Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Since i'm sure you were all dieing to know if i stayed up to watch baseball last night. I made it through the first four innings. Just some random observations from the game:

Can someone tell me why the Tokyo Dome says "Tokyo Dome" in giant lit-up letters on the outside? If you looked closely you could see the smaller signs up by the box office and around the street were all in Japanese. Which you'd expect from a stadium in Japan. The giant 30 ft tall name of the stadium though? That's in english. Huh?

Not that i'm judging here, but Jason Giambi looks about 90 lbs lighter. Of course, he proceeded to hit a home run in 1st at bat anyway.

Was it just me, or did that home run look like a fly-out in almost every major league stadium?

A-Rod looked great at third. He made a few nice plays, and on Toby Hall's liner in the 5th to put the Devil Rays up 5-3, he very nearly had a legitimate web gem. His transition to the new position might go better then i expected. He's no Eric Chavez, but i could see A-Rod being one of the better defensive third basemen in the AL based on this morning, and that's good news for the Yankees. Maybe it'll help compensate for still having Jeter at short.

If the Devil Rays had any shot of finishing in the top half of their division, Aubrey Huff would be my dark horse for AL MVP. He's one of the more unrecognized superstar hitters in the game, mostly because he does it for Tampa. Seeing how i live in Tampa, i see a whole lot of Huff, and i can tell you that there's no doubt in my mind he's one of the elite left handed hitters in the league. I'm predicting .320 with 40 HR and 120 RBI for him this year. And based on the way he was swinging the bat last night, it wouldnt surprise me if he goes on a tear to open the season and raises his profile in a hurry.

Is it possible the Devil Rays could be somewhat respectable this season? The line up isnt terrifying or anything, but it's a pretty decent top 5 if Julio Lugo can repeat or improve upon last season. If they manage to get some decent pitching, i could see them being close to .500
I really wasnt planning on watching the game at this obscene hour. I swear. I don't even like the Yankees. I live in Tampa and could care less about the Devil Rays. Then i found myself awake (sort of), i go to get a drink of water, and glance at the clock as i stumble back to bed. 4:27 AM. It is the first game of the season after all. Decisions, decisions...

Sunday, March 28, 2004

God Damnit! Well, i'm off to St Lucie with my posters of Joe McEwing and Danny Garcia. If you didn't click the link, yes, that's right, the Mets traded today for back up infielder Rickky Gutierrez. Gutierrez of course, being a back up middle infielder and all, can't hit for his life. Though he has demonstrated the ability to take a walk, and his career .340 OBP probably makes him the best player on our bench. Actually i take that back, Todd "never swing at the first pitch" Zeile's plate discipline makes him the most valuable player on our bench. In any case, there's little doubt that Gutierrez is a better player then Joe McEwing, and even though he's no whiz with the glove, he should be better then McEwing at second and short, since he actually plays those positions. As opposed to Joe, who just pretends he can. Of course, neither of them figure to be better then Garcia.

My question here is what didn't the Mets see when they gave McEwing that two year contract in the offseason? What the hell is his role on this team if not back up infielder? He can play catcher, but we've already got 3 of them, and i suspect Todd Zeile could still crouch for a few innings in an emergency. He can play the corner outfield spots, but we still can't dump Cedeno on anybody. He can play first or third, but we already dumped a perfectly good lefty in order to make room for Todd Zeile. So what is McEwing role on the team now, to lead the clubhouse cheers? Personal asst to Mr. Met?

What makes it even worse is that he's not even as good as the guy we just sent out of town, Timo Perez. Timo has no patience, no power, and no baserunning sense, but he hit righties for a respectable average, has some speed, and can handle all three outfield positions adequately. Gutierrez has...well, he has some patience, that's about it. Maybe i'm harping on insignifigant moves that we shouldn't be concerned about, but this whole thing just strikes me as dumb. First, we get yet another right handed reliever for Timo, when anything else would have been more helpful, even if it was just a marginal outfield prospect. Then, we go out and use his roster spot on yet another guy who doesn't fill a need, and means we're essentially paying Joe McEwing $1m to back up the back ups.

None of this, of course, figures to have any effect on how the Mets will do this season, so it's not worth getting worked up over. But these little moves are indicative of the things that have plagued the Mets the last few years. Poor management of resources and roster spots. I loved the Cameron signing, and getting Peterson was a coup, but c'mon, a two year contract at a million per for Joe McEwing, who now has no real role on the team? Dumping Jamie Cerda to make a spot for Todd Zeile. Zeile, Timo Perez, and others on the 40 man over Lenny DiNardo and David Mattox, who were lost in the Rule V draft. Giving Braden Looper over $3.5m a year when we've got half a dozen guys who could do the job for 300k. Moving Reyes from short, even after it seemed clear that we were the main suitors for Matsui, obviously had the best offer on the table, and because of that probably could have gotten him to agree to play second. Inspite of the larger moves, which inspire hope for the future, these little moves that the Mets have managed so poorly suggest that we've still got a long way to go till we can call ourselves a well run organization.

Back to the subject of Braden Looper for a moment. What were we thinking commiting $7m to Braden Looper? I realize he's got some upside under Peterson, but so do a lot of other guys we already have in the system. Up to this point Looper has looked every bit the dime a dozen right handed reliever we already have so many of. If we were so intent on a) bringing John Franco back and b) having a defined closer the entire season, i'd jsut as soon let the old man and his astounding 92% career SV% have another crack at it. But more to the point, i would have put David Weathers in the role till July, let him rack up 20 cheap saves, and then peddled him to a contender for a couple of prospects. Does anyone have any doubts that Weathers could quite easily step into the role and be an effective closer? Every year there are 2 or 3 teams willing to part with a decent package of prospects to get some back end bullpen help for a pennant race. If for whatever reason we don't want to send Weathers out of town, we could have done it with any of the young major league ready arms that figure to be rotting away in AAA this season. I don't understand why more teams don't exploit this. Like i said, every year there are 2 or 3 teams in the playoff hunt that are willing to part with a decent prospect or two to get some late inning relief help. Any team can stick a competent reliever into the closer spot, let him rack up some cheap saves at a good conversion rate and then deal him off for something more valuable. Are you going to get as much for them as a guy whose been doing it a few years, like Ugueth Urbina last year? No, but there's very little dobut you could get something a good deal more valuable then a right handed reliever, the most easily replaceable things in baseball, aside from bench players.


Saturday, March 27, 2004

Well, Scott and Vinny did it, and Jeremy Heit did it, so i'm going to follow suit and post my AIM name, for anyone with comments, questions, or who just wants to talk baseball. I love talking baseball, and i don't have enough people to do it with, so don't be shy. My AIM name is Raeyn Taurelinde. Note the space, and before anyone asks why such an odd name, it's my preferred name for a ranger, my preferred class in the roleplaying games i enjoy, online and otherwise. Raeyn, i just like. Taurelinde is a combination of words from two of the elven languages created by Tolkien, and it translates to "forest song". I can hear the computer geek comments flying already.
The Mets traded everyone's favorite 4th outfielder Timor Perez, to the White Sox for yet another major league ready right handed reliever, Matt Ginter. It's not like i'm broken up about seeing Timo go, but couldnt we have gotten anything other then another relief candidate? Taken a flier on some starter in the low minors with a good arm, or a marginal outfield prospect. Something? I remarked off hand to Vinny over at YMtR, that we now have a good 12-15 major league ready, right handed relief options. I started wondering if it's actually that high, so i decided to go and have a look and tally them up.

(In no particular order)
David Weathers
Scott Strickland
Braden Looper
Matt Ginter
Dan Wheeler
Jason Anderson
Grant Roberts
Orber Moreno
P.J. Bevis
Heath Bell
Tyler Yates
Jeremy Griffiths

That's twelve. If you put Roberts into the rotation, and assume Yates and Griffiths will be alowed to continue to work on being starters at AAA, that knocks it down to nine. There are six bullpen spots, maybe seven. Two of them will be occupied by John Franco and another lefty(almost certainly Pedro Feliciano). That leaves us 4-5 spots for righties. Braden Looper, and David Weathers are two of those, and Scott Strickland is number 3 once he's ready to go. That leaves six guys fighting for one, or possibly two spots in the bullpen. Depth is never a bad thing, but we are already plenty deep in relief arms.

