhame to the DL.

Since he’s returned, all he’s done is lead all NL batters in wRC+ (173), ranking third by that measure among all major leaguers with at least 100 plate appearances .

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Things You Learn When the Mets Bat Out of Turn

On May 9, the Mets batted out of turn against the Reds. You probably know this. Actually, you might have known this and then forgotten it already. May 9 was a while ago. A lot has happened since May 9. Like, just in baseball, a lot has happened. Why even talk about it further?

Because May 9 was also not that long ago. In the context of humankind’s march through history, for example, it’s basically yesterday. In the context of the universe, it’s like a second ago. In the context of the universe, our whole lives are no longer than the snap of a finger. So, from that point of view, any discussion of baseball is absurd. From that point of view, why not discuss the Mets batting out of order on this first day back from a long weekend?

So much of baseball is routine. We learn from the repetition, but sometimes we glean something new when the seams get pulled apart. Batting out of turn isn’t entirely new, but it is unusual: according to Retrosheet, it had happened just six times in the last decade prior to the Mets’ foul-up. In case you missed it live, the lineup the Mets shared with the media looked like this:

The trouble was that the lineup actually given to the umpires and Reds manager Jim Riggleman had Wilmer Flores and Asdrubal Cabrera flipped.

Shortly after the game itself began, Flores came up to bat and struck out. Riggleman said nothing. They tell you to say nothing unless something good happens. Then Cabrera came up and doubled, after which Riggleman pointed out the mistake. Rule 6.03(b) is one of baseball’s more complicated rules, but the gist of it is, if a team bats out of turn and the other team notices in time, it’s an out. Once Cabrera’s at-bat commenced, it legalized Flores’ previously illegal at bat, which meant that Jay Bruce ought to have batted after Flores. Because Bruce was the proper batter, he was called out, poor guy. Cabrera’s double was wiped from the books. The Reds would win on an Adam Duvall walk-off solo home run in the 10th. One could argue it would have been good for the Mets to have scored a run in first.

It was silly and embarrassing, but it also showed us some things. These are a few of those things.

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Mets and Reds Exchange Horror Stories

Baseball is a game governed partially by design. When you see teams like the Astros or Cubs win the World Series, you can almost convince yourself that people are actually in charge. You can almost believe we have a handle on this. And to an extent, we do; baseball as a sport isn’t entirely random. The most talented players often become the best players. Clubs with enough of the best players often become the best teams. What’s so hard about that? Find and develop good players, and the rest should take care of itself.

But there’s a dirty little open secret. And this isn’t about how baseball games can turn on the flukiest of events. That’s true, also, but I’m referring to player development. What we’re all led to believe is that scouts are out there looking for guys who could be good. Then coaches and experience mold them, and then, eventually, guys become successful. A quality major-league player is a triumph for an entire organization. That performance level, however, can be fleeting. Becoming good in the majors isn’t the end of the story. A player is also supposed to stay good. And there’s surprisingly little people can do about that. Talent gets ripped away, often by injury. Injuries can be cruel and hard to predict, yet in a given year they can shape the landscape of an entire league. They can alter a team’s very direction.

Recently, the Mets designated Matt Harvey for assignment. Tuesday, the Mets traded Harvey to the Reds for Devin Mesoraco. Harvey’s development was a triumph for the Mets, just as Mesoraco’s development was a triumph for the Reds. They represented the best of what could go right for a talented young player in the proper hands. Now they’ve come to represent the nightmares that baseball people have when they fall asleep. Harvey and Mesoraco were two of the best. They weren’t allowed to sustain.

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Matt Harvey Is Now a Reclamation Project

When Matt Harvey burst onto the scene in 2012 — yes, it has been six years — there was every reason to believe he was destined to lead the long-maligned Mets back to the promised land. Over a 10-start camero, he struck out 28.6% of the batters he faced, good for nearly eleven strikeouts per nine innings. And while he walked more than 10% of his opponents, the future seemed limitless: Eno Sarris wrote before the 2013 season that “Yu Darvish might be his floor.”

Then Harvey went out and blew the doors off Queens in 2013.

However good you remember Harvey being in 2013, he was probably better. His ERA? It was 2.27. His FIP? Even lower than that. He cut his walk rate down to 4.5% while preserving his strikeouts (27.7%). He recorded an average velocity of 95.8 mph with his fastball, which was an incredible 30 runs above average. But his slider, and curveball, and changeup were all plus pitches, too, which is what has to happen to be 50% better than league average.

In the 2013 campaign, Harvey accrued 6.5 WAR in just 178.1 innings. To understand that in context, consider that, last year, Clayton Kershaw threw 175 innings and accrued 4.6 WAR. The mighty Noah Syndergaard was worse in 2016 than Harvey was in 2013. Harvey was, in 2013, the best pitcher in baseball.

Then Harvey tore his UCL and needed Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2014. Still, Derek Ambrosino wrote before the 2014 season that “there isn’t a great reason to worry that he won’t regain form as soon as he regains health” — and, a year later, before his return, Eno called him a “top-15 pitcher” even with the uncertainty of the surgery.

