Tagged: Noah Syndergaard

Who should the Mets take first in the 2014 MLB Draft?

*Publisher’s note: You can also find this article on my blogging colleague Steven Inman’s Mets-centric blog www.Brokemets.com. I highly recommend reading it, especially if you are a Mets fan. My heartiest congratulations to Steven for graduating from St. John’s University.

What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

c What name will Bud Selig call for the Mets on June 5th?

With a week remaining before the 2014 MLB Draft kicks off, the Mets have a very big decision to make. Armed with the tenth pick, which was protected from being lost to a team that let go of a big money free agent, the Mets have myriad options for their next big prospect.

Before going into who the Mets should take, let’s take a look at the first round strategy of GM Sandy Alderson.

Ever since Alderson took over as the Mets’ GM, he’s opted to take high ceiling talent out of high school; in fact, of the five first round picks he’s had (this includes the compensatory picks he’s gotten from losing Pedro Feliciano and Jose Reyes), only one, catcher Kevin Plawecki of Purdue University, came out of college. The players he’s taken in the first (and compensatory) rounds are as follows:

2013: Dominic Smith, first baseman, Serra High School, Los Angeles, CA.

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Smith, who was viewed as one of the top hitters in his class, was valued for his stroke as well as his fielding ability. He’s been compared to Adrian Gonzalez, and in a particularly weak year for first base prospects in MLB, he’s ranked second, although he’s made strides to justify that ranking after a slow start in Low-A Savannah. Given the team’s unsurprising trade of former top pick Ike Davis and commitment to Lucas Duda (who will be 31 or 32 by the time Smith makes his MLB debut) it’s almost a certainty that Smith will be playing first base at Citi Field in the latter half of the 2010’s.

2012: Gavin Cecchini, Shortstop, Alfred M. Barbe High School, Lake Charles, LA

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Cecchini is a big time hit or miss prospect who was taken for his value as a defensive star. Although he’s had a slow start to his career due to injury, the fact that he’s only 20 years old serves as a reminder that high school talent often takes more time to develop, meaning he could conceivably be held in the minors until 2017, much like Smith. Cecchini seems to be destined to make up half of a double play combo with one of two top international prospects: Dilson Herrera, who was acquired in the Marlon Byrd trade, or Amed Rosario. Whomever is the odd man out in that group is either going to be traded or coerced into playing third base. Should Cecchini lose out on the shortstop battle, he could be tried out as a third baseman, in fact, his older brother Garin is a top third base prospect for the Boston Red Sox.

Kevin Plawecki, Catcher, Purdue University

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When Kevin Plawecki was drafted, one of the big things that stood out about him was the fact that he’s a guy who constantly gets on base. A guy who also rarely strikes out, Plawecki reminds some Mets people of Daniel Murphy, except he’s slower and plays a more challenging position. As I’ve made mention before, teams are starting to understand the importance of carrying two starting level catchers on the big league club, and Plawecki with Travis d’Arnaud could actually prove to be a solid combination. Should the Mets opt to deal him, he may have some value for a team that could use a starting catcher, as evidenced by the Mets’ discussions during the offseason between the Diamondbacks.

2011: Brandon Nimmo: Outfield, Cheyenne East High School, Cheyenne, WY

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Alderson’s first pick as a Mets GM is either going to be one of the biggest gem finds or a major novelty gone bad. Nimmo, who gained fame for not playing high school ball (Wyoming doesn’t sanction baseball as a sport in interscholastic competition), was valued for his athletic upside. Nimmo has overcome a predictably slow start in the minors and is currently tearing the cover off the ball in High A St. Lucie, enough to land him in the top 100 prospect list at the final spot. Should he continue that pace, expect him to make a return appearance to the Futures Game in Minnesota.

Michael Fulmer, Pitcher, Deer Creek High School, Deer Creek, OK

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Fulmer is the only pitcher that Alderson has drafted in the first round, and for good reason. 2011 was a great year for Oklahoma prep pitchers, and Fulmer has followed Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley’s success pattern. Although he suffered a setback from his development after injuring his leg, he should be with the major league club by 2017, likely as a long reliever/spot starter.

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Sandy Alderson’s strategy deviated from his predecessor, Omar Minaya, who drafted low ceiling/high floor talent. Although most of Minaya’s choices were destined to be average (or in the case of 2007 and 2008 first rounders Nate Vineyard, Reese Havens and Brad Holt, marred with injury and unfulfilled promise) Minaya does have the claim to fame that his final first round pick, Matt Harvey, is one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

Moving on, the question remains: Who should Alderson select with the tenth overall pick?

Generally, given the amount of time prospects take to develop, coupled with the choice between high school, JUCO and college talent, general managers go with the Best Player Available. Although Alderson didn’t necessarily need a first baseman, and many experts thought he would have gone after a college outfielder like Fresno State’s Aaron Judge, Smith was the best player available.

If we went by the best player available based on Baseball America and MLB.com’s top 200 and 100 prospect lists, then the Mets would have two different choices: Baseball America’s #10 player in their top 200 is LSU ace Aaron Nola, who’s bounced up and down the draft board, going as low as the 20’s and as high as top ten. MLB.com has University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer as their ten pick. Zimmer has stayed pretty consistent, getting picked in the top 15 in most mocks.

Looking at the Mets’ top 20 prospects, which is what I use as a basis for my mock drafts, it’s clear that once Noah Syndergaard makes his big league debut, the Mets will not have a legitimate top ten right handed pitching prospect. With Rafael Montero and Jake deGrom likely up for good, and Syndergaard coming up, Alderson, unless he invests his pick in a bona fide arm, will not have a top pitching prospect to advance through the system and excite and distract the fan base. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the options that Alderson has:

First, let’s get one thing abundantly clear: Carlos Rodon will not fall out of the top three. Despite his struggles this year at NC State, Rodon’s still got an impressive resumé, as well as covetable attributes that will make him a top pick. The same goes for Brady Aiken, the prep star from Cathedral Catholic. His stock has risen to the point where he’s in the conversation to be the top pick as well. That, and they are also left-handed pitchers. Tyler Kolek, the consensus top right handed pitching prospect, will also not fall out of the top five.

