10/30/14

A CALL TO ARMS - VOLUME 1: LOGAN VERRETT

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A CALL TO ARMS: LOGAN VERRETT by Tom Brennan

The PCL is a tale of two leagues.  One is in the rarified/dry air of the western US, where 10 teams including Las Vegas play and the balls really fly. 

The other 6 teams play in the Midwest, where the air and humidity are much more like what we experience in the east, like the International League.

The average ERA for the 10 westerly teams in 2014?  An inflated 4.94 (Vegas was at 4.64). 

The average ERA for the other six more easterly teams?  4.16.

The two groups (West and Midwest), due to travel costs etc. presumably, rarely play one another.  Only 24 of Vegas’ 144 games were played vs. the Midwest teams.  Just thought I'd toss that tidbit in.

So let’s operate under the assumption that the ERAs of the western teams are inflated due to hitter-friendly conditions by about 0.75 (4.94 – 4.16 = 0.78). 
Then Syndergaard’s ERA may have been 3.85 rather than his 4.60 if he threw in a normal environment.  Similarly, Logan Verrett’s ERA may have been 3.58 rather than 4.33.  Very solid.

Which brings us to the performance of one Logan Verrett and how major league ready he is.

Verrett, the Mets’ 3rd round pick in 2011 out of Baylor, did not throw professionally that year, but the 6’2”, 190 righty tossed in Savannah and high A St Lucie in 2012, and did nicely there, with a combined 5-2, 2.70 ERA, 0.97 WHIP in 17 starts.

Fast forward to 2013, he went a solid 12-6, with a 4.25 ERA for the B-Mets in AA, with a 1.14 WHIP in 24 starts.

Quickly on to Vegas in 2014, 11-5, 4.33, 1.37 in 28 starts.

All told, over 3 years, an excellent 28-13, with a 3.89 ERA and 1.19 WHIP and 344 Ks in 411 innings covering 69 outings, all starts.  A mere 78 walks in those innings, which is less than 2 per 9 innings.  Sweet.

Perhaps not spectacular, but rock solid and successful at progressively higher levels.  With an ERA that is PCL-inflated.

How did Jake deGrom fare in his minor league days, as a point of comparison?

21-11, 3.62, 1.28 WHIP, and 267 K’s in 323 innings, covering 58 starts.  Remarkably similar to Logan.

One more comparison: Dillon Gee in his minor league days prior to making the Mets.

28-19, 3.80, 1.20 WHIP, 385 K’s in 438 innings and 78 starts.  Factor in that unlike Verrett, Gee (drafted in the 21st round) never had the ERA-inflating stint out west that Logan did, and one could easily make the case that Verrett’s performance is superior to Gee’s minor league stats.

Which leads to the question: why would anyone think that Verrett is not ready to start in the bigs?  At least as a #5 starter….as of April 2015? 

Well, there are several practical obstacles to his doing so with the Mets at the moment – those obstacles are named (in whatever order you choose) Harvey, deGrom, Wheeler, Niese, Gee, Colon, and Montero, not to mention Syndergaard and Matz.  That’s 9 current starters or soon-to-be starters.  Logan makes 10.

My guess is at least 2, or all 3, of Colon, Niese, and Gee go bye-bye in 2015 or sooner, getting the list down to 7.  If those 3 all went this winter (and I’d be surprised if more than one goes, frankly, as the Mets move mostly cautiously these days), Verrett could start until Thor and Matz are deemed ready (or Super 2 ready).

Or Verrett could be a solid trade chip this winter, a guy who could slot in as a #5 starter on many teams, pitch 190-200 innings, and cost a mere $500G in salary.  Such a deal.

Or he could remain in AAA and try to better his 2014 production – but if he were to regress at all, his trade value could diminish, yes?

