Christopher Soto - Scouting the Enemy | Washington Nationals


2016 Recap  

     The Washington Nationals finished 2016 as the National League East championship with a 95-67 record. Despite some excellent offensive season from the likes of 2B Daniel Murphy and C Wilson Ramos, the team's offense, as a whole, was basically MLB average as it ranked 17th in batting average and 12th in the MLB in terms of OPS. The key to the Nationals season was their pitching.....both in the rotation AND in the bullpen. Led by ace SP Max Scherzer, the Nats starting rotation was 2nd best in baseball with a 3.60 ERA and the bullpen was also 2nd best with a 3.37 ERA. So what does 2017 look like for them?

Off-season Review

     The Nationals have some serious payroll constrictions due to their continuing battle for TV rights in the state of Maryland. This pretty much limited the team to only offering deferred money contracts like they did with Max Scherzer.

     At catcher, an significant knee injury killed any chance that Wilson Ramos, along with his .307 AVG and 22 HR, had at signing a new contract with the team. Instead he ended up settling for an incentives laden contract with the Tampa Bay Rays. To replace him the Nationals traded a minor leaguer to the San Diego Padres for Derek Norris. At least.....that was the plan.....until Matt Wieters found himself still on the free agent market as spring training camps opened. The team decided that Wieters was a better option than Norris, released Derek, and signed Matt to a 2 year contract worth $21M, deferring half of contract to be paid in future undisclosed years.

     The team also made a large trade with the Chicago White Sox sending top prospects SP Lucas Giolito and SP Reynaldo Lopez to them in exchange for RF Adam Eaton. Eaton is a solid lead-off contributor who is good for a .280+ batting average, 10-15 HR, and 15-20 SB. However, with Harper already in RF, the Nationals plan to use Eaton as their CF, as position he was recently moved AWAY from due to poor defensive metrics in 2015 and 2016. As a result of this move, Danny Espinosa was shipped out of town to the Los Angeles Angels allowing rising star Trea Turner to return to his natural position at SS.

2017 Offense

     Besides the moves above, the rest of the offense is pretty much the same. Going from Ramos to Wieters is going to be a significant decline but this is offset by the improvement from swapping Espinosa with Adam Eaton. Overall, this is an offense that is going to hinge on 2 things.

     A) Can Daniel Murphy continue being a middle of the line-up offensive force? If he regresses back towards his normal career numbers, the Nationals don't really have any other options for the 3 hole as Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman have both declined to replacement level players.

     B) Which Bryce Harper is the real one? Is he the MVP Caliber .330 AVG with 40+ HR power that he displayed in 2015? Or is he the guy who hit .270 AVG with 20-25 HR and a 21% K rate in the other 4 of his 5 seasons thus far?

     If the answer to both of these is Yes....than expect the Nationals to have one of the better offenses in the MLB this season capable of finishing Top 10. If not....then another mid level finish is probably safe to assume.

2017 Rotation

     The same exact rotation that finished 2nd in the MLB in ERA is what the Nationals will trot out there in 2017. There is a significant difference though in regards to the depth behind the front 5. History tells us that SPs can AND WILL break. Teams generally need at least 7-8 SPs to get through an entire season. In 2016, those guys were A.J. Cole, Reynaldo Lopez, and Lucas Giolito. 

     Oh...whoops...Giolito and Lopez are gone.....and A.J. Cole could be hurt significantly as he was recently shut down from throwing due to tricep tendinitis (a pre-cursor to a possible elbow injury). Should an injury occur....there are NO remaining SPs on the 40 man roster. The Nationals do have Jeremy Guthrie and Vance Worley in camp as non-roster invitees....but both are clearly inferior options to the 5 guys above. 

     Lastly, a major concern out of camp continues to be the condition of Max Scherzer's fractured middle finger from July of last year. Thus far, Scherzer has only been able to participate in 1 Grapefruit league game due to the fact that he cannot use his normal fastball grip. Scherzer has been throwing bullpen sessions and playing in minor league games using a modified 3 figured grip but one has to wonder how much longer Scherzer can continue pushing through this discomfort.

     If the Nationals stay healthy....they are a easily Top 5 rotation again in 2017. However, the rotation could unravel very quickly should an injury occur to any of the front 5 or if Scherzer suffers any lose of "stuff" from his fractured fingered 

2017 Bullpen

     Wait....that's a lot more than 7 guys!?!? 

     Yes....indeed it is. The Nationals lost Jonathan Papelbon, Mark Melancon, Felipe Rivero, Yusmiero Petit,  Marc Rzepczynski, and Matt Belisle from last year's stellar bullpen. That's 234 IP lost, aka almost 50% of the bullpen work from 2016. What's left over is a hodge podge of young arms with potential upside + a few aging veterans that the club is hoping can pull together and be effective.

