3/31/18

Mack’s Apples – Ronny Mauricio, Michael Conforto, Top 10 Rotations, White Sox Groundskeeper, Guide to CitiField

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Good morning.

John Sickels on –
           16) Ronny Mauricio, SS, Grade C+: Age 16, signed out of Dominican Republic for $2,100,000 in 2017; hasn’t played yet so this is all July 2nd scouting reports; I’m putting him here to change the palate after the batch of relievers; switch-hitter with projectable frame, reportedly has arm and range to stay at shortstop as well as good potential as a pure hitter; ETA: ??? QUESTION MARK: all projection with no data.

            When Conforto first hurt his shoulder, there were concerns he might miss a whole lot of 2018. Right now, it looks as if he could come back as early as the middle of April. That's the fantastic news -- the return of Conforto isn't far off. And, the last time, anyone saw Conforto, he had a 249 wRC+ to the pull side, and he had a 241 wRC+ to the opposite field. The most recent healthy version of Conforto was a monster. Maybe he doesn't have the classic center-field profile, but heaven knows he can hit plenty. You make it work. Who cares about traditional position profiles, anyhow? If it's defense you need, well, that's what Lagares is for.
The open question is whether Conforto will come back with all of his strength. It would only make sense if he needs time to build back up. He went through something serious. He's sufficiently young that his recovery should work out. You'd think that, say, second-half Conforto would be fine. There's just a certain air of mystery. There always is, with this team.

           9. Mets
SP1: Jacob deGrom
SP2: Noah Syndergaard
SP3: Matt Harvey
SP4: Steven Matz
SP5: Seth Lugo
With Zack Wheeler optioned to Triple-A on Saturday, Mets fans will once again be deprived of their "dream rotation." That said, Jason Vargas is really the fifth man here, and he might not miss more than one turn after breaking a bone in his non-pitching hand. Last year I made the mistake of betting purely on projection and not letting the realities of risk affect my ranking of this unit as No. 1 going into the regular season. You know what happened next. But so long as this group is together, they deserve a spot in the top 10, and the Mickey Callaway magic could rub off here. Still, let's put them in a slightly lower-profile spot this time around.
This is why I’ve always said that you should build a team with 7-8 rotation pitchers. There are always injuries and hiccups with live arms. Always.

                       The Chicago White Sox have welcomed back a former groundskeeper who spent 23 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. The Chicago Tribune reports that DNA evidence led prosecutors last year to vacate the conviction of Nevest Coleman, 49. He had been convicted in a 1994 rape and murder. He was released from prison in November, and this month, a Cook County judge granted him a certificate of innocence. Coleman's friends and family reached out to the White Sox after his release. The team offered him a job interview and then welcomed him back to the job.

                       There are solid picks from Danny Meyer (Shake Shack, Blue Smoke), David Chang (Fuku), and Josh Capon (Bash Burger) to be had, along with more classic stadium eats like Nathan’s hot dogs and nachos. If you don’t want to wait on the lines those eateries usually have, check out Mama’s of Corona, a Queens institution that has an outpost in the ballpark. And for vegans or vegetarians, there’s pizza (Two Boots) and other fare at Melissa’s Produce.

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Tom Brennan - WHO COMES TO MIND WHEN I THINK OF WHEELER AND ROBLES?

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photo by Mack Ade

When you are a long-time baseball fan, you will find yourself watching players and thinking that they remind you of players that you've seen before.  I know that I do. 

Recently, that has happened when I think about Zack Wheeler and Hansel Robles. 

Who do they remind you of?  I will tell you who they remind me of.

 In Wheeler's case, two pitchers come to mind: John Maine and Mike Pelfrey.

Big Pelf was a man of huge promise early on.  He, like Wheeler, actually had a few pretty good seasons, even if they were not up to early high hopes of greatness.  

Pelfrey subsequently did not figure it out and get better; nope, he instead got worse and recently ended his career at a lousy 68-103.  

