On the Mound in a game at Tradition Field
Sean Gilmartin, despite the recent (successful) stint back in the majors as long relief guy, appears destined to continue on in the rotation back in Vegas. Fireballer Josh Smoker continues to get his shot down on the farm to prove himself as a reliever. And Josh Edgin continues efforts to work his way back from TJS. But hey guess what, there's another lefty arm down in Port St. Lucie putting up video game numbers, and his name is Alberto Baldonado.
Ok, so here's good news, Baldonado is only 23 years old. Ok, here's some other news, He's been with the Mets organization since 2009. Yup, 2009. I couldn't find any records of Baldonado playing professionally in the 2009 season, but what occurred afterwards was a long and hard road of fighting through 4 full years at the Rookie Level within the Mets organization and a 5th year in Brooklyn before finally making it to full season Low A in 2015. However, the numbers while hurling in the full season leagues have been outstanding.
We can probably throw in some new age sabermetrics stats jokes related to his 0-7 win/loss record that year when you then look at the 1.91 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a very sexy 74 Ks in 56 2/3 innings of work.
With the St Lucie Mets here in 2016, Baldonado is putting together another very strong and productive season. He currently sports a 1.02 ERA through 17 2/3 innings with 19 Ks. on the year. In the game I saw him pitch they had Alberto putting in work for more than an inning. What I liked about Baldonado from the basic eye ball test (and radar gun) was that he was being clocked consistently in the 93-94 MPH range which even in today's game is very solid for a lefty. And as I wrote in a previous post regarding my Lucie trip for the game on Alberto was not only the fastball but the huge drop in velocity when mixing his pitches to the breaking stuff on opposing batters.
Personally, I love a guy that will throw a good mix of fastballs and breaking pitches to every batter. And with Baldonado what the opposing hitters were getting was a 94 MPH heater immediately followed by a 71-74 MPH hook. Again, as a lefty, this looks like a good mix to me, especially from only looking at it from a reliever projection standpoint. I'm in no way comparing, but imagine if Gilmartin, or major leaguer Blevins were able to hit 94 on the gun while throwing their good breaking stuff to each hitter?
All in all the question now becomes what to do with Baldonado? He's been with the organization forever. According to some I've communicated with online, I believe a decision is to be made at the end of the season due to Baldonado possible free agency type status as a minor leaguer due to the years already put in. So let's look at the current 40 man, assuming a 40 man placement type decision needs to be made here.
First of all, again, he's 23 years old. He's a lefty, and he hits 94 MPH. Obviously there's no way on God's green earth he would not be selected by another team in a rule 5 draft or through waivers etc depending on his exact status going into next year.
Then, let's consider that Jerry Blevins is WELL paid and is not guaranteed a contract for next year back with the Mets. Josh Smoker as of today is still a minor leaguer, at an advanced age, and time will tell if/when he is used possibly in September (unless there's injuries). And Josh Edgin, when I saw him in this same game in Lucie with Baldonado, was topping 88MPH on his fastball. Bastardo is not only highly paid but paid into next year. And again, Gilmartin is being stretched out as a starter this year, so who knows his role going forward on the Mets.
Long story short there is always room for a power lefty arm on a 40 man roster. And of note, there are some righty relievers currently on the 40 man who remain in the minors and are not exactly tearing it up either, so there can and will be options going forward into next year with 40 man flexibility.
Further trying my hand at projecting I would say Baldonado can certainly be a full inning guy at the MLB level, and not just a hopeful LOOGY. I believe his velocity mostly explains that opinion. Either way I'd like to see what the Mets do with Baldonado into this year going forward. At 23 years old, and with a 1.02 ERA, he has to already be in the running for one of the immediate promotions to Bingo at least after the all star break, along with my hero Amed Rosario. I'd love to see what Alberto can do at the level. And if any true decisions need to be made at the end of the year, he needs to at least by seen at the AA level by the organization to see more about what they have.
But again, I don't truly know what the team has in this young man right now. From 2011-2014 his ERA was never below 3.74 for the year and his WHIP was never below 1.31. However, in 252 innings as professional, he's only given up 6 homers. Another good sign for a potential reliever. And his K rate has always been high amongst the lows fighting through the low levels. And if you honestly were to compare the numbers side by side his 2015 numbers are actually more dominant than this current 2016 numbers outside of the video game ERA, but he was 22 years old with 6 years experience pitching in the low A level, soooooo.
In the end, speaking from a rose colored glasses point of view as always about Mets players, especially Lucie Mets players, I'd like to say he's one of the few guys on the current A ball roster that can reach the majors. And unlike some of the current hard throwing major league bullpen arms, Baldonado has always been a reliever, so he's only topped out at 56 innings which just happened last year so there's no mileage on the arm. Heck he's put in so many years to the organization. Why not pull a Wilmer and show some love for the guy up to the major league level, shall we ?