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Frayed Knot
Aug 29 2005 10:28 AM

I don't know anything about who runs this site - - but the guy being interviewed, Kevin Goldstein, is one of the prospect gurus at 'Baseball America'.
Good questions and (to my ear anyway) some realistic expectations for some of the Met top minor league hopefuls. A sober voice in the midst of a lot of uninformed chatter which often tends towards both overly optimistic and pessimistic extremes.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 30 2005 12:40 PM

Here's a piece from the Star-Ledger.

Mets farm report: The search never ends

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Star-Ledger Staff

The Mets' minor-league system is never good enough for Gary LaRocque.

The team's vice president of player development and scouting feels the pressure every day to turn prospects into major-leaguers. He's not an easy man to please.

"Some teams might say their prospects are at Double-A and Triple-A and we can say (that), but ... until they help our big-league club, it's not a success," LaRocque said. "I work in it all day long and all year long and know we have to produce another David Wright, more starting pitching and have to give to the organization through the draft portion what it needs.

"It's a continuous thing, but now we have some kids that are knocking on that door."

LaRocque points to players including outfielder Victor Diaz and pitchers Heath Bell and Aaron Heilman as examples of the system producing players capable of stepping in to fill some holes in the major-league roster. But the search is still on to find the next cornerstones like Wright and shortstop Jose Reyes.

Many players have impressed LaRocque and the Mets this season and he spoke to The Star-Ledger about the Fab Five at the top of the list, along with some others who might make it to Shea Stadium down the road:

YUSMEIRO PETIT: He's the top arm in the system for a reason. Recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk, Petit, the 20-year-old right-hander, thrived with Double-A Binghamton this season after spending most of last year in Class A. Petit went 9-3 with a 2.91 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings before the move. "He has great control, great demeanor and poise on the mound and loves to compete," LaRocque said. "He's not an overpowering pitcher and relies on his stuff, control and movement. He can pitch off his fastball, can locate it well enough to know he can pitch off of it. He develops it early in games and secondary stuff follows. He has a good feel for his off-speed stuff and is a guy with real good knowledge of how to set up hitters."

BRIAN BANNISTER: A seventh-round draft pick in 2003, Bannister's best trait may be his work ethic. The 24-year-old righty had a "great year," in LaRocque's eyes, and much of his success is a result of the work he puts in between starts. "The big change this year is he's established a cut fastball," LaRocque said. "He continues to refine his changeup, a good pitch. He can control bat speed because that's his style. A fastball, curveball, changeup and adding the cutter, the ability to get inside to left-handed hitters, he has good stuff."

Bannister was outstanding at Double A (9-4 with a 2.56 ERA in 18 starts with Binghamton) and has continued to impress since moving up to Norfolk in mid-July, going 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 45 1/3 innings.

LASTINGS MILLEDGE: After a bit of a slow start at Class A St. Lucie, the 20-year-old center fielder exploded and stayed on track with the Mets' expectations. In his first full season Milledge "was always a threat when he came to the plate," LaRocque said. "He played 62 games in St. Lucie (hit .302 with 15 doubles, four home runs, 22 RBI, 18 stolen bases and a .385 on-base percentage) and went to the Binghamton Mets and never stopped (hitting). He's hitting .337 and his on-base percentage (.392 in Double A) is good. And his knowledge of the strike zone has improved a lot."

ANDERSON HERNANDEZ: He made a smooth transition from shortstop to second base. Hernandez, 22, started the season at Double A playing mostly shortstop, and he hit .326 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 66 games. Then he moved up to Norfolk, where he shifted down to second for a majority of the games. "He's maintained (playing) as well at the higher level," LaRocque said of the switch-hitter, who has hit .316 with 24 stolen bases and a .372 on-base percentage in Triple A.

"Defensively, the objective at Norfolk was to get him experience at second, but we didn't want to lose the plus he has at shortstop everyday. The ability to play second was very valuable. He turns the double play well, has great hands, knows the game well and defensively, he makes a difference. His ability will take him to the next level."