I hope that Zach gets his act together yet and show us that unlike Pelf, he can still be a high end of the rotation guy...he just hasn't shown it at all over the past 3+ years.

Hard throwing John Maine actually  did pretty well after the Mets acquired him from Baltimore a little over 10 years ago.  In his first three seasons with the Mets, he was a very decent 31 - 23 with an ERA in the high threes, pretty reminiscent of Zack Wheeler's performance prior to his Tommy John surgery period.

After that Maine did poorly in just 127 more big league innings and was out of baseball pretty quickly. Once again, I hope that Zach's future career has a much higher arc than that of John Maine.  But at the time I felt the same about John Maine.

It is no guarantee here that Wheeler will return from Vegas and be a successful starting Mets pitcher.  Zach's got to put the work in and get straightened out.  Or become an afterthought like John Maine quickly did.

Of course, Zach also has plenty of current competition, too...Vargas, Lugo, Gsellman, Conlon, Flexen, and Oswalt, to name six...simply, Zach should have been more ready this spring.  Now he is one among many.

Robles?  Reminds me of fireballin' Manny Acosta.  The hard throwing Acosta was 7-3, ERA about 3.20 spanning 2010 and 2011 for the Mets, success reminiscent of early Robles.  

But Oh Manny Boy had a miserable 47 innings in 2012 (6.46 ERA), and allowed 13 homers in 94 innings in 2011 and 2012, eerily reminiscent of Robles' high HRs allowed rate, and similarly showing that if you throw straight fastballs at 97 over the heart of the plate, too many quality major league hitters will clear the fences with them.  Fast in, faster out.

Acosta never resurfaced in the majors after 2012, so Robles, absent needed changes, could face the same fate.  He needs to refine the repertoire - if he can.  And soon.  He too faces scads of competition.

That's it folks, until the next time.


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Reese Kaplan -- Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

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Minor league ballplayers earn approximately what a burger flipper at McDonald’s gets paid.  It is common for someone toiling in Iowa or Nebraska or New Mexico might get paid as little as $5500 for the duration of the season.  If you assume the season is five months long, then you are talking about $1100 per month or about $225 per week.  At Iowa’s prevailing minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, a full time employee would earn over $1160.  Wow.

How could this happen?  I’m glad you asked.  Major League Baseball did what people who want to influence legislation always do…they spend money on professional lobbyists to try to persuade the representatives who are supposed to support their constituents’ interests to take a particular position on one side of the issue.  Now both sides are free to do so, but ballplayers earning under minimum wage have a tough road to hoe when the opposition has spent over $2.6 BILLION to ensure that the payroll situation doesn’t change. 

Just recently, a $1.3 trillion spending bill was submitted to the president and he signed it.  On page 1967 of that bill included something called “Save America’s Pastime Act” which countered the 4-year old lawsuit filed in San Francisco by three minor leaguers alleging that the owners were failing to pay minimum wage to their employees.  In fact, the ugly numbers presented above were actually overly optimistic as they cited typical work weeks of 50-60 hours which would at an average of 55 hours bring their hourly wage down to a mere $5.00 per hour. 


The legislation is very clearly a huge win for the team owners as it specifically exempts them from paying the prevailing minimum wage, “any employee employed to play baseball who is compensated pursuant to a contract that provides for a weekly salary for services performed during the league’s championship season (but not spring training or the offseason) at a rate that is not less than a weekly salary equal to the minimum wage … for a workweek of 40 hours, irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball related activities”.  Now I don’t profess to be a lawyer but that sure seems like it gives the owners carte blanche to work the minor leaguers as long as they would like without taking into account overtime or the overall hourly wage guaranteed to people in pretty much any other field of employment.

The players’ lawyer was understandably upset with how things unfolded, “Instead of going through the regular committee process where it has a hearing, all of this was done in secret and a in a very rushed manner. It’s emblematic of how things are getting done in Washington these days, where the people with a lot of money are able to flex their political muscle and make a lot of contributions and get things done in secret that benefit only them.”


