9/30/18

Tom Brennan - MY FAVORITE ARTICLE OF 2018

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MY FAVORITE ARTICLE OF 2018

Before I start today: GREAT, memorable "adieu" from. our Captain David Wright.  GREAT.  GREAT.

Now...now that the season is coming to an end, and with me about to throttle down on my writing for Macks Mets quite a bit during the off season as i attend to other personal matters, I reflected back on the article (first posted on May 31) that I most enjoyed writing during the 2018 season.

I thought I'd repost it because the subject of the article, Jeff McNeil, has exceeded all expectations since he was called up - everyone who knows baseball now knows this:

JEFF MCNEIL CAN SURE AS HECK PLAY THIS GAME.



AN INTERVIEW WITH METS MINOR LEAGUER JEFF MCNEIL

I love Mets minor league achievers and climbers, those who show REAL talent and then clearly make adjustments to get even better and ultimately get to the big leagues.

Undrafted righty hitter TJ Rivera was one who hit very well in the minors early on, had position versatility, but lacked superior speed and did not produce much power in his game.  Bloggers, seeing that, wondered if he’d ever get his shot. 

In 2016, Rivera fixed the power portion of his resume with a significant uptick in power. Good for him, as when injuries struck the Mets in 2016, the new and improved TJ got his chance with the Mets and he took full advantage of his opportunity, impressively hitting .304 in 319 major league at bats so far.

Jeff McNeil has followed a similar path, while exhibiting more base-stealing propensity than TJ.  At the end of 2015, if I had to pick between the two, I would have picked McNeil – both were lower on the power scale, but otherwise had real similarities hitting-wise. 
I’d go with the quicker, lefty hitting McNeil was my thought then. 

Jeff fell behind TJ, however, in 2016 and 2017, due to several injuries that limited McNeil to a mere 51 games over those 2 seasons.

All told, McNeil is at .304/.374/.424 in his career after 380 games, with 50 of 65 in steals. Nice!  Here's how he's progressed:

He was drafted by the Mets in the 12th round in 2013 with a reputation as a good, versatile hitter without much power.  He had a great rookie ball debut in 2013, hitting .329/.413/.409 with no homers and 11 of 13 steals.

He then tore up A ball Savannah in the first half of 2014, hitting .332. Once promoted to St Lucie at midseason, he hit .246 over the remaining 58 games.   Overall, a fine season.

He spent most of 2015 in St Lucie, showing great progress, hitting .312 over 119 games, and in 2014 and 2015, stole 31 of 42. 

He also made excellent contact, averaging about 1 strikeout every 2 games in his career to that point. 

But in 287 games from 2013 through 2015, he hit just 3 homers. 
In a major league game today, where teams averaged over 200 homers per season, being a non-HR hitter is a disadvantage, I imagine, as a team ultimately decides who is heading to Queens.

Jeff did, however, hit 5 homers in 188 at bats spanning 2016 and 2017, so signs of added power began to emerge.

In 2018, McNeil, with 30 pounds of muscle added above his weight when drafted, has shown that a major power transformation, from “slap” hitter to “slam” hitter, is well underway. 

Despite playing well in 18 games in 2017 in AAA, Jeff started out in AA in 2018, most likely because with Luis Guillorme, Phillip Evans, Gavin Cecchini and David Thompson manning 2nd, short and 3rd in Vegas, McNeil was only going to get regular playing time in Binghamton, and after missing about 230 games in 2016 and 2017, playing every day in AA was clearly the necessary, right decision. 

Through Tuesday, Jeff has played in 42 games this year, and what has he done? 

A whole lot.

As in, 39 runs scored, 11 doubles, 3 triples, 12 homers, 32 RBIs, and a .311 average, while still maintaining that excellent 1 strikeout every 2 games pace.  Outstanding. 