     To date the club has still not decided on who will be controlling the 9th inning but manager Dusty Baker has stated that it will most certainly not be a "by committee" approach. Reportedly they are leaning towards Koda Glover which would put Kelley into the 8th inning set-up role and Joe Blanton/Blake Trienen in the short inning relief roles with Oliver Perez as the LOOGY. While this gives the club a lot of K potential....there is also a lot of BBs there. We could very well see some games unravel quickly if teams are able to work counts and push the National starter out of games early.

     There is no way that the bullpen is going to repeat it's 2016 performance. At best, I would think that the Nationals are just hoping for this group to not "hurt" them and finish around middle of pact in the MLB.

2017 Team Forecast

     All together, I am projecting the Nationals to finish 2nd in the NL East with a 90-72 record. The offense will certainly be better with a full season of Trea Turner and the addition of Adam Eaton, but the absurd lack of SP depth as well as the lack experience in the bullpen is most certainly going to rear its ugly head. While Scherzer seems capable of pitching through this finger issue.....the Nationals still have other injury concerns in the rotation. Joe Ross has yet to pitch a full season, Stephen Strasburg is coming off of 2 injury plagued years, and Gio Gonzalez's performance has been slowly declining since his banner year in 2012.

Mack – Monday Morning Report


Good morning.

The ‘morning report’ was something that most readers liked and I had to give it up because writing 1000 words a day for seven days a week was just too much for me at this point in my life. Since then, the site has grown with some amazing new writers and Reese Kaplan, Thomas Brennan, and I could concentrate on bringing back a plan for the 8am slot on the site.

So… Reese will continue his Wednesday and Saturday 8am post. Thomas is going to write a Tuesday and Friday post. And I am going to return to my ‘Morning Report’ format on Mondays and Thursdays. Sunday is still open.

International Bust

Baseball America printed out the top 50 international bonuses paid out in 2016 and guess what? No one of the top 50 were signed by the Mets. I’m hoping that the Mets participate at a higher level this year than they did in 2016. The Mets did sign one million dollar baby in 2014-15 (SS Kenny Hernandez: $1mil) and they followed this up in 2015-2016 with two more (SS Gregory Guerrero $1.5mil and SS Andres Gimenez $1.2mil). Last year was amost a total bust with only four players getting a $100K or more bonus (OF Jean Carlos Soto $150K, 2B Luis Santana $200K, OF Ezeguiel Pena $200K, and SS Sebastian Espino $300K).

Right now, it looks like the money spent on Guerrero and Giminez bodes well. Can't say the same for Hernandez.

To Tebow or Not

I probably need to say something serious about Tim Tebow at this point. Tom Brennan and I have been playing verbal tennis about this football player who has successfully worked his way on the Columbia roster.

By my count, both Desmond Lindsay and Ricardo Cespedes will open up in Columbia and are safe here. This leaves two openings for Jacob Zanon, Arnaldo Berrios, Jay Jabs, and Gene Cone to fight for.

Zanon played baseball through both high school and college and had 157 at-bats with Brooklyn last year.

Berrios played high school in Florida, was drafted by the Mets, and has played for three years in the Mets organization.

Jabs played high school ball in Pennsylvania, played three years of college ball, was drafted by the Mets, and had 175 at bats for Brooklyn last year.

And Cone played both high school and college in South Carolina and had 229 at bats last year for Brooklyn.

Tebow hasn’t played organizational baseball since middle school and has 20 at bats this year in spring training.

None of the four guys I mentioned here has hit the snot off the ball since turning pro, but none deserve to lose their job to a middle school baseball player.

            Hudson Belinsky‏ - @hudsonbelinsky -  Seems like a good boy, but can we move on already and talk about actual prospects?

Top 10 Status –

Alex Chamberlain over at Rotographs had this as one of his ‘Top 10 Predictions for 2017” –

5) Michael Conforto is a top-40 outfielder. - This prediction relies almost exclusively on an injury to any of Yoenis Cespedes, Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce. If both are healthy, either of the latter two could be traded at the All-Star break, ultimately affording Conforto half a season of plate appearances. All of this already makes this prediction a longshot. With that said: draft skills. Conforto has legitimate hard-hit skills that suggest his rate of home runs to fly balls (HR/FB) dramatically trails those of his peers. Also, I don’t care how much you think you or the Mets’ negative hype machine know about Conforto’s ability to hit left-handed pitching. Would you ever make a concrete judgment on 68 plate appearances plagued by a .178 batting average on balls in play (BABIP)? Conforto already has more hits against lefties in spring training than he does in his Major League career. If you gave up on Conforto, don’t. This is probably your last opportunity to buy him cheap for dynasty purposes. He’s OF77 right now.

It’s hard for me to keep saying that Conforto has to start the 2017 season in Las Vegas. I think he will be in Queens by the all-star break, either because of his elevated AAA batting, an injury in the Queens outfield, or a mid-season trade. Conforto is, by far, one of the key future players in this organization and the quicker this team gets itself out from under other contractual obligations, will get this kid up and playing every day. 

