Matt Harvey has made a convincing case that he’s recovered nicely from his Tommy John performance, and while the ride has been admittedly bumpy in some respects, the general consensus is that he is mostly up to speed, and barring a complete resurgence from Jay Bruce and a complete meltdown by Harvey, it seems the NL Comeback Player of the Year award is his to lose.
That being said, as he’s pitched and as the season continues its downward turn, the infamous innings limit is looming.
You know that limit, the one that forced Stephen Strasburg to sit for the rest of the 2012 season and essentially killed any chance the Nationals would advance past the NLDS. The same innings limit that was instituted as a result of Dusty Bakers complete overworking of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood which led to their once meteoric careers taking a big downward trajectory. Yeah, that limit.
That limit is all well and good, and would be okay under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances, as the Mets find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title for the first time in seven years, and have a very good chance of breaking their 9 year old playoff drought.
Until recently, there was a consensus as to what Harvey’s limit was, and that limit was 180. No going over it, not even for the playoffs, so the Mets would either have to use him to get to the playoffs or, at most two starts in the playoffs, based on his current number, 166.1 innings. This limit was designated by team doctors and Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, both of whom have preached that it is best for him in his future.
However, the Mets have said and insisted, Sandy Alderson in particular, that Harvey is under a soft innings cap, which is 200 innings, with the potential to go over that number based on certain circumstances, like quick innings.
The dispute over 20 additional innings has both Alderson and Boras at odds, with Boras all but accusing the team of potentially damaging their star pitcher’s health and potential future earnings by potentially overextending him, while Alderson is all but accusing Boras and his doctors of overreaching their bounds and being too conservative.
The two aspects left in the middle are the fans, who want to see the team play in October with Harvey throwing for them, and Harvey, who wants to pitch in October, although he hasn’t commented on his innings limit.
The problem here is that Harvey is in between a rock and a hard place. As the Dark Knight of Gotham, he has quickly ascended to being the face of the franchise, and seems very primed to take over that position, barring he doesn’t leave in free agency, which many Mets fans have believed considering his admission to being a Yankees fan. Harvey is running a tightrope. He could choose to listen to his doctors and his agent and not be available for the playoffs, or he could choose to fight through and play for his team, and his fans.
The consequences for each option are as follows: If he chooses to shut himself down for the sake of future seasons and money, he comes off as selfish and the Mets lose a key arm in the playoff race, meaning they would have to rely on someone like Bartolo Colon or Logan Verrett to compensate for Harvey’s loss. The sports pages will have a field day, and the fanbase will never forgive him, and given how badly they have treated him because of his Yankee roots, it would seem all too certain that he would bolt for the greener pastures of New York.
The more likely route, the one where he does end up pitching for the Mets in both the regular season and October, assuming the Mets get that far, leads to him pushing his arm too far and risking reinjuring it. It also means that he gets on both Boras and his doctor’s bad side, unless Boras files a grievance to the MLBPA for the Mets mismanaging Harvey. Still Harvey keeps his reputation of being a guy who wants to win, and the fanbase could give him a break for once, instead of constantly deriding him and telling him to be a Yankee.
Again, this choice belongs to Harvey, and if he’s smart, he will try and figure out the best way to help himself and the team. Even though he doesn’t like it, he will miss a start so the Mets can extend him for the race.
All that leaves is what to do afterwards.
The thing that Harvey needs to know is that Scott Boras works for him, not the other way around. And considering Boras’ history with other Mets players, to be specific, Carlos Beltran, Harvey could talk to Beltran about how Boras in some ways comes off as condescending and abusive to his clients all in the name of getting them lucrative contracts. To say that Harvey doesn’t deserve a megadeal when he finishes his rookie contract would insinuate that he isn’t a dominant pitcher, and honestly, that is a lie. Having seen Harvey pitch twice this season, I’ve come to respect Harvey more as a gamer, a guy who will fight tooth and nail for the win, even if it means that he doesn’t get the win himself. Plus, he is an All-Star already, and is bound to add more hardware to his awards closet.
Boras doesn’t dictate what his clients do, rather he works for them, and that’s the problem with him. The fact that he has forced teams to pay big for his clients, both in the draft and during free agency almost suggests that the players work for him, and not the other way around, which is wrong. Harvey is not beholden to his agent, meaning that he can do as he wishes, so long as it doesn’t go against the wishes of his employer, which as of now is the Mets. Boras has no right to tell the Mets what they should do with Harvey, nor does he have the right to tell any team what to do with their star player. Unless a team deliberately mistreats their player, he has no cause to complain. The Mets are acting both in the best interests of themselves and of Harvey, and it’s not like they are forcing him into a Mark Prior type situation. If Harvey feels that he can’t do it, all he needs to do is tell management. Knowing Harvey will fight hard to pitch in October, you can expect him to show that he wants it more than anything else.