Matt Harvey circa 2015 wasn’t the same pitcher he was in 2013, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. After the All-Star break that year, Harvey posted a 25.7% K rate, a 3.6% walk rate, a 48.6% ground-ball rate, a 2.28 FIP, and a 7.18 K/BB. In other words, post-TJ Matt Harvey in 2015 looked an awful lot like prime Cliff Lee.

Then the postseason happened, and the World Series happened.

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The Mets May Have Dodged a Worst-Case Scenario

The Mets may have dodged a bullet, or they may have experienced their most Mets-like moment of the 2018 season — with that franchise, you can never be sure. On Wednesday night at Citi Field against the Braves, after he was seen wincing during a third-inning swing of the bat and again following a fourth-inning pitch, Jacob deGrom departed with what was soon characterized as a hyperextended right elbow. The good news, revealed in manager Mickey Callaway’s Thursday morning press conference, is that a postgame MRI revealed no structural damage to the elbow. No torn ligaments, in other words. Whew.

Nonetheless, almost immediately, confusion reigned in Queens. The New York Daily News‘ Kristie Ackert initially reported that, via Mets sources, deGrom “is expected to miss at least four starts with the hyperextended elbow.” But shortly afterwards, multiple reporters tweeted that deGrom had been cleared to make his next start on Monday. Hardly the finest hour for a team that’s attempting to change its reputation for turning injury management into a punchline.

As Ackert later explained, “I was told by sources there was a much bleaker outlook on deGrom earlier this morning. I reported what I was told, my bad. The #mets are cautiously optimistic he will make his next start and so is deGrom.” SNY’s Andy Martino bolstered that account by saying that sources told him that the team would prepare deGrom but “haven’t made any decision to scratch him yet.”

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The Mets’ Surprising Start Isn’t That Surprising

The New York Mets have the best record in baseball. The Mets, whose biggest free-agent signing was a player from last year’s 70-win team, are 10-1 on the season. The Mets, whose two biggest pitching acquisitions have compiled 2.1 totals innings so far this season, are 3.5 games up in their division and have already swept presumptive favorite Washington Nationals.

As Jeff Sullivan detailed earlier this week, no team has improved its playoff odds since the season began as much as the Mets. Winning 10 out of 11 games is certainly a surprising way to start. It would be surprising for any team — even the Astros have around just a 3% chance of winning 10 out of 11 games — but it isn’t all that surprising that the Mets are good right now. They should expect life to get tougher as the season goes on.

To provide a sense of how unlikely the Mets were to start 10-1, the graph below shows the odds of each win total from zero to 11 based on the assumption of the Mets as an 85-win team.

Eighty-seven times out of 100, the Mets end up with four to eight wins — with a one-in-120 shot at winning 10 games. I should also note that their schedule has been roughly neutral thus far, with the series against the Nationals balanced out by games against the Marlins. As for this version of the Mets, it might seem improbable after last year’s difficulties, but the Mets probably weren’t as bad in 2017 as their record ultimately suggested.

Consider a brief list of the factors that contributed to the Mets’ woes last year:

There are other factors, but those appear to be the main issues that caused the Mets to lose more than 90 games. We will look at what has changed or not changed in a bit, but first let’s consider that the Mets’ 70 wins might not have been a good representation of their talent level even with the issues above. The graph below shows team WAR in 2017 along with team wins from last year.

Notice first the very clear linear relationship. The more WAR a team accumulates, the more wins they get. If someone doesn’t believe in WAR, they are ignoring a very close relationship between WAR and wins. The relationship isn’t perfect, of course. Some teams (the ones above the trend line) outperformed their WAR totals, while others (below the line) underperformed them. Looking at the distance from the line can provide a sense of how much a team over- or under-achieved. The Mets show up as one of the biggest underachievers. The five teams with the closest WAR totals to the Mets — the Angels, Mariners, Marlins, Rockies, and Twins — won an average of 81 games last year, with the Marlins’ 77 wins representing the lowest figure. Even with the poor performances in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets should have been better last season.

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Free Brandon Nimmo

The Mets are off to a great start. They have increased their playoff odds more than other club since Opening Day. The Mets always had significant potential, and downside — considerable error bars in either direction — given both the club’s talent and injury concerns.

Now a couple turns through the rotation, the Mets’ starters have generally pitched well and remain healthy. Michael Conforto, meanwhile, has made a remarkable return from his shoulder injury. The Mets are being rewarded early for electing to bolster this talented, but highly volatile, core with the signings of Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, and Anthony Swarzak.

But the Mets could also be better.

This week, the club sent down their second-best hitter (217 wRC+) and position player to date (0.3) in Brandon Nimmo, ostensibly because there was no place to put him following the return of Conforto. The Mets have Yoenis Cespedes in left, Bruce in right, and a resurgent Adrian Gonzalez at first base. The Mets also have a quality reserve outfield option in Juan Lagares. Nimmo is blocked. But let’s hope he’s not sequestered in Las Vegas for too long. The Mets have sidelined one of the more intriguing players in the game.