Minor league players, unlike, their major league counterparts, are not unionized.  The actual wages paid to aspiring ballplayers is pretty appalling.  The “big bucks” don’t come until someone is added to the 40-man roster at which point the more highly regarded minor leaguer earns a more reasonable $88,900.  Regardless of which level a player finds himself in the minor leagues, he’s also given a per diem of $25 per day to eat.  The General Services Administration provides travelers to my home town of El Paso more than double that amount -- $59 per day for meals, so that means Dom Smith’s predilection for fast food may have in fact been economic necessity.   Throw in the fact that more than half of that per-diem goes to "Clubhouse Dues", well, eating from the Dollar Menu is understandable.  

What’s done is done, and it’s to the detriment of a great many wannabe major leaguers that they are going to have to live well below the poverty level.  After all, businesses will pay as little as humanly possible (and legal) in order to maximize profits.  I’m no different.  If an applicant for a $50,000 job asks me for $35,000, I might kick him a $37,500 starting offer to make him feel good about accepting the job, but I’m now $12,500 ahead of what I’d budgeted.  As the minor leaguers’ lawyer pointed out, “Surely if Walmart or McDonald’s can find a way to comply with those laws, then Major League Baseball can find a way to comply with them, too.” 

Sometimes it’s good to be king.  Or at least an oligarch. 

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3/30/18

Gary McDonald - Goodbye Rusty

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My mother use to tell me how sad she and New York felt  when Babe Ruth died.  As a kid I did not fully grasp the idea, but, as I grow older, and my own mortality comes into question, and I see the heroes of my youth all pass , I now know what my mother felt and talked about all those years ago.
Rusty Staub passed away at the age of 73 of kidney failure.
He  played 23 seasons in the major leagues,  nine with the Mets  and became an icon mostly for his play in 1973 and his pinch hitting prowess.  He was inducted into the Mets Hall of Fame in 1986, a year after he retired with the team.
Rusty was a six-time All-Star.  He  also played for Houston, Montreal, Detroit, and Texas. He ended  his career with 2,716 hits and 292 home runs. In his nine seasons with the Mets, Staub played in 942 games, had 709 hits, 75 home runs, 399 RBIs and a career batting average of .276.

My favorite memory of Rusty was a game in his last season.  I believe, he pinch hit and had to stay in the game because Davey Johnson had used  all his players. Rusty was way past his prime for playing the outfield and had not done so for sometime and Davey tried to hide him.   Rusty was in right for a right handed hitter and in left for lefty hitter running back and forth between positions for the batters.  As it turned out a righty hit a ball down the right field line and Rusty had to make a running catch in a very key point of the game. 

Rusty  retired , and went on to great philanthropic work .  He founded the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund. The benefit fund provides money and support for the families of first responders who are killed in the line of duty, as well as worked tirelessly for many other charities. 

He was also a bon vivant, a man about town.  Rusty was a wine expert, restaurant owner and chef, and a world traveler.  Yet always remained humble and a NY Met.

R.I.P. Rusty

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PRESS RELEASE: Former 1st Round Draft Pick Anthony Kay, Strong Pitching Staff Highlight 2018 Fireflies Roster

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MEDIA RELEASE
         Contact: Kevin Fitzgerald

Friday, March 30, 2018                                     

Former 1st Round Draft Pick Anthony Kay, Strong Pitching Staff Highlight 2018 Fireflies Roster

Mets Release 2018 Columbia Fireflies Roster Ahead of Opening Day on April 5


COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former first round draft choice Anthony Kay headlines the Fireflies 2018 Opening Day roster, released by the New York Mets on Friday. Kay was drafted 31st overall by the Mets in the 2016 MLB First-Year Player Draft and is expected to appear in his first professional game this season (Kay missed the entire 2017 season due to injury). The left-handed pitcher is the 14th-rated Mets prospect according to MLB.com and Baseball America.

