When a veteran player gets off to a slow spring, it's usually not time for panic as there is a track record on which to rely for past performance. Young players (and players returning from injury rehab) need to make a strong showing in order to impress their teams and to get a chance to come north with the big club. No one is concerned about Michael Cuddyer being 0 for the Spring or Zack Wheeler getting shelled on Monday. They have demonstrated enough success in the recent past that you are willing to extend some benefit of doubt. However, when it's a player coming off a bad year continuing to show that trend, then fans (and management) have the right to be nervous.
Posted by Reese Kaplan at 10:00 AM
There are some other players opening eyes in Spring Training to suggest that the cavalry exists in far flung places like Las Vegas, Binghamton, St. Lucie, Brooklyn and such. Let’s take a look at some folks showcasing their talents this spring.
After his slow minor league career start he had that awesome 2-level stop last year with an aggregate .343 batting average that had people saying, “Flash in the pan!”, “Unsustainable BABIP” and “PCL effect.” Nevermind that that the last time I looked Binghamton was nowhere near the PCL and isn’t regarded as a hitter’s paradise. Still, a lukewarm showing in the Arizona Fall League did little to quell the doubters when it came to Reynolds. Well, there all pretty mum right now, drowned out both by the crack of Reynolds’ bat and the huzzahs emanating from our own Tom Brennan who’s ready to print up “Told Ya So!” t-shirts as we speak. Through Monday Reynolds is hitting a lofty .455 with a walk-off home run to his credit as well. Interestingly, the competition from Reynolds may be spurring on the man Sandy Alderson but not Terry Collins has anointed the starter, Wilmer Flores, who is also hitting an identical .455. (Ruben Tejada is doing his very best to pitch in with an .077 and has gotten more ABs than both of them. Apparently Terry Collins has got to get him going.)
The sweet swinging catcher is hitting .308 with a home run and 3 ribbies in his spring trial thus far. He’s a lefty hitter and as such would complement the right handed Travis d’Arnaud nicely in a backup role. For his minor league career he’s had seasons where he’s clubbed 19 and 20 HRs while compiling a career batting average of .264. While that average is nothing to write home about, compared to Anthony Recker who is at just .197 for his major league career and had shown less power in the minors, you'd think they might take notice. They might consider Monell a viable backup option and not necessarily pencil in the Mendoza-line hitting Recker who stands to get quite a few ABs since catchers need more rest than do other position players. (From the “for what it’s worth category, Recker is but 1-10 with 4 Ks thus far.)
Kirk Nieuwenhuis went to the Matt den Dekker school of shortening his swing to cut back on the horrific strikeout totals. Thus far it’s working for him as he’s tearing the cover off the ball to the tune of a .600 batting average. Even more important than that number is his strikeout percentage which is down to a mere 20% of his ABs from the normal 35% or more he’s shown in the past.
Matt den Dekker is also picking right up where he left off with his hot September from 2014. He’s batting .308 and flashing his usual stellar defense (Monday’s ill-advised diving attempt notwithstanding). His strikeouts are surprisingly up, but with Captain Kirk being out of options and den Dekker still having one, he’s pretty much automatically assigned to AAA no matter what he does.
Cesar Puello is in a similar situation to Nieuwenhuis, though in his case it’s the 7 years in the Mets organization working against him. They have to promote him to the big club now or risk losing him as a free agent. People who have seen him are raving about his athleticism, his speed and the sound of the ball off his bat. Throw in some above average defense and you’d think he’d have the inside track to get a spot as a RH bat off the bench. Unfortunately the results are not there – just a .231 AVG with 4 Ks.
Eric Campbell is doing his Super Joe McEwing impression and thus far doing it well. He’s playing all over the diamond, and while he’ll never be Bert Camapneris or Cesar Tovar, he’s having a nice spring in his own right – .400, a home run, 5 RBIs and 3 BBs. Another week like that and you'll likely find Cesar Puello in the Samsonite aisle of his local department store.
(Although his spot on the roster is already guaranteed, John Mayberry is making Sandy Alderson look very good with an early .556 average including a home run.)
Lefty Relief Pitchers
From the “Whoda Thunk It?” file, Scott Rice and Dario Alvarez have both not yielded any runs. Rice has been the better of the two, not yet having given up a hit either. Sean Gilmartin was cruising right along with very good stuff according to his catchers until he ran into the Marlins late Monday and now sports a 13.50 ERA. That would be hard to swallow if it were not for Jack Leathersich’s 33.75 mark.
Names You Didn’t Expect
Tyler Pill has had just one game with a 1.1 IP yielding just a walk, no hits and striking out 1. Matt Bowman has had two scoreless innings though he has yielded a pair of walks and a hit. Cody Satterwhite, Zack Thornton and Erik Goeddel are also all still perfect during their respective 2 IP thus far this Spring.
Names You Know By Heart
Matt Harvey and Steve Matz both threw perfect 2 IP stints, matched by the ageless Bartolo Colon. Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Buddy Carlyle are also unscored upon thus far.