Oh, and one more thing. If this move was made to free a spot on the roster for a back up middle infielder/utility guy, then I'm going to personally drive to St Lucie and give Jim Duquette signed posters of Joe McEwing and Danny Garcia. I live in Tampa, so it's only an hour and a half for me. I'll do it, I swear.


Friday, March 26, 2004

Faster then you can say "Rios"

From the Toronto Star:

Reports the Dodgers and Mets have been sniffing around, preparing offers for Jayson Werth and/or Alex Rios, seem premature although either Jay could be available for the right offer...... As for the mega-talented Rios, 23, the trade offer would have to be a top-drawer prospect in order to tempt Ricciardi. Eventually Rios will likely be traded. His skills are too similar to Vernon Wells' in terms of not seeing pitches and drawing walks. One such early-contact hitter is enough under the current offensive philosophy.

If we call the Jays to ask about Alexis Rios, and the names Scott Kazmir and David Wright don't come up, my response would be "How fast can you get him on a plane". J.P. Ricciardi supposedly likes Heilman, so how about Heilman and another player. If he wants a bat, there are a couple of options. If you believe the article, the reason that Rios is available would seem to rule out Victor Diaz, since he's another average/power guy who doesn't take walks. Aaron Baldiris has the plate discipline and on base skills that Toronto covets. Justin Huber is a possibility. If Ricciardi is looking to stockpile arms, we can offer him Heilman and Matt Peterson. Anything short of Kazmir and Wright. Rios would provide a huge boost to the system. He tore up the Eastern and Puerto Rican Leagues this year, and is rated the 6th best prospect in baseball by BA. He'd immediately become our best option in right field, though it's more likely he'd be send to AAA at least initially. Either way, the future Mets of Reyes/Rios/Wright/Kazmir sounds damn good to me.
Ok, i'm a little late on this one, but why are the Mets considering guys like Deivi Cruz and Erick Almonte for the back up middle infielder spot. Maybe i'm missing something here, but if Joe McEwing isn't the backup middle infielder, what is he? The team mascot? If you give a guy with Rey Ordonez like offensive skills a two year contract because he can play seven or eight positions (whether or not he plays them well is another matter), you should at least let him back up second and short, instead of signing yet another guy who can't hit. I'm starting to believe that the Mets are trying to asemble the worst bench in the history of baseball.

Some more on Tyler Yates and the fifth starters spot. Praise to David Lennon for mentioning that the fact that Yates can be optioned and Roberts can not is a factor in this decision. And this excerpt was particularly nice:

That is the difference with the post-operative Yates, who no longer can rely on a 100-mph fastball after Tommy John surgery in 2002. Yates still can reach the mid-90s, but more significantly, he can throw each of his other three pitches - slider, curve, changeup - for strikes.

Yates has developed such a feel for these pitches, in fact, that when new pitching coach Rick Peterson had him throw a side session earlier this week with his eyes closed - one of Peterson's teaching tools - Yates never missed the catcher's target.

Finally, from an otherwise positive article about Reyes and Matsui, we get this.

Injuries limited the Mets last season, particularly in September when Reyes went down with a severely sprained ankle. Right now, the only thing standing in the way of New York's plan is Reyes' health. He's had another troubling setback with his leg, suffering a strained hamstring earlier this month. While the Mets are hopeful he'll be ready for Opening Day, there are concerns that Reyes might be brittle.

Hate to keep harping on that, but it looks like i'm not the only one concerned about that leg becoming a constant worry.

Perusing through the Spring training stats:

Mike Piazza sure looks good so far, hitting .364 and slugging 758 in 33 spring training at bats. The big guy has 4 homers, a double, 16 RBI's and has racked up 25 total bases.

Ty Wigginton is hitting .306 with 2 HRs and 2 doubles in 49 at bats. I think he's going to surprise some people this year, and put up some pretty decent numbers.

The bone spur brothers, Cliff Floyd and Mike Cameron, are both tearing it up.

David Wright has had only 15 at bats, but 6 of them were hits, good for a .400 average.

Victor Diaz struggled in his 16 at bats, batting just .188. He did hit a home run.

On the other side of the ball, lots of guys are pitching well, giving some hope for the bullpen.

How about Orber Moreno, with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings, with a 12-2 K/BB ratio.

Or senior citizen John Franco, whose got a 1.93 ERA and 14-2 K/BB ratio in 9 innings.

And then there's Dan Wheeler, owning a 0.77 ERA and a 12-1 BB/K ratio in 11.2 innings.

Of course, Braden Looper and Mike Stanton are both struggling, owning identical 7.88 ERAs


Thursday, March 25, 2004

The other 26 year old hard throwing right hander in the mix for the fifth starter's role Tyler Yates made the competition even more interesting, tossing five scoreless innings against the Astros last night. It should be noted that Jeff Bagwell and Jeff Kent were not in the lineup, but the outing was very impressing none the less. Five innings, three hits, three K's , no walks (one hit batter) against a (mostly) major league line up. For the spring, Yates has now pitched 14 innings in spring training with a micrscopic ERA of 0.64. All five of the possible fifth starters have pitched quite well so far. We'll know a lot more in a few days, after Baldwin and Erickson get there first 5+ innings starts, but at the moment Grant Roberts actually has the highest ERA of the five at 3.72. With all the talk over how well Roberts was pitching until the fifth innings against the Expos,, and now Yates has anyone taken notice of Aaron Heilman? 17.1 IP, 16 H, 4 HR, 19 K, 4 BB, 3.63 ERA Four home runs is kind of troubling, but i'm willing to overlook that as just throwing strikes, because it's spring training. Ignoring the 4 long balls, you've gotta love those numbers. He's striking out a ton of guys, not walking anyone, and giving up less then a hit an inning.

I'd have no problem with either Heilman, or Yates as the fifth starter, anyone under 30 with an upside is fine with me, but i still have to throw my support behind Grant Roberts. If we can assume that James Baldwin has no real shot at this, and the Mets eventually come to there senses about Scott Erickson, we've got three candidates. Forget about Spring training, your three guys are:

Player A: A 25 year old low nineties throwing right hander, with 277 excellent minor league innings to his credit, who struggled badly in 13 major league starts, and can be optioned back to AAA.

Player B: A 26 year old mid-high nineties throwing right hander who pitched fairly well across three levels of the minors while recovering from injury last year, has a decent minor league history and great K rate who can be optioned back to AAA.

Player C: A 26 year old mid nineties throwing, right handed former starter prospect, with a very good minor league history and a 3.62 ERA in almost 100 major league innings who can not be optioned back to AAA without clearing waivers.

Without any further comparison, there are two things here that tell us that the job should belong to Grant Roberts. 1. Player A (Heilman) and Player B (Yates), can both be sent down to AAA at will. Player C (Roberts) can not, and would have to clear waivers to be optioned to AAA. The chances of Grant Roberts, a 26 year old hard throwing pitcher with proven success in the majors who makes less then $400,000 , clearing waivers is exactly zero. So Roberts has to stay on the team, the other two don't. That alone wouldn't be an argument for putting him in the fifth spot, except for the second thing that stands out here, and that's that both Heilman and Yates might well benefit from some polishing time down in AAA. Heilman struggled badly in his 13 starts last year, Yates spent last year rehabbing an injury and pitched across three levels, spending just 20 innings at AAA.