All in all, Harvey knows that it all comes down to what he wants, and if it’s within reason for the Mets. Mets fans should prepare for Harvey to be a key component in the team’s playoff race.
When Sandy Alderson, one of the prime proponents of building a team instead of buying, opted to sign outfielder Michael Cuddyer, a 36 year old outfielder who had receiver a qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies, he not only forfeited his team’s right to select a first round draft pick in the 2015 draft, but he indicated that his four year rebuilding project known as the New York Mets was finally done. No more drafting high ceiling high school or collegiate bats, no more high ceiling pitchers, nope, that phase of the rebuild is over.
Anderson gave up a hefty price on a gamble. Cuddyer is coming off a season in which he missed 3/4 of the year due to injury. He’s also leaving a city which is known for being exceptionally friendly to hitters. And of course, there is the big one, he’s about to turn 36 years old.
Granted, Alderson has seemed to strike some metaphorical gold with older players, Bartolo Colon has served as a decent stopgap to hold Matt Harvey’s rotation spot while he recovered, not to mention his enjoyable trips to the batters box.
Similarly, Curtis Granderson, while still not exactly what he was in Detroit, rebounded somewhat in his first year in Queens, hitting 20 home runs.
The point here is that Alderson’s strategy may finally be coming to fruition.
For the first two years of the strategy, it was unclear what his motive was. Was he treading water while the Wilpon family twiddled their thumbs on dwindling finances due to the repercussions of the Madoff Scandal? Was he looking to rebuild a farm system that had been the repeated victim of bad trades during the previous regime?
The most obvious theory goes into Alderson’s draft strategy ever since he took over the team.
Think about his past four years at the MLB Draft. He started out by drafting high schoolers. Brandon Nimmo, Gavin Cecchini, and Dominic Smith are all guys who are decent position players but aren’t expected in the majors until 4 or 5 years later. Then all of a sudden, he pulls a shocker and drafts the consensus top collegiate hitter in baseball in Michael Conforto. Conforto, if developed properly, could be up as early as late 2015 or even by the start of the 2016 season. Coincidence that he became Alderson’s first collegiate first round draft choice after 3 years of prep talent?
Not only that but his trades all seemed to be more geared for 2015 as well. Zach Wheeler, while he was ready by mid-2013, is expected to be a solid #2 by the start of the season, complementing arguably the best contributions, if the last ones, of the Minaya era in Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom. Travis d’Arnaud, while struggle and injury prone, is looking like one of the top young catchers in baseball, and while he’s no Mike Piazza, he does bring to mind the Mets’ earlier days of getting results out of young catchers. Not to mention, Alderson inadvertently developed the happy problem of catcher depth when he drafted Kevin Plawecki, but I digress here.
In addition to Wheeler and d’Arnaud, there is Noah Syndergaard to consider. Granted, 2014 was a struggle for him, as he adjusted to playing in Las Vegas, otherwise known as Hell for pitchers. Syndergaard’s struggles don’t necessarily indicate that he isn’t ready, rather they indicate that he is a byproduct of the Vegas environment. Assuming he’s ready to pitch in 2015 for the Mets, he should be in a more hospitable setting, despite the ever changing shape of Citi Field.
Lastly of course is the Marlon Byrd trade that brought over a perfectly capable reliever in Vic Black and a future infield piece in Dilson Herrera. Vic Black has proven himself to be a solid anchor in the bullpen as a right-handed batter. Injuries and struggles aside, he could prove to be a long term part of a bullpen that is long removed from the days of Frank Francisco, Ramon Ramirez and Jon Rauch.
Herrera progressed through the system at an advanced pace, and at 20 years old, made his major league debut. He filled in quite admirably as the team’s second baseman while Daniel Murphy was injured, and showed promise as a potential replacement should Murphy be moved. Obviously he is still rough around the edges, but if you make news for being the first player to go from A-ball to the majors for the Mets, there’s obviously something special.
This, however is only one part of Alderson’s idea. We still haven’t figured out why he felt the need to sacrifice his draft pick for Cuddyer.
This is actually probably one of the more simple questions to answer, at least from a hypothetical perspective.
If you look at the team that Alderson has developed, you’d see that pitching wise, the Mets actually have one of the better up-and-coming staffs in baseball. Think Detroit, but younger and without the mega contracts. The rotation is built mostly out of homegrown pieces. Harvey, Wheeler, deGrom, Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and possibly Syndergaard all make up a young and dynamic staff that could be together for years. The bullpen is also homegrown for the most part. Jenrry Mejia, Josh Edgin, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, Rafael Montero as well as the players they acquired through bargain deals and shrewd trades (Black) make up a staff that could run with the big boys of the National League.
