Reese Kaplan -- The Future's So Bright, Part II


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.

Matt Reynolds
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.)  

Johnny Monell
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.)

Backup Outfielders
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.

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.   


Unknown said...

Puello is hitting .313 not .231

Tom Brennan said...

Nice synopsis, Reese.

Not directed at you, but it is amazing how Met fans come to embrace the "Super" Joe McEwing types that other teams like Yanks of the past 15 years would almost never have. Yanks would have an Ichiro instead. We have our little hustling guy who tries harder and even has a little success here and there.

Joey Mac was .243/.296/.348 in his Mets tenure. The oft-vilified Ruben Tejada for his career is a superior .254/.328/.317.

For my subs, I want guys who can do better than .243/.296/.348. That won't win a team's fans some pennants. I want no subs who can't do better. No more annual Josh Satin borderline guys and the like. No more tolerating a sub-.200 Recker because he looks good in a uniform and hits an occasional long HR. This team needs to do better with getting real production out of its subs. Consistently.

Tom Brennan said...

I saw Puello got picked off yesterday. I hope management is smart enough to know that a guy who has stolen 148 minor league bases while getting caught only 39 times knows how to steal and will make an occasional mistake of aggression, and not think, "ahh, this guy just can't do the little things right."

Reese Kaplan said...

@Jeff Roland -- those numbers were as of Monday morning when the article was written. His 2 hits yesterday certainly helped his cause. Getting picked off did not.

Anonymous said...


Tejada is starting at 3B today o.O

Reese Kaplan said...

Well, like I said (channeling my inner Collins), Terry just has to get him going. That's his justification for the past four years of trotting out the same old, same old day after day when it wasn't working instead of trying something new.

Anonymous said...

well no matter what Tejada is going to be on this team which I agree with.

But if he's able to play 3B then Campbell's chances of making the team are much less.

In addition is opens the possibility of carrying ANYONE for that 5th bench spot as all the positions would be covered by the initial 4 of

C Recker
2B/SS/3B Tejada
OF/1B Mayberry
OF Kirk Nieuwenheis

IMO.....Puello's chances of making the club just increased

Reese Kaplan said...

I'd like to see Monell get a legit shot at the backup catcher's spot. Recker has options and is doing his usual sub-Mendoza hitting. In addition, Monell is a lefty which would allow them to pick and choose the days when to sit d'Arnaud for rest.

Tom Brennan said...

I agree, Reese...if Monell hits this spring, give him a try. I think it was 2013, he had a .500+ slug % in AAA covering many at bats vs. righties. My sense is he'd beat Recker hands down in that regard.

And you'd almost never want to sit d'Arnaud vs. lefties. With Recker, then, he'd always be hitting righties, which Monell seemingly does better.

Hobie said...

Monell/Recker: I'd take Monell's (LH) bat over Recker's whiff-wand, but I know nothing about his D. I still see Recker throwing out Hamilton in my mind's eye -- maybe an aberration.

Mayberry has sealed Puello's fate I'm afraid, but I'd still like to know who is LESS likely to get claimed if DFA'd, Cesar or Kirk? And the claiming team is obligated top keep him on their 25, right?

Rice/Gilmartin/Alverezr: Only one makes the club and I would choose Rice 1, Alverez 2. But Rice is not on the 40 and Gilmartin can be returned any time(, so I think he gets an early season chance in Queens. And if ther'es two, it's Gimartin & Alverez for the same reason.

Reese Kaplan said...

I'm glad to see some support for at least CONSIDERING a Recker alternative. The same folks who defend him are usually the Tejada apologists and the Collins apologists. I'm sorry, but I want to see better results and trying again what hasn't worked is unlikely going to make that happen.

Hobie said...


Centeno would have been my choice. :-(

Reese Kaplan said...

I was on the CenteƱo bandwagon for 2 years and they foolishly let him go to keep the .197 hitting Recker. Similarly they're paying Tejada nearly $2 million to do what Wilfredo Tovar could contribute better at minimum wage.

Tom Brennan said...

My vote is Monell over Recker and Reynolds over Tejada. Why? I want this team to emphasize offense. No crappy offensive players belong here. I think the Mets' combined ranking for average, runs and slug % is probably 11th or 12th In NL in 2014.

To ease the burden on the Harvey et al crew, moving that up 5 notches to 6th or 7th, at a minimum, should be the goal.

Centeno was a nice player, but the power void would make me prefer Monell if his defense is at least average. I hate to be repetitive, but the first time I saw Centeno at the plate, I thought I tuned in to the Little League World Series by mistake.

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