3/4/15

My Day at Spring Training: Lagares and Flores Take BP

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Flores takes batting practice. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

Juan Lagares makes contact during batting practice. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

I noticed that players group together. Wilmer Flores and Juan Lagares traded off swings in the batting cages. Steven Matz, Jacob deGrom and Cody Satterwhite ran their sprints together and moved between the fields as a trio. Brandon Nimmo, Cesar Puello, and Gavin Cecchini. Cuddyer, Murphy, Granderson, Wright and Duda. You get the idea.

On his last swing of one of his turns in the cage, Flores let one rip (Gary, Keith and Ron would say he "swung out of his shoes") and crushed one.

"Homer!" he said, making the dozen or so fans who had assembled chuckle. Having spoken just in Spanish to Lagares during this practice, this was for the fans and it was a funny moment that reminded those who were there that despite how hard they were working, they are still young athletes having fun at what they do well.

Perhaps it is blind optimism about one of my favorite players, but Juan Lagares looks really good. I am far from a scout nor do I have a trained eye, but he looks fit, strong and healthy. One thing I noticed about comparing the two taking batting practice is that Lagares really does have good bat speed. We all know that Flores has some of the best bat speed of anyone on the Mets. It's becoming legendary. However, Lagares is not all that far behind. Then again, it's never been about a slow bat for Lagares, it's been about pitch recognition and patience. Hopefully Kevin Long can work with him on that because he has quick wrists and a real quick bat.

Next up: Harvey and Syndergaard take the hill.

--SG
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My Day at Spring Training Camp: Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard

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Harvey warms up before live batting practice in Port St. Lucie--his first time facing live hitters since before his injury. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

Recap: On Monday, March 2nd, I had the pleasure of attending spring training camp in Port St. Lucie. You can read my coverage of Curtis Granderson here and Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores' batting practice here.

The biggest buzz of the day came when Matt Harvey took the mound for his warmup and live batting practice against Met hitters.

Harvey began warming up in a small bullpen-like area between two of the practice fields around 11. Before he even got to the mound to kick the dirt around, the entire fence was packed with fans, myself included. Everyone had a phone or a camera in their hand for Harvey's pitches.

He threw a full warm-up, mostly to Travis d'Arnaud who seems to have developed a solid pitcher-catcher relationship with Harvey already. While minimal, the gestures saying "Let's keep that pitch down" or "That's it right there, nice job" were clear. While Harvey has seldom thrown to d'Arnaud in his major league career, he will have to continue to develop a strong, symbiotic and effective relationship with him for each of their success. From this short bullpen, they seem to be well on their way.

To me, Harvey seemed, for lack of a better word, uncomfortable. Not "uncomfortable" in the way Johan Santana looked uncomfortable in a spring training that led to a season of disappointment and regression but uncomfortable in the sense that things weren't exactly right to him. They weren't perfect. And Harvey wants them to be perfect. The rest of his outing is well documented--he threw very well. He evidently developed a curveball. The coaches were impressed. Met hitters were impressed. But to Harvey, he wasn't perfect. And he wants to be perfect.

Side note: d'Arnaud never seems to not be in pitch-framing mode. Even in this short warmup to a bullpen session, d'Arnaud was moving that glove around like a painter on a canvas. I am not sure he is even aware of it or not but even when the pitch is well out of the strike zone, his glove ends up as if it were.
RHP prospect Noah Syndergaard works up a sweat during his bullpen on Monday. Photo: Stephen Guilbert

To say that most of the fans who were at spring training on Monday watched Harvey's warmup in the bullpen area would be an understatement. They were all there and no one moved a muscle when Syndergaard took the hill after Harvey. And, dare I say it, he stole the show from Harvey. Matt Harvey's fastballs certainly had zip and made a serious pop in d'Arnaud's glove. If the hiss on Harvey's fastball had the audible equivalent to a house cat, Syndergaard's were from an angry rattlesnake. His fastball was heavy, lively, and came with serious velocity--the sort of velocity fans drool over and the kind that makes coaches shake their head in disbelief.

One interesting moment came when Syndergaard missed his spot on a warm-up pitch. He let out a rather audible "fuck" to the cautious amusement of some fans watching him throw. While it was a slightly uncomfortable (or perhaps humorous, to some) moment, it illustrated how hard Syndergaard is on himself. The pitch was not an egregious miss--rather, it missed in the equivalent to the opposite batter's box. It's a pitch that would have resulted in the batter shuffling his feet to get out of the way, or perhaps it grazed him on the shins. It was not a bounced pitch or one that sailed over his catcher's head--it just missed the spot. One thing Syndergaard seems to have in common with Harvey is that he is his own biggest critic.

Tomorrow, Mack will schedule the rest of my coverage of spring training from early this week on Port St. Lucie. Stay tuned for reports on David Wright, Cesar Puello, Brandon Nimmo, Hansel Robles, Ruben Tejada, and more.