Let’s take a look at the pitchers that are in range, and that’s 5th best player to 15th best player on Baseball America’s and MLB.com’s lists:

BA:

Jeff Hoffman, East Carolina (6)

Erick Fedde, UNLV (8)

Aaron Nola, LSU (10)

Touki Toussaint, Coral Springs Christian High School, Florida (13)

Tyler Beede, Vanderbilt (15)

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And now MLB.com’s list:

Nola, (5)

Beede (7)

Hoffman (8)

Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)

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In my two mock drafts, I had the Mets taking a right handed pitcher for the reason stated above: They will need to add a right handed pitching stud in order to balance out their top ten prospects. In the first mock, I picked Touki Toussaint: a high school arm whose raw talent, coupled with his loose arm could make him a deadly young pitcher with #2 starter potential. However, given Alderson’s Moneyball background, which actively discourages the drafting of prep arms in the first round, the chances of Toussaint wearing a Mets jersey seem slim.

In the second mock, I had the Mets taking Tyler Beede. Beede is a familiar name, as he was a first round pick three years ago by the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Beede decided against going pro and went to play for Vanderbilt. Beede’s game is great, but some mechanical fine tuning could make it better. He’s been consistently challenging both Nola and Rodon as the top college pitcher this year, and his Golden Spikes nomination last year indicates he has high level pro potential.

If I were Alderson, I’d want a battle tested pitcher, a pitcher that has faced top flight competition. Right off the bat, that eliminates Toussaint and Grant Holmes, a big pitcher from Conway High School. Because high school baseball talent is relative to the state that it’s played in, even if Toussaint and Holmes were among the best talents that year, keep in mind they were facing typical prep talent. Not every South Carolina and Florida prepster is going to play division one ball in college, and even if they did, they wouldn’t all play in the power conferences like the SEC or the ACC.

The second aspect of a battle tested pitcher is the college conference they play in. The Mountain West and Conference USA, once upon a time, were college hotbeds, but now they’re essentially a tick below the real power conferences. Sure, pitchers like Hoffman and Fedde may get the opportunity to play a power conference team here and there, but ultimately, unless it was consistent, it’s a waste of time for Alderson to even think about Fedde and Hoffman.

This leaves it to two pitchers: Nola, and Beede.

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Nola, the ace at LSU, is a pitcher who, while he isn’t going to blow you away with any special pitch, has great command and control of his offerings. He won’t be an ace at the major league level, but his dependability will be an asset to any team that needs a pitcher who can go deep into innings.

Beede, on the other hand, is an anti-Nola. His fastball is his best major league offering, going from the low to mid 90’s, and his ceiling is a front-end starter, possibly as high as #2. What Beede lacks in his game is pitch consistency. While Beede does have devastating offerings, like his fastball, curve and change up, they are only effective if he can consistently locate the strike zone.

So who should Sandy pick if it comes down to Nola and Beede?

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In a perfect world, Nola will fall to the tenth spot where Alderson can nab him. His consistency and even strength in his offerings mean that either he’s going to be an above average hurler with little to no need to tinker, or, if there is room for improvement, establish a dominant pitch or make each pitch better. Nola’s mechanics are excellent and he is battle tested against the highest possible level of competition in college baseball. It seems that Nola is one of the very few high ceiling/high floor talents, and although Alderson isn’t the type of general manager who goes for safe picks, getting that combination will pay off rather quickly.

 

 

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Generation K won’t repeat itself for Mets

By Steven Inman

Photo By Newsday

Photo By Newsday

Most naysayers believe the Mets are making a mistake by trying to build their franchise back up with young pitching. They refer to Generation K, a trio of young pitchers who never made it in New York. Jason IsringhausenBill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson all came up through the Mets system as top prospects with blazing fastballs. Although it sounds very similar to the trio of Matt HarveyZack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard it doesn’t appear that history is due to repeat itself.

Isringhausen was the only pitcher of the trio to make it in the big leagues, and he did it for the most part as a closer in Oakland and St. Louis. Harvey and Wheeler have already had more success in their young careers than the trio from the 90’s did with the Mets.

The difference that I see between the three pitchers of 2014 and Generation K is Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard all seem to throw much more free and easy than most young pitchers. Harvey and Syndergaard seem to throw 97mph without putting much stress on their arms. Wheeler when his mechanics are right, has the easiest delivery of the three.

Also in the past 20 years due to video, scouting has gotten much more accurate. A much higher percent of top prospects are making it to the big leagues and establishing themselves as the cream of the crop in Major League Baseball. When Generation K came out, for the most part scouts really didn’t have the technology to look at a kid’s delivery and say “he’s not going to hold up for 200 innings” Now we do and those kids are quickly switched to the bullpen for the most part.

Also 20 years ago guys were throwing 130-135 pitches in the minor leagues regularly. In 2014 pretty much every pitching prospect is on some kind of pitch limit per game, and innings limit for a season.

Teams have learned from the Generation K’s of the world and have put some work in to protect their young pitchers to give themselves a better chance of holding up long-term.

Two of the three pitchers from Generation K blowing out their arms within the span of a year is just unlikely and not likely to happen again this time. Harvey undergoing Tommy John surgery is a pretty simple process and he should come back just as good as before as long as he doesn’t rush his rehab.

Wheeler and Harvey already look like the real deal and Mets coaches in spring training can’t stop raving about Noah Syndergaard. Mets fans, fear not Sandy Alderson is building this team the right way and the Mets have a very bright future.