In my opinion, when a guy is hitting, hitting with power, scoring like mad, driving in lots of runs, making great contact, and hitting very well and getting on base at a high rate, that is a heck of a resume for the player promotion decision makers in Queens to be considering. I’m sure those same resume readers in Queens are hoping very much to read more of the same from Jeff as the season progresses.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff McNeil - follows here:


Brennan:  Hi, Jeff, how are you doing, great to speak to you today.  I’ve been a big fan of yours ever since you’ve been drafted.  How do you feel about your breakout year this year you’re having after 2 tough years missing a lot of time with injuries?

McNeil:  Doing real good.  

Being out for most of two years is tough, and it is great to be out there now. After missing almost all of 2016, last year I was getting back into baseball shape in 2017, and while doing do, experienced some compensation injuries, such as with the quad, as my left side of the body was weaker.  It was really unfortunate, but I’m feeling very healthy now, and doing real good.

Brennan:  Great to hear.  Before this year, I saw in you a fine 4 tool player – lacking a power tool - but this year, you’ve added tremendous power production to your game.  No homers in college, slow career start with homers, and now this big change.  Please tell our readers about that.

McNeil:  My college field was one of the most difficult to hit homers at.  Adding power to my game was something I knew I needed to work on, really working on hitting the gaps more.  

So I hit the weights real hard, and am continuing to do so, bulked up, and now I am healthy and it’s good to be barreling balls up and having balls going over the fences.

Brennan:  And how. It caught my attention that, besides just the number of your extra base hits this year, your power increase is substantial and real when I heard announcers calling the play-by-play on a few of your homers saying “that one was WAY out”.

McNeil: It has been good to be hitting some balls real well, and I am happy to see the results.

Brennan: I was a kid loving to watch Mantle and Maris have their home run race in 1961, and you two have kind of a similar home run race of sorts going on so far this year, which is cool for fans to watch.  It’s been fun watching you and Peter Alonso hitting homers the way you both have.  But how do you two compare on the power grade, is Peter Alonso still a little ahead of you? 

McNeil:  Yep, Peter’s got stupid, raw power – his homers are absolute no doubters - when he squares it up and gets the right launch angle, it goes a long way.  Peter’s done real well – he’s fun to watch.

Brennan: Former Mets Daniel Murphy (13th rounder), Justin Turner (7th rounder) – both started lower on the “power grid” and then added power, with great results.  You were a 12th rounder – you appear you might be following after their changed approach. 

McNeil: Yeah, Daniel Murphy’s last few years have been awesome.  For me, I feel like I’m real close, and hope to be up there sometime soon.

Brennan: If you will, please share with Mack's Mets readers what you consider your strengths - I see you are versatile, playing 2nd, 3rd, and short as a pro, but have played very little outfield in the pros to further diversify.  What are your thoughts on that?

McNeil: My strengths are that I put the barrel on the ball and put it in play to all fields, have a very solid strike out to walk ratio, get on base a lot, make things happen, and look to put together good, solid ABs.  

I have the versatility to play out there just about everywhere.  I played a lot of center field early in college before moving to 2nd base and the infield.  I feel very comfortable playing the outfield.

Brennan: What player do you feel in the majors your style of play most resembles?

McNeil: Ben Zobrist – Ben puts up quality ABs, is versatile, plays anywhere, puts the bat on the ball, makes things happen.

Brennan:  Ben's been great.  Your brother Ryan is in pro ball – you ever think about playing him in the NCLS someday?

McNeil:  Ryan was a 3rd rounder of the Cubs who had surgery at the end of last year and is pitching again now.  It would be great to face him in pro ball, I look forward to that someday.

Brennan: What’s your favorite position?

McNeil: Probably 2B, although I am also comfortable at other infield positions, and I’d be real comfortable in the outfield too.

Brennan: A little off subject Mets-wise, but what do you think of Vlad Guerrero, Jr., who your team has played several times?

McNeil: He’s an awesome hitter, pretty great, hits pretty much everything we throw at him, fun to watch him.