--SG
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My Day at Spring Training Camp: Introduction

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Tradition Field's 9/11 Memorial with the stadium in the background. I had the pleasure of watching spring training camp for the first time on Monday, March 2nd, 2015. Photo by Stephen Guilbert.

Yesterday, March 2nd, I got to Tradition Field and the Mets spring training complex around 10 A.M. and started watching the already-ongoing practices on the half dozen fields behind Tradition Field--home of the Port St. Lucie Mets and the venue for Mets spring training. As soon as I overcame my starstruck reaction to seeing my favorite players in person and up close, I began to appreciate the atmosphere, the work the players were putting in, and the overall vibe around the complex.

Over the next few hours, I am going to upload my photos from the day and write a bit on each, for each comes with a story or a footnote about what was happening at that moment. If you follow my coverage on Mack's Mets, you will know that I tend to focus on the young players, and my interests led me to watch those players more than the "main guys" on Monday. That does not mean I was totally oblivious to the stars, though. One of those stars was Curtis Granderson, who I found hitting off a tee in one of the batting cages, casually talking to the fans watching him.

"It's a game of adjustments." Photo: Stephen Guilbert

My high school friend Preston and I noticed Curtis Granderson hitting off a tee while the attention was on Harvey and some of the other players elsewhere in the complex. An older fan was chatting with him--something I had not seen at all during my day there. Apart from this interaction, there seemed to be an understood decorum: This is their practice. Do not interfere. However, with Granderson, it was different.

(after a swing)

Fan: Right down the line. That's it right there.
Granderson: (smiles, moves the tee and his ball bag ever so slightly) It's a game of adjustments.

Curtis Granderson still looks like he's a 25-year-old young stud player, a season or two after breaking out in the bigs. He appears as in shape as any player there, as muscular, toned, and athletic as our young prospects but with the poise and personality of the older veteran he is. Despite his chiseled physique, the casual chatting with fans, the never-ending gum chewing, smiling, and joking, Granderson is working hard. It seemed clear to me that he was there to the work to get himself back to the MVP-caliber player he was in Detroit and New York.

It's hard not to think how good the Mets could be if he does. I wanted to start this photo essay series with Granderson because he exemplifies what I enjoyed so much about my day at spring training--the accessibility of the players, my admiration for their work ethic, and the enjoyment a baseball fan has watching his favorite players refine the skills that make them so good at what they do.

Stay tuned. There are plenty more stories and photos coming tonight.

--SG
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Reese Kaplan -- Best Baseball Movie of All Time?

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Just as people have a particular emotional and often irrational allegiance to a single ballclub, the same holds true when it comes to favorite songs, favorite books and favorite movies.  Baseball has been the subject of a great many cinematic efforts, some good and some bad.  Let’s take a chronological look at some of the more popular baseball-themed movies and then hear from you about your favorites:

Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Gary Cooper plays Iron Horse Lou Gehrig, chronicling his ascent into baseball immortality and then the disease, ALS, that cut short his career.  Babe Ruth played himself in this movie and there’s not a dry eye in the house when you hear Cooper at his “day” celebrating his career after the disease made it impossible for him to continue playing say, “Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” 

The Stratton Story (1949)
Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson starred in this tale about All Star pitcher Monty Stratton who attempted a comeback after a gunshot wound from a hunting accident cost him his leg.  He spent parts of five additional seasons pitching in the minors with a wooden leg. 

The Pride of St. Louis (1952)
This biopic starred Dan Dailey as Dizzy Dean who ruined his arm when, against medical advice, he returned to the mound prematurely after taking a line drive off his toe and breaking it.  The altered mechanics ruined his arm and cut short a terrific career which saw him win 133 games between 1932 and 1937 for the St. Louis Cardinals. 

Fear Strikes Out (1957)
This biopic tells the story of Jimmy Piersall, a solid ballplayer so driven by a father who never seemed satisfied with the effort his son was giving that it eventually caused him to become institutionalized as a result of a nervous breakdown.  Anthony Perkins and Karl Malden give terrific performances in this story of a ballplayer coming to realize his motivation to succeed and his road back to the game he loved. 

Damn Yankees! (1958)
Tab Hunter stars in this musical about a down and out Washington Senators ballplayer, Joe Hardy, who wants more than anything to become the best in the game in order for his team to beat the hated NY Yankees.  He makes a literal deal with the devil, but as such stories usually unfold, things do not turn out quite as planned.  Ray Walston does a nice job as the devil, but perhaps the movie is best known for the seductive musical number, “Whatever Lola Wants” done by Gwen Verdon.

Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
This little seen movie had the double whammy of being released during a newspaper strike in New York City and following two years after the single biggest TV movie of all time, “Brian’s Song”.  This fictional story about baseball was actually written in 1956 but the story paralleled the real life drama of NFL player Brian Piccolo.  In this movie, pitcher Michael Moriarty, catcher (then unknown) Robert De Niro and manager Vincent Gardenia gave stellar performances showing how a team came together when it was revealed that De Niro was in fact dying.  Gardenia got an Academy Award for his performance as Best Supporting Actor. 