Until then, in my opinion, he needs to play every day in Las Vegas.

Things To Read –

 Ken Rosenthal wrote a great story on the Baltimore Orioles and Brady Anderson for Fox Sports.

Jared Wyllys of Cubs Den wrote a nice story on Cubs OF Jason Heyward.

Spark Sports has a great story on how the viewership of baseball games are down and how to ‘fix it’.



Mack – Top 10 LHP in 2017 MLB Draft


Good morning.

This list will change before June, but, as of this week, here is the consensus top 10 list of left hand starters in the upcoming draft –

1.     DL Hall                            Houston County HS (GA)

Perfect Game: - Up to 95 at PG National and Has shown hammer CB to go with it. 96 at PG All American Classic

2.     Brandan McKay           Louisville

Fueled By Sports: - Throughout his first two years at Louisville, McKay has proven to be a solid, top-end starter with potential to carry an entire rotation. With a combined 21-7 record to go along with an impressive 2.05 ERA, he has done nothing but continue to boost his draft stock. McKay knows how to navigate through opposing lineups and keep runs off the board. In addition, he batted a whopping .320 through 435 at-bats through his first two years. Despite the fact that he will be drafted as a pitcher, look for a National League team to take a chance on both he and his hitting ability from the nine-hole.

3.     Nick Pratto                    Huntington Beach HS (CA)

Road To Wrigley: - Defensively, Pratto is a sure-handed first baseman with fluid actions and a great feel around the bag. He also possesses enough athleticism to play either corner outfield spot when called upon. In addition, Pratto can jump on the mound and the LHP will show a good feel to pitch with his upper 80s fastball, breaking ball and change. In fact, last summer he haunted Japan again by earning the victory on the mound in the gold medal victory over the host team in the WBSC 18U Baseball World Cup.

4.     Trevor Rogers               Carlsbad HS (NM)

Scout.com: - Rogers has all the looks of a pitcher. Tall stature at six-foot-six, broad shoulders, and a giant wingspan. That size, added with his athleticism, allows him to deliver the ball with ease, and maintain his velocity into outings. With a high leg kick, and long stride to the plate while keeping the behind his large frame, and a low 3/4 arm angle, he gives added deception. Rogers works in the low to mid 90's with his fastball, tapping out at 96, all with late life. The fastball is his biggest, and most used, weapon, as he's shown good command of the pitch, working east-to-west in the bottom of the zone, and elevate it when wanted. Rogers has flashed an above-average late breaking slider that he's been able to throw for strikes, and has shown some feel for a changeup but like most prep arms, rarely uses it. All-in-all, Rogers is a big projection arm, with a low floor due to his high velocity and simple mechanics.

5.     Jacob Heatherly           Cullman HS (ALA)

Minor League Ball: - One of the few things that scouts agree on about Heatherly is also his strongest point: his command. He is able to locate all of his pitches with accuracy, earning a plus grade from MLB.com. FanGraphs’ evaluators also cite a “minimalist delivery,” which a very useful skill. A repeatable delivery is key in maintaining good command, and a simpler delivery is easier to repeat, so a simple delivery is a command pitcher’s friend.

The other thing that is a known about the young lefty is that he has a good fastball. His velocity dips as low as 89 miles per hour at times, but it has also been clocked as high as 95 mph. Several reports also cite the fact that he is able to get his fastball to play above its velocity because he is both willing and able to work inside with it. Heatherly also claims that his fastball is his best pitch. 

6.     Seth Romero                 Houston

When The Giants Come To Town: - Seth Romero is a portly left-hander who put up some interesting numbers last year for Univ. of Houston.  His repertoire includes a FB that goes 92-95 MPH, a slider that has the makings of a plus pitch and a changeup that he needs to develop and use more.  He's off to a great start in in his draft season which may raise his stock considerably if he can maintain it.  Concerns about the body will likely hold his stock down some.  He was suspended at the beginning of his sophomore season for poor conditioning but has looked to be in much better shape to begin his junior season.

7.     Brendon Little              State College of Florida

Cubs Insider: - “He has tools you can’t teach, like a fastball that touches 97 from the left side,” one former AL scout told me about Brendon Little. “He also still has a lot of projection left, which you don’t find often at his age . He could gain a tick in his FB with a more downward plane on his delivery. That would help his command, too.”
As with any college pitcher, Little is far from perfect. However, his floor is supported by a nice 97 mph fastball. His ceiling, on the other hand, could be much higher with improved mechanics and a repeatable delivery, both of which would elevate his secondaries to the realm of average to plus pitches.

8.     MacKenzie Gore          Whiteville HS (NC)

Fangraphs: - Gore stands out because of his glorious leg kick, but the stuff is interesting as well. He was a deceptive 88-92 in San Diego, flashed a plus changeup and 45 curveball. He has an extreme drop-and-drive delivery — and I’m skeptical about his ability to harness it and have even average control down the road — but it’s unique and requires more evaluation rather than knee-jerk xenophobia.