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Top 18 Prospects: New York Mets

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the New York Mets. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this.

Mets Top Prospects
Rk Name Age High Level Position ETA FV
1 David Peterson 22 R LHP 2019 50
2 Andres Gimenez 19 A SS 2020 45
3 Tomas Nido 23 AA C 2018 45
4 Ronny Mauricio 16 R SS 2023 45
5 Justin Dunn 22 A+ RHP 2019 45
6 Mark Vientos 18 R 3B 2022 45
7 Peter Alonso 22 AA 1B 2019 45
8 Desmond Lindsay 21 A OF 2020 45
9 Luis Guillorme 23 AA UTIL 2018 45
10 Thomas Szapucki 21 A LHP 2021 40
11 Chris Flexen 23 MLB RHP 2018 40
12 Marcos Molina 23 R RHP 2018 40
13 Tony Dibrell 22 A- RHP 2020 40
14 Anthony Kay 23 R LHP 2021 40
15 Gerson Bautista 22 A+ RHP 2019 40
16 Adrian Hernandez 17 R OF 2022 40
17 Gavin Cecchini 24 MLB 2B 2018 40
18 Jamie Callahan 23 MLB RHP 2018 40

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Oregon
Age 22 Height 6’6 Weight 240 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
55/55 50/55 40/45 50/55 45/55

Peterson had a great junior year at Oregon in 2017, showing four good pitches and throwing more strikes than is typical for a pitcher his size. He sits 90-92 with heavy sink, will touch 95, and his fastball plays up because of good extension. He made heavy use of a slider that garners mixed reviews depending on if you’re talking to a scout (who consider it a 50/55) or someone looking at a Trackman readout (40/45), but it missed Pac-12 bats and should be fine even if it doesn’t spin a whole lot.

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R.I.P. Rusty Staub, Hitter and Humanitarian

A celebrity chef and restauranteur, a philanthropist, an icon in two cities, an All-Star in three, and the only player to collect at least 500 hits with four different franchises — Rusty Staub was all that and more. “Le Grand Orange,” who played in the major leagues from 1963 through 1985 and collected 2,716 hits including 292 homers, passed away on Thursday, hours before the start of the 2018 season and three days shy of his 74th birthday. If he wasn’t quite a Hall of Famer as a player, he most certainly was as a humanitarian, raising more than $100 million to combat hunger and to benefit the widows and families of police, firemen, and first responders killed in the line of duty.

“He was a George Plimpton character who didn’t have to be invented,” wrote Faith and Fear in Flushing’s Greg Prince.

A native of New Orleans, Daniel Joseph Staub — the son of a minor-league catcher — gained his first nickname from a nurse at the hospital he was born, for the red fuzz covering his head. Playing alongside older brother Chuck, he helped Jesuit High School to the 1960 American Legion national championship and the 1961 Louisiana State AAA championship. Major-league scouts from 16 teams beat a path to his door, and Staub wound up signing for a bonus of either $90,000 or $100,000 (sources differ) with the expansion Houston Colt .45s in 1961. He put in a big season for the Class-B Durham Bulls in 1962, leading the league with 149 hits and the next year, just eight days past his 19th birthday, was the Colts’ Opening Day right fielder. He went 1-for-3 that day, collecting an RBI single off the Giants’ Jack Sanford for his first hit, but batted a dismal .224/.309/.308 with six homers in 150 games for the 96-loss team, which was in its second year of existence.

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Searching for Mr. March

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for a couple days in March.
(Photo: slgckgc)

 
Two people walked into a bar. They settled every debate in the universe. Then they discussed baseball.

“Who is Mr. October?”

Reggie Jackson. What my elders taught me anyhow. Read it was sarcastic at first, then Reggie grew into the role.”

“Mr. November?”

“Ain’t Jeets that’s for sure? Can’t take a crown because you were first in line when a calendar flips.”

A swig.

“Randy Johnson won Games Six and Seven of the World flippin’ Series. That boy never needed to grow, of course. Just found the right circumstance. We should all be so lucky and talented.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Peace in our time.

“What about Mr. March?”

Oh no.

“All the databases have ‘Mar/Apr’ in their splits. There have been 70 regular-season games played in March. What are we saying here? Beginnings don’t matter? Without a beginning there is no end. An ouroboros. With no March there is no October. There is no November. There’s no Christmas. I like Christmas.”

“Chanukkah is also…”

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Effectively Wild Episode 1195: Season Preview Series: Mets and Rays

EWFI

In their final team-preview podcast of 2018, Ben Lindbergh and Jeff Sullivan banter about a new podcast-inspired song, the Scott Kingery, Ketel Marte, and Christian Vazquez extensions, Ben’s partially listener-inspired research about catcher offense, a Devil Rays close call, and whether the ball is juiced in MLB The Show, then preview the 2018 Mets (28:47) with MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, and the 2018 Rays (1:08:35) with CBS Sports’ R.J. Anderson.

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