The Bad News Bears (1976)
Walter Matthau is a drunk, womanizing ne’er do well who is looped into coaching a misfit team of Little Leaguers, headed by a female pitching star and a bad-boy outfielder who take it down to the final out in the championship against the hated Yankees. 

The Natural (1984)
Robert Redford plays Roy Hobbs, Bernard Malamud’s complex depiction of a terrific talent who fashions a bat from a tree struck by lightning where his father dropped dead of a heart attack.  He carried “Wonderboy” with him everywhere yet saw himself as more of a pitcher than a hitter.  At a county fair he struck out a legendary professional hitter and was rewarded by being picked up by sultry Barbara Hershey who lures him up to her hotel room and shoots him.  He’s vanished from baseball for over 15 years when he’s hired on as a 35 year old rookie who helps lead his team to a championship against the backdrop of illegal gambling.  The nearly final scene with the right field lights exploding from his home run is one of cinema’s all-time greats. 

Bull Durham (1988)
Kevin Costner as minor league slugger Crash Davis is called upon to tutor the na├»ve and somewhat full of himself Nuke Laloosh in how to become a major league ballplayer.  Susan Sarandon gives a great performance as the ultimate baseball groupie and love interest of both ballplayers.  There are some memorable lines from that movie that are quoted and spoofed regularly outside the realm of baseball.

Eight Men Out (1988)
Acclaimed director John Sayles’ take on the 1919 Black Sox scandal was dramatized in this popular movie starring John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Charlie Sheen and D.B. Sweeney as Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned all eight involved for life for not coming forth about being approached by gamblers. 

Field of Dreams (1989)
An Iowa corn farmer hooks up with a baseball writer and with his encouragement builds a baseball field on the property of his failing farm.  Sure enough, upon its completion baseball players from a long bygone era start appearing out of the cornfield, including eventually his father who comes along to play catch with his son. 

Major League (1989)
In this rally-round-the-evil-owners tale, the hapless Cleveland Indians have an owner hell bent on moving them to Florida and needs for them to finish poorly in order to make her case that it would be more economically viable to relocate the franchise.  With a rag-tag bunch of misfit players, they stage an improbably run to the pennant on the arm of “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), the bat of Jobu’s disciple, Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert) and the legs of Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes).  Bob Uecker cemented his status as the most colorful play-by-play man ever with a series of memorable one-liners. 

A League of Their Own (1992)
This tale was a story about the real life Rockford Peaches of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was formed to fill the void during World War II when many of the game’s star players were off fighting.  Tom Hanks was a former player and now alcoholic manager who was saddled with this team but showed little interest until one of his players, Geena Davis, demonstrated both the desire and talent to win.  The cast also included performances by Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell. 

Mr. Baseball (1992)
Tom Selleck plays an over-the-hill slugger and former MVP who has been traded to the Chunichi Dragons of the Nippon Professional Baseball league in Japan.  There he must adjust both to no longer being the center of attention, to the nuances of how the Japanese game and the American game differ, and how to reinvent himself in this new environment.  The fictionalized account is not the stuff of Academy Awards, but the glimpse inside Japanese baseball culture is something most fans have never seen.  

Cobb (1994)
Before there was John Rocker, Hall of Famer Ty Cobb was the poster child for racist, hate-mongering bigotry.  However, he also had a lifetime batting average of .367, so people were willing to look past his rather fiery personality.  Tommy Lee Jones gives a tour de force in the lead role telling his story in flashbacks to his biographer, Robert Wuhl. 

Trouble With the Curve (2012)
This very recent Clint Eastwood flick has a connection to the NY Mets as most of it was filmed at the Grayson Stadium, home of the Savannah Sand Gnats.  It tells the story of an old-school baseball scout who’s losing his vision but not his instincts for finding talent.  He advises against drafting a top-rated slugger due to his inability to hit the curve ball.  His daughter picks up the mantle of scouting for him when his eyesight won’t let him continue and she finds a remarkable pitcher who used to sell peanuts in the stands at the ballpark.  At the end of the movie the pitcher makes the top draft pick hitter look silly on a hellacious curve. 

Here in alphabetical order are some other baseball movies that may or may not be on your radar:

  • 42
  • *61
  • Angels in the Outfield
  • Alibi Ike
  • The Babe
  • The Babe Ruth Story
  • Ballplayer: Pelotero
  • Baseball (Ken Burns)
  • The Bingo Long Traveling All Stars & Motor Kings
  • Blue Skies Again
  • Brewster’s Millions
  • Chasing 3000
  • The Comrades of Summer
  • Fever Pitch
  • For the Love of the Game
  • Hardball
  • It Happens Every Spring
  • The Jackie Robinson Story
  • The Kid from Left Field
  • Kill the Umpire
  • The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
  • Little Big League
  • Long Gone
  • Moneyball
  • Mr. 3000
  • Mr. Destiny
  • The Naughty Nineties
  • Pastime
  • The Rookie
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Rhubarb
  • Safe at Home
  • The Sandlot
  • Stealing Home
  • Sugar
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • Talent for the Game
  • Tiger Town
Are there any significant titles that I missed?  What is your all-time favorite?  My vote goes to Bang the Drum Slowly whose movie rendition was word-for-word true to the excellent Mark Harris novel on which it was based.
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The Morning Report 3.4.15 Intra-Squad Game Results, Harvey's 1st Starts, Wright Scolds Syndergaard, Murphy the Killer.