9.     Mitchell Stone              Deer Creek HS (OK)

Perfect Game: - Big projectable LHP who can already reach the low 90s with good breaking ball at PG National. Very good at PG All American Classic

10. David Peterson           Oregon

Scout.com: - Command will be the key to Peterson's success at the next level, but in college, he's been beating hitters with his low to mid 90's fastball with plus sink and arm-side run, helping him work away from right-handed hitters. The southpaw likes to work inside on lefties with his fastball, allowing the run and sink to break back into the zone, jamming hitters or making them stare at strikes on the inner half. Working from a low 3/4 arm slot, Peterson has shown good movement on all his pitches, with his fastball being the best of his trio. His best off-speed offering is his above-average low 80's changeup that he works against both righties and lefties. He works in a big-breaking curveball with a dipping break that he's shown a feel for, but still needs to be refined.


2017 MLB Draft – Top 10 Catchers


    1.     JJ Schwartz              Florida

 LWOS - Anyone who closely follows the Braves franchise should already know of the two weakest links in its farm system: catching and power. With the recent focus on both, there is no better time to make the argument that J.J. Schwarz needs to be the first guy off their board in the 2017 first year player draft. This kid can be an answer to both. The top catchers in the system right now, Lucas Herbert, Brett Cumberland, and possibly Alex Jackson, either haven’t shown proficient skill in the batter’s box, or lack defensive ability behind it. Herbert is a great glove and battery-mate to Kolby Allard and the Single-A crew, but his hitting is largely judged on what he did in high school. Cumberland completed his sophomore season at Cal showing he can hit for average (.344) and get on base (.480), but power was and is not a tool of his, and his future at catcher is widely doubted.


    2.     Evan Skoug              TCU

 Frogowar - Skoug has improved at the plate each season he has played, becoming a complete player in the process. A career .293 hitter, he has played in 130 of 131 possible games over the course of his first two seasons in Fort Worth, proving to be a durable and reliable leader at one of the most important positions on the diamond. He has managed a veteran pitching staff with aplomb, possessing a preternatural calm behind the dish, framing pitches with precision, and helping build one of the best staffs in the nation. Meanwhile, he hit 21 doubles, a triple, and nine home runs in his sophomore season, improving in each category. He also has 97 runs batted in over the course of the last two year. The Frogs have won a Big 12 Championship, a Big 12 Tournament Championship, hosted two Regionals, a Super Regional, and made the College World Series twice in his career.


    3.     M.J. Melendez        Westminster Christian School (CA)

Fangraphs This is the best prep catcher I saw this summer but it’s hard to glean anything from a statement like that because depth at premium positions (especially among high schoolers) is very volatile, draft to draft.. Melendez has special defensive traits. He is lithe, loose and twitchy with uncommon athleticism and movement skills for a catcher, as well as an average receiver with plus raw arm strength. I had pop times as low as 1.94 to second base and 1.5 flat to third. Melendez also has some potential with the bat (which I’ll get into later) but he’s very raw offensively and is going to be drafted primarily because of his defensive ability. So where are catching prospects like this typically selected? Here’s a brief rundown of early-round high-school catchers from recent years:


    4.     KJ Harrison              Oregon State

 Fangraphs   His unimpressive summer line wouldn’t suggest it, but Harrison may have the best future hit tool on this list. He got off to a nice start for Team USA, but faded down the stretch and really struggled in the Cuba series, going 1-for-17 over those five games. His performance in the spring (.309/.401/.527) and natural hitting tools, however, paint a more complete picture of his offensive potential. Harrison has an easy, fluid swing with an all-fields approach that — before his cold spell — at one point produced three opposite-field hits over a 14-inning stretch. Employing a wide setup deep in the box, he reduces wasted movement with a minimal hand load and hip coil. Those features have the unintended consequence of sapping some of the juice from his bat, although he still flashes above-average raw power in batting practice. Defensively, there’s still a lot of work to do if he’s going to stay behind the plate. He has at least above-average arm strength, but the actions and hands are just OK and he’ll probably never be anything better than average defensively. If catching doesn’t work out, the bat may be enough to play at first or left field where his below-average foot speed could be hidden from exposure.


    5.     Mike Rivera             Florida

Florida Gators - AS A SOPHOMORE (2016): Appeared in 67 games for the Gators, starting 66, mainly at catcher and DH…Hit .245 (56-229) with 47 RBI and 33 runs scored…20 of his 56 hits went for extra bases, including 9 home runs, 2 triples, and 9 doubles, good for a slugging percentage of .419…Walked 28 times to go along with 26 strikeouts, giving him an OBP of .347…Tied with Buddy Reed for the team lead in sacrifice bunts with 5…Ranked second on the team with 9 HBP…Hit .263 (26-99) in SEC play while starting all 29 SEC games…Slugged .434 against SEC competition, which ranked third on the team…Knocked in the Gators first two runs of the season with a sac fly and solo home run against Florida Gulf Coast…In the three game series against Tennessee, went 5-12 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI…Only committed 3 errors on the year, contributing to a fielding percentage of .994…Threw out 15 of 30 runners attempting to steal against him…Hit .389 (7-18) on the Gators’ run to the SEC Tournament championship game…Had the second most games with multiple RBI on the team with 16…Named to the All-SEC Second Team…Earned All-SEC Defensive Team honors for his work behind the plate.