Another thing that should be considered is that moving Roberts into the starting rotation opens a spot in the bullpen for one of the many young relief arms in the system. None of this is to criticize Yates or Heilman or even to imply that either of them wouldn't pitch well if given the last spot in the rotation. I actually think that any of the three would pitch respectably if given the job, it's just that, as i see it, there are a couple of compelling reasons to give Roberts the job (he's the only one whose got nothing left to learn at AAA, the only one who can't get sent down, and it opens a spot for someone in the bullpen), and no compelling reasons to give the job to Aaron Heilman or Tyler Yates. If one of the three had clearly outplayed the others, that's one thing, but that's not the case, Yates ERA notwithstanding. ( it's only 14 innings. Heilmans K/BB ratio impresses me more) So without someone clearly and decisively winning the job, i'm inclined to go with the guy that simply makes the most sense, and that's Roberts.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Apparently the mets are close to naming another assistant GM to assist Jim Duquette. My only comment on this is to thank God that they've finally stopped using the term "Super Scout". Am i the only one who wanted to scream every time they used this phrase? And when they threw in the comparison to Gene Michaels and the Yankees...don't even get me started.

Grant Roberts had his first bad outing of the spring yesterday. After holding the Expos hitless through four innings, the 26 year old right hander ran into trouble in the fifth, and again in the sixth, before leaving the game with five earned runs and seven hits given up in five and a third innings. Of more concern then the bad outing by Roberts is the fact that this leaves the door open for the Mets to continue to consider Scott Erickson for the fifth spot in the rotation. Had Roberts continued cruising, and pitched six shutout innings, he very well could have wrapped up the fifth starters job (and there would have been much rejoicing amongst the Mets fans). Alas, it was not to be, and we will all continue to suffer for at least another week as the Mets torture us with the possibility of throwing 36 year old Scott Erickson and his 4.51 lifetime ERA out their every fifth day. Since i believe Roberts will wind up with the job, I'm trying to live in denial, and just pretending that noone under 30 has any chance of landing the last spot in the rotation. I highly recommend it as a way to avoid pulling your hair out every time you hear read that Erickson is one of the leading candidates, and that James Baldwin is still on the team.

Jose Reyes may make it back for Opening Day. I suppose this is good news, but i still can't help but worry about that leg. And turning that DP from second base isn't going to help matters. Especially when he's barely played the position this spring.

Monday, March 22, 2004

I've updated my recent sidebar edition, the Quote of the Week. It's just a little thing for me to throw out there little tidbits of phiolosphy, political science, literature, musical lyrics, or anything else that i think is great writing, or a great thought. I left the first one up for a couple weeks, because it's far and away my favorite political quote ever, and politics is a passion of mine that i seldom (come to think of it, never) discuss here, this being a baseball blog and all.

One more time, for anyone who ddidnt catch it down on the sidebar:

"Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." Thomas Payne "Common Sense"

Sticking with the political theme this week, I've put up a line from another of the great thinkers of revolutionary America.

And since i'm espousing my libertarian views anyway, i might as well throw in a link to the Free State Project. I have seriously considered signing up, but can't bring myself to commit....yet.
March Madness

No, i'm not talking about the NCAA tournament, i'm talking about the competition for the fifth spot in the Mets rotation. By most accounts, it's down to Scott Erickson vs Grant Roberts. To which my question is, where is the decision here? If Roberts has out performed the rest of the guys under 30, case closed, he's the fifth starter. Even if Scott Erickson might be the best candidate for this year, does anyone seriously think he's the difference between making the playoffs or not? All it does is force Roberts back into the bullpen, when he finally looks ready to succeed back in the starting role, and send another young guy back to AAA. We need to spend this year figuring out what we have in the players who are actually on the upside of there career, not trying to squeeze a couple extra wins out of a marginal veteran trying to get one or two more years in the sun. I'm sure there are teams that could use the couple of extra wins that Erickson might provide in the 5 spot if he's healthy. Teams that figure to contend for the playoffs but have problems with their starting pitching. The Cardinals come to mind, or the White Sox in the always weak AL Central. But even with a healthy Erickson in the fifth slot, this team still figures to win only 81-82 games, and that's only if several other things go well. To make a run at the playoffs everything would have to go right. And i don't know about anyone else, but i'd rather spend the season auditioning a couple of the promising, young arms in the system, then running Scott Erickson out there every fifth day in the futile hope that we'll get really, really, (really) lucky, and make a run at the wild card.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I just read this in the latest Bob Klapisch article to be picked up by ESPN.com.

Incredibly, Soriano's name is still a topic of intense, internal-discussion among members of the Mets' front office. One person familiar with the club's thinking says the organization is nearly unanimous in endorsing a trade for the former Yankee, but executives have been overruled by owner Fred Wilpon.

After reading the paragraph again, just to make sure, then slapping myself a couple times to be certain i wasn't dreaming, there was a pause while i stared silently in dis-belief for about half an hour.

I know it's no secret that Wilpon is the one who ruled out trading away Reyes or Kazmir to aquire Soriano or just about anyone else, but to hear Klapisch tell it, the entire organization has endorsed yet another quick fix, only to be overruled by the suddenly far-sighted Freddy Skill Sets. The same guy who personally courted the 37 year old Tom Glavine last fall. And OK'ed the signing of 30 yr old injury plagued Cliff Floyd. Now all of a sudden He's the only road black preventing a deal for a 29 year old 40-40 guy that the entire organization wants? What happened here? Is someone impersonating Fred Wilpon? Not that i'm advocating trading for Soriano, i happen to think that Wilpon is 100% correct looking towards the long term, but what brought about this dramatic switch?

Saturday, March 20, 2004

This Just in...The Mets Suck by Jon Heyman

I usually stay off the Jon Heyman bashing, warranted as it is, but this might be the worst article i've ever read. There's no story here. Mr Heyman's article could be summed up in three words. "The Mets Suck". But his editors probably wouldn't have liked that, so he managed to turn those three words into an entire article, if you can call it that. 831 words of reporting injuries a week or more old, and countless quotes from nameless scouts on how one Met or another sucks. Does he have such a lack of other ideas that when there's no injury, or off the field incident, or short sighted trade rumor for him to bash the Mets over, he has to write a compilation article on the subject? The Mets Suck: A Month in Review? You'd think by now an editor would have stepped in and said "Hey Jon, write an article about something else besides how bad the Mets are for once.

Bobby V.

Ya gotta love him. In a spring training game over in Japan, Bobby V got into a "heated exchange" with the opposing manager, over the managers decision to manage the game from the third base coach's box. Apparently Valentine let a few curses fly. Pre-season and the guy is screaming curses at another manager because he thinks the guy standing in the third base box puts pressure on his pitchers. Like i said. Ya gotta love him. I still haven't gotten over the firing of Bobby V, and i still think we should bring him back. Here'es a slightly edited exerpt of what i once wrote on Valentine.

No offense to Artie from Flushing, who i actually think will be a good manager for our young players, just like he was in Oakland, but i loved Bobby V. He was the perfect man for this job. He is charismatic and very intelligent, which helped him deal well with the media circus that is New York City. He's still very popular with Mets fans, and is still involved in a number of local charities. Bobby V. was a pretty good manager to. Every manager cares about how his team does, but with Valentine it was obvious that he REALLY, REALLY cared. This is the guy who got thrown out of a game, then snuck back onto the bench wearing a fake nose and glasses. How Great is that? I have forever loved Bobby V since that moment. And best of all, opponents hated him.

As for his skills as a manager, I know it's hard to forget watching Kenny Rogers walk Andruw Jones to lose the NLCS with Octavio Dotel sitting in the bullpen, but Valentine is actually a very good strategical manager. He uses his bench and bullpen well, is knowledgable on batter/pitcher match ups and did an excellent job managing the starting rotation. He's also one of the only managers in baseball history that consistently won more games then his teams runs scored and runs allowed suggest. Bobby V is one of the only managers ever whose teams have consistently outplayed their Pythagorean records. Have a look.