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  • The Mets Intrasquad Game ended in a 0-0 tie yesterday. Zack Wheeler struggled with his fastball command as he was "throwing across his body." He called it an easily fixable mechanical flaw. Jon Niese look impressive as he K'd 3 in his 2 innings of work while giving up no hits. Rule 5 pick Sean Gilmartin also had an impressive performance K'ing 4 in 2 innings of work while working around 3 hits allowed. 



Kevin Kiernan | New York Post - "If all goes well the rest of spring training, the Mets want the Comeback Kid to pitch in Washington against the Nationals — but not the season opener. Game 3 is likely and then he will make his Citi Field comeback in the Mets’ second home game of the season, a night game, versus the Phillies. The Dark Knight Returns.”

(Chris Soto: I fully understand the team's desire to reduce the tension involved in Harvey's first game back, however, one can easily see this is a marketing technique to try and drive sales for the rest of the games during the Opening Series. Opening Day is going to sell out whether Harvey pitches or not....but Game 2 and 3 generally are lower attendance games.)


Marc Carig | via Amazin Army Twitter - "According to Carig, all players were informed that they needed to be on the bench for the entirety of the intra-squad game. When Wright was pulled from the game after his 2 at-bats, he noticed that Syndergaard was not there. He found Thor sitting in the clubhouse eating lunch and proceeded to scold him for doing so."

(Chris Soto: Good for Wright! From what it sounds like, Wright was not mean about it, he didn't yell or show any aggression. He just calmly but assertively denounced Syndergaard's choice to not follow the rules put in place. Thor understood his mistake and will learn from it. You can blatantly see the culture change that is happening with this team right now. It has gone from a fun loving, camaraderie team to one who expects to win and is all about business and getting the job done.)


Kevin Kernan |  nypost.com Kevin Long is not into hype. I pulled Long aside and asked him what Mets hitter has the best chance to become better this season. Long didn’t hesitate. “Murphy,’’ he said. “A batting title is not out of his grasp. “He’s got a lot of pop and a lot of potential. There is more ability in there and we are going to try to draw it out.’’ “The thing is, he makes you believe it, and I think that’s what makes you feel so good,’’ Murphy said of the Yankees former hitting coach. “He makes you believe what you believe, which is that you’re a killer.’’ A killer. The Mets sure could use a few more killers at the plate.


(Herb G.   I’ve always believed that Murphy is a fine contact hitter, potentially able to hit .300 consistently. His power potential, however, is suspect. I worry that if he tries to jack too much, his average will suffer. If Murph indeed does win a batting title, would Alderson still let him walk at the end of the season, as has been so thoroughly rumored? There is some precedent for that, isn’t there? I think Murphy is a goner. Dilson Herrera is the heir apparent at 2B, with Reynolds, and even Flores as backups. But if Murphy does have a banner season offensively, as Long predicts, he will probably get a qualifying offer. In that case, we would get back the draft choice next year, that we lost when we signed Cuddyer this year.)


John Harper |  nydailynews.com All eyes are on Matt Harvey here, especially as he threw live to hitters on Monday, but none more intently than those of Noah Syndergaard. The Next Big Thing for the Mets has Harvey’s arsenal of pitches but little of his self-assurance. So now it’s no accident that Syndergaard has been paired with Harvey in drills and live batting practice sessions, following the Mets’ comebacking ace to the mound. “You hope some of it rubs off on Noah," was the way Terry Collins put it Monday. Of course, it’s worth remembering the righthander is only 22 years old. Still, Syndergaard himself was honest on Monday in saying that he needs to try to carry himself a little more like Harvey, admitting that he’s not always the most confident guy on the mound. “Just watching his warm-up pitches in bullpen," Syndergaard said, “you see the amount of focus, determination he had there. You could just tell by the look in his eyes that he knew what he wanted to accomplish. One thing I can take from him, the demeanor he takes out there to the mound. I’m a fairly anxious guy, I want to go full speed all the time. Watching him, the poise that he has out there, it’s all calm and relaxed. That’s something I want to be able to take from him."