Kay is not the only prospect in the Columbia dugout this season. Outfielder Quinn Brodey, who appeared in nine games for the Fireflies last season, is the 22nd-rated Mets prospect (Baseball America).

First-year Fireflies skipper Pedro Lopez manages a team that features 10 former top-10 round draft picks and three Mets Sterling Award winners (given annually to the best player at each Mets minor league level). 

In addition to Kay and Brodey (Stanford, 2017 – 3rd round), the other former top-10 round draft picks include infielder Blake Tiberi (Louisville, 2016 – 3rd), right-hander Tony Dibrell (Kennesaw State, 2017 – 4th), outfielder Matt Winaker (Stanford, 2017 – 5th), righty Chris Viall (Stanford, 2016 – 6th), right-hander Marcel Renteria (New Mexico State, 2017 – 6th), righty Conner O’Neil (Cal. State Northridge, 2017 – 7th), right-hander Trey Cobb (Oklahoma State, 2017 – 8th) and rightyCannon Chadwick (Arkansas, 2017 – 9th).

Kay is a two-time draft selection of the Mets. The Stony Brook, NY, native was selected in the 29th round out of high school (2013) before deciding to play collegiately at Connecticut. Kay was named a second-team All-American and American Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2016. The 23-year-old left UConn as the program’s all-time leader in strikeouts (263). Kay is one of the finest southpaws in the Mets system and possesses a terrific changeup. He has yet to pitch as a Mets farmhand after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow in October of 2016.

Kay highlights what could be a dominant pitching staff for the Fireflies this season. Six-foot-five right-hander Nicolas Debora was a Mets Sterling Award winner after posting a 2.33 ERA with 56 strikeouts (54 IP) for the Brooklyn Cyclones (short-season A) last season. Chadwick and Stephen Villines are two other hurlers to keep an eye on. After being drafted out of Arkansas, Chadwick went on to post a Brooklyn-best 1.33 ERA and punch out 40 batters in 27 innings. Villines was nearly unhittable in 2017 and combined to strike out 40 and walk just one hitter while splitting time with Brooklyn and the Kingsport Mets (advanced-rookie).

Columbia’s roster includes talent all around the diamond as well. Brodey is one of the most intriguing selections from the Mets’ 2017 draft class. The Los Angeles native paced Stanford in the power department in the spring of 2017, leading the Cardinal in batting average (.314), home runs (11) and RBIs (51). The Mets selected the versatile outfielder – and former high school pitcher – in the third round last June. The 22-year-old went on to lead Brooklyn with 30 RBIs. It’ll be a Cardinal reunion of sorts at Spirit Communications Park, as Brodey may be paired with his old Stanford teammate Matt Winaker in the outfield this season.

Infielders Rigoberto Terrazas (2017 Kingsport Sterling Award winner) and Walter Rasquin (New York Penn League-best 32 stolen bases in 2017) should form quite the duo in the infield this year. The pair ranked first (.348) and third (.330) respectively among all Mets minor leaguers in batting average last year.

2017 fan favorite Jay Jabs (infielder converted to catcher in 2018), Scott Manea (Shrewsbury, MA, native) and Dan Rizzie (2016 All-Big East 1st Team selection at Xavier) create a more-than-capable trio behind the plate.

Lopez will be joined in the Fireflies dugout this season by pitching coach Jonathan Hurst (a Spartanburg, SC, native) and hitting coach Ender Chavez. Athletic TrainerHiroto Kawamura, Strength and Conditioning Coach Tanner Miracle and Assistant Coach Derek Swartout-Mosher round out the coaching staff.

The Fireflies open the 2018 season on Thursday, April 5 against the Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco Giants). The four-game series continues through April 8 before the Fireflies welcome the Hagerstown Suns (Washington Nationals) to town for a three-game set from April 9-11.

*This initial roster includes 26 players. Moves are expected before opening day to finalize the Fireflies 25-man roster.