Brennan: After the Mets’ great start, with all of the injuries in Queens again this year, perhaps you and some other guys might have an excellent chance be up here in Queens sooner rather than later.

McNeil:  I just hope to keep hitting the ball, control what I can control, and see what happens.   

Brennan: Thanks so much for your time.  Please wish Pete, Tim and the rest of the guys in Binghamton our best and we hope to see you and other teammates up here in Queens soon.

McNeil:  Thanks, I appreciate that.

I’ll just wrap it up by saying that I hope Jeff continues to successfully progress and that we get to see him in action in Queens this year or next.  I think we will like what we see.
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Mack - From The Desk and Mets Cuts...

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Good morning.


I read an interesting quote on Twitter from Buster Olney/ESPN. It was about Jacob deGrom:

Buster Olney - @Buster_ESPN - Aaron Nola has had an incredible season, and is second in the NL in ERA. If he threw 90 consecutive scoreless innings, he would still not catch Jacob deGrom for the ERA title.

This is an example of how dominate Jake has been this year.

Here is another Olney/Jake moment:
     
   Jacob deGrom made 32 starts this season.

He allowed 0 runs in 8 starts
He allowed 1 run in 10 starts
He allowed 2 runs in 5 starts
He allowed 3 runs in 8 starts
He allowed 4 runs in 1 start
He never allowed more than four runs in any start

Does it really matter how many runs the Mets hitters scored when he was pitching? A Cy Young winner is supposed to go to the pitcher that most dominated batters in their league in a particular season.
No one should even get a 1st place vote for this, other than our Jake.

Brian Compton - @BComptonNHL - Anyone who doesn’t vote for Jacob deGrom to win Cy Young should be forced to watch Waterworld on loop.


Vince Ruggiero - @VINCE_RUGGIERO - No doubt Ron Darling would be a terrific GM. I wonder who SNY would hire to fill his seat between Gare & Keith. Any thoughts?

My take is that the Mets should stay in the house and name, under the above circumstances, Nelson Figueroa. Figgy has proven to be, what I call, a homer/critic. Yes, he knows who pays his paycheck but he’s not afraid to say something he thinks is wrong if he truly feels it.


Matt Harvey https://www.sny.tv/mets/news/matt-harvey-on-free-agency-theres-only-one-team-out-there-i-would-not-sign-with/296032756 on free agency: 'There's only one team out there I would not sign with' –

        Former Mets and current Reds RHP Matt Harvey is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. And after what was scheduled to be his penultimate start of the season, he gave a glimpse of what team he could play for in 2019.
"There's only one team out there I would not sign with," Harvey said, according to The Athletic's C. Trent Rosecrans. "That's about it."

Harvey, whom the Mets traded to Cincinnati in May, did not specifically say which team he was alluding to.


Per MiLB.com the following players were released this past week:

         








1B Kenny Hernandez – The 20/yr. old’s highlight of his professional career was cashing the $1mil bonus signing check the Mets gave him in 2014. Since then, he has hit .194 over four professional seasons, including .176 this past season for Kingsport.

         


C         
           

           Robby Kidwell – The 20/yr. old was a 36th round pick in 2017, out of Brunswick Community College. Robby batted only .172 in 64 at bats in 2017 for the GCL Mets and hit a combined .121 this past season for both the GCL team and Kingsport.          





           


           C Domingo Martinez – The 23/yr. old came out of the Dominican system. He played four seasons in the Mets system and hit a respectful (for a backup catcher) .245 in 147 at bats this past season for K-Port. I find this one a surprise because every minor league team needs three catchers and it’s hard to find a backup that hits this well.


         





P Marbin Montijo – The 22/yr. old is a Mexican product that has played five seasons in the Mets pipeline (8-13, 4.82, 1.52). This includes going 1-4, 8.34, 2.12 this past season for Kingsport.