    6.     Riley Adams            San Diego

USD - SOPHOMORE (2016): Played and started in 56 games as a catcher... Played as designated hitter in 6 games.... Hit .327 with six homeruns, 18 doubles, and a triple and a total of 43 runs....Went 4-for-7 in the first two games of the Vanderbilt series (2/19-20), hitting over .500 in both games and three RBI... went 5-for-10 against San Diego State throughout the season with two RBI... Went 3-for-7 against Oregon State with three RBI and a homerun... went 5-for-11 with six runs and an RBI against William & Mary (3/6-8).... Went 2-for-3 against BYU (4/9) with four runs, 2 RBI and a homerun.... Went 2-for-4 at San Francisco (4/23) with 1 run, two RBI, and a homerun... went 5-for-9 in the last two games against Gonzaga (5/20-21) to close the season with two doubles, a run, and an RBI.


    7.     Matt Whatley        Oral Roberts

 ORU - 2016 - Was named a First Team All-Summit League member behind the plate ... Earned Second Team ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region as well as Academic All-League honors ... Started 52 games on the year ... Finished second on the team with a .363 average ... Led the team with 39 walks and finished with a team-high .469 on-base percentage ... Tied with the team lead with eight home runs ... Collected 21 extra-base hits on the season ... Had 10 doubles, three triples and eight home runs on the year ... Drove in 41 runs and scored 42 times ... Was third on the team with 73 base hits ... Had a team-high .562 slugging percentage ... Was a perfect 5-for-5 on stolen bases ... Went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two runs scored and four RBI against Little Rock on March 4.


    8.     Steven Williams     Deerfield Windsor School

PG - PG - PG Grade: 10 - Steven Williams is a 2017 C/OF with a 6-3 215 lb. frame from Albany, GA who attends Deerfield-Windsor HS. Extremely strong and well proportioned athletic build. Plays both outfield and catcher. 6.89 runner, has right field tools on defense with a very strong arm with carry. Highest ceiling defensively behind the plate, has nice footwork and plenty of athleticism, big arm strength, just needs more repetitions receiving the ball and blocking. Left handed hitter, swing has noticeably improved in its path and extension of the last year, has lots of raw bat speed with lift and extension through contact, swing is a bit timing intensive and there is some swing/miss but the ball explodes off the barrel when squared. Looks to hit the ball hard. Verbal commitment to Auburn. Selected for the Perfect Game All-American Classic.


    9.     Deon Stafford         St. Joseph’s

 Penn Live - Stafford, who will be a junior at St. Joe's next season, is going to draw plenty of attention from major league teams if he continues to develop. The 2017 draft is on Stafford's radar. How good is the 5-10, 202-pounder? Well, this is what his sophomore season at St. Joe's looked like ... A-10 Player of the Year. Big 5 Player of the Year.


    10. Calvin Greenfield  Jensen Beach HS (FL)

 Fangraphs -  Greenfield is a stocky 6’1, 195, but is more angular and monolithic than the curvaceous Campusano-Bracero, who has similar measurables. I don’t think Greenfield can catch. He falls short with his arm, ground game and receiving as far say I’m concerned, and I don’t think there’s better than average athleticism here so I’m not banking on much improvement in any of those facets, let alone all of them. What he can do is hit. Several times during Area Codes he punished plus velocity into the gaps of Blair Field. Greenfield is quick into the zone, strong, and I think he has good timing. I just don’t know where he plays defensively.



Mack – Weekly Mets Recap


Rafael Montero – Montero hasn’t sold me yet, but he is getting closer. He’s the kind of pitcher that will always lead the team in base on balls given up, but that’s okay if he also leads the team in K/9 ratio. The Mets definitely don’t need another opening day starter, but, as I have outlined in past recaps, the bullpen is far from set. He’ll play 2017 as a 26-year old and we have to remember that he pitched in 34 games last year for the Mets. Las Vegas, and Binghamton. That’s six more than he did in 2014, his last highest total. He continues to avoid injuries and still leads the team in strikeouts this spring. Maybe we finally have something here.

Saturday's five scoreless innings almost has me for earning a bullpen slot out of camp next week. The key stat her is his lack of giving up too many walks here. Base on balls has been his downfall and if he can find accuracy to add to his God given talent, we got ourselves another pitcher folks!