The Curious Case of Barret Loux and Hayden Simpson

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The 2010 MLB Draft has the chance to go down as one of the best in recent memory. So far, 12 players from the first and comp rounds have made their major league debuts, four of which were named All-Stars. In addition, it’s likely that many of the high schoolers from this year’s first and comp class, including Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon, Phillies pitcher Jesse Biddle, Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez, and Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, as well as Angels outfielder Kaleb Cowart, Marlins third baseman Zack Cox, and Angels second baseman Taylor Lindsey may all make their major league debuts this year.

But the one name that sticks out from that class didn’t even sign with his team. And no, he didn’t end up being redrafted, but he did go on a fast track through the minors ending up at AAA last year for the Iowa Cubs. That player is former Texas A&M pitcher Barret Loux.

Two years before Michael Wacha put Texas A&M baseball on the map, Barret Loux was the big name for the Aggies. A big pitcher at 6’5″ and 230 pounds, armed with a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, Loux put up excellent numbers for the Aggies, including leading the team in strikeouts twice, as well as being a nominee for the Golden Spikes award. He wasn’t as well regarded as his former teammate however, and was envisioned as a late first round pick. However, the Arizona Diamondbacks decided that he was worth the 6th overall draft choice (keep in mind, this was before the hard slot money system was put into place) and picked him ahead of such names as Matt Harvey and Chris Sale.

Arizona did have a deal in place for him, but a failed physical due to a labrum tear derailed it. As a consequence, the Diamondbacks never signed him, and he became a free agent. In November of that year, Loux and the Texas Rangers came to an agreement on a contract. It was Loux’s situation which led to some of the revamping of the draft rules, including mandatory physicals for prospects before the draft, and free agency for those who failed them.

Loux spent two seasons in the Rangers minor league system, playing for A level Myrtle Beach in 2011 and AA Frisco in 2012. In both those seasons, he struck out at least 100 batters, had ERAs under 3.81, and at Frisco, won all but one of his decisions.

However, Loux’s time with Texas came to an end as the Texas Rangers, having made a deal with the Chicago Cubs for Geovany Soto, were forced to give him up when the player originally send in the deal, pitcher Jake Brigham, was found to have an injury history not dissimilar to Loux’s. Loux was traded for Brigham, and started the season at AAA Iowa. While his stats were not as impressive as they were in Texas, he failed to post 100 strikeouts for the first time since his sophomore season at A&M, and he had a sub .500 win-loss record, as well as an ERA over 4, Loux still has managed to somewhat resurrect his prospect status.

While he was not ranked in the top 20 of the Cubs end of 2013 list, the fact that he has managed to jump three levels, without appearing in any of the A sub levels should indicate that he will have a fair shot at making the big league roster.

It may come out that Arizona should have kept him barring the injury concerns, especially if Loux manages to impress this spring and plays as a dark horse rotation candidate. In addition, it could help show that the Cubs didn’t exactly fail in that aspect of the draft.

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In that same draft, the Cubs took a right handed pitcher out of Division II Southern Arkansas University, Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick. Simpson who was viewed by many to be a questionable pick from the beginning, struggled in his three years in the Cubs’ system.

Perhaps it was the fact that he never was the same after coming down with a case of Mono, or perhaps it was the hype that was so unjustly heaped upon him, but Simpson, who was known for being an aggressive pitcher, never amounted to what he was pegged to be. He never advanced past High-A Daytona, and as of the end of 2013, was pitching for the Southern Illinois Miners of the Frontier League.

If Barret Loux can prove that he is Major League ready, then in all likelihood, the Cubs will look favorably on the college arms of the 2014 draft class; a commodity that the Cubs are in serious need of. Loux, along with the other major league ready Cubs prospects could help bring Chicago back to dominance.

 

 

2014 MLB Mock Draft: Spring Training Edition, part 1 of 3.

As much as I wanted to wait until all the free agents with draft compensation signed, I feel that it’s time to make the first mock draft of the year for MinorLeagueMadhouse. While picks are usually done as either Best Player Available, Easiest To Sign, or General Manager’s Draft Philosophy, I’ve decided to go by need in the minors. To be more precise, which position in the top 20 is the weakest, or, if there is a clear cut pick, or if the general manager has a philosophy that they have publicly disclosed (like Jeff Luhnow of the Astros or Sandy Alderson of the Mets,) So without further delay, here is the first mock draft of the year for Minor League Madhouse.

1. Astros: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State

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Carlos Rodon is the consensus number 1 pick in the draft right now, and nothing short of a Rick Ankiel-type meltdown will change that. The Astros have a strong enough pitching presence in the minor leagues right now, but Luhnow will be hard pressed to give up on the potential that Rodon has. With a major league caliber slider and fastball, as well as a preference to strike out hitters. Rodon, who helped NC State make the College World Series last year, is definitely going to fit in what could be the best future rotation in the league.

2. Marlins: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School, Texas

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The Marlins have reaped the benefits of one high school arm that they drafted, why not go for another that looks Major League ready? Kolek is arguably one of the best prep arms in this year’s class. He has a fastball that is better than some collegiate pitchers, in addition to a well rounded arsenal of secondary pitches. Kolek’s only knock is is command and control, which is common for flame throwing prep arms, not to mention he’s behind on his development thanks to an injury he suffered in his sophomore year, but in showcases, he’s looked like the genuine article, and would be a perfect developmental athlete, as he can only get better.

3. White Sox: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo High School, California

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Last year, I pointed out that Chicago’s weakest position in the minors was catcher. And they did have the opportunity to grab a catcher early with Nick Ciuffo and Jon Denney on the board. However, they whiffed on both. Now, they have a golden goose in Alex Jackson, who comes from the same high school as Cole Hamels. Jackson is a well rounded high school catcher, although he does need improvement in commanding a game. He has plus power, decent speed, basically, he has the chance to be one of the better prep catchers in the last few draft classes. If Jackson fails behind the plate though, he could make it as an outfielder, where his arm would be his best strength.