Going off of that diatribe, does Alderson really need another pitcher in the draft? Would it make sense to draft a guy like Kyle Funkhouser from Louisville or Brett Lilek from Arizona State when the staff is already in place? Maybe, but in the future, it would create an overload, and while the adage is that there’s never too much pitching, there is too little money to lock up these pitchers long term.
Which moves me to the hitters. Now hitters are somewhat easier to develop, at least the college ones are. Assuming Alderson is done drafting high schoolers until the old team is disbanded through free agency and trades, who would he draft now? In the first mock draft, which was done way before Cuddyer signed with the Mets, I said that Dansby Swanson would be a solid fit. Now granted, the draft is all about BPA or GM tendencies, and while the idea here is that Alderson is a hitter guy, he’s already drafted a shortstop out of high school, and signed a promising young pelotero in Amed Rosario, who was considered a potential major superstar. Assuming Alderson had drafted Swanson, it would have sent a message to Cecchini and Rosario that they were pretty much dead weight or trade bait, and frankly, while there is potential with those two, it’s gonna be a long while before we see it, much like Nimmo and his breakout season this year, a full three seasons after he got drafted. So what happens? An outfielder is unnecessary. You have Juan Lagares in centerfield, Cuddyer in right field, and Granderson in left field, not to mention Nimmo almost ready for the Majors and Conforto soon to come after him. It makes no sense to go after another high school or college outfielder. DJ Stewart or Jahmai Jones would just serve as depth or trade bait as well. So with the outfield and middle infield situations in full capacity, we go to the corners and catching position. At third base, we have David Wright, who while he may be on the decline, is still a good five years away from being Derek Jeter-in-2013 levels of useless. And even then, there’s a solid backup for him in Matt Reynolds, the 2012 second rounder who has caught fire the past season. We’ve already covered catcher, so the next item is first base. Lucas Duda will be 29 when 2015 rolls around, giving him another 4 years of prime productivity. And even if he does decline, there’s still Dominic Smith. Granted Smith hit a bit of a second year wall, but he still was considered one of the top prep bats in the 2013 draft. And his arrival time likely coincides with the year that Duda would likely begin to decline. as he’s expected to be in the majors by late 2017 or early 2018. Getting a guy like Chris Shaw would be a waste, and a potential Ike Davis situation all over again.
So really, if there’s no needs to draft in 2015, then Alderson picked the right time to lose his pick. Assuming he has further plans to patch up holes with big league players, we can assume that the rebuild is finally over for the Mets. Cuddyer is the perfect temporary solution to hold the fort in the outfield while Nimmo finishes his minor league time, and whomever is at shortstop will likely leave an impression for whomever is next in line. The point here is that the Alderson rebuild may finally be over, allowing the Mets to be the top team in New York while the Yankees look into a rebuild.
*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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
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)
And now MLB.com’s list:
Grant Holmes, Conway High School, South Carolina (12)
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.
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?
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.
With Baseball America releasing their top 200 player list earlier today, it’s time to finally release the second — and final mock draft of the year, especially with two weeks to go before the draft. This mock will just look at the first round and compensatory selections, no competitive balance picks, no second round. Although the general strategy is to go with best player available, let’s assume that the best player available is also a team’s top need. So without further delay, here is the 2014 MLB mock draft.
1. Houston: Carlos Rodon, LHP, NC State
(Original selection: Rodon)
Houston lacks a dominant top ten left-handed pitching prospect in their system, and in the prospect rankings, there are three top arms. However, two of the three, Brady Aiken and Kyle Freeland, are untested against power competition, and generally untested arms are riskier investments than proven college arms. Even though Rodon has struggled this season, I doubt that the Astros, unless they were looking at another prospect all along, are going to deviate from an already-established plan. Despite Jonathan Gray’s rising stock last year, the team opted to go for the consensus top prospect at the beginning of the year, Mark Appel. Rodon has more experience and polish than Freeland and Aiken, and he will undoubtedly fit in what is already seen as a deadly future rotation.
2. Miami: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS, California
(Original selection: Tyler Kolek)
Alex Jackson may be one of the more power hitters in this class, and the Marlins may be one of those teams who could find themselves in need a high level catcher in the future. Kyle Skipworth, the team’s first round pick in 2008, has just started as a major leaguer, but all signs point to him being a bust. Jackson’s arm and bat will ensure him a shot at a position which requires more athleticism, so if he decides that catching isn’t in the future, then he does have some projectability as an corner infielder or outfielder.
3. Chicago White Sox: Brady Aiken, LHP Cathedral Catholic HS, California
(Original selection: Alex Jackson)
Brady Aiken was a top 5 pick in my initial draft, and if it weren’t for the stigma that is attached to high school arms, he’s probably hit the top spot, but top three isn’t bad, especially for a team lacking a dynamic pitching prospect like Chicago. Really, it could go either way between him and Tyler Kolek, but Aiken does have the benefit of having actually played the previous season while Kolek was hurt. Having Aiken and possibly Sale in the same rotation will be a boon for the Southsiders.