(Herb G.  As young as he is, there is a lot that Professor Harvey can impart on the young Mets pitchers. It is encouraging to see that Thor is eager to take in all he can from Harvey, and that he has identified Matt’s demeanor on the mound as something to emulate. Also, that Warthen thought to pair the two of them up in the early going says something about the intention of the team to hold onto Thor at all costs. If the arrangement shows signs of bearing fruit as spring training progresses, it might not be a bad idea to add Matz to Harvey entourage, although with Matz’s maturity, he may not be as much in need of the mentoring as Noah.)
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3/3/15

MMs Top 25: #20 3B Jhoan Urena

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#20 3B Jhoan Urena (LR#27)
Bats: S Throws: R
Height: 6' 1" Weight: 200 lb
Age: 20
Acquired: 2011 international signing, $450,000 bonus, Santiago, Domincan Republic

2014: (SS-A) .300/.356/.431, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 7 SB (44%), 27 BB, 58 K
2013: (Rk) .299/.351/.376, 0 HR, 20 RBI, 4 SB (80%), 13 BB, 34 K
2012: (DsL) .279/.330/.405, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 12 SB (80%), 20 BB, 46 K


     Under Sandy Alderson's regime, the Mets have been decently efficient finding IFA gems on an annual basis. The 2011 international bonus class was the starting point of this regime's success. While the club's marquee signing, Venezulean C Jose Garcia, and other signings like C Dioni Rodriguez, RHP Luis Carreno, and SS Jose Martinez haven't panned out well, the class still brought us high upside arms in RHP Rafael Montero and RHP Luis Mateo, as well as our new #20 ranked prospect 3B Jhoan Urena.

     Urena has an awkward, long limbed body build which would make you think that he would be better suited for a corner OF spot or 1B, however, he is surprisingly athletic for someone with his body build. He has pretty good reactions at the Hot Corner, helping him achieve a solid first step, and his soft hands usually snag most ground balls hit his way. His also carries a really strong arm, which easily grades out as 60 grade plus tool, and can make the tough long throws from way behind the bag. He does have some fixable mechanical issues that coaches will need to work with him on. He has a tendency of "ole'ing" when attempting backhands and when he is rushed by a speedy runner, Urena has a tendency to get extremely wild with his strong arm.

     While his athletic ability is better than initially expected, his primary prospect building tool continues to be his hitting ability. Urena comes from Sandy Alderson school of "hunting for your pitch." He shows excellent patience at the plate and generally won't fish for pitches outside of the strike zone. When he does see a pitch that he likes, he uses his long arms and plus raw strength to generates excellent bat speed and leverage to attack. While that raw strength has not translated into many home runs, scouts believe that he could develop into a 15-20 HR hitting 3B. Despite his body, Urena also possesses a bit of speed too having produced 80% SB success rates in his 1st 2 seasons. That said, the percentage declined significantly in 2014 indicated that as he continues to mature he is bound to lose some of that sneaky speed. His long limbs also makes it difficult for him to accelerate to top speed.

     Urena certainly looks to have the tools capable to make the MLB as a starting 3B, especially, since the position is one of the weaker ones in the MLB right now. If Urena is able to develop into a 20 HR guy, he would be 1 of only 6 thirdbasemen that were able to produce that kind of power last season. There is significant concern though that Urena's body build and declining speed will force him off of 3B and into RF or worse 1B. While his bat could potentially hold at those positions, his offensive profile would be much more valuable at 3B. Urena is going to have a tough assignment to Savannah in 2015 so he'll need to focus more on cleaning up the last remaining mechanical flaws in his swing rather than trying to translate his raw power into game power.


Ceiling: Fringe MLB Starting 3B (Conor Gillaspie)
Floor: Moves off 3B, becomes a tweener career minor league RF
Anticipated Assignment: (A) Savannah starting 3B.
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Stephen Guilbert - Players Not To Overlook- Part Two: Jeurys Familia and Vic Black- Relievers on the Rise

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Call me crazy but I think RHP Jeurys Familia offers the Mets the best closing option in 2015. 
Jeurys Familia and Vic Black represent both the potential in the Mets bullpen as well as its risk. One gets hit around by lefties and the other walks too many. One is turning 26, the other already 26 years of age. Both are right handed relievers with big fastballs and big potential.

Whether it be advanced projections, analyst rankings or expert opinion, the consensus on the Mets bullpen is the same: It has potential but it is young, lacks depth, and comes with risk. Little focus seems to be on the upside of the group. While I agree that a lot rides on a group of guys in their mid-20s (Edgin and Mejia as well) who could flame out, get hurt, or never reach their potential, we are also talking about four guys who also had varying degrees of success last year. I'm not sure people realize how rare that is in today's game to have four (five if Montero joins them) talented late inning-caliber relievers with mid-90s velocity. While their success manifested itself in different ways for each pitcher last year, the potential should not be ignored. As far as the depth criticism goes, those critics must be ignoring the good possibility of Rafael Montero and/or Dillon Gee getting bullpen time as well--along with the potential of a prospect starter in a relief role later in the year.

But let's get back to Familia and Black. While Parnell and Mejia are well known around baseball because of their closing ability and success, Familia and Black are seen as the maligned late-inning righties with big arms but exploitable weaknesses.

While Vic Black did not have the same success as Jeurys Familia in 2014, he offers similarly elite velocity, a good curve, and could emerge as one of the better NL relievers in 2015. His success makes an already strong unit potentially among the game's best, but he must make the jump in 2015.

But what about their strengths?