(full seasons only)
Year Team....W-L.....Pythagorean W-L..Difference
1990..Tex.....83-79............79-83............+4 ( identical stats are not a typo)
1998..NYM....88-74............88-74.............0 (again, not a typo)
1999..NYM....97-66............95-68............+2( 163 games - one game tie-breaker)

In 12 full seasons Valentines teams won more games then expected seven times, had the exact expected record three times, and lost more games then expected just twice. Overall his teams won 23 more games then they should have based on there runs scored and runs against. That's a hair under 2 games a year. Pythagorean records usually come within a game or two of a team's expected record, and obviously some luck is involved, but you'd expect it to be like flipping a coin. Half the time you win a couple more games then your run totals project, half the time you lose a couple more. Over time it should even out, and in fact usually does.. Valentine is the exception, not the rule. Even accounting for a bit of luck either way you'd expect a manager's won/loss record over 12 seasons to be within a handful of games to his expected record. But 23 games over? That's extremely impressive, and more then can be attributed to luck. Quite simply, Valentine is a good manager. I really do think Art Howe will be a good manager for these young kids, but firing Bobby V. was one of the worst decisions Freddy Skill Sets has ever made.

I still feel strongly about everything i wrote back in July, and i'd still love to see Valentine return to manage the Mets.Unfortuantely, there's almost no chance of that happening, but i can dream can't I? While i'm on the topic of Bobby V, how did this guy not get another job? You'd think that someone would've noticed that trend in his teams actual records vs expected records. And his game management skills are widely praised. So why is he over in Japan, when he's a better manager then almost everyone whose gotten hired since the Mets fired him? It's not like he's never had any success, making the playoffs two straight years with the Mets, and of course the World Series appearance in 2000. Valentine seems to love managing over there, but then, he'd be happy managing baseball anywhere. This is the kinda guy who'd get ejected for arguing a strike managing his kid's little league game. Even though he likes Japan, you have to assume he'd jump at the chance to come back to the big leagues, and i think the chances are that at some point in the next couple of years, somebody will give him the chance. Whoever that is will be getting a hell of a manager.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Is anyone else starting to worry about Jose Reyes' right hamstring? He's not yet 21, and this will be the third time he misses time due to an injury to said hamstring. Here's an excerpt from the Post:

"I've had a lot of trouble with that leg - three times already," he said. "I feel happy that it's not bad."

Reyes strained the same hamstring last May (missing three weeks) and also last July (missing five games). Neither Reyes nor Duquette could accurately compare the current strain to the previous ones.

Reyes himself is baffled by the rash of strains, admitting, "I have to figure it out. I don't know yet what happened." Duquette said the Mets will re-evaluate Reyes' conditioning program and perhaps make modifications that could help curb the injuries.

If that last line about re-evaluating his conditioning program doesn't scare you, then i don't know what will. That's the classic offseason cliche about injuries, but it's usually reserved for guys in there 30s, who are trying to make it back for a couple more respectable seasons. It's not supposed to be used in reference to 20 yr old phenoms. What's even more troublesome is that it's his hamstring. There are two things about that which concern me. First, it could effect his speed. Second, and more importantly, hamstring problems like this are often chronic. It's not unusual for any athlete to tweak a hamstring a couple times over his career. But three pulls in ten months should throw up red flags that this could turn into an ongoing problem, if it isn't one already.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The Offense

Let's take a look at the Mets offense for next year. There are better ways to do this no doubt, but here's a quick and dirty look at the offense, position by position. (Shortstop omitted due to lack of data on Kazuo Matsui, and right field ommited due to the expected platoon)

(2003 numbers - Avg/OBP/SLG/EqA)

C: MLB 258/322/403/252 Jason Phillips 298/373/442/287
Difference +40 Avg(15.5%) +11 IsoD(17.2%) -1 IsoP(.07%) + 29 EqA (11.5%)

What can we expect in 2004?(improve, decline, stay the same)

It's hard to say. Alot of pundits and so called experts have weighed in with the opinion that Phillips may have had his career year as a rookie. That's certainly possible, given that he was old for a rookie at 26, and 298/373/442 was a bit unexpected from the unheralded young catcher. When you go and look at his minor league numbers though, Phillips has a long track record of success. He has a career minor league average of 279, but that's somewhat misleading, because Phillips had some early struggles in A ball. Since moving up from A ball, Phillips has hit above that career average in all seven stops across various levels and 2+ seasons (not counting 7 at bats with the Mets in 2001). He's taken 197 walks to only 207 strike outs in his minor league career, and has always shown good gap power. Except for the 19 point jump from his career minor league average, which shouldn't be a surprise given the reasons we already discussed, Phillips did exactly what we'd expact from his minor league career. He walked once every ten at bats, struck out just slightly more, and had an IsoP of 144. All of which is virtually identical to his minor league career. Even if you expect a rookie to slip a bit from his minor league numbers, to call last year a career year for Phillips seems absurd. If anything, i think Phillips is more likely to improve, coming into his age 27 season, but for now we'll assume he stays right at those career numbers and predict:
Stay the Same

1B: MLB 271/358/462/282 Mike Piazza 286/377/483/301
Difference +15 Avg(5.5%) +4 IsoD (4.5%) +6 IsoP(3.1%) +19 EqA(6.7%)

What can we expect in 2004?

As recently as 2001 Piazza hit 300/384/573, so an MVP like season is far from out of the question if he stays healthy. However, Mike is 35 now, and catching every day has taken it's toll. He may never return to his best years (remember, the big guy has a career 319 Avg) but even if he hits 285/375 again, a big upswing in his power numbers seems like a given, as long as he avoids another serious injury. The chances of Mike Piazza playing 130+ games and posting another IsoP below 200 are extremely small. Actually it's never happened. The only time Piazza IsoP was ever below even 220 was his first 69 big league at bats in 1992. His career mark is 253. From 1999-2002 his lowest mark was 264. Needless to say, Mike still has some big time power, and if healthy, is as likely a candidate to add 50+ points to his IsoP as your ever going to find.

2B: MLB 270/334/403/259 Jose Reyes 307/334/434/274
Difference +37 Avg(13.7%) -37 IsoD(57.8%) -6 IsoP(4.5%) +15 EqA(5.8%)

What can we expect in 2004?

The phenom certainly impressed in his first taste of the majors. He may not hit 307 again, something more in line with his 288 minor league average strikes me as more likely, but after early struggles with his plate discipline, he progressed rapidly back to his minor league walk rates. If he merely maintains that he will about double his IsoD. Still just 20 years old (21 in June) he also figures to improve his IsoP as his power continues to develope. Despite the drop in Avg that i predict, i expect the increase in his discipline and power numbers to more then compensate, raising his EqA and his overall value as a hitter. Improve

3B:MLB 259/329/421/260 Ty Wigginton 255/318/396/256
Difference -4 Avg(1.5%) -7 IsoD(10%) -21 IsoP(12.9%) -4 EqA(1.5%)

What can we expect in 2004?

Wigginton actually had a very impressive minor league career, aside from 2001, when he missed signifigant time due to injury. In 1999 he hit .292/369/502 with 49 xbh(21 HR) in 456 A+ at bats as a 21 yr old(that is ridiculously impressive for the FSL). In 2000 he hit 285/321/490 with 50 xbh(20 HR) in 453 AA at bats as a 22 year old. In 2002 he hit 300/366/431 with 35 xbh(6 hr) in 383 AAA at bats as a 24 year old (then hit 302/354/526 with 14 xbh(6hr) in 116 at bats with the Mets). Aside from the IsoD in AA, everything there is great, and it all came at age appropriate competition. The only knock on Wigginton from his minor league performance is his strike out rate. He drew a75 walks, which is acceptable, but not enough to compensate for 384 strike outs in 1861 at bats. That high strike out rate is the most likely reason for his late season decline, as major league pitchers learned they didn't have to throw him alot of strikes. To his credit, Wigginton appeared to make some progress last year. As his strike out numbers went up during the slump, so did his walk numbers. So he is learning to lay off more of those bad pitches. He'll be 26 all season, and should be just entering his prime. He's never going to be a star, but here at Mets Ramblings, we, or um, I, favor objective analysis of the data, over subjective observations on talent. And while the guys who get paid to make those subjective observations on talent say that Wigginton is lacking, objective analysis of the numbers suggests that Wigginton is likely to rebound from that 255/318/396 line. I'd put even money that Wigginton is a league average or better third basemen this year. Improve

LF: MLB 280/356/466/283 Cliff FLoyd 290/376/518/309
Difference +10 Avg(3.5%) +10 IsoD(13.2%) +42 IsoP(22.6%) +29 EqA(10.4%)

What can we expect in 2004?