Curtis Granderson - There's not much left to determine in spring training, and the last thing that would happen would be Granderson being cut, but it is his job to prove to the brass that he should start most of the games in Queens. He did a ton of good for himself with his massive home run on Wednesday at Trad... err... what do they call it now? Click Park?  He followed that up with another homer in the sixth to tie it up at 9-9.

Steven Matz - Simply put, Matz had a shit outing on Wednesday. Do I worry? No. Should he? Well, there are seven guys vying for five spots. Spring training is coming to and end so I think Matz is safely a member of the roation, but it would have been nice to see something better than five earned runs given in two innings. Note: He did get his pitching act together after the first two innings. One more outing to go for him this spring.

Zack Wheeler - Wheeler topped out at 95 on Wednesday. Through 26 pitches in his first inning. He got stronger as he pitched... five straight strikes in his third inning pitched, but then everything went to hell with the two home run balls. Normally, I would chalk this up to just a bad outing, but we only have less than two weeks for the start of the season. 

Syndergaard, Lugo, deGrom, and Gsellman seem ready. 

Wheeler, Matz, and Harvey do not. 

I'm just saying...

Michael Conforto - David Rubin's exclusive story that the Mets will start Conforto in Las Vegas clears a lot up and, frankly makes sense to me as an old executive that tried every year to add  profit to the bottom line. Playing Conforto for 55 more days at the AAA level will qualify him for one more year of arbitration eligibility. This could easily save the Mets a seven figure number in one year because of the projected talent of this guy.

More exciting is the exclusive news that Conforto will be converted to a center fielder while he sweats bullets in Vegas Town. This makes even more sense.

I wouldn't be surprised  to see see Conforto in Queens well before September and his conversion to center could create an all-star sell off of Juan Lagares and his back ended contract.

Matt Harvey – I saw nothing from Harvey on Monday that makes me feel he is any closer to being ready for opening day. Sure, his fastball hit 96, but what good is that if you don’t leave the game with the lead? I’m sure you’ve read a bunch of stories written by members of the beat press that they were impressed with what they saw from Harvey. As I said, I’m not.

I will say in his defense that coming back from major surgery and throwing a baseball with pinpoint accuracy at 95+ miles per hour takes time and since Harvey was on a strict off season no-throw dictate, this is the time he is given to get his act together. Is it together? In my opinion, no.

He seems to be trailing deGrom, Matz, and Wheeler in their post-surgery rehab and I currently see no reason for him to be slotted about Lugo and Gsellman either. This being said, leaving him back in St. Lucie to rehab is doing no one any good. The least you have to do is give him 5-6 starts in Queens and see how that turns out. If things go well, you can get on the phone and begin the process of moving the Grey Knight to castles elsewhere. If things go bad, well, I have no idea what to do then…

Seth Lugo - Sure, I know he gave up four runs in the WBC final but this guy would be either an SP2 or SP3... right now... for half the teams in the league. I'm a 'go with what you got' kind of guy and, on my opening day roster, Lugo would be the SP3 behind Syndergaard and deGrom (Gsellman not far behind). As I said earlier in this post, where the fifth slot goes should not be Lugo's concern. That's just the way I see it.

Robert Gsellman - Gsellman sailed through his Thursday (1.56-ERA), and next to last, spring outing which just strengthened my case for a Syndegaard-deGrom-Lugo-Gzz SP1-4 lineup come opening day. These are the four best starters coming out of camp. Period.

Noah Syndergaard - One thing about Syndergaard's Friday outing. The only trouble he had was caused by himself. Houston's Derek Fisher had three stolen bases, the tird of which put him in position to plate himself for their first run in the fifth inning. This doesn't happen if Thor had a faster pitching motion. It wasn't even fast enough on a pitch out to throw Fisher out.

Travis d'Arnaud - TD is 0-12 this spring in throwing out runners.


Mack – Draft 5-Pack – Connor Seabold, John Gavin, Jeff Moberg, AJ Labas, Charlie Barnes


BA - BA - The Cal State Fullerton staff’s 2.05 team ERA ranks third in the country, only behind No. 1 Louisville (1.92) and No. 2 Oregon State (1.06). Fullerton’s junior duo of righthander Connor Seabold (2-3, 2.83) and lefthander John Gavin (3-0, 1.65) have been stingy on the mound, with Gavin coming off of an eight-inning, two-hit, 14-strikeout performance against New Mexico

CSF - SOPHOMORE (2016) - Took over the Friday night starter's role a month into the season... Appeared in 16 games, making 13 starts... Went 7-6 with a 2.48 ERA... Second on the team with 96 strikeouts in 83 and 1/3 innings pitched... Ranked second in the nation in strikeout-to-walk ratio after allowing just nine free passes on the season... Allowed more than two earned runs just three times in 16 appearances... Had two double-digit strikeout performances during the season, fanning 11 batters against UNLV (04/22) and a career-high 12 strikeouts against UC Riverside (05/06).