Both have fastballs well north of 95 MPH on average. Both offer a breaking pitch that was very successful in 2014 (Familia's slider and Black's curve) and the two of them have barely over 150 innings of major league experience between them. It's not outlandish to suggest they can still get better. Potentially much better. Both have multi-inning capacity (though with the stable of arms the Mets have, it might not be necessary) and miss a lot of bats. Despite Black's wildness and Familia's struggles against lefties in 2014, both are pitchers who can come into tight spots and get big outs via the strikeout.

Familia and Black both have the sort of arm strength you want in a closer, and the Mets probably will not use either in that role given the presence of Parnell and Mejia. That, to me, says the bullpen of the 2015 Mets should be very strong and in no small part to the presence of high-octane, potential lockdown set up men like Black and Familia.

I found myself struggling to put together much over 500 words for this post and, after trying a few different paragraphs including other analytics, I realized it would be superfluous because the concept is simple: Familia and Black have very good arms and can (maybe even should) be two of the better NL relievers out there. While they might get lost behind the stomping of Mejia and the return of our bearded closer, they should not be overlooked. Both will be integral parts to preserving leads and keeping games close in 2015.

--SG
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The Morning Report 3.3.2015 | Intra-Squad Game, Logan Verrett, Gee for Profar?, RIP Jeff McKnight, Juan Lagares ceiling?

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  • Today is the first Spring Training Game of the Year! The club is scheduled to play an internal intra-squad game against each other at 12pm today. On the mound for Team Blue will be Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Sean Gilmartin, Carlos Torres and Vic Black. For Team Orange, Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Buddy Carlyle and Jeurys Familia will be on the mound. David Wright, Michael Cuddyer and Curtis Granderson are all scheduled to play but Daniel Murphy, Juan Lagares, and Lucas Duda will all sit.


Rich Dubroff | CSN Baltimore - "the Orioles have a Rule 5 draft choice who threw a scoreless inning. Logan Verrett, taken by the Orioles from the New York Mets, has pitched at a much higher level than Garcia. Because he’s a Rule 5 pick, Verrett has more eyes on him.“I definitely feel like I’m going to get plenty of opportunities to be seen on the mound. I, for, appreciate that opportunity. Being able to get out on the mound, just getting out there, the more times I get out there on the mound, the better I can be. I hope I get as many opportunities as humanly possible to pitch this spring training,”

(Chris Soto: It's been said that the Orioles LOVE what they are seeing from Logan Verrett and that he has a legitimate shot of sticking with the club as their long man out of the bullpen. He's also in the competition for the 5th starter role but is more of a long shot there. We continue to wish Verrett the best of luck. When your in a system that has so much good pitching, naturally there are going to be guys who end up on other teams.)


Chris Cotillo | MLB Daily Dish - "There is an expectation around baseball that Mets' starter Dillon Gee could be traded at some point during spring training, and some in the game believe the Rangers may make a push to acquire him, according to major-league sources.One scenario that is being thrown about in baseball circles is a deal that could send Jurickson Profar to the Mets for Gee and some additional pieces. Profar is likely to miss the entire season due to labrum surgery, though the Mets may be looking to buy low on him.

(Chris Soto: If this rumor has any legs whatsoever.....I am all for it. Gee has made it very clear that he is not a fan of the idea of pitching out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, after Darvish, Gallardo, and Holland, the Rangers have serious question marks in the back end of their rotation. It's a natural fit and the Rangers have additional depth in the middle infield with Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus. We have to remember that Profar was once a consensus Top MLB prospect. If there truly is a buy low scenario here.....you take it.)


Associated Press | ESPN New York - Jeff McKnight, a versatile player who spent six seasons with the New York Mets and Baltimore Orioles, has died. He was 52. McKnight's family told the Mets that McKnight died Sunday after battling leukemia for 10 years. McKnight made his big league debut with the Mets in 1989 and hit .233 with five home runs and 34 RBIs in 218 games. He singled in his final at-bat for the Mets in August 1994, on the final day before a players' strike wiped out the rest of the season.

(Chris Soto: Our condolences to the team's Joe McEwing has his time. I remember McNight being one of the 1st player's I watched when I first started rooting for the Mets when I was kid [1993 I think]. He was a small scrappy guy who always gave the game everything he had. )



TIM ROHAN | nytimes.comSeveral characteristics distinguished Juan Lagares’s outfield glove last season. It was orange with blue trim — Mets colors — along with a patch of black on the back. His son’s name, “J Lagares Jr.,” was stitched into the side. Lagares used his glove to win two prestigious awards — a Gold Glove and a Fielding Bible. He used his glove to establish himself as perhaps the best defensive center fielder in baseball. Lagares, 25, is still building his reputation. The Mets signed him as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic. He is entering his third season with the team as a cornerstone, a young player whom they can build around. Consider some metrics. Baseball Info Solutions, one of the sport’s most respected analytics outfits, evaluates outfielders on the number of plays they make in three areas — shallow, medium and deep. The company found that Lagares ranked among the top center fielders in all three categories. Perhaps more impressive, the company concluded that Lagares also saved 52 runs over the last two years, best among center fielders. As a rule of thumb, said John Dewan, the founder of Baseball Info, about 10 runs saved equal about one victory. Lagares’s defense alone, then, could be credited for about five Mets wins over the last two years, and he played center field for only about 68 percent of the Mets’ games in that period. Dewan said Lagares’s impact was comparable to 40 home runs in half a season. Lagares, it should be noted, can do more than field. He hit .281 last season, 39 points higher than his rookie year, and started showing promise as a base stealer. As a defender, though, he is probably at the height of his powers right now.”