2018 Roster Breakdown

Pitchers (13): Joe Cavallaro, Cannon Chadwick, Trey Cobb, Nicolas Debora, Tony Dibrell, Anthony Kay, Conner O’Neil, Joshua Payne, Darwin Ramos, Marcel Renteria, Jake Simon, Chris Viall, Stephen Villines
Catchers (3): Jay Jabs, Scott Manea, Dan Rizzie
Infielders (6): Gio Alfonzo, Edgardo Fermin, Walter Rasquin, Rigoberto Terrazas, Blake Tiberi, Jeremy Vasquez
Outfielders (4): Quinn Brodey, Raphael Gladu, Wagner Lagrange, Matt Winaker

Top-30 Mets Prospects (2):
14. Anthony Kay, LHP
22. Quinn Brodey, OF

Sterling Award Winners (3):
Nicolas Debora, RHP (2017, Brooklyn Cyclones – 2015, Dominican Summer League Mets)
Rigoberto Terrazas, INF (2017, Kingsport Mets)
Wagner Lagrange, OF (2015, Dominican Summer League Mets)


States (13) / Countries (5) Represented (18): Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, Canada, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela

Returning Players (6): Quinn Brodey, Jay Jabs, Darwin Ramos, Dan Rizzie, Jake Simon, Blake Tiberi
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Q and A - Wild Card, Division Winner, and World Series Predictions

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Mike Freire asks:

1.     Who are your picks for the Wild Cards, Division Winners and World Series Champion?


Michael Maar says –

            NL East:  Mets (I just have to - it's Spring)
NL Central: Cubs
NL West: Rockies
WCs:  Nats & Dodgers
AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Cleveland
AL West: Houston
WCs:  Minn - Boston

WS: Rockies - Indians
WS Champs:  Indians


Eddie Corona says –

The 2018 season is upon so here are my predictions surely to go wrong...

NL Division champions East: the Washington Nationals, Central: Chicago Cubs, West: LA Dodgers…

NL Wild Cards Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks
Summary… This is chalk pick but I just can’t see how they I will not repeat. Especially the Nationals with how little each of the other team improved in the division and the Cubs with the addition of Darvish for a full season.

The Brewers are the most improved team in NL. They will compete for the Division but will just fall short to the more experienced Cubs. The Diamondbacks will barely hold on to the final wild card spot from the Rockies.

AL Division champions East: the NY Yankees, West Houston Astros, Central : Cleveland Indians

Wild Card Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics

Summary: Here is another repeat of last year of Division winners with the Astros boasting the most talented Roster top to bottom in the game and the Indians with perhaps the best starting Pitching plus the best manager in the sport. However this begins the return of the Mighty Yankees run for the next decade

The Red Sox and Yankees will battle all year for the division and will renew a decade of division wars for the top of the NL East. The Red Sox will fall short with 94 wins. This will do the year where Oakland does just enough sneak into the last wild card slot.

Playoffs Milwaukee Brewers Defeat Arizona Diamondbacks
Dodgers Defeat the Cubs
Brewers Defeat the Nationals
Brewers Defeat the Dodgers to reach the World Series
Playoffs Red Sox defeat the Athletics
Dodgers Red Sox the NY Yankees
Cleveland Indians Defeat Houston Astros
Red Sox defeat the Indians to reach the World Series
Brewers Defeat the Red Sox for the 2018 World Series
Summary:The AL playoffs are classics filled with some of the best young talent in the Game. The Red Sox make it all the way to the World Series to fall to the Brewers.
The Brewers grind to Through the playoffs but Yelich shows he is a star and leads them to the World Series.

Brewers as the World Series Champs has a nice ring to it.


Tom Brennan says –

Wow.  That is a wide-open question.  I think that the Mets will win the Eastern Division, punish the Yanks in the World Series, and ride down the Canyon of Champeens.  Because I feel that a lot will go RIGHT this year, the diametric opposite of 2017.  Dominic Smith hopes to be a part of most of that, and now uses 6 alarm clocks to show he is serious about that.