My guess is that the Mets want to minimize the risk of too many young guys being on the team in April in prominent roles, to avoid a bad start due to youngsters' nerves, adjustment period, etc.  So if the right package came along this winter, he’d be a very valuable chip.  If not, he goes back to Vegas until the deals heat up and the trio I named above are moved along. 

Especially with Matt returning from Tommy John, and Niese having some injury concerns, I’d say that you’d want at least 7 guys capable of being in the 5 man rotation day 1.  Matz and Thor may be held back for financial reasons until Super 2 June or later, as noted, so to reach 7, Montero could slide nicely into the pen, and Verrett could be held onto just to see if he’d be needed as a starter in early 2015 due to injuries.

But ultimately, he seems like a guy that in this crowded Mets field (and soon to get more crowded with the likes of a Matt Bowman or Tyler Pill not far behind, and Molina and others further back on the conveyor belt).  So I surmise he will be headed out of town sooner rather than later.  He’s has to be seen as a real value now as a trade chip, I’d think.  Some team will need a starter, and why not Logan, based on his excellent stats?

But stats are one thing, what about “stuff”?

Reports indicate that Verrett fires from a 3/4 arm angle, tops out at only around 90, and relies on a quality slider and decent change up, to go along with his outstanding control.

Topping out at around 90, he is not a flamethrower in the Harvey/ deGrom/ Wheeler/ Thor/ Matz mode, and even a few notches in velocity down from Mr. Montero. Which in this day and age of flame thrower baseball puts him at a competitive disadvantage.

Slower velocities will lead to more long balls generally, if a pitch is hung or slightly mis-located, and in Logan's case, that is all too true, with his having surrendered 49 homers in 411 career innings, quite a hefty total.  A red flag, no doubt, considering major league hitters have a greater ability to go deep than their minor league counterparts.  He'll have to continue to learn to pitch to less long ball contact.

Hence why I see him as a legit #5 major league starter (and nothing more, absent improvement), or at worst an inning-eating bullpen guy.

What say you? Logan ready? Trade him?  Keep him?
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INTERVIEW WITH AKEEL MORRIS, MILB RELIEVER OF THE YEAR - Tom Brennan

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INTERVIEW WITH AKEEL MORRIS, MILB RELIEVER OF THE YEAR by Tom Brennan

I’d like to share with you a recent interview with Akeel Morris, who overwhelmingly won the fans' vote in this year’s “MILBY”, an award designation from MILB.com (which is “the official site of Minor League Baseball”) as minor league reliever of the year, an incredible honor. 

First things first: Akeel Morris put up some incredible pitching numbers in 2014 in Savannah, after a terrific season in 2013 in Brooklyn.  In 2014, he relieved in 35 games, saved 13 of 14 save opportunities, allowed a miniscule 19 hits (3 hits per 9 innings, folks!), and 89 Ks (14 per 9 innings, in case you’re counting).  Akeel, the Man of Steel.
It wasn’t all Superman stuff though….he did have one month (July) where he gave up 3 earned runs – of course, that was all on a 3 run homer (won the game anyway, and it was his only homer allowed for the year, and heck, in that worst of his months, he gave up just 2 hits in 9 1/3 innings and struck out 15 – a month most guys would love to have – and most never will. 

An ERA of 0.00 in April, 0.64 in May, 0.00 in June, 0.00 in August – ahh, you get get the picture.  Just plain awesome, and an amazing season to watch unfold.

Heck, I’m gonna pause for a minute and reflect, as I do what many people do, rush past amazing things.  If not for one pitch, that led to the 3 run homer, Akeel would have given up just ONE earned run the ENTIRE SEASON!  UNO.  How special is that?

That tells me a guy has something special, a bulldog mentality perhaps. A will to hold down the fort for his team and not bend.  The "Buck Stops Here" when Akeel takes the mound.  The door is shut.  Somebody get ready to flip the light switch off, we’re about to go home winners.