After finally getting two healthy years, and showing what he can do, Floyd fell back into his career trend in 2004. He was very productive when did play, but unfortuantely he missed signifigant time due to injury. If he manages to play 140 games, his rate numbers could actually go up (see 2001/2002), but predicting Floyd to be healthy is like betting on the Jets to make a smart draft pick (the Parcells era excluded). Risky, at best. If we get 125+ games from him at last year's production, we should count ourselves lucky. This is the hardest prediction of all the regulars besides Kaz Matsui. Because Floyd's going to hit whenver he plays, but who knows how often that will be? There's no way to predict injuries. So we'll assume that Floyd follows his career trend of hitting well, but not staying healthy enough to post another OPS above .920 Stay the Same

CF: MLB 274/340/427/268 Mike Cameron 253/344/431/278
Difference -21 Avg(7.7%) +25 IsoD(37.9%) +25 IsoP(16.3%) +10 EqA(3.7%)

What can we expect in 2004?

Tough to say. There's a number of things to consider here. From 1998-2000 his OPS numbers were 826/803/833. The last two years they were 782 and 775. So we know he's capable of a bit more then he's done the last two years, and it's certainly possible he returns to those levels. However, those three plus 800 OPS season came in his age 26 - 28 seasons, so it's quite possible it represented his peak, and the 775 is more indicative of what we can expect for the next few years. The second thing to consider is Safeco Field. Without running through all the numbers again, Safeco has hurt Cameron a great deal. More then we should expect from its park factor, more then it did his Mariner teammates. She is certainly no palace for hitters though, and recently Cameron's splits ahve been narrowing(758 home/ 789 road last year). So even if he performs at his road level from last year, we're talking about an OPS increase of 789. And that's not meaningfully different from his 775 overall OPS last year. So it's far from guarenteed that getting away from Safeco will help Cameron. There's one final thing to consider however, and that's Cameron's drop off in power last year.Cameron posted an IsoP above 200 in each of the last two years, but this year it slipped to 178, due not to a large drop off in his power at home, but in his power on the road. In previous years, Cameron's had huge power on the road, but last year it dropped off signifigantly, for no apparent reason. At only 31, we shouldn't yet be seeing such a drop off in his power, and i think Cameorn's a good candidate to rebound for another 25 points of IsoP. Improve

Of the six regulars that we have 2003 numbers for, 5 posted EqA's better then the league average at there position, and the sixth was so close as to essentially be league average. That's a pretty good start to an offense. If we assume Kaz is better then league average at shortstop, and the right field platoon is at least respectable, the Mets could actually have a good offense in 2004. Quick and dirty again; The six players covered above averaged 5.585 RC/27 last year. (5.585 RC/27 * 162 games =904.77 runs), and not a single one is likely to perform worse in 2004 then they did in 2003. Throw in the pitcher at -0.77 (the total of Glavine/Leiter/Traschel/Seo) and weighted at .6 because pitchers only accounted for ~300 of the ~500 at bats in the #9 spot last year and you wind up at 804 runs expected from last years numbers, without factoring in Kaz, right field, or the ~200 pinch hits for the pitcher. If Kaz performs reasonably well compared to his Japanese numbers, say the 5.33 RC/27 mark posted by Angel Berroa last year, which seems pretty reasonable, that pushes it back to ~811 runs. Are the Mets likely to score 800+ runs next year? That's stretching it. Floyd's not likely to stay healthy, Piazza remains an injury risk, noone knows how Matsui or the RF platoon will do, and those RC/27 expectations are just real quick, un adjusted numbers based on what players did last year. But with noone likely to decline, a couple of people likely to improve, it's certainly within the realm of possibility if we stay healthy and don't experience any signifigant bad luck in terms of player performance. Something like 750 runs seems very reasonable, which would probably rank us slightly above average in the 16 team national league. And that would be a huge improvement over the 15th we ranked last year.
This is non Mets related, but i had to get it out somewhere, and seeing as i have a blog.

Last night on PTI, Kornheiser and Wilbon were discussing the "hit" Todd Bertuzi put on Colorado's Steve Moore. Kornheiser mentioned that Bertuzzi might never get past this incident, as far as his reputation goes. And then the two had an exchange that sounded something like this.

Wilbon: "He'll get past it, Dale Hunter got over the Turgeon thing"

Kornheiser: "This was worse the that though, this was worse then Hunter's hit on Turgeon"

At which point, i thought Wilbon, the self proclaimed hockey fan, would step in and disagree with that. But he didn't, and they moved on to the next topic. Now this subject is rather person to me in a way, so please excuse me if i rant a bit.

In 1993 Pierre Turgeon was the man on Long Island. He wasn't just our best player, he was a superstar of the highest caliber. He tallied 58 goals, and 132 points that season, 5th in the NHL, and was nominated for the Hart Trophy (MVP). Turgeon was a force that could dominate an NHL game, his 50th goal essentially knocked the hated Rangers out of playoff contention. He was nothing short of our saviour, the player who'd returned the Islanders to contention. In the first round of the playoffs, the Islanders faced the Washington Capitals. The dropped the 1st game in Washington 3-1. Then 3 straight OT victories, to give the Islanders a commanding 3-1 series lead. Back in Washington for game 5 (the NHL used the 2-2-1-1-1 format for playoffs back then), Washington kept it's season alive with 6-4 victory. The series shifted back to the Island, and a raucous Nassua Colliseum for Game 6. Lifted by there home crowd, the Islanders were dominant, skating to a 4-1 lead. With about 8:30 left, Turgeon skated skated down the right wing, and lifted one past Caps goalie Don Beaupre, putting the Isles up 5-1, and effectively ending any chance Washington had of a comeback. Turgeon lifted his arms, teammates rushed to mob him, their advancement now virtually assured. The Collisseum went nuts. And then Dale Hunter stepped in. As Turgeon swept towards the boards in celebration, Hunter made his way from the other side of the ice, clearly seeking out the man who'd just ended his season. He charged up behind the Islanders star, leveling him with a crosscheck. Turgeon never saw it coming. He was in full celebration, his back turned towards the ice. Turgeon crumpled as the stick came across his back, smashing into the boards. Nassau Colliseum grew deathly silent, and Islander fans across the new york/new jersey area stared in disbelief, unable to believe what they'd just witnessed. Turgeon wound up with a seperated shoulder, missing the rest of the playoffs. He would return healthy the next season, but has never been the same player since the Hunter incident.

Despite the loss of Turgeon,. the Islanders managed to beat the monster that was the early 90s Pittsburgh Penguins in the Patrick Division Finals, before bowing out to the eventual Cup winner, the Montreal Canadiens, in the Wales Conference Finals. Despite the miracle victory over the Penguins, Islanders fans wonder to this day how much further we might have gone with Turgeon. It's not just that he was injured, star players get injured i nthe playoffs all the time. It was how it happened. Not on a legal, or even semi legal check, not even during the play of the game. Turgeon was hurt in a purely malicious act, a blatant attempt to injure. And worst of all, it was after play was stopped. This is what seperates Hunter's hit form the rest of the ugly incidents in hockey that have been brought up over the last few days. Play was stopped, there was no action on the ice, the Islanders were celebrating. There is no other possible explanation for what Hunter did except that he wanted to hurt Turgeon. For those of you out there who arent hockey fans, let me use an analogy. It's the 4th quarter of a first round NFL playoff game. Your pro bowl quarterback takes one into the end zone ona short scramble, sealing the victory and your pass to the second round. He raises his arms in celebration, and waits for his teammates to meet him. But before they get there, a defensive linemen from the other team decides he wants some payback on the guy whose sending him home. He charges up from behind, driving his shoulder into the center of your unexspecting quarterbacks back, and slamming him down into the turf with a seperated shoulder. That is what Dale hunter did to Pierre Turgeon. What Bertuzzi did to Moore is what Warren Sapp did to Clifton last year, when he leveled the unexpecting Packers offensive linemen away from the play. Is there any doub tin your mind that someone leveling a celebrating player after he'd scored a touchdown would be percieved as much, much worse then Sapp's hit on Clifton, which while bad, was at least done while play was in action? Plain and simple, Dale hunter crossed a line. Every time a player scores in hockey, especially in the playoffs, he celebrates. A standard is sweeping towards the boards with your arms raised, waiting to be mobbed in the corner by your teammates. Dale Hunter has done exactly that plenty of times during his NHL career, and not once did he ever fear being attacked by a vengeful player on the other side. It simply isn't done. 21 games was far too little for what Hunter did, he should have been suspended for an entire season or more, because he crossed a line between playing a violent game, and blatantly attempting to injure another person when the game was stopped. It was borderline criminal, and in fact one New York politician called for a Grand Jury investigation on whether or not Hunter should face criminal charges. If Kornheiser, a long time writer for the Washington Post, actually believes that Bertuzzi's hit on Moore was worse, he needs to seriosuly re-examine this, because there's just no comparison.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Top 10 Mets Prospects - Part 3