Nats and St Louis as wild cards, and the Dodgers and Cubs as the other NL Division winners.  Spending does help, you see.

In the AL, Cleveland, the Bronx Super Bombers, and Shohei Otani's Angels win their divisions, and the ever-present Red Sox and Robby Cano's Mariners snatch the wild cards.


Reese Kaplan says –

            AL East -- Yankees
AL Central -- Indians
AL West -- Astros

Red Sox and Mariners get Wildcard

NL East -- Nationals
NL Central -- Cubs
NL West -- Dodgers

Diamondbacks and Rockies get Wildcard

World Series Champion –

Washington Nationals (before they lose Bryce Harper to free agency)


Mike Freire says –

It is always odd answering your own question!   Some may call you a bit crazy talking to yourself......... Joking aside, here is my take on the 2018 MLB season;

NL East         Washington (it hurts to type this)
NL Central     Chicago
NL West        Los Angeles

Wild Cards   

Milwaukee, Colorado (the Mets fall a few games short, but still finish over .500)
AL East         New York (ugh)
AL Central    Cleveland
AL West        Houston

Wild Cards    Boston, Seattle

Wild Card Round  

Colorado over Milwaukee
Boston over Seattle

Divisional Round

Washington over Chicago
Los Angeles over Colorado
Cleveland over New York (ha)
Boston over Houston

ALCS/NLCS

Los Angeles over Washington
Cleveland over Boston

World Series

Los Angeles over Cleveland



Bill Metsiac says –

Forever the optimist, I go all the way with the Mets. Division and WS. Cubs and Dodgers in the other NL divisions, and Nats for WC.
In the AL, the Division winners will be the Stros, Tribe and Sawks. Yanks WC. Tribe to the WS, so Callaway can beat his mentor.



Conrad “Hobie” Youngrens says –

            NL:

NLE-Nats; NLC-Brewers; NLW-LADs; WC-Mets,Cubs
Mets Over Cubs
Mets over LAD’s
MILW ove WAS
NLCS: Mets over MILW

AL:

ALE-BoSox; ALC-Tribe; ALW-Astros; WC-Yanks, LAA’s
Yanks over LAA’s (Apple sweeps LaLaLand)
Yanks over Astros
CLEV over BOS
ALCS: Yanks over CLEV

WS:
Mets in 6!

(That was easy!)
           

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Reese Kaplan -- Alderson Era Opening Day Rookies

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In the past the beginning of the season often marked the start of some hot prospect’s major league career.  Nowadays, the artificial manipulation of service time usually results in the best of the best being held in AAA for 3-4 weeks to ensure another full year of financial control for the team owners.  Today is not the time to discuss the merits of how the system is being rigged, but rather to take a look at who some of the rookies the Mets brought north with them in the past and see sometimes how great expectations don’t always come to fruition.  Let’s take a look at the opening day rookies during the Sandy Alderson era.

2018 – Jacob Rhame, Phil Evans




2017 – Ty Kelly, Josh Smoker





2016 – Steven Matz


2015 – Sean Gilmartin, Rafael Montero



2014 – Jeurys Familia


2013 – Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Jenrry Mejia, Scott Rice, Greg Burke





2012 – Mike Baxter


2011 – Pedro Beato, Brad Emaus, Mike Nickeas




Hmmn…at first glance you would give credit to Steven Matz, Sean Gilmartin (who was inexplicably left off the 2016 opening day roster after providing a full season of a 2.67 ERA), Jeurys Familia and Scott Rice (before succumbing to overuse).  That’s not a lot for 8 years.

Of course, not all rookies come up to start the year.  There were some successful mid-year entrants, including Justin Turner, Wilmer Flores, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Michael Conforto.  The jury is still out on Brandon Nimmo and Amed Rosario.    Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have had their moments as well.   Hopefully the new manager will set younger ballplayers up to succeed in whatever role they’ve earned and will reward them with playing time when they produce. 


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