4. Cubs, Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina

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The Cubs have bolstered their position player ranks in the past few drafts, now it’s time to go back to pitching. Hoffman, who pitches for a smaller school in East Carolina, is tall and gangly, but pitches like he’s in prime athletic shape. Hoffman’s fastball is something to behold, and his curveball is almost at the same level. He controls the ball well, but he will need to work on his finesse if he wants to be a high end starter.

5. Twins: Brady Aiken, LHP, Cathedral Catholic High School, California

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You can never have enough pitching, especially when it comes to lefties. Brady Aiken is a bit of a reach for the Twins, but given that they don’t have a top ten left handed pitching prospect at the time of this writing, it may be a good idea, both position wise and money wise, to go after him. This isn’t to diminish Aiken’s skill set, the young Southern California hurler is definitely even and well rounded in his skill set. He’s a jack of all trades pitcher, with no set primary pitch, which is good, as it serves as a reminder to the better days of Johan Santana. Aiken’s athleticism is also a plus, although now that his future has been set as a pitcher, he should focus primarily on that. Still, Aiken and 2013 pick Kohl Stewart would headline a young, and powerful pitching class should the Twins decided to pick him.

6. Mariners: Trea Turner, SS, North Carolina State

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The Mariners don’t seem to have a problem with a specific position, what they need, however, is speed. NC State shortstop Trea Turner is the answer to that problem. Turner has major league legs, and while his hitting is developmental right now, he is somewhat respectable in that category. Turner is still fully transitioning from third base to shortstop, which is fine, but if he wants to advance a few levels, he will need to improve on his fielding. Still, Turner profiles as a #1 or #9 hitter in an American League lineup, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for him.

7. Phillies: Michael Gettys, OF, Gainesville High School, Georgia

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Byron Buxton was the star of the 2012 draft class and Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier were the stars of the 2013 prep class, now, Michael Gettys becomes the next high level hitter from the state of Georgia. Gettys’ game is focused now on his legs and his arm, but his hitting, when properly developed, could make him into the next prep hitting star. Given Ryan Howard likely will retire when Gettys comes around, and there really isn’t a power presence to back him up yet, it would be a good idea for the Phillies to capitalize on the Georgia Prep slugger trend.

8. Rockies: Jacob Gatewood, SS, Clovis High School, California

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We got an early peek at Jacob Gatewood last year at Citi Field’s high school home run derby, and he certainly put on a show, but besides that, Gatewood is a well polished athlete who despite his body, has the potential to be one of the better hitting shortstops in history. Tall and lanky, he does have the potential to lead the league in home runs, especially in the thin air of Denver. Given the injury history and likelihood that Troy Tulowitzki may not finish his mega contract extension, taking Gatewood would be a wise insurance policy for the Rockies. He and 2012 first rounder David Dahl could make a lethal power combination for years to come.

9. Blue Jays: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt

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Surprised that Toronto would try again? You shouldn’t be. Beede was drafted by the Blue Jays out of high school as a first rounder in 2011, but he turned down the money to honor his college commitment. Three years later, Beede has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the SEC and after a historic campaign with the Commodores, brought himself into the Golden Spikes conversation. Beede’s offerings, particularly his fastball, are devastating to hitters, but what he needs improvement on is his control. Beede has the chance to continue the legacy of excellent Vandebilt pitchers started with David Price and continued with Sonny Gray this past year. If he can improve his control, he should be in the majors by late 2015-early 2016.

10. Mets: Touki Toussaint, Pitcher, Coral Springs High School, Florida

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If what Keith Law speculates from his interview with Sandy Alderson is true, then Alderson must be talking about Touki Toussaint. Here’s a guy who has come out of nowhere, established himself as a truly different pitcher who, with some help, can control and even expand the strike zone with his fastball and major league curve. Touki has the potential to make an impact in any rotation, and his curve should allow him to strike out plenty of batters, provide catchers are able to handle it. The only knock on him is his lack of experience; Toussaint did only start playing his sophomore year of high school, and his international background; while he is from the Caribbean, Haiti isn’t exactly a baseball hotbed. Still, his arm is very loose and worth looking at, and having it in the same rotation as Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey would be scary.

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So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.

2014 Top 100 Prospects: NL East

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MLB prospect expert Jonathan Mayo released his top 100 prospect list on January 23rd and for the most part, it seems as if there are no real surprises. There are plenty of newcomers, some of which impressed enough that they warranted top consideration, plenty of prospects also graduated from the list and are replaced by those who have similar caliber.

While last year’s profiling counted down from 100-1 (and did not finish), this year, Minor League Madhouse will be profiling the top prospects by division. How is that going to work? Quite simply, I will be going over each team’s top 100 prospects. I will look at their movement from last year’s list, when they were drafted/signed, what their strengths are, and how they fit into their future team. Twitter handles will also be provided for prospects. We start off with the NL East.

Atlanta Braves: 

Prospects: Lucas Sims, RHP (60) and Christian Bethancourt, C (82)

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Sims: Drafted in the first round out out Brookwood High School in Georgia with the 21st pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Rome in South Atlantic League, Went 12-4 with a 2.62 ERA and 136 K’s.

@LSims_

The Braves have a knack for developing young pitchers out of high school, just ask Tom Glavine. Sims, a local product, has been nothing short of impressive since being drafted. He has a decent pitchers toolbox with the fastball, curveball, changeup combo, but does need to improve mechanics in his delivery. Sims takes over as the Braves’ top pitching prospect after Sean Gilmartin was traded to Minnesota for Ryan Doumit. He clearly has a ways to go before he’ll settle in the Atlanta rotation, but should he develop the way that he has, he could be an ace for the Braves staff.