#ThankYouDavid - @richmacleod -

David Wright is the all-time Mets leader in...
At-bats (5,997)   Hits (1,777)   RBI (970)  Runs (949)  Doubles (390)
Total bases (2,945)  Extra-base hits (658)  Walks (761)

Go-ahead home runs (87)  Offensive WAR (51.9)

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9/29/18

Reese Kaplan -- The 2017 Fleecing Revisited

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Suppose you’re looking to make some deals and you have an infielder who averages 19 HRs, 68 RBIs and .268 per season for his career.  You have an outfielder who averaged 28 HRs, 76 RBIs and a .252 average (and was a three time All Star).  Then you have a first baseman who would provide 27 HRs, 80 RBIs and a .242 average.  Then there was another outfielder who could give you 31/94/.247 and was a three-time All Star.  Then there was a reliever who provided seasons of 1.17, 1.97 and 2.57 ERAs for the Mets.  What do you think trading away this bundle of sluggers and a talented reliever could net you?

Well, if you’re Sandy Alderson (or John Ricco as some suggest was calling the shots), not a whole lot, apparently.  Let’s take a look at the “haul” the Mets received during the 2017 sell-off:

Eric Hanhold had a breakthrough year in Binghamton, going 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and a great WHIP of 1.184 with over 11 Ks per 9 IP over 17 games.  Then he hit the Las Vegas wall where he pitched over 14 games to 7.11 ERA.  In a brief trial in Queens he pitched to a 7.71 ERA before being disabled and now apparently put onto the 60-day DL to clear a space for David Wright.  He was obtained from the Brewers for Neil Walker in the only deal during the great selloff in which the Mets paid down salary.

Curtis Granderson netted the Mets the bespectacled Jacob Rhame from the Dodgers organization.  He was mostly awful in his 2017 and 2018 stints with the Mets, going 2-3 with a 7.11 ERA and an awful WHIP of 1.632.  Now I’m a little more lenient on Rhame than I am on some of the others having seen him up close playing for the 51s when I was covering their games against the Chihuahuas.  He was able to manhandle the opposition.  His 25 games in the PCL resulted in a 3.06 ERA and a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio.  There’s something there…how he gets it to translate to the next level is Dave Eiland’s job. 

Lucas Duda’s banishment to Tampa resulted in the acquisition of Drew Smith who had by far the best numbers of any of the relievers acquired last year.  He came up this season and initially was looking to be the real deal but his last 3-4 outings he’s been more of a batting practice pitcher.  Even so, by comparison to the poor performances of the others, his now 3.86 ERA is All Star worthy.  In Las Vegas’ pitching hell he managed a 2.76 ERA, his worst mark in a minor league career stat line of just 2.22.  He’s a keeper. 

In mid 2017 the Mets had the leading RBI batter in the National League and all they got in return was a low level minor leaguer by the name of Ryder Ryan.  At age 23 he started the year impressively in St. Lucie, dominating the opposition with a 1.77 ERA, excellent control and resulting in a promotion to AA.  In Binghamton the positive sign was he maintained the good control but the ERA mushroomed up to 4.13.  He’ll likely start the year there again but should make it up to Syracuse during 2019 and perhaps even to the Mets. 

Gerson Bautista was one of three pitchers acquired from the Red Sox for Addison Reed and the Mets are probably wishing they had a do-over.  The man can throw the ball through a wall but if you can’t find the wall or have no movement on the pitch then major leaguers will tee off on you.  In his brief trials in the big leagues it’s been fugly.  He managed to last just 4.1 IP and has a WHIP of 3.00 with an ERA of 12.46.  He was the Bizarro-World Jacob deGrom in Las Vegas, going 3-1 with a 5.22 ERA and a WHIP of nearly 2.000.  Just like many hard throwers before him – Josh Smoker, Jack Leathersich and others – velocity alone is not enough to succeed.