Fullertonitans - SOPHOMORE (2016) - Led the team with a 2.09 ERA in 18 appearances and 14 starts, allowing 20 earned runs in 86 innings pitched... Posted a 6-3 record with one save and allowed opponents to hit .201 on the season... Recorded 60 strikeouts and walked 31... Went 4-2 witha 1.80 ERA in eight appearances and six starts in conference play... Went six innings or more six times throughout the season... Allowed more than two earned runs in a game just twice in 18 appearances... Set a new career high with eight strikeouts at San Diego State (03/15).


Jeff Moberg  - Tennessee            .417/.488/.708, 5 HR, 15 RBI –

           UT - 2017 - REDSHIRT SENIOR - Hit .500 (7-for-14) with two home runs over Tennessee's home opener weekend vs. Norfolk State (March 3-5). Recorded his second, four-hit game of the season on March 5 vs. NSU, going 4-for-4 with two runs scored in UT's 11-inning, walkoff win, 5-4. Drove in three runs and went 2-for-5 with a leadoff home run vs. Norfolk State on March 4. His leadoff home run was the first for Tennessee since VFL Nick Senzel's leadoff homer against UNC Asheville on May 12, 2015. Knocked his third home run of the year in UT's home opener vs. Norfolk State, helping UT to a 10-2 win (March 3). Hit 4-for-5 with two runs scored and a home run on Feb. 24 at San Diego State, fueling a ninth-inning rally as the Vols took an 8-4 win at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Recorded his first career triple as part of a 10-2 win over Seton Hall in the 2017 Tony Gwynn Classic (Feb. 24). Went 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and two RBI in Tennessee's 8-4 win at Loyola Marymount (Feb. 22). Launched his first home run of the season on Feb. 18 at Memphis, a solo shot in the first inning. The homer marked the second of his career and his first since March 17, 2015 vs. Austin Peay. Made his return from knee injury as UT's starting second baseman, going 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs in the Vols' season opener at Memphis (Feb. 17).


PBR Florida‏ @PBRFlorida  -   2017 RHP AJ Labas of Trinity Christian Academy sat 91-93 FB, 81-82 CH, 77-78 SL in the 1st. Settling in at 89-91

 PG - 2016 National Showcase   Jun 15, 2016 - PG Grade: 10 - AJ Labas is a 2017 RHP/1B with a 6-3 220 lb. frame from Middleburg, FL who attends Trinity Christian Academy. Extra big and strong build, looks like a college linebacker. High energy delivery that he repeats very well, high elbow in back, arm is fast and clean coming through from a high 3/4's slot. Steady 89-91 mph fastball, gets a bit of late life to get off barrels and has good downhill angle. Slurve type breaking ball has very tight spin at times with sharp biting action, showed feel and command of the pitch and was plus at times. Did not show a change up this outing but will be very interesting if he can develop one with his present fastball/curveball combination. Good student, verbal commitment to North Florida.


Hudson Belinsky‏ -  @hudsonbelinsky  - I have a good feeling about this Clemson team. Charlie Barnes wasn't in our top 100 but he's a really good college pitcher.

 PG - Made most of his appearances out of the bullpen as a freshman in 2015, but became a weekend starter during the entire 2016 season... in 118.2 innings pitched over 28 appearances (18 starts) and two seasons, he has a 7-6 record and 4.40 ERA while allowing 123 hits (.258 opponents’ batting average) and 32 walks with 107 strikeouts ... eighth in Tiger history in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.34) ... two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll member ... No. 82 college prospect for the 2017 draft in the preseason by Baseball America. 2016: All-ACC Academic selection ... ACC Academic Honor Roll member ... had a 6-4 record and 4.66 ERA in 16 starts ... in 94.2 innings pitched, he allowed 97 hits (.256 opponents’ batting average) and 24 walks with 84 strikeouts ... tied for eighth in the ACC in starts, tied for eighth in strikeouts and ninth in innings pitched ... led the team in starts, innings pitched and strikeouts ... only Tiger to make all his pitching appearances in a starting role ... only walked one of 101 batters faced who led off an inning ... held opponents to a .209 batting average with two outs ... pitched 6.0 innings in a starting role, allowing two hits and one run with seven strikeouts to earn the win against James Madison on Feb. 26 ... pitched 7.1 innings in a starting role, allowing four hits, one run and no walks with four strikeouts to earn the win against No. 22 Boston College on March 19 ... pitched 8.0 innings in a starting role, allowing four hits, two runs and one walk with three strikeouts to earn the win at Duke on April 9 ... pitched 6.0 innings in a starting role, allowing two walks with six strikeouts to earn the win against No. 9 NC State on May 6 ... pitched 7.0 innings in a starting role, allowing five hits, one run and one walk with seven strikeouts to earn the win at Georgia Southern on May 13 ... pitched 8.0 innings in a starting role, allowing six hits, one run and no walks with seven strikeouts at Notre Dame on May 19 ... pitched 6.1 innings in a starting role with six strikeouts to earn the win against Western Carolina in the Clemson Regional on June 3 ... No. 20 ACC prospect for the 2017 draft in the preseason by D1Baseball ... played for Hyannis in the Cape Cod League in the summer, where he was 1-2 with a 4.44 ERA, .322 opponents’ batting average and 32 strikeouts against nine walks in 28.1 innings pitched over six starts.