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Bethancourt: Signed as an international free agent in 2008.

2013: Played for Mississippi in Southern League and Major League club. Hit .277 with 12 HR’s and 47 RBIs in AA, had one appearance in MLB. Played in Futures Game.

@ChristianBeth27

Barring a major setback or the team wanting him to develop in AAA, Christian Bethancourt is pretty much set to take over as the catcher for the Braves in 2014. And why not? Bethancourt is a defensive star, with a solid arm, and decent plate skills. He is scrappy, and profiles as a 5-7 hitter in any lineup. Having seen Bethancourt play in the Futures game, albeit for a pinch hit appearance, I can honestly say that he’ll be a decent catcher.

Miami Marlins:

Prospects: Andrew Heaney, LHP (29), Colin Moran, 3B (51) Jake Marisnick, OF (65), Justin Nicolino, LHP (81)

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Heaney: Drafted in the first round out of Oklahoma State University with the 9th pick in the 2012 draft.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League and Jacksonville of the AA Southern League. Combined for a 9-3 record, 1.60 ERA and 95 K’s.

@Heandog8

Heaney’s first full season of baseball was certainly one of the more dominant ones. Although he started out with an injury which kept him out for a month, he managed to dominate the Florida State League, earning him a quick promotion to the Southern League where he continued to flourish. Heaney has a weird delivery which baffles hitters on both sides of the plate. He has pinpoint control, and he knows the strike zone. Heaney could find himself competing for a starting rotation spot this year in a rotation that already has one of the best young arms (Jose Fernandez) in the game.

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Moran: Drafted in the first round out of the University of North Carolina with the 6th pick in the 2013 draft.

2013: Played for the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the NCAA, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers of the Low A South Atlantic League. Won ACC Player of the Year, named consensus NCAA All American, and was a finalist for Golden Spikes Award. Hit .299 with 4 home runs and 23 RBI for Greensboro.

@CMOran18

Colin Moran was one of the better prospects in the 2013 MLB draft, in fact, some had him as the number one pick. Although he fell 5 spots, he’s still regarded as a high level prospect. Despite taking a while to sign, Moran did show promise in his short stint at Greensboro. While he’s no Giancarlo Stanton, he certainly has decent hitting ability and solid defense, reminding me of a collegiate David Wright. Moran projects as a 5-7 hitter in the Marlins lineup, but could move to a 2-5 hitter, perhaps a 3 hitter, if he continues to show his ability.

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Marisnick: Drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft out of Riverside Poly High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Miami Marlins with Justin Nicolino, Henderson Alvarez, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Yunel Escobar, and Anthony DeScalfini for Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, John Buck, Emilio Bonifacio, and Mark Buehrle.

2013: Played for Jupiter of the Class A Florida State League, Jacksonville of the AA Southern League, and the Major League Club. Hit a combined .289 with 12 HR and 46 RBI in the minors, and .183 with 1 HR and 5 RBI in the majors.

@JSMarisnick

I honestly didn’t like the Marlins rushing Jake Marisnick to the majors so quickly, mainly because he missed out on AAA. That being said, I don’t think they’ll make the same mistake again. Marisnick, when developed properly, has a great arm and fast legs. He and Christian Yelich should make up the other two outfield spots for Miami in the future. Marisnick’s one knock however is his plate patience, which can be fixed if he’s allowed the time to mature.

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Nicolino: Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the Marlins in the Marisnick deal.

2013: Pitched for Jupiter and Jacksonville, Posted a combined 8-4 record with a 3.11 ERA and 95 K’s.

@J_Nicolino22

Nicolino was part of the famed Toronto Blue Jays 2010 Arms Class which included Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Two years later, he was dealt to the Miami Marlins and proceeded to have a generally solid year. After having success in single A Jupiter, Nicolino was promoted to Jacksonville where he put up pedestrian numbers due to the class shift. Nicolino, whose fastball is decent and whose control is generally solid,  would benefit from an extended stay in Jacksonville, but could find himself in the majors by late 2014-mid 2015. With him, Fernandez, and Heaney, as well as the other arms obtained in the fire sale trades, the Marlins could have a very scary rotation set for the future.

New York Mets: 

Prospects in top 100: Noah Syndergaard, RHP (11), Travis d’Arnaud, C (22) Rafael Montero, RHP, (85)

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Syndergaard: Drafted in the first supplemental round of the 2010 draft out of Mansfield Legacy High School by the Toronto Blue Jays. Traded to the New York Mets with John Buck, Travis d’Arnaud, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas.

2013: Pitched for St. Lucie of the Florida State League and Binghamton of the Eastern League, went a combined 9-4 with a  3.06 ERA and 133 K’s, Pitched in the 2013 Futures Game.

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Syndergaard is a special talent, but in order to show it, he needed to get out of a system which had two other promising arms from his draft class. After the Mets acquired him in the Dickey deal, Syndergaard showed how special he was, excelling in the Florida State League, before being promoted to the Eastern league, where he put up similar numbers. Syndergaard was so hyped that he was given the start for Team USA in the Futures game, a high honor. His fastball is a high 90’s pitch and his other pitches are generally solid. He does have good control and command. The Mets will be promoting him, but probably not until mid may or early June. He’ll probably be spending time in Las Vegas, a.k.a Pitchers Hell, but regardless of what happens, he’ll be up.

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d’Arnaud: Drafted in the first supplemental round in the 2007 draft out of Lakewood High School in California by the Philadelphia Phillies. Traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2010 in the Roy Halladay deal, then to the New York Mets in 2012 in the R.A Dickey Deal.

2013: Played for the GCL Mets, Binghamton, and Las Vegas, before joining the Major League club. Hit a combined .286/3/20 in the minors and .202/1/5 in the majors.