Stephen Nogosek had a reputation as a hard throwing but wild reliever who could fan batters but walk nearly as many.  He seemed to get the handle on some of his repertoire this year in St. Lucie, posting his best ever stretch with a 3.06 ERA over 23 games with over 10 Ks per 9 IP.  Unfortunately that was accompanied by over 5 walks in that same metric.  However, it did merit him a promotion to Binghamton where it was a rude awakening.  In 16 games he had an 8.10 ERA and a slightly reduced K rate of 9.5 per 9 IP.  Unfortunately, his walk rate was exactly the same 9.5 per 9 IP.  A work in progress is the most optimistic way to view his progress.

The pitcher deemed closest to the majors in that trade was Jamie Callahan who was not completely awful in his 2017 trial.  He provided a 4.06 ERA over 9 games but after 7 games in Las Vegas pitching to a 9.72 ERA he went under the knife for Tommy John surgery. 

My plea to the NY Mets is PLEASE do not hand the reins to John Ricco in 2019.  Even if it was Sandy’s call, he was in the room and should have spoken up to say “You’re being fleeced!”  We saw more of the same since Sandy stepped down, so the pattern needs to change. 

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9/28/18

2018 Award-Winning Columbia Fireflies Season Filled with New Records, Walk-Offs and Plenty of Highlights

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Three seasons of Columbia Fireflies baseball are officially in the books. The 2018 season – which began on April 5 at Spirit Communications Park and finished at SRP Park on September 3 – proved to be another wonderful campaign for the players, fans and the organization. As has typically been the case, the Fireflies were again honored with numerous awards. This season, Spirit Communications Park was named the best playing field in the South Atlantic League. That was thanks in large part to the efforts of 2018 SAL Sports Turf Manager of the Year, Danny Losito. League managers and umpires made it abundantly clear that Columbia’s field was the most outstanding in the league. As a result of his hard work, Losito was recently named first assistant groundskeeper for the University of Southern California, where he works on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Southern Cal football and the NFL’s L.A. Rams.

This spring and summer also saw the first wave of former Fireflies to reach the major leagues. Four players who had passed through Columbia – and as recently as just one year ago – fulfilled their lifelong dreams. The first was former South Atlantic League All-Star Merandy Gonzalez. The right-hander made his pro debut with the Marlins (after being traded from the Mets organization the prior year) in April. Left-hander P.J. Conlon would follow with a start for the Mets in May and soon after, pitcher Tyler Bashlor and outfielder Kevin Kaczmarski reached the Mets major league roster.

 On the field, the Fireflies proved to be a competitive team. Two former first round draft choices, Anthony Kay and David Peterson, called Columbia home for a portion of the 2018 season. Both received promotions to advanced-A due to their success with the Fireflies and Peterson would even go on to win the Mets Sterling Award for the class-A affiliate (the Sterling Award is given annually to the top Mets prospect at each minor league level). Peterson, the 20th overall selection in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Oregon, was unflappable in nine starts with the Fireflies and posted a 1.82 ERA.

Six Fireflies were named South Atlantic League all-stars in 2018:

 • RHP Joe Cavallaro – 8-2, 2.09 ERA, nine of his 12 starts were quality starts

 • RHP Trey Cobb – 3-1, 2.22 ERA, recorded a team-best 10 saves

 • C Scott Manea – .261, 12 HRs, 53 RBI, threw out 29 base-stealers (3rd in SAL)

 • LHP David Peterson – 1-4, 1.82 ERA, struck out a career-high 10 in a start on June 9

 • 1B Jeremy Vasquez - .289, 6 HR, 44 RBI, recorded franchise-record 29-game on-base streak

 • RHP Stephen Villines – 54 strikeouts in 33.1 IP, Columbia’s BC Relief Pitcher of month (June)




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Tom Brennan - METS' CATCHERS - RECAP AND OUTLOOK

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Tom Brennan - METS' CATCHERS - RECAP AND OUTLOOK


I'm impatient - I could wait on this catcher chat until the end of the season, but I am impulsive.  Fast twitch.