8. Bob Keppel

2001: A (19) 118 H, 43 ER, 6 HR, 87 K, 25 BB in 124.1 IP for 3.11 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 6.31 K/9, 3.24 K/BB, 0.43 HR/9
2002: A+ (20) 162 H, 73 ER, 13 HR, 109 K, 43 BB in 152 IP for 4.32 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 6.45 K/9, 2.53 K/BB, 0.77 K/9
2003: AA (21) 92 H, 32 ER, 6 HR, 46 K, 27 BB in 94.2 IP for 3.04 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 4.37 K/9 1.70 K/BB, 0.57 HR/9

Bob Keppel was Drafted 36th overall in the 2000 draft, out of DeSmet Jesuit High School in Missouri. He is an excellent athlete, who passed up playing baseball and basketball at Notre Dame to turn pro when the Mets drafted him. In the last two years he's established himself as one of the Mets top pitching prospects, making quick progress through the minors. His stuff is not overpowering, with a fastball that tops out about 90 on the two-seamer, and 91-92 on the 4, but Keppel throws a wide variety of pitches, including the two fastballs, splitter, cut-slider, and a change up. He compliments his strong repertoire with excellent command, having walked just 108 batters in 414.1 minor league innings (2.35 BB/9). The rest of his minor league numbers aren't overhwleming, but keep in mind his age. Keppel has a June birthday, so while his "season age" for last year is 21, a little less then half his innings came at 20 years old. Slightly less then half the FSL numbers came at 19, etc. So Keppel has been young for his league every year. He may well start this year in AAA, still two months shy of his 22nd birthday. The biggest question about Keppel is the K rate. Up till this year he had averaged about 6.5 K/9. Not great, but certainly acceptable. This year, his first test in the high minors, Keppel's K/9 declined to below 4.5, raising some questions about whether or not his stuff will be good enough to get hitters out as he continues to move up. Then i came across this report: "The low part of the season for Keppel was the seemingly constant strained forearm he had to deal with all season. Because of the injury the Mets did not allow him to throw his strikeout pitch which is a split-finger fastball, and sharply dropped his strikeout numbers for the season.". So it seems that an injury was at least partly responsible for the decline in his K rate. And it should be noted he managed to pitch a rather nice season despite the lack of strike outs. Hopefully Keppel comes back healthy this season, and we can get a better idea of whether the drop in K rate was a result of the injury, or the increased competition.

With decent velocity, exceptional command, and at least 5 solid pitches, Keppel is a pretty good bet for success despite the the questions surrounding his K rate. None of the pitches are particularly spectacular, so he doesn't figure to ever be a top of the rotation starter, but he should be an effective middle of the rotation guy, and at 6-5, 200+ lbs, he figures to be a workhorse who can eat a lot of innings. Keppel should begin the year in AAA, unless the logjam of arms at the top of the organization (it feels really nice to say that, even if most of them don't project to be anything special), forces him into AA to start the year. Either way, Keppel could be ready to compete for a rotation spot as early as 2005.

9. Kevin Deaton
2000: R (19) 15 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 19 K, 4 BB in 20 IP for 3.15 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.55 K/9, 4.75 K/BB, 0.47 HR/9
2001: R (20) 40 H, 11 ER, 2 HR, 43 K, 10 BB in 47.1 IP for 2.09 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.18 K/9, 4.3 K/BB, 0.38 HR/9
2002: A- (21) 68 H, 28 ER, 2 HR, 93K, 18 BB in 82 IP for 3.07 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 10.21 K/9, 5.17 K/BB, 0.22 HR/9
2003: A (22) 128 H, 58 ER, 8 HR, 121 K, 56 BB in 135.1 IP for 3.86 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, 2.16 K/BB, 0.53 HR/9

Deaton was a highly regarded offensive linemen coming out of high school, and he was supposed to attend University of Florida on a football scholarship. Deaton chose baseball instead, and signed with the Mets in 2000. Deaton stands 6'4, and as an offensive linemen, weighed nearly 300 lbs coming out of high school. He's worked extremely hard to reshape his body for pitching, but still weighs in near 250. He spent two years in rookie ball getting into pitching shape, and pitching rather well why he did it. Deaton dominated the Sally League in 2002, and moved up to the FSL last year. His previously excellent control slipped a bit, causing a rise in his WHIP, and probably led to the increase in his ERA as well. He still pitched rather well though, and posted excellent K/9 and HR/9 numbers, as he's done his entire pro career. Deaton repertoire is pretty basic at this point, but he's got good stuff. He throws a 4 seam fastball at around 93-94, but could well pick up a couple mph as he continues to re condition his body. He compliments the fastball with a plus curve, and a solid change up. There are two main questions surrounding Deaton. The first is whether or not he'll be able to improve his stamina enough to continue as a starter. And the second is his age. Even though he was drafted out of high school, he was 19 by the time he began his pro career and then spent 2 years at rookie ball. By the time he got to short season A ball, he was the age of most college draft picks, but had just 67 innings of rookie ball under his belt. It should be noted that Deaton is an August birthday, so like Keppel, he's a bit younger relative to his league then his official season age makes it seem. But even still, he turned 22 last year in the Sally League. He'll start this year in the FSL, and barring a quick promotion, will turn 23 without a single inning pitched above A ball. Given the extenuating circumstances surrounding his switch from 300 lb offensive linemen, to starting pitcher, it's hard to hold his age against him to the extent that we might hold it agianst another 22 year old in the Sally League. He was still rather old for the league though, and Deaton will have to continue his success and move quickly to the high minors, or he risks falling off of prospect lists.

10. Lastings Milledge

I have no doubt that anyone who does this for a living would tell me Milledge belongs higher on the list, and who am i to argue with them. I chose to place him last on this list, because there is no doubt he belongs on it, but so little is known about him i couldn't begin to try and rank him amongst guys we actually have some numbers for. Nobody knows anything about Milledge besides his scouting report, unless you think you can discern something from 26 at bats in rookie ball. Milledge was one of the top high school talents in last year's draft. The Mets took him 12th overall, but he signed late and only played 7 games. The Mets describe him as a "legitimate five tool player" and scouting reports rave about his bad speed, running speed, and arm strength. Thankfully, Milledge is not a pure tools, all speculation prospect, as so many of the so called " five tool" high school players are. Not that there isn't a huge amount of speculation going into Milledge developing his tools into skills, because there is, but Milledge has already shown at least some of the skills that his tools are supposed to project into. He plays a strong center, and is already regarded as one of the best defensive outfielders in the Mets system. Milledge has also shown a nice power stroke at his young age (though admittedly, it's all in BP at this point). His biggest weaknesses at this point are adjusting to the breaking pitch, and a questionable history with wood bats. We'll know a lot more about Milledge after this season. A good performance could move him up prospect lists real fast.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Athletics Nation has started a "movement" for "National Pastime Day". A national holday on opening day of every baseball season. To coincide with the holiday, every team would play on a single opening day. I don't think i need to tell you all that i'm on board with this idea. Click the link to read more.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Top 10 Mets Prospects - Part 2

This is the second part in my look at the ten best prospects in the Mets organization. Once again, please note that Kazuo Matsui, and anyone who broke into the majors last year, sucesffuly or not, are not included on this list (Jose Reyes, Jason Phillips, Jae Weong Seo, Aaron Heilman, Jeremy Griffiths, the slew of relief pitchers, etc).