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2013 was an aberration for d’Arnaud, the top catching prospect in baseball for the second year in a row. He missed most of the year thanks to a freak foul ball related foot fracture, and had to go through four levels of competition. That being said, d’Arnaud, despite his weak major league debut, is still a prime candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, as his eligibility is still intact. d’Arnaud’s best asset is hitting, and his fielding is definitely a work in progress, in short, he could be another Paul Lo Duca.

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Montero: Signed as an international free agent in 2011.

2013: Played for Binghamton and Las Vegas, combined for 12-7 record, 2.78 ERA, and 150 K’s. Played in 2013 Futures Game

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Rafael Montero has always been a late prospect, being signed at age 20, a full four years behind the optimum international free agency age, developing slowly until his meteoric rise last season which included an unusually strong showing at the pitchers’ Siberia in Las Vegas. Regardless, Montero may not be with the Mets by the end of the year, as his name has constantly been mentioned in trade rumors. He will be fighting for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but barring an outstanding showing, will be in AAA in order to delay his arbitration clock. Montero does have a solid offering at fastball, and his control is certainly up there. If he stays, he could help ease the long term loss of Matt Harvey and help establish a strong young rotation.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Prospects: Maikel Franco, 3B (26), Jesse Biddle, LHP (53)

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Franco: Signed as international free agent in 2010

2013: Played for Lakewood and Reading, combined for a .320 batting average, 31 home runs and 103 RBI. Appeared in 2013 Futures Game

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Maikel Franco could join Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard as the next big homegrown Phillies infield star. Blessed with an amazing stick and good fielding capability, Franco absolutely tore through two levels of competition. If Franco continues to play at the level that he has been and incumbent option Cody Asche continues to struggle, Franco could be in the majors by June.

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Biddle: Drafted in the first round of the 2010 draft out of Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia, PA.

2013: Played for Reading of the Eastern League, went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures game.

@jessebiddle_54

Since being drafted out of high school, the Phillies have had nothing but praise for their local boy, Jesse Biddle. And rightfully so. While his record doesn’t look like that of a top prospect, he actually had a halfway decent year. and capped it off with a Futures game selection. Biddle’s fastball and control are destined to be basic, but his curveball is quite nasty to behold. He’ll likely be spending the bulk of 2014 in Lehigh Valley, but could make it up to Philly by August.

Washington Nationals:

Prospects: Lucas Giolito, RHP (44) AJ Cole RHP, (69)

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Giolito: Drafted in the first round of the 2012 draft out of Harvard Westlake School in Studio City, CA.

2013: Pitched for the GCL Nationals and the Auburn Doubledays. Went a combined 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 39 K’s.

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Before Giolito had to spend a year recovering from a sprained UCL and the majority of his debut season recovering from Tommy John Surgery, there was debate as to the possibility of him being the first overall pick in the draft. While that never happened, the Nationals once again (Anthony Rendon ’11) used their philosophy of drafting high profile names with falling stocks. Giolito showed no long term problems after the surgery, as his triple digit fastball remained intact, but he did play on an abbreviated schedule. Still, in the short time he played, Giolito dazzled, blazing through the Gulf Coast League, then the New York Penn League. Giolito will likely see the full year in short A, but if he continues to develop the way that he has, he could be up in the majors by early 2016. 

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Cole: Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft out of Oveido High School in Oveido, Florida. Traded to Oakland with Derek Norris, Brad Peacock, and Tommy Milone for Gio Gonzalez and Rob Gilliam, Traded to Washington in three team deal for Michael Morse and John Jaso.

2013: Played for Potomac Nationals and Harrisburg Senators. Combined for a 10-5 record with a 3.60 ERA and 151 K’s. Pitched in 2013 Futures Game.

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Cole is an interesting story, having been drafted by the Nationals organization out of high school, only to be traded a year later to Oakland, then back to the Nationals two years later. While Cole looked somewhat lost on the West Coast, his return to the DC farm system certainly helped, as he made it over the Single-A hump and had a great Double-A debut. He was rewarded with a Futures game invite and effectively served as Team USA’s closer, helping preserve the 4-2 win. Cole has been a starter in the minors, but his fastball speed could lead to a role in the bullpen, specifically as the team’s eventual closer. Expect Cole to start the season in AAA, but possibly could be in the majors by August if he continues the way he has been.

 

That’s the Wall Street Way: How Sandy Alderson’s able to make the trades he has made.

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Phew! My two month hiatus is done. Sorry that I didn’t post anything for a while, but nothing really broke, and with the trade deadline being literally dead, never mind the fact that the expected happened, although the return could have been better, I really had nothing to write.

Anyway, yesterday was a big buzz day in terms of August trades. With Matt Harvey possibly shut down until 2015, the Mets pulled a classic “Oh sh*t” and promptly traded their two best players to Pittsburgh for Futures game alumnus and Pirates infield prospect Dilson Herrera, as well as a player to be named. Herrera is a 19 year old who, while undersized, can hit for power. He has above average speed, and while his glove needs work, he certainly could factor into the team’s long term plan. Dilson, at the time of the trade, ranked as high as the Pirates number 9 prospect, and as low as number 11.  It’s also been reported by Pirates GM Neal Huntington that the PTBNL is expected to have people say that the Mets got very solid pieces in the deal (Update: The PTBNL in question is pitcher Vic Black, former 2009 first round pick of the Pirates). And all it took was a 36 year old outfielder having a miracle season and a catcher who had just lost his starting job to the team’s second best prospect.