MIKE JACOBS: The recent call-up played just 27 games last season when he underwent surgery to repair his right labrum. Then he suffered a leg injury before the start of this season, prompting the Mets to shift the former Norfolk catcher to first base as he recovered. The Mets knew his bat would carry him to the majors, LaRocque said, and the prospect of a first baseman with his power has value.

Before being called up to the Mets, Jacobs played 54 games at first and 43 at catcher, hitting .321 with 37 doubles, 25 home runs and 93 RBI to earn All-Star honors. "He's a real leader on the club, loves to hit, has a lot of energy and brings people along," LaRocque said. "What's ahead? We'll leave that to him. That bat will play a big part. He's a work in progress."

Elsewhere in the system:

UNDERRATED: Andy Wilson can play first, third, the outfield and catcher, but he isn't a generic utility player. LaRocque sees him as the surprise of the season. Through Sunday's games, Wilson hit .290 with 25 doubles, 28 home runs and 89 RBI in high-A St. Lucie. "He's a tough out," LaRocque said of the 24-year-old.

ON THE MOVE: With Wright locked in at third for the Mets, the organization moved Aarom Baldiris from third to second base. "He's handled it well," LaRocque said. "He's always (been) a good hitter and has had a steady year when a lot of guys learning a new position (see) their offense drop. His hasn't." Baldiris hit .273 with 32 doubles, 10 home runs and 59 RBI.

THE INJURY BUG: Four pitchers in the Mets organization suffered season-ending injuries and required Tommy John surgery. The four include Binghamton starters Kevin Deaton and Ken Chenard, 2004 first-round pick Philip Humber and reliever Lino Urdaneta.

ONES TO WATCH: These players could be future starts with the Mets but are just beginning:

CARLOS GOMEZ, 19, is with the Class-A Hagerstown Suns and can play all three outfield positions. "He's a tools player, has great speed, has led off most of the year and has lots of energy," LaRocque said. Gomez leads the South Atlantic League with 59 stolen bases.

GABRIEL HERNANDEZ, the 19-year-old right-handed pitcher was outstanding for Hagerstown before his promotion to-high A St. Lucie in July. He went 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 92 2/3 innings (18 starts). He has struggled to this point at St. Lucie. "He was our third-round pick a year ago and already moved to the high-A level," LaRocque said. "He's pitched very well and is learning to use his secondary pitches. Has very good poise. He can pitch off of his fastball, has a good curveball which could be a strikeout pitch, the development of his changeup continues and he has good control.

Aug 30 2005 12:42 PM

I still find it weird that people point to Victor Diaz as someone this farm system has produced.

This post was made under the posting designation 170) Barry Lyons

Edgy DC
Aug 30 2005 12:52 PM
Edited 1 time(s), most recently on Aug 30 2005 01:13 PM

Good information from LaRocque, but a lot of empty cliches ("...the prospect of a first baseman with his power has value") and loose editing there.

Best news may be Anderson and Milledge bringing the OBP, and if they secure spots in the Mets lineup in the next two years or so, they may challenge Reyes for the leadoff spot.

Bret Sabermetric
Aug 30 2005 12:56 PM

="Elster88"]I still find it weird that people point to Victor Diaz as someone this farm system has produced.

Maybe they're counting Burnitz as being a farm system product, and therefore Diaz counts in his stead?

Yancy Street Gang
Aug 30 2005 01:14 PM

I wonder if the Mets will give Anderson Hernandez a chance to win the second base job next year.

As Bret would point out, it's not the kind of thing they've done very often. I'd like to see it, though. They can concentrate on first base and catcher over the winter, and maybe get a mediocre veteran 2b so they can hedge their bets, but I'd like to see them go to Port St. Lucie with it being Anderson's job to lose.

Aug 30 2005 01:17 PM

I'd like that too. But if he's not ready to make the leap, then we're fucked.

This post was made under the posting designation 169) Joe McEwing

Edgy DC
Aug 30 2005 01:28 PM

Far less copulated than we'd be from an overcommitment to an underwhelmming veteran, if recent years have taught me anything.