4. Chicago Cubs: Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville
(Original selection: Jeff Hoffman)
The Cubs have spent that last few drafts upgrading their position players, so now must be the time for a pitching upgrade. Like their crosstown rivals, they are especially deficient when it comes to left-handed pitching. Kyle Freeland’s stock has done nothing but rise this year, and it is a theoretical possibility he could be a top five pick given how the picks may fall. The only knock on him is his propensity to try too hard when he pitches, which could lead to arm injuries, but tweaking his delivery shouldn’t be that much of a problem.
5. Minnesota: Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS, Florida
(Original selection: Brady Aiken)
Even though the Twins would benefit from grabbing another outfield prospect to take some load off of Byron Buxton, the general consensus among Twins fans is that they need a shortstop given the failure at the position and from their last shortstop draft pick, Levi Michael, and the best outfield prospect available is a reach at 10. I talked about Gordon a lot in my previous mock draft and my Highly Anticipated Prep Shortstop article, and since then, he’s risen from the #3 shortstop in the class of 2014 to the #1. Gordon’s best assets are his legs and his arm, and if he can improve his hitting, he’ll definitely be a better shortstop than his brother Dee.
6. Seattle: Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd HS, Texas
(Original selection: Trea Turner)
Here’s the first really big fall of the draft, as Tyler Kolek, who was viewed by many at the beginning of the season as the top high school prospect, could potentially fall to here. Seattle could add him to their growing list of arms, especially if Taijuan Walker or another high level pitching prospect ends up leaving in a trade. Kolek’s fastball is explosive and he has healed fully from his injury, which means that he should be ready for the transition to pro baseball.
7. Philadelphia: Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco
(Original selection: Michael Gettys)
Philadelphia may be one of the few teams that is in a bad situation here, as the fallout from Wetzler-gate has destroyed trust between the team and some major college programs. Still, the Phillies need to develop a true outfielder, and unfortunately the best prep outfielder in the top 100 is at best a top 30 pick. Bradley Zimmer may be a bit of a reach, but he’s still got top ten talent, and would certainly be a solid addition to the Philadelphia outfield. His arm is solid, and he will make it as a low order slap hitter. Part of the reason why he’s so attractive is his pedigree, his brother Kyle was the fifth overall pick in 2012 by Kansas City.
8. Colorado: Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU
(Original selection: Jacob Gatewood)
If there was ever a prospect I would happy to be wrong about, it’s Aaron Nola. Initially, I said that Nola’s dependence on finesse instead of strength was going to affect his stock, potentially triggering a fall to a team like the Indians, but given Nola’s dominant spring, it’s safe to say barring any surprises or Scott Boras-type contract demands, Nola has cemented his position as a top ten arm. Given also the fact that he pitches in the same conference as college baseball’s third best big name arm in Tyler Beede, he’s really accelerated his stock even further, and Colorado could use another big name college arm to draw crowds.
9. Toronto: Trea Turner, SS NC State
(Original selection: Tyler Beede)
While it may seem odd drafting a college shortstop while there’s a particularly good one playing in the majors, Toronto could afford to upgrade by going for a younger model, especially with Jose Reyes about to turn 31. Turner has Reyes’ speed and glove, but needs to develop his hitting if he wants to be a top of the lineup threat. Having him and top prospect DJ Davis in a future lineup together just screams terror on the base paths, and would usher in an era of inside baseball which would allow Toronto to compete with the other AL East clubs.
10. New York Mets: Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt
(Original selection: Touki Toussaint)
Sandy Alderson prides himself on getting at least one good pitching prospect in the team’s farm system, as evidenced by Matt Harvey (2011-12), Zack Wheeler (2012-13) and Noah Syndergaard (2013-14). With Syndergaard likely coming up next month, and Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom already making their impressions, Alderson is in serious need of a new pitcher to develop. Beede, who I honestly think is better than Rodon, if not also Nola, does have the ability to be a number two starter in a major league rotation like the Mets. He will need to fine tune his command, but otherwise, he could be the next big arm that Met fans get excited about.
11. Toronto: Kyle Schwarber, C, Indiana
(Original Selection: Schwarber)
Like the NFL and running backs, in baseball, it’s always a good idea to keep at least two solid catchers on a team. Catchers are not the most durable players in baseball, and in all likelihood, one will presumably move to an infield position that doesn’t require constant stress on the knees. Schwarber is a big man at 230 pounds, and his presence behind the dish will certainly prevent plenty of runs. He’s a solid hitter as well who projects to be a mid to low level part of a major league lineup. Having him and AJ Jimenez behind the plate will be quite the boon for the Blue Jays, who would greatly benefit from their presence.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
So this is part one. Stay tuned part 2, which is due to come out some time next week.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.