Reese Kaplan -- What New Owners Need to Do Part II


Yesterday we examined some of the issues facing a prospective new owner for the Mets.  Not only have they spent near (if not at) the top of the payroll pack, they made some very odd, poorly executed choices that cost them big dollars but didn’t produce the corresponding big results. 

We also looked at the most recent 20+ years of free agency transactions during which the Mets always seemed to avoid the top of the tier when it came to bidding, hoping to get great value from medium level picks who might or might not have anything left in the tank in the latter segment of their careers.  A great example would be shelling out dollars for an unneeded and multiply injured player at age 35 as he was last season like the 7 At-Bat Jed Lowrie when you already had Robinson Cano, J.D. Davis, Jeff McNeil, Todd Frazier and Amed Rosario.  Today we’re going to take a look at some other areas where the new owners could look to improve.


For whatever reason (Pete Alonso notwithstanding) the Mets have seemingly gone out of their way to avoid signing power bats, preferring power arms and high contact hitters who would have to produce like Tony Gwynn to make it on that skill alone.  I won’t go through all of them, but through the past 25 years the Mets’ first round picks have included Anthony Kay (now in the Toronto organization), Justin Dunn (now part of Seattle’s future), Gavin Cecchini, Ike Davis, Reese Havens, Phillip Humber, Lastings Milledge, Billy Traber, Jason Tyner, Geoff Goetz, Robert Stratton, Ryan Jaroncyk, Terrence Long and Kirk Presley.  Does it seem like they go for best possible talents?  Or is there a pattern at work here?  

New owners need to recognize that drafting isn’t strictly about results but also about development opportunities.  As an example, Jeff McNeil foundered around the minors for many years as a good contact hitter without much power and finally got promoted mostly out of positional desperation in 2018, earning 200+ ABs when they had pretty much nowhere else to turn on the soon-to-be-cut 26 year old rookie.  He developed his contact tool and his previously non-existent power which enabled him to get the ride to the majors despite not being one of the primary guys on the development ladder. 

Of course, those opportunities are rare indeed and too often the position of your draft pick and the size of your initial bonus weighed a lot heavier in your advancement path than did your actual results.  We all saw high draft picks getting promoted up the ladder without accomplishing much of anything while solid results from guys like Matt Blackham might as well have been conducted in secret.  He couldn’t even keep his roster spot with a career 21-9 record with a 2.38 ERA, 12Ks per 9IP and a WHIP of just over 1.000 yet he couldn’t even keep a 40-man roster spot.  

The other thing that needs to be done in the minors is working on small ball techniques like bunting, stealing bases, hitting behind the runner, throwing strikes, working the count and pitching rather than throwing.  So many young players come up with a strong reputation for one particular skill but it seems as if they have been built in a vacuum without any attention paid to the rest of their game (and that becomes rapidly exposed at the major league level).  You have to feel for a guy like Luis Guillorme who has hit .289 for his minor league career but has no power and no speed.  Consequently a low draft position doesn’t let superior defensive genes count for anything.  


People need to understand how impressive it is to watch a hitter flail helplessly against a fastball blown right past him.  There’s a reason guys like Kenley Jansen get all the attention they do.  However, there’s another path to success in pitching based upon control, working the zone and getting batters to make weak contact.  Tom Glavine and his teammate Greg Maddux were examples of guys who worked in and around the plate without the near-100 MPH heater.  How many pitchers have you seen come up through the minors to the Mets who were talented manipulators?  Yes, they have had guys on their club like that -- John Franco, Glavine and others -- but they were not there to launch their careers.  Often they get overlooked entirely and do not get the notice they deserve while struggling to work their way up the chain with excellent minor league results.  As much as people liked seeing a Doc Gooden mowing down batters, it was just as impressive to see a Sid Fernandez make a batter look inept on much lesser raw stuff.

What other areas of the Mets do you think the new owners need to enhance for the club to get onto a winning path?


Tom Brennan said...

As I note again in an upcoming article, draft power arms and power bats and you can't go wrong over time. Or you can draft Gavin Cecchinis. The choice is up to you.

Maybe Blackham should have tried Korea, too.

Sid's fastball may have been low 90s, but his delivery made it look high 90s. Deception is huge.

I wrote once (or more) on what certain guys in the minors needed to do. Three who did so after I wrote (that all 3 needed to add power to up their chances of making and sticking in the bigs) were Guillorme, TJ Rivera and McNeil. Not to say that my articles made a difference, but many guys don't adapt - like Champ Stuart - and disappear.

Mack Ade said...

I am waiting for John From Albany to chime in here about a certain 2019 manager to teach small ball and hustle all the way to the championship only to be told his service was no longer needed.

John From Albany said...

Mack - you took the words out of my mouth.

Build the organization around Pitching, Speed, and Defense. You need to constantly draft and develop these types as after 30 they tend to have arm problems (the pitchers) or leg problems (the speed/defensive players). You need to emphasize defense and fundamentals (like bunting, base running, etc.) all through the system and value the managers that promote it.

In Syracuse this year I was at a game when the backup catcher, Colton Plaia, with men on second and third and one out, hit a pop up to the catcher that landed in fair territory. Colton did not run and was tagged out. (He also hit about .150 and stayed on the roster all year when Patrick Mazeika spent his second full year at Binghamton but that is another story).

In the first Brooklyn playoff game, first baseman Joe Genord (not a speedster) hit a pop up to the infield that the Hudson Valley catcher did not handle and it landed in fair territory. When it did land, Genord was standing on second like he should have been. He later scored on a single.

Players ran hard for Fonzie, not for Syracuse Manager Tony DeFrancisco. Tony is now the Mets First Base Coach. Fonzie is an "Ambassador".

Stuff like this needs to change. 'Nuff said.

Tom Brennan said...

Hopefully our new manager will have a lot of Fonzie in him.

bill metsiac said...

Based on everything I've read about him, he does.

But I wonder if we'll ever know the full story of the sudden ending to Fonzie's career as mgr.

Mack Ade said...


I don't think we will.

I asked him but he remained silent on the subject.

bill metsiac said...

As with many stories, the rumors will fill the gaps amd embellish reality.

Zozo said...

I like the way the Cardinals of the 80’s built there team with speed in the top 3 spots, defense and pitching. It worked well for them considering the stadium they were playing in wasn’t easy to hit them out of them ball park.

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