Q&A: Kunz, Tejada, Pena


Stacy and SteveWilson asked: Mack, I have a question. What are they doing to poor Eddie Kunz? I thought he is the closer of the future? Why are they using him in multiple innings?

This guy should only be throwing 1 inning per game.

Mack: Yes, Kunz was being groomed to be the next Mets closer. In fact, one of the reasons he was rushed to Queens last year was to spend more time with Billy Wagner and learn the trade via mentoring.

That whole plan went out the window when the Mets signed Frankie Rodriquez to a multi-year contract. The Mets do not nead another closer for 3-4 years.

Kunz had only one problem last year as a minor league closer and that was his ERA/WHIP against lefties. All his success was at the AA level, he did not pitch well in Norfork, and we all know about the four stints in Queens.

This year, he came up with an answer for any inconsistency pitching to either lefties or righties, but it’s not the kind of solution you would hope for: ERA vs. RHP: 4.41 ERA vs. LHP: 4.91. He also has only 29K in 51.0IP, with 29 walks.

I had expected to see him in Queens again this year; however, I also expected to see Tim McNabb and Adam Bostick. The September call-ups usually indicate who is being thought of as a future Met, so I’d light a candle somewhere near the end of the month.

Mojo asked: Mack, is SS Ruben Tejada for real?

Mack: Yes.

Some prospects have the tag attached to them from the minute they are either signed or drafted. Others, like fellow B-Met Josh Thole, have to prove it on the field.

Tejada was signed by the Mets before the 2007 season started and was sent to the VSL Mets. He was batting .364/.466/.479 in 121 at bats there when he was promoted to the GCL Mets. He ended the season there, hitting .283/.401/.367/.768, in 120 at bats. Tejada was named the recipient of the 2007 Sterling Award as the MVP of the VSL Mets. He was 17-years old.

The Mets decided in the 2007-2008 off season to bypass Savannah and send Tejada straight to A+-St. Lucie. None of this made any sense to most of us that report on the Mets, especially since there was no rush to send someone to Queens and start at short. Tejada did as he was told and basically played like an 18-year old in a league of where the average player was 3+ years older than him. He finished the season hitting .229/.293/.296/.589, in a whopping 497 at bats. And he could have easily faded away like so many one-year rookie league wonders we’ve seen come and go over the years. He was 18-years old.

This year, it made Mets-sense to send Tejada to AA-Binghamton. I mean, he played at the wrong level the year before so why not continue the madness. Tejada has played just about every inning for one seriously bad team, and as of last night, he was hitting .293/.357/.380/.737 in 389 at bats. He is the second youngest player in the entire league, and has hit above .280 every month other than April. So far in August, he’s hitting .429. He is 19-years old.

All of this seems too early until you realize another Met batted .250 as a 17-year old, and hit .287 for the B-Mets as a 19-year old. His name was Jose Reyes and he became the Mets starting shortstop as a 20-year old.

What will the Mets do with him? Will they try to turn him into a second baseman like the fiasco they did with Reyes in 2004? I have no idea, but what I do know, is that Ruben Tejada is a top 100 prospect right now and has a long, successful career ahead of him.

Angelo from Brooklyn asked: St. Lucie seems to filled with some really bad players. What’s with this kid Pena who was suppose to be the answer to our catching problems?

Mack: First of all, I like Frankie Pena, I’ve met his agent, who seems to have both Frankie and his family’s needs as the top priority, and I’ve sat with Pena’s mother, who takes an active role in Frankie’s growth. I was witness to every home game he caught for two years for the Sand Gnats so I can speak from some kind of experience here.

Lastly, this is a high pedigree kid. Father and older brother have had much success at the major leagues. The perfect kid you would give a sizable bonus to as a 16-year old 6-3 catcher, technically out of Latin America, though I have a funny feeling he knows his way around “the City”.

Okay, on to his ability.

Frankie Pena is on year three of a (hopefully) three year plan to prove he was worth the bonus. And, he has consistently proven he isn’t. I give manager Tim Teufel all the credit in the world, hanging in their and playing him night after night. Believe me, most of this came from the “bat phone”, probably direct orders from Tony B.

Either way, it has failed. He hasn’t hit in the two years at A-Savannah or the current year at A+-Lucy. His defense in Savannah was subpar, and, though it has improved in Florida, it isn’t good enough. His presence has held up the growth of Dock Doyle, who now has Nefli Zapata is crawling up his ass.

Strangley, there really isn’t anyone between Pena and Thole, who is on his way to either AAA-Buffalo, or Queens, so we might see him next year at AA-Binghamton. I hope not. I’m much rather split time there with a couple of guys who are old enough to play that high up and have never been given a chance, Tony Maccani, and Jordan Abruzzo, but that makes too much sense.


Matt Himelfarb said...

I think next season will be the make or break year for Pena if they have him repeate Lucie. I'm still willing to cut him a little slack because of his age. Next season, though, he'll have 1100 at-bats under his belt and will be 20 yrs. old; his bat's either going to catch up to the competition or not.

Mack said...

Boy, that would be a 4th year.

How many kids get four times to screw up?

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