Reese Kaplan -- Animal Farm: Mets Edition

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm he famously said, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”  This thought came to mind when looking at the state of the New York Mets prospective roster and the roles assigned to various players.

Take, for example, David Wright.  Suppose he’d been healthy enough to play regularly, but struggling to perform at a competent level due to rust, physical limitations or simply age catching up to him.  How many second chances would he get before his role was changed?  Now this particular example is brought up because he’s a known commodity who has been an All-Star multiple times and as such bought himself a tremendous benefit of doubt (rightly or wrongly).  However, if the objective is to win ballgames then shouldn’t it also follow logically you put the team on the field that can perform best to help achieve that end?

Of course, this equation leaves out such variables as value to the organization, size of paycheck and historical legacy.  I’m merely considering what role a player should have based upon his production as a professional ballplayer. 

Towards that end I find it somewhat amusing, puzzling but not surprising that when David Wright was deemed unable to play the job was handed on a silver platter to his once and current teammate Jose Reyes.  The fleet footed Reyes does indeed add a dimension of speed heretofore missing from the Mets’ offensive attack, but at age 34 he’s not the disruptive force that a Dee Gordon or Billy Hamilton can be.  In fact, his total of just 9 SBs over a half season’s worth of play is not exactly the stuff that makes pitchers and catchers lose sleep overnight.  His spring training batting average well below the Mendoza line similarly suggests he’s behind the curve (perhaps due to appearing in the WBC instead of concentrating on the job he’s being paid to do). 

By contrast, others in the spring camp have done far better but it was never really an open competition.  Gavin Cecchini has already been farmed out to the minor league complex to build on his .333 average.  T.J. Rivera may or may not make the team as a backup to build on his .304.  Wilmer Flores sits on the bench despite doubling the HR and RBI output of Reyes last year and hitting for the exact same average (and currently stands tied with $27.5 million man Yoenis Cespedes in RBIs). 

No, apparently it’s not what Reyes does currently or in the recent past that matters, but what he’s done collectively for his career.  Such is the state of one animal not being the same as another animal in the Mets’ Orwellian vision.  In Reyes’ case, you can’t even factor in the same intangibles as you would had Wright been healthy because he’s become a pariah for off-the-fild issues and only earns major league minimum. 

This issue, of course, is not limited to who plays 3B when Wright is injured.  It’s also apparent in the starting rotation where Matt Harvey has been plain dreadful thus far in his attempt to rehab from thoracic outlet syndrome.  Is his spot in the starting rotation in the last bit of jeopardy?  No, of course not.  He’s getting the same benefit of doubt of another veteran player and even if he costs the team victories with substandard pitching, you can bet the Skipper will keep running him out there every five days for at least two months before thinking, “Hmmn…I keep trying the same thing expecting different results.  Didn’t Einstein say that was the very definition of insanity?”

Similarly, Addison Reed has perhaps crumbled under the pressure of being handed the temporary closer’s job in anticipation of Jeurys Familia’s suspension.  It wouldn’t be the first time.  In fact, the very reason the Mets were able to obtain him late in 2015 is that he’d lost the closer’s job in Arizona and many felt that a change of scenery and a less pressure-filled role might suit him.  He’s been nothing short of spectacular since arriving but his ERA over 10.00 for the spring might have a thinking man considering other options for this temporary gig. 

Small sample sizes, of course, cut both ways.  It is in fact the curse of the small sample that’s likely leading to Paul Sewald and Travis Taijeron again calling Las Vegas home for the summer.  After all, how could you expect the strong performances to continue?  (Here’s a hint – it’s the same way you can expect the bad performances to continue.  If you’re trying to win games you ride the hot hand as long as it remains hot, egos be damned.)

Occasionally there truly is an open competition.  The 5th starter role was probably Zack Wheeler’s to lose and he’s appeared to have done just that, ceding to Robert Gsellman’s brilliant spring and Seth Lugo’s curious decision to impress people in Puerto Rico rather than in Port St. Lucie. 

Another example could be that of the 2nd lefty in the pen.  Going into the spring it was veteran Josh Edgin who appeared to have the edge but he’s been smoked by namesake Josh Smoker.  Adam Wilk looked pretty good but he was never really in the race.

Some situations do make sense.  There’s no point in having Michael Conforto sit on the bench despite his strong spring when he could be starting and learning CF every day by playing regularly. 

I’m not naive.  I know paycheck dictates playing time more so than performance, particularly under this regime.  Veteran status trumps all.  However, at some point you have to wonder if that approach is the right one, particularly since the team has just dubiously celebrated 30 years without a World Series victory.
Mack's Mets © 2012