This begs the question, how does Sandy Alderson do it? Since becoming the team’s general manager in 2011, Alderson has made three major trades, including the one above, in which he shipped out players who either had one miracle season, or who were starting to get past their prime, in exchange for at least one hotshot prospect. Examples:

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July 2011: Trades outfielder Carlos Beltran, who is in the midst of a comeback season after an injury plagued 2010, to the San Francisco Giants for pitcher Zack Wheeler, who rises through the Mets system as the team’s number two, then number 1 prospect, before making his major league debut with the Mets. Wheeler is currently the number 3 starter in New York, behind Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. He is expected to get some points in the already established Rookie of the Year race. Beltran on the other hand, serves as a rental player, and the Giants do not make the postseason in an attempt to repeat as World Series champions. He signs with the Cardinals, and is named an All-star for them twice.

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December 2012: Trades pitcher R.A Dickey and catchers Mike Nickeas and Josh Thole to the Toronto Blue Jays for catchers Travis d’Arnaud and John Buck, pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra. Buck ends up serving as catcher for most of the year and actually ends up third in the All-star vote, before being traded in the above deal. d’Arnaud starts as the team’s top prospect, ahead of Wheeler, ends up in Triple-A, gets hurt, rehabs, and makes his long anticipated big league debut in mid-August.  Syndergaard blazes through Single-A and Double-A, and is named the starting pitcher in the 2013 Futures game. He is regarded as the team’s new number 1 prospect. Becerra is playing modestly well in the Gulf Coast league, and may or may not factor into the team’s future.

If you think about it, Alderson, in his three seasons as the general manager of the Mets, has, on a shoestring budget, brought the team out of the Omar Minaya induced darkness, when the team had no prospects, and no real chance of competing. He dumped off bloated contracts and revitalized the farm system with not one, not two, but four top ten prospects, all for guys who on any other teams would have gotten maybe a top 40 prospect and chump change.

Let’s look at each team’s situations to get an idea of how Sandy does it.

1. Carlos Beltran had already served his purpose in New York and looked to be coming off the books if he wasn’t traded. His value was severely diminished due to the 2010 injury, and Alderson had no plans to keep him on the team regardless of whether he revitalized or failed as a man in his last year. When Beltran exceeded expectations, teams were interested. When he made the All-star team as a starter, they were literally falling over themselves for him. Alderson could have basically asked for a contending team to gauge their farm system and they would have not only offered their top two prospects, but also a top ten who had the upside to be a top 5, which, incidentally, the Giants did offer not only Wheeler, but also outfielder Gary Brown and first baseman Brandon Belt. Alderson may not have jumped on the opportunity to gauge the team’s future, but he did get a franchise arm in Wheeler, one that could compete with Harvey when they both came up, and revitalize a much-maligned rotation. Suffice to say, it worked in the Mets favor. Wheeler rose through the system, and despite some mechanical issues, not to mention playing in the baseball Siberia that is Las Vegas, he’s become a much hyped part of the team’s rebuild.

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Somewhere in San Francisco, Brian Sabean is watching Zack Wheeler highlights and muttering “Goddamnit.”

2. Again, the Dickey deal was an effort to capitalize on a solid season. After seeing that the Blue Jays had gutted half their farm system in exchange for practically everyone good on the 2012 Marlins team, save Giancarlo Stanton, Alderson was ready to deal with Toronto. Granted, he could have made a deal with any team that wanted Dickey. The Red Sox would have offered a package that surrounded either Xander Bogaerts or Jackie Bradley, but not both, thus dropping them on the list. Texas offered a package that surrounded Mike Olt, but without Jurickson Profar, the deal was dead. The Dodgers offered Zach Lee, their top pitching prospect, and Dee Gordon, a shortstop, but given the fact that the Dodgers system has been weak, no deal there. Alderson had one big priority: Capitalize on Dickey’s wonder year by getting the next Piazza. In Alex Anthopolous, he found a sucker. Not only was Anthopolous willing to give either d’Arnaud or JP Arencibia up, he also was willing to get rid of one of his 2010 high school pitching phenoms. Having already given up Henderson Alvarez AND Justin Nicolino, you’d think he’d want to hold on to Syndergaard and Sanchez, but no. Alderson insisted, and also asked for Buck so that d’Arnaud’s transition be smoother. Anthopolous was more than happy to oblige, and the team soon found itself with two top prospects and a solid veteran catcher, not to mention an outfield throw in.

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Somewhere in Toronto, Alex Anthopolous is getting ready to take a cyanide pill.

So there really is no magic in Alderson’s dealings, it’s just a simple matter of market philosophy. Remember Schoolhouse Rock’s infamous video, Money Rock? That song, Walkin’ on Wall Street? Basically, Alderson is selling high on guys who are past their prime, and reaping returns of enormous value. And again, this is on a shoestring budget. With that problem going away in the offseason, Alderson will be able to make bigger investments, like signing a big free agent outfielder.

The Byrd deal likely won’t pay dividends immediately for the Mets. Herrera is a good two or three years away, and with no clear idea who the PTBNL is (Update: Vic Black), he may or may not contribute to the team’s immediate future either. However, it may turn into another win-win for the Mets, as the team is interested in bringing back Byrd next year. In this case, even if the Pirates do end up relying on the contributions of Buck and Byrd, the team will still lose the deal. Score another for Alderson.

My Day at the Futures Game and the Celebrity Softball game.

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Yesterday, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I finally made the trek over to Citi Field to attend All-Star Sunday. I had planned this weeks in advance with my dad, and two of my cousins.

Right about where we sat.

Right about where we sat.

We bought tickets out in right field, in section 106 in the 23rd row: the seats were pretty close to the field. It was agreed that my dad and I would meet our cousins at the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. Due to unforeseen complications, however, one cousin had to back out, as he had been “roped” into meeting his girlfriend’s friend from Miami. And that, my friends, is the true definition of being “whipped”. He gave his ticket to my uncle, so there wasn’t that much issue there.