Last time, i covered "the big three" of Kazmir, Wright, and Huber. Beyond deciding whether Kazmir or Wright is number 1, the top 3 are very clear. You won't read any articles on Mets prospects this year where those aren't the first three guys listed (unless they're counting Matsui, like Baseball America). After that though, different authors are likely going to have very different views about the ranking of the second tier of prospects in the system. And with something as hard to project as baseball players, noone is really right or wrong. Even when based on the objective data, how to rank the second tier of the Mets, and i suspect any system still becomes a very subjective decision. That said, here's how i ranked them.

4. Victor Diaz

2001: R (19) 354/403/533 in 195 AB with 27 xbh (3 HR) and 16/23 BB/K (won league batting championship)
2002: A (20) 350/407/521 in 349 AB with 38 xbh (10 HR) and 27/69 BB/K (won league batting championship)
2002: AA (20) 211/258/336 in 152 AB with 11 xbh (4 HR) and 7/42 BB/K
2003: AA (21) 291/353/462 in 316 AB with 32 xbh (10 HR) and 27/60 BB/K (LA)
2003: AA (21) 354/382/520 in 175 AB with 17 xbh (6 HR) and 8/32 BB/K (NYM)

No, Victor Diaz apparently does not know how to take a walk. Something, which i think you all know, i hate in a player. And he probably won't wind up playing either second or third base, but in a corner outfield spot, which greatly decreases the value of his bat. So why have i ranked him so high? Because what a bat it looks like. He came into rookie ball at 19 and proceeded to win a batting title. He skips short season A ball, moving right to the South Atlantic League, and wins another batting title.He struggles in his first taste of AA, at 20 years old, but comes back in 2003 and performs well until being traded to the Mets, where he explodes, and hit's 350 again. Even with his struggles in late 2002, he hit 49 xbh and 14 HR across two levels as a 20 year old. And this year he hit 49 xbh and 16 HR in AA as a 21 yr old. Even if the plate discipline doesn't improve, i'm starting to believe that Diaz is one the few who hits well enough to succeed to despite it (think Garret Anderson, not Soriano). I'm not quite convinced yet, but if Diaz comes into AAA, and hits 300 plus with some power, something which seems fairly likely, he's going to force his way into the majors, plate discipline or not. If he ever learns to take a walk, and forces pitchers to give him good pitches to hit, Diaz has monster witten all over him. With improved plate discipline, lines like 330/415/575 with 30 home runs and 30 doubles is far from out of the question.

5. Aaron Baldiris

2002: R (19) 327/390/419 in 217 AB with 13 xbh (3 HR) and 14/24 BB/K
2003: A (20) 313/396/427 in 393 AB with 29 xbh (6 HR) and 51/55 BB/K

Following one step behind David Wright is Aaron Baldiris, signed out of Venezuala in 1999. He doesn't have the top prospect status and high expectations of his fellow third basemen, Baldiris has quietly established himself as a very good prospect. He has a career minor league average of 323, and has already shown advanced plate discipline, with a nearly 1:1 BB/K ratio as a 20 year old. Baldiris handles the bat very well, and can spray hits to all fields. Combined with his patience, which should continue to get him good pitches to hit, he seems like a good bet to continue his success at the plate as he moves on to tougher competition. Moving to the FSL will no doubt effect his numbers next year, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him amongst the FSL batting leaders for 2004. Baldiris has also shown good defensive skills. Once again, not in the class of Wright, whose been described as "a Gold Glove waiting to happen", but Baldiris is already solid at the hot corner, and coule likely make a switch to second if needed. The only thing holding him back from being a top prospect is his power. At 21, he still has time, and he began to show a bit of power potential last year with 29 extra base hits. His XBH% was just 23 though, and it looks doubtful that Baldiris will ever develope more then average power. Even without the power, he can be a very good player, with the potential to be a 300/400 guy, who plays good defense. The real question is where does he fit on the Mets. With Wright presumably at third base, and Reyes at second, Baldiris may not have a spot on the team until 2007 at the earliest, and only then if Matsui is let go and Reyes moved back to short. If Wright establishes himself at third, and Matsui succeeds in the majors, then Baldiris is very likely to become trade bait.

6. Matt Peterson

2002: A (20) 109 H, 59 ER, 13 HR, 153 K, 61 BB in 137 IP for 3.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 10.05 K/9, 2.51 K/BB, 0.85 HR/9
2003: A+ (21) 65 H, 16 ER, 2 HR 73 K, 24 BB in 84 IP for 1.71 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.82 K/9, 3.04 K/BB, 0.21 HR/9
2003: AA (21) 29 H, 12 ER, 2 HR, 23 K, 20 BB in 31 IP for 3.48 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 6.67 K/9 1.15 K/BB, 0.58 HR/9

Drafted in the 2nd round of 2000, Matt Peterson is no doubt the second best pitching prospect in the system, and is often ranked as high as 4th on Mets top 10 lists. His main weapons are a mid 90s fastball, and a plus curve which he can throw for strikes. Like most young pitchers, Peterson is still developing a change up, but has reportedly made good progress with it. At 20, Peterson was beginning his pro career a little late, but the Mets decided to put him directly into A ball, where he excelled, except for some minor struggles with his command. After allowing him to spend an entire year in the Sally League, the Mets moved Peterson quickly from the FSL, where he was dominant, to AA. The struggles with his command in 31 AA innings aside, Peterson has been very succesful so far in his pro career,with the excellent indicators of 8.76 K/9, 2.36 K/BB and 0.59 HR/9 in his minor league career. He projects as a solid no 2 or 3, with the potential to be an ace if he puts it all together. Despite the late start, Peterson is at an appropriate level of competition, entering his first full year of AA at 22, and if all goes well, he will be in AAA by 23 at the latest. Peterson is yet another player who we could see in Shea by late 2005. If not, he should be ready at the start of 2006

7. Royce Ring

2002: A+ (21) 20 H, 10 ER, 2 HR, 22K, 11 BB in 23 IP for 3.91 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.61 K/9, 2.00 K/BB, 0.78 HR/9
2003: AA (22) 33 H, 10 ER, 1 HR, 44K, 14 BB in 35.2 IP for 2.52 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 11.10 K/9, 3.14 K/BB, 0.25 HR/9 (Chi)
2003: AA (22) 13 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 18K, 11 BB, in 21.2 IP for 1.66 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 7.48 K/9, 1.64 K/BB, 0.83 HR/9 (NYM)

The main piece in the Roberto Alomar deal, Royce Ring was originally drafted by the White Sox in the first round of the 2002 draft. As a potential left handed closer, he is one of the better relief prospects in the game. Ring's velocity has been a matter of some discussion. Most reports say his fastball is usually 90-93, but there have been a few rumblings about it sometimes being more like 87-89. Obviously, this could make a good bit of difference in his success. For now, i'm going to assume (and hope) that the ones that are correct are the majority of reports, and all those done by "major" sources, which say that his fastball is in the low nineties. Ring also has a sharp breaking ball that is tough on lefties, and an above average change up, which helps him get righties out. Ring will begin the year in AAA, and could easily be in Shea by mid season.

That's the end of Part 2, what i see as the second tier of prospects in the system. Stay tuned for numbers 8-10, and a few honorable mentions.