So, let's move on to my interview with Akeel.  Here goes:

Akeel, thank you for taking the time to be interviewed.  I have several questions for you that I would like you to answer for the fans of Mack's Mets (and Met fans everywhere):

I see you grew up in St Thomas in the Virgin Islands, a beautiful place.  How did you come to play baseball as a youngster there, when did you realize you might be able to really pitch well, and how did you come to get signed by the Mets?
Starting to play baseball was actually a decision of my parents. They got me into the sport from a young age. I realized what I can do as a pitcher when I played summer ball with the prep baseball 16u Florida Bombers travel team.
The first tournament I played with them I won an award for most outstanding performance, and I really thought about that because I was only pitching for about 3 weeks at that time. I wondered what I could do with a full time commitment to pitching and that where it all started. 
How I got signed specifically by the Mets was after summer baseball and doing showcases. Some guys persuaded me to go to the D.R. and get teams to look at me and others directly at a facility.
They told me to choose any team I wanted to and I chose the Mets. I had a workout there and returned home. I wasn't able to sign, of course, because I was in a U.S. schooling system and was told I had to be drafted.
Weeks later a representative from the Mets came to St. Thomas to see me before the draft. Then I was drafted by the Mets. 
Regarding your pitching repertoire, how would you describe your fastball, curve, slider, and change up, in terms of speed; which of the pitches you feel are the most advanced; which are the pitches you need to work on most; and which pitch or pitches you most rely upon?
My repertoire consist of a Fastball, change up, and a slider. 
My Fastball sat at 93-95 mph most games this season. Change up is in the 78-81 mph range and Slider was around 80-81. I have grown to be real comfortable with all three pitches. I have seen a lot of improvement with my slider this season, but I would say that is the pitch I need to work on most. 
You struggled  as a starter and reliever in 2012, and then turned it around dramatically when converted to mostly a reliever's role in 2013, and even more so in 2014.  What changed to allow you to go from a struggling pitcher in 2012 to such a dominant pitcher in 2013 and 2014?
After the 2012 season is when I definitely realized the game is a lot more mental than people think and I began to really learn about myself as a pitcher and develop more of a mental approach that works for me, and to be consistent with that approach.
I feel like that was the difference in 2013 and 2014, along with me understanding and feeling better with my mechanics.
It appears to me that when you were moved for the first time to the closer's role in mid-2014 when Robert Coles was promoted to St Lucie, you absolutely thrived in it.  Jennry Mejia only wanted to start, but when they made him a closer, it is clear he loves it.  How do you like being a closer, and if you could choose now, would you choose to start or close? Why so?
I love closing. I would choose to close because I love the feeling. After seeing your starter work so hard and your teammates play a long game that's not over yet.
 Your team is winning and then you’re the guy they call on to close out the game for your team to get the W – that is what stirs up the adrenaline rush out there for me. You have to be ready every time. 
Who did you learn the most from in refining your pitching skills?  How so?
In refining my baseball skills I took in different things from all the pitching coaches, and managers I had since day 1. I learned that it's good to see the different perspectives of the game that people have, and it's good to listen and question them about it.
Miguel Valdes, the NY Mets’ Minor League Short Season Pitching Coordinator, helped me out a lot with my mechanics. That helped a lot. 

I love it – a guy who embraces the joy of competition and the challenge of closing games. I’d certainly imagine Met brass saw that when they made him Savannah’s closer.

Guys that sit at 93-95 on the fastball typically have another notch higher when the going gets tough, too, so he’s got the giddy up on the fastball that is a precursor to real major league pitching success.

It is great that Akeel’s parents encouraged him towards baseball and that he stepped up and pursued the gift the way he did, even going to a try out all the way in a different locale, as he did.  How many of us can look back on something we aspired to, but did not pursue? 

And - greatest of all – he picked the Mets!!

So, after a terrific 2013 and a jaw-dropping 2014, I like to speak for Met fans everywhere to say that we look forward to seeing Akeel’s continued progress in 2015.  Hopefully, we'll see Akeel pitching in Flushing for the Mets very soon. 