We had a late start however, as the car needed gas, thanks in part to me sharing the car with my sister, who needed the car for delivering flowers. So when we finally made it to the ballpark, it was about 1:20, and because nobody had thought to get a parking pass, we had to park in the satellite lot across from the park. Incidentally, it cost $35 to park. Yes, $35. Highway robbery? Yes. Fortunately, those prices are for the All-star festivities only, and will revert back to the normal $15 by the time the festivities end, because if that was the actual price, you can bet that going to a ballgame is going to be more of a challenge than before.

We made it to the stadium by 1:30, and after finding out that my cousin (the non-whipped one,) was still waiting for the 7 train to arrive, and my uncle had mistakenly driven all the way to Coney Island thinking the game was there, and would predictably be late, we ended up trekking to our seats, but not before purchasing the official program for the game, and getting a free All-star Sunday handout.

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Interestingly enough, Citi Field was selling both this program, which was the special edition one, and the regular program for the same price. Guess which one I took?

It didn’t take long to reach the seats, to which I then took some photos. I apologize in advance for the quality, these were taken on an old Iphone 4.

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This was a picture of the outfielders for Team USA.

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This is Noah Syndergaard, the Mets pitching prospect acquired this past offseason for R.A Dickey.

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This is Padres catcher Austin Hedges

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This is the All-star Game Apple.

I stopped taking pictures for a while, and enjoyed the flag ceremony as well as the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) ceremony. After that was done, the Futures gamers were announced. Predictably, the Mets, especially Brandon Nimmo, who had been voted into the game, were cheered, and all Yankees players were booed.

The first inning was pretty quick. Noah Syndergaard set down Padres outfielder Reymond Fuentes, probably best known for being included in the Adrian Gonzalez trade two offseasons ago, then future Cub Arismendy Alcantara before giving up a single to Red Sox Super Prospect Xander Bogaerts. This was followed by an impressive strikeout of Twins prospect Miguel Sano.

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The bottom half of the inning saw Mets fast riser Rafael Montero pitching for the World Team. He was untouchable, as he set down Billy Hamilton, Delino DeShields, and George Springer without batting an eyelash.

I then took another photo of Taijuan Walker and Matt Davidson in the second inning. Again, pardon the blurriness.

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It’s kind of hard to see, but Walker was wearing stirrups while pitching, a nice touch.

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Here’s a better look.

My cousin finally made it by that time, so that was good. He told me that the wait for the train was so long that he bought a sandwich and snacks while he was waiting.

Team USA drew first blood by the way, thanks to Christian Yelich’s base hit in the second. Yelich went 2 for 2, and likely would have been named MVP if Anthony Ranaudo had not coughed up the lead later in the game.

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After that came a generally quiet third inning which was used more to showcase Arizona’s Archie Bradley more than anything else. Bradley got a hold, probably the only hold he will ever get in what will likely be a long career.

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The real damage done by the World team happened in the fourth inning. With Boston’s Anthony Ranaudo on the mound, Alcantara ripped a right field home run that tied the game. Yes, this is a .gif, I’m not cheap after all. This was followed by Xander Bogaerts scoring on a single in which he beat Austin Hedges on a tag. Unfortunately, I missed the live play, as I was in the concession line getting an early dinner of two Nathan’s hot dogs with ketchup braised onions and an Aquafina water. (MLB likes to hear their sponsors names, so don’t call me a sellout.)

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My uncle finally arrived in the middle of the fifth inning. Better late than never, I suppose. How he came to believe that the game was in Brooklyn is still beyond me.

Fortunately, he didn’t miss Joc Pederson reaching on a double, then Matt Davidson crushing a Michael Ynoa pitch into the left-center field seats for the go-ahead home run.

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Nice tounge, Davidson

The game was fairly uneventful after that. Jesse Biddle came into the game to a chorus of boos, obviously because he’s a Phillies product, and earned the win.

Brandon Nimmo, who I had hoped would play today, finally made his way into the game, along with Byron Buxton.

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As a prospect writer, I try to follow a lot of prospects on twitter, and friend the occasional ones on Facebook. Yes, I sent them links to my futures game articles, and yes, I told them that I would be there, and yes, they “liked” it. I love my hobby.

I sent a tweet to Nimmo for him to read later, saying that I was glad that he had made it into the game.

Eventually, the heat, which I neglect to mention, got too unbearable, so we beat a hasty retreat to the air conditioned confines of the Caesar’s club, where we watched the rest of the game in comfort. Garin Cecchini, top Red Sox prospect and brother to Mets prospect Gavin,  scored an insurance run, and AJ Cole of the Nationals earned the save.

Did I mention that during the game, the mascots for most of the teams came out during the t-shirt launch, and seventh inning stretch? While my favorite mascots are Mr. and Mrs. Met, seeing mascots like Dinger of the Rockies, (the purple triceratops) Orbit of the Astros (the alien, and a major improvement over Junction Jack, the previous mascot) and Sluggerrrrr of the Royals (the lion) was pretty cool, especially since I had never seen them in person before. What was funny about it was seeing Dinger really get into the “Lazy Mary” number.

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Because the tickets were for both events on All-star Sunday, we stayed for the Taco Bell All-star legends and celebrities softball game. Having moved from the Caesars club to a covered part of the stadium, we had a bird’s eye view of everything.

My favorite celebrities at the game were Kevin James, Brian Kilmeade, (boy were they ribbing on him during the game)

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Jennie Finch (although I wanted Kate Upton to be there)

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and finally, the wounded warrior, Josh Wege, who won MVP honors with James.

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It was also interesting to see Frank Thomas pitch, and Mike Piazza back behind the plate, as well as Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden both playing.

All in all, it was a fun day, and certainly one heck of a way to promote the All-star game. Sure it was slightly expensive, but beyond that, the games were enjoyable, the prospects were fun to watch, and all in all, it was worth the hour and a half long drive.