Now that (writing this on Thursday of last week, and with Devin Mesoraco and Kevin Plawecki turning on some power since then), the season is substantially complete...so:


Were our catchers collectively championship caliber?  


Or Chump Caliber?

A little more the latter than the former in 2018.


Through Wednesday, the Mets had used 5 catchers, not surprising when # 1 catcher coming into the season, Travis d'Arnaud, departed after 16 plate appearances in 2018 with an injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  Also catching were Devin Mesoraco, Tomas Nido, Jose Lobaton, and Kevin Plawecki.

In 521 at bats, the catchers have hit just .211, with 128 Ks.  

But the catchers' 22 doubles, 16 homers, 65 RBIs and 59 walks were not so bad, actually

Most of those extra base hits, walks, and RBIs were from Messrs. Plawecki and Mesoraco.  

But Nido and Lobaton combined?  Awful.  

21 for 119 (.176), 9 walks, 11 RBIs.

Plawecki's .228/.343/.391 were solid enough for a # 2 catcher.  Mesoraco's .216/.305/.378?  Ditto.

Did the defense of the lads wearing the tools of ignorance make up for the lackluster hitting?  Not really.

Only 30 for 159 in steals (18.8%), 11 errors and 9 passed balls.

Plawecki as a # 2 catcher defensively?  Just 10 of 60 caught stealing (16.6%), but not a single passed ball in 2018, so I rate him defensively as subpar, but not terrible. 

Mesoraco?  A better 11 for 51 (21.6%), but 8 passed balls. Same so-so defensive skills.

Before we just base our decision on one season, it should be noted that when Travis d'Arnaud was mostly healthy in 2017, he hit well: 323 ABs, 19 doubles, 16 HR, 54 RBI, .254 - but he threw out just 11 of 66 (16.6%).  

By comparison, Rene Rivera threw out a far better 12 of 33 (36.3%) that year, but the Mets did not keep him for 2018.




So, if I am the GM, what do I do for catcher for 2019?  

First, I see as best I can this fall if the vilified, oft-injured Travis d'Arnaud is likely to heal by opening day.  

Seems too early to really know soon, since his surgery was in mid-April - if the dude can't throw at least as good as before the injury, he it might make more sense to release him, as he'd be an expensive risk, but he represents, in my opinion, the best bat of the bunch.

Plawecki is a decent # 2, and so, it appears is Mesoraco. 

But free agent Mesoraco will not be all that cheap, and probably not good enough for a big spend, unless other options dry up.  Plus, that bulging disk neck problem could rear its head again (hard to rear one's head with a bulging disk, though).

Nido? I am not sold on Tomas right now as being anything more than a #3 or # 4 catcher.  Decent enough defensively, but can't be relied on to hit at all until proven otherwise.  His .205 on base % with the Mets in over 80 plate appearances doesn't impress whatsoever.

Pat Mazeika and Ali Sanchez?  Options their for call up in my view would be late in 2019, perhaps, but not early in 2019.  

Scott Manea?  Scott had a strong season for Columbia offensively and defensively, but at best, he might be an option in 2020, since he has to climb through High A, AA, and AAA first.

All of the above being considered, I would sign a top free agent catcher, period, and keep Plawecki.  Do what it takes.

With a nucleus of Jake, Matz, Zack, Thor, Conforto, Nimmo, McNeil, Nimmo, and, for part of 2019, Gimenez and Alonso, this team should have a very high floor in 2019.  

Don't screw it up with "wishful catcher thinking"...hoping in-house guys will somehow get it done.  

That is high risk thinking - instead, properly shore the position up.  

Sign a quality catcher (good hitter, strong defensively) to help win a World Series in 2019.

And...consider asking Jake the Great deGrom his opinion.  Managing to win just 10 games in probably the 2nd or 3rd best starter season in team history gives him a very good reason to be able to weigh in regarding which catcher candidate could help him win more in 2019.


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