Personally, I hope he skips St Lucie and heads on to Binghamton in 2015.  If fellow Savannah Sand Gnat Dario Alvarez could be a September call up in 2014, maybe Akeel can be a September call up in 2015. 
I'd love to see it. How about you?

(Note: As a point of clarification, MILB staff voted for Cam Bedrosian, not Akeel, as its minor league reliever of the year, but in  MILB's fan voting, Cam, who pitched in the majors late in 2014, fell well short of Akeel's vote total.  I'm a fan, and I vote for Akeel!  And no, I did not stuff the ballot box!)
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2014 Winter Leagues: 10/29/2014 Results

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Arizona Fall League
- Salt River Rafters 4 - 4 Surprise Saguaros
- Peoria Javelinas 5 - 4 Glendale Desert Dogs
- Mesa Solar Sox 7 - 5 Scottsdale Scorpions
  • CF Brandon Nimmo: 1 for 5, RBI, 4 K
  • SS Matt Reynolds: 0 for 5
  • 2B L.J. Mazzilli: 1 for 3, R, BB, K
  • RHP Robert Whalen: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
  • RHP Julian Hilario: 1.1 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Jake Kuebler: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER

Venezuelan Winter League
- Aguilas del Zulia 3 - 4 Navegantes del Magallanes
- Tiburones de La Guaira 2 - 8 Leones del Caracas
- Cardenales de Lara 5 - 2 Tigres de Aragua
  • DH Jairo Perez: 0 for 5, 2 K
- Caribes de Anzoategui 4 - 2 Bravos de Margarita
  • LF/1B Brandon Allen: 1 for 3, BB, K, OF Assist, Error, Caught Stealing
  • SS Wilfredo Tovar: 1 for 4, R

Mexican Pacific League
- Tomateros de Culiacan 4 - 6 Mayos de Navojoa
- Yaquis de Obregon 4 - 11 Charros de Jalisco
  • LF Cory Vaughn: 1 for 2, R, HR(2nd), 2 RBI, 3 BB, K
- Aguilas de Mexicali 3 - 1 Naranjeros de Hermosillo
  • C Xorge Carrillo: 0 for 2, 2 BB, Runner Thrown Out 
- Caneros de los Mochis 0 - 4 Venados de Mazatlan
  • LF Brian Burgamy: 0 for 3, K, OF assist

Dominican Winter League
- Leones del Escogido 6 - 4 Estrellas de Oriente
- Gigantes del Cibao 4 - 2 Tigres del Licey

  • RHP Hansel Robles: 1.0 IP, 0 ER, 1 K
- Toros del Este 1 - 4 Aguilas Cibaenas
  • RF Cesar Puello: 0 for 3, 2 K

Roberto Clemente Puerto Rico League

(Begins 10/30/2014)

Side Note: SS T.J. Rivera has been added to the Indios de Mayaguez roster.
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The Morning Report – October 30 – Juan Lagares vs. Roberto Clemente, Lucas Duda, Pre-ARB

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One thing before you go to bed tonight. If you are half  my age of 68, you make your friends and family members just witnesses the greatest single pitching performance in World Series games since the dead ball era of Walter Johnson.

You will never see this again.

Madison Baumgarner has proven to be the pitcher this game has ever seen produced

I only hoped you wanted every pitch of every ball he threw in this series this season.

It will never be back.




Thomas Brennan is taking some serious shit over in the comments section of one of his posts where he compared Juan Lagares to a ‘young Roberto Clemente.. Some of our more aggressive regulars and the anonymous crew have shot back at Tom pretty hard, so I thought I’m compare these two guys at the same stages of their careers to see if could walk away with some concrete statements to hit over the head of some of these guys.

So Thomas, Eriff, and Anon… get your pith helmuts on.