(Herb G.  I have the distinct feeling that Lagares has the makings of a future star. His stellar glove, of course, goes without saying. But offensively, he can be a force as well. Kevin Long recently likened him to Robinson Cano, which I think may be a stretch. I see more of a likeness to Carlos Gomez. Lagares demonstrated his hitting potential in his last few minor league seasons, and perhaps with Long’s tutelage he can even improve on his already satisfactory results of last year at the major league level. Additionally, he seemed to finally learn how to use his speed to advantage on the base paths in the final months of last season. With Lagares batting lead off, as Terry Collins suggested, it could be an exciting season. It even makes one wonder if young Juan could be the player who finally makes Met fans forget the pain of losing Jose Reyes.)

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3/2/15

Tom Brennan - MINOR LEAGUERS MOST LIKELY TO HELP IN 2015

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Tom Brennan - MINOR LEAGUERS MOST LIKELY TO HELP IN 2015


Every year, the opening day 25 man roster does not mean a whole lot in Metsville.  My math could be off, but I believe 45 guys wore a Mets uniform last year, and that is not counting the guys sitting in Section 8 who bought their jerseys at the souvenir stand.
So why sweat it if you don’t make the opening day 25?  Most of the rest of the guys in the organization will make the team at some point in 2015, if 2014 is any indication.
OK, I exaggerate.  But which minor league guys will help in 2015?  A “minor leaguer” includes some guys who played very briefly last year in the bigs, but conceivably might have a more significant role with the team in the future. 
So I will leave out the likes of a Matt den Dekker, who I believe will play on, and help, the team in 2015, but who had about 175 plate appearances last year.  I will leave out a Rafael Montero, who logged 44 innings last year with the Mets.  Each guy had the equivalent of a full quarter to a third of a season, so even if they start out back in AAA (Dekker due to options, and Montero due to a pitching glut), they are big leaguers now.
Anyway, here’s my “Most Likely” list, with 12 guys on it
1.             Noah Syndergaard – maybe he cracks the rotation in April, maybe in June, but he’s coming soon.  He will be the god of Thunder when he does.
2.             Steven Matz – lots of folks feel Matz needs a year in AAA to be turned into a starter with the Mets.  I feel that on some teams, he could be an April starter.  On this one, due to the glut, we’ll see him after Super 2 or in September, but I think he will pleasantly surprise a lot of people as to his readiness when spring training starts.
3.             Dilson Herrera – I am assuming Murphy is still here opening day, and Dilson heads to AAA, a level he skipped in his September 2014 call up.  I see a star by 2016 or 2017.  I could easily see him called up by June or July 2015.  Cream rises.
4.             Matt Reynolds – I still think at some point he shows (by hitting robustly in Vegas again to show 2014 was not a fluke) he has more to offer than Ruben Tejada, and Matt will replace him as a utility guy.
5.             Kevin Plawecki – I think his AAA numbers were subdued a bit due to his vertigo.  Assuming that is in the past, he will show he is ready for the bigs by mid-2015.
6.             Cesar Puello  - I believe he showed enough in the 2nd half of 2014 in AAA, and in when he got to finally get off the bench in winter ball, to show he’s got enough talent to be at least a platoon vs. lefties and a defensive replacement and pinch runner.
7.             Jack Leathersich – I have a sneaking suspicion he figures out Vegas, lefty hitters and his control issues enough to get some significant bullpen time in 2015, even if he is not on the opening day roster.
8.             Cory Mazzoni – talented.  A shift to the pen will get him here in 2015.
9.             Dario Alvarez – I like Leathersich better, but Dario defied gravity by jumping from mid-A ball to the Mets in 2014, so maybe we will see another surprise from him in 2015.
10.        Johnny Monell – I think the fact that this catcher with pop in his bat is a lefty hitter bods well for his chances at some playing time as a platoon guy vs. righty pitching.
11.        Sean Gilmartin – lefty reliever pick up.   Soft tosser of high pedigree. Time will tell.
12.        Matt Bowman – already impressive at AAA, this rapidly rising starter is running headlong into a numbers game.  Hard to see if/when he makes it, for that reason.
 Long shots, or late season call ups:
1.    Danny Muno – I think 2015 will mark another year of progression, with very strong AAA #s.  If Herrera and Reynolds were not ahead of him, I’d move him up to the above group.
2.    Wilfredo Tovar – slick fielding, light pop SS.  Same crowd Muno faces.
3.    Xorge Carillo – solid AA hitting catcher who had a strong winter ball.  He could well be a future #2 catcher, but I doubt it will happen in 2015.
4.    Brandon Nimmo – I still see 2016 for him, but maybe (after struggling in AA and winter ball), he leapfrogs in 2015 with a surge in performance in AAA.  On a team that has a laser focus on Super 2, maybe his arrival is mid-2016, along with Conforto.
5.    Michael Fulmer – put him in the pen?  Maybe it all falls into place for him in 2015 if they do that.  That would really surprise me, but maybe he comes in totally healthy and leaps forward.  He’s disappointed the past few years.
6.    Hansel Robles – just the lack of AAA time and the crowded pen limit his chances to be more than a September call up.
7.    Michael Conforto – it would only be as a September call up, but from what I’ve read, he has a very high quality, advanced bat, so maybe he soars thru the 4 levels above Brooklyn in 2015 and gets a cup o’ joe.
8.    Eric Goeddel – the righty did get a brief cup of coffee in 2014, but has to improve to get more than the same in 2015.
9.    Darin Gorski – my guess?  Maybe a cup of coffee in September.  Close to “very long shot” status.
Very long shots:
1.    Travis Taijeron – a bat with extra base pop that needs to plug the strikeout hole – he has not yet shown signs that will happen.
2.    Jayce Boyd – I expect a strong 2015 from Boyd in AAA.  Only injuries would clear up space for him at any point in 2015.
3.    Tyler Pill – seems there will be no room for him, but he finished real strong his last 4 months or so in AA.    Will his stuff work in the majors?
4.    Akeel Morris – 2015 will show whether he can continue to dominate hitters above mid-A ball and sneak in some September coffee.  I think he is more of a 2016 consideration.
5.    Zach Thornton – more of a AAAA guy to me, so I don’t see it.
6.    Cory Satterwhite – solid pen work in AA in 2014, but a lot of pitching bodies lie ahead of him.  He’d need to show he’s better than 2014.
27 guys in all above – plus the likes of Montero and Dekker.   Should be interesting to watch the shake out in 2015.  There will be a whole lotta shakin' going on!