Top 10 Prospects Part 2 is underway and will be up sometime Saturday

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Top 10 Mets Prospects - Part 1

These are always my favorite articles. Just writing about the talented prospects in the system fills me with hope for the future. Just a few years ago, the Mets minor league system was among the worst in baseball. But over the last three seasons, we've made great strides towards becoming a succesful talent producing organization, and there are now a great number of promising young players up and down the system. Alot of the credit goes to Duquette, who was in charge of the minor league system during the recent improvement, and whose trades last year brought in a couple of good prospects ( Diaz, Ring) and several power arms, which add very important depth. With the pieces in place now, and the talent coming up through the system, we can be successful for a long time if we play our cards right. So let's get to it, and look at the best prospects in the organization. We'll start today with "the big 3" before covering the rest tommorow. For the record, i ommited Kaz Matsui from consideration, along with anyone who recieved major league playing time last year.

1. Scott Kazmir

I'm just waiting for the e-mail from Avkash on this one. Whose number one, Kazmir or Wright has been the subject of some debate between us. I thought long and hard about this, and there is no doubt that Wright is imminently more projectable, and the odds are better that he'll succeed then Kazmir. However, Kazmir's talent appears limitless. His stuff is off the charts nasty, he has shown the willingness and ability to learn, and he might have the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in baseball. He doesn't get this spot on those laurels alone though, the young fireballer has been nothing short of dominant in his pro career.

2002: short season A - Age 18: 18 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 HR, 34 K, 7 BB, for 0.50 ERA, 0.66 WHIP, 0.00 HR/9, 17.00 K/9, 4.86 K/BB
2003: A - Age 19: 76.1 IP, 50 H, 20 ER, 6 HR, 105 K, 28 BB for 2.36 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 0.71 HR/9, 12.38 K/9, 4.32 K/BB
2003: A+ - Age 19: 33 IP, 29 H, 12 ER, 0 HR, 40 K, 16 BB, for 3.27 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 0.00 HR/9, 10.90 K/9 2.50 K/BB

The numbers slipped a little in the FSL, but they're still very, very impressive for a 19 year old. As an added bonus, Kazmir pitched a gem to win the championship game for St Lucie. So Kazmir gets the nods as our number 1 prospect, because there's little question he's got the most talent, and the highest ceiling in our organization, and so far he's done nothing but live up to every expectation with his performance.

So now that we've established that he's the no 1 prospect, let's talk a little about Scott Kazmir. Many people compare him to Billy Wagner, because they are both small statured left handed flamethrowers from Texas. It's probably a better comparison then most of them even realize, because like Wagner, Kazmir relies on a fastball slider combo that is downright offensive, and could dominate alot of major league hitters right now. The fastball sits around 97, but can touch 99, and has excellent late movement. The slider is fast, hard, and has a mean break. It will give left handers fits, and comes fast enough with enough movement that it can be effective coming inside on right handers. Since turning pro, Kazmir has been working on a change-up, and has made excellent progress with it. There have even been reports that he has the confidence to use it as an out pitch from time to time, when he's got opposing hitters geared up for that fastball. The small stature, and the comparison to Wagner lead a lot of people to speculate that Kazmir's future is as a closer, but he'll be given every chance to remain a starter, and the Mets have been extremely careful with their prized prospect thus far, keeping him on a strict pitch limit. Kazmir might begin the year back in the FSL, but should move quickly to AA. Though the best timetable for him is still probably 2006, don't be surprised if Kazmir moves quickly through the system once the Mets free up his pitch limit a little bit A lot will depend on where he starts this year. I'm assuming he'll start back in the FSL, but if the Mets decide to put him in AA, and he performs well, then we could see him in AAA late in the year. If that's the case, we could well see Kazmir in 2005.

2. David Wright

Our runner up, David Wright is the best position player in the system, and the prospect with the highest chance of success. Wright doesn't have the extremely high ceiling typically associated with such high rated prospects. That's not to say that it's not high, a best case scenario for Wright is something like Scott Rolen, and that's pretty damn good. It just means that most prospects who get rated as high as Wright have the potential to be 300+/400+ 40 HR guys, while Wright seems more like a 290/390 25-30 HR guy, which usually drops a player further down prospect lists. The recognition given to him is a tribute to his already developed game, which makes him extremely projectable. While he may not have the best case potential of some other players, the chances of him making good on his potential are extremely high for a prospect. He has an outstanding work ethic, an already refined understanding of the strike zone, has shown excellent power developement, plays a great third base, and as an added bonus steals some bases at a very high rate. All this before he's every played a day above A ball. Let's take a look at the numbers.

2001: R (18) 300/382/458 with 11 xbh (4 HR) and 16/30 BB/K in 120 AB. 9 SB in 10 attempts
2002: A (19) 266/367/401 with 43 xbh (11 HR) and 76/114 BB/K in 496 AB. 21 SB in 26 attempts
2003: A+ (20) 270/369/459 with 56 xbh (15 HR) and 72/98 in 466 AB. 19 SB in 24 attempts

Let's talk a little about those St Lucie numbers from last year. At first glance, they're good but not great. Those numbers need to be taken in context though. The FSL could officially be renamed the "death to hitters leauge". That 459 SLG of Wright's was third in the entire league. And his 369 OBP was tied for fourth. Wright came into the FSL this year at 20 years old, and improved both his power and discipline numbers from last year in the Sally Leauge. That's impressive. So is the fact that 43 % of his 126 hits went for two or more bases. Anything above 30% is good for the FSL, 43% is exceptional. It suggests that Wright's power is developing very well. Wright should begin this year in AA, and with Wigginton solid enough at third, there is no need to rush him. He could well spend the year at AA, but switching from the FSL, to hitter friendly Binghamton, don't be surprised if Wright plays his way into AAA by mid season. He could arrive at Shea by 2005.

3. Justin Huber

2001: R (19) 314/381/528 with 19 xbh (7 HR) and 17/42 BB/K in 159 AB
2002: A (20) 291/408/470 with 35 xbh (11 HR) and 45/81 BB/K in 330 AB
2002: A+ (20) 270/370/400 with 6 xbh (3 HR) and 11/18 BB/K in 100 AB
2003: A+ (21) 284/370/514 with 24 xbh (9 HR) and 17/30 BB/K in 183 AB
2003: AA (21) 264/350/425 with 19 xbh (6 HR) and 19/54 BB/K in 193 AB

Despite his superb start to the year ( remember to look at those numbers in the context of the Florida State League, 370 would have been third in OBP,and 514 tied for the lead league in SLG, 55 points ahead of third place David Wright), Huber's stock may actually have dropped some this year. Last year at this time there was some dispute over who was the second best position player in the system, Wright or Huber ( Reyes being the clear no.1 at the time). This year, there is no debate. Wright is widely, if not universally regarded as the Mets best position player prospect. Alot of that is Wright's strong performance last year, and in the Arizona Fall League, but it's also in part because Huber struggled in AA, and did not impress defensively. The struggles in AA probably aren't too big of a concern, it's normal for players to see there numbers drop at first as they take the big jump to AA, but they're worth noting because of the very high strikeout rate, and because moving from the extremely pitcher friendly FSL to hitter friendly Binghamton should have compensated for at least part of that. In fact, i suspect that a sabermetrician would probably tell us that it did, and Huber's performance level went down even more then the numbers show once he moved to AA. Of more importance is the defense. Huber has failed to make signifigant progress behind the plate, and is still raw at best. It has some people suggesting that he could eventually wind up at 1st base, which of course would greatly decrease the value of his bat. He'll be giving plenty more chances to improve at catcher, but if he moves to first base, Huber instantly drops down at least a few, and possibly several spots on this list. For now though, he's still a catcher, so his hitting potential makes him a pretty clear number 3 in the system. The defensive complications make Huber's timetable a little unclear. He'll start this year at AA, and if his bat warrants it could move to AAA by mid season, but if he is still struggling defensively at catcher, it could delay his promotion to the majors. And if it forces a switch to first base, some time has to be allowed, perhaps even a whole season, for him to learn the new position. If, as we all hope, he improves behind the plate, then Huber could arrive sometime in 2005.

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