           
Juan Lagares
Roberto Clemente
MLB yrs
2
2 (1955-56)
AB
808
1101
Hits
212
290
WAR
9.1
2
HR
8
12
RBI
81
107
K
183
118
BB
40
31
SB
19
8

I’m probably doing something wrong here but the two things that seem to counter each of these guys first two year in the pros is Lagares’ WAR production vs. Clemente much lower K/AB ratio.

Still, based on these figures, it would be impossible to tell who was going to be the legend yet.



BT asked –

Hi Mack, I saw that Duda might go to Japan this offseason.  I was kind of hoping he would go to fitness camp again.  With some of these players, you know they are exercising probably too much, but others certainly do not exercise enough or even take the time to learn their bodies and how to take care of themselves.  Is there any word on the team sending players to fitness camp again this winter?  Which players? Thanks, BT

Mack- Yes, there has been some speculation about Duda going there but there hasn’t been any confirmation by him or the Mets let. I would tend to think that he would be the kind of player that could put on a few excess pounds in the off-season, so maybe playing baseball would be a good thing.
There’s also been no official word on any attendance in any off-season fitness camps.




Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a report on driving fatalities around the world in which the Dominican ranked as the deadliest country in the world for motor-vehicle related deaths. A stunning 41.7 deaths per year per 100,000 people occur in the Dominican. When the Washington Post stretched that ratio out over a 70-year span, it calculated than 1 in 480 people will die because of a motor vehicle-related accident in that lifetime. And the real numbers may be worse. The WHO reported that the Dominican doesn't have an adequate death registration system, meaning many more vehicle-related deaths have likely not been reported.
Venezuela—another baseball talent producer—was the third deadliest country with 37.2 fatalities per 100,000 people per year. The world average was 18 deaths per 100,000 people per year. - https://sports.vice.com/article/oscar-taveras-and-the-perils-facing-latin-american-baseball-players

Mack – Read this article. It’s extremely timely based on the recent tragedy to Oscar Tavares.



Chris ‏@tpgMets  - Alvarez, Brown, Germen, Goeddel, Puello, Rice, Satin, Tovar, Walters my guesses at most vulnerable pre-arbs. Carlyle, Eveland, Parnell, Tejada, Young most vulnerable for NT.

                       Mack – A couple of thoughts…

I go into the Rule 5 (or is it Rule V?) process every year thinking the team is going to lose all sorts of talent and it never does. There are very few players lost in this process and I don’t see the Mets losing anyone of any future importance.

I can’t see Bobby Parnell being non-tendered. I just can’t see it, especially since the complete formation of the 2015 rotation isn’t done yet. The Mets need him back.

I can’t say the same about Ruben Tejada and think his future is tied to a decision on Wilmer Flores and the growth of Matt Reynolds. Cost wise, Reynolds looks like an alternative as a backup middle infielder for the Mets, though I don’t know how he would hold up at second base.



And so we are here…

The last game of the 2014 season has been played and we're five days before the beginning of the Hot Stove season. What have we learned and what have we been reminded of?

Well, I for one remember what I first heard in the first part of the Ken Burns documentary about this fine game… that this is the only sport where the ball is controlled by the defense. God, I could write a 1,000 word post just on this one line.

What I learned here is that any two teams that can make the playoffs through the Wild Card system can produce one of, or simply the most, exciting World Series in my lifetime.

Everybody in my life knows how dedicated I am to baseball and most think I’m nuts to be so drawn to such a ‘slow, boring game’. They just can’t see the beauty here that I do.

And lastly, I walk away from this series knowing that the New York Mets are a twist here and a tightening there from being either one of these teams. They have the young talented pitching that can get them to the one-game portion of this journey and then a healthy David Wright, a streaky Curtis Granderson, and a more improved with age Lucas Duda and Travis d’Arnaud could take them to the same Game 7 we all just enjoyed.

It’s that close folks. 

It’s that close.
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