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MMs Top 25: #21 RHSP Robert Whalen

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#21 RHSP Robert Whalen (LR#23)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 200 lb
Age: 21
Acquired: 2012 Rule IV draft, 12th round, Haines City HS (Haines City, Florida)

2014: (A) 9-2, 1.94 ERA, 69.2 IP, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.990 WHIP
2013: (Rk) 3-2, 1.87 ERA, 72.1 IP, 9.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.926 WHIP


     There is something to be said for guys who just produce positive results. Whether you think they have the tools or velocity, or lack thereof, the purpose of pitchers is to put their teams in a position to win. Whalen has done that in spades so far in his minor league career. In 143 career innings, Whalen is 12-4 with a 1.89 ERA and a .186 Batting Average Against. That is phenomenal no matter what level a prospect may be at. That said though, while he has the production to certainly warrant flying up this list, those pesky injuries keep capping what I can do with him.

     After winning his 1st 4 starts of the season, after an aggressive assignment to Savannah, Whalen lost 2 months of development time due to an "odd" infection near his knuckle on his throwing hand. The team claims that it was not MSRA but a surgical procedure was needed in order to clean out the infection. Upon finally returning to the mound, Whalen's velocity was down and the percentage of swings and misses against batters had dropped from 19% to only 10%. Despite the periphals results dip, the standard stats were still very good suggesting that Whalen just needed some time to get his stuff back after the surgery. The Mets believed this too and were intrigued enough to send Whalen to the Arizona Fall League to get a few more innings in.

     Whalen's assignment to the AFL not only served a purpose for him and the team but it also gave us some new information on his "stuff" thanks to Pitch F/X being used in the AFL as well. His fastball has below average velocity coming in between 90-92 mph and has below average arm-side movement. Because of this, Whalen added a sinker to his arsenal in 2014 and used it heavily during the fall against right handed pitchers. The pitch has the same velocity as his fastball but generates a greater number of swings & misses compared to the fastball due to its 2 plane armside and down movement. 

     His best pitch continues to be his 79-81 mph 10-4 curveball. Whalen gets an excellent snap on the ball giving it sharp late break which generates excellent swing an miss percentages. His 4th pitch is his 83-85 mph change-up. While the pitch does has some natural downward action, the speed differential between it and his fastball is not significant enough to keep hitters off balance. His development of a sinker also reduces the effectiveness of the pitch as batters are already geared for pitches with downward break.

     Personally, I need to see this kind of production along with a continued stretch of health in order for me to jump him up the rankings more quickly. I also need to seem him get a better feel for his change-up and reduce the velocity without sacrificing the arm action. If he is unable to do that his ceiling will be nothing better than a medium leverage ground-ball specialist reliever. For now I'll hold his ceiling and floor in place but expect a change in our next update.


Ceiling: #5 Back End MLB SP (Aaron Harang)
Floor: Medium Leverage Ground Ball Specialist RP
Anticipated Assignment: (A+) Port St. Lucie Starting Rotation.
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