The Mets could have four minor leaguers auditioning for a spot at second next year. (Just four. Sorry Blake Whealy.). If the Mets have ended their relationship with Matsui (who knows?), surely they can patch something together next year from that crew that will at least equal what they've patched together from veterans this year and be a substantial investment in future seasons, and free up money for other pressing needs.

Frayed Knot
Aug 30 2005 01:38 PM

"I still find it weird that people point to Victor Diaz as someone this farm system has produced."

I guess is you go with the theory that he never played a ML game with any other franchise, and change 'produced' to 'nutured', then it's real easy to call him your own.

Johnny Dickshot
Aug 30 2005 01:52 PM

One guy we haven't heard much about yet, but is referred to in the first piece, is Matt Durkin, whom the Mets thought enough of to make a 2nd-round draft pick last year.

Pitching in Hagerstown, he was 3-5, 3.93 this year but whiffed 75 in 73 IP (and walked 50!). He's a nice big fella 6-4, 230-ish and would make an interesting adoptee if one was inclined.

Aug 30 2005 02:09 PM

I'd be open to getting Garrafino provided the Sox don't resign him. He should be inexpensive and gets on base pretty well and would seem to be a pretty good "veteran presence" option to help break in whatever newbie we give the 2B nod to. The Sox might be thinking the same thing though, and use him to shepard in the Pedroia era.

Most scouts don't seem to be too high on Anderson's bat--doesn't walk much, hasn't hit for average or power before this year--and his OPS is now in the mid 700's, which is decent, but unless he has a hot September and climbs back above 800, it's not enough to warrant giving him the starting job, IMO. We might need to see how he does repeating AAA next year, and if he impresses in his first 100 at bats or so, we can call him up them.

Lambin (who apparently doesn't crack the "top prospects" list) continues to show some nice pop at Norfolk, but starting to look like he won't hit for average or get on base enough to become a regular. That being said, he's hit 23 home runs and 29 doubles between AA & AAA in just 369 AB. If he can get on base close to the .330 clip he's managed in AAA, he might be a poor man's Soriano. Of course, he's 26 now, but this IS only his fourth season as a professional ball player, so it's tough to hold that against him. 30 HR, 40 2B power out of a second baseman is pretty sweet, even if his OBP never cracks .300.

I'm guessing that Keppinger is our best bet. He's consistently gotten on base & hit for average at every level and has a little speed. Not much in the way of power, and at 25, it's not likely to develop much.

I don't think any of these guys are going to be world-beaters. Better than what we have? Probably, and maybe one of them will surprise. It was looking like that might be Anderson, but he's come back down to earth lately. Still, he's only 22 . . .

Aug 30 2005 02:13 PM

Edgy DC wrote:
Far less copulated

LOLOLOLOL I'm dying here.

This post was made under the posting designation 169) Joe McEwing

Aug 31 2005 12:53 AM

I get the impression that the worst case scenario for Anderson Hernandez would be the same level of offense we've gotten out of second base this year, plus speed and better defense. He won't have any pop in his bat, but neither does Cairo, and Hernandez has shown a bit of improvement in the walks department.

Likewise, I can't see Jacobs giving the Mets any less offense at first than they've put up with all year.

But if you give those two a chance, you'll need to upgrade other places.

Edgy DC
Aug 31 2005 01:08 AM


There's a solid theory that if you let younger players be, upgrades tend to happen more often than not. Nothing's guaranteed in this world, but...

Aug 31 2005 01:08 AM

Considering the potential free agents at 2B and the options currently on the team Hernandez is a good option to at least play this September and to have the job be his to lose next spring. I can't see him giving us less than what we've gotten there this year.
As far as Jacobs goes with all the big hitters who play 1B i have to wonder if thats the spot to upgrade externally in the offseason. I'm not adverse to him finishing out this year at 1B and i hope he is on next year's roster, but to have Jacobs, Hernandez/Matsui/Cairo, and Castro all in the lineup with a still unproven Diaz or Cameron coming off an injury (and he's not GREAT to begin with) plus Floyd probably declining at least some if not getting hurt is not a great plan in my mind.
Again though, I would much, much, much rather play Jacobs every day at 1B and/or Hernandez every day at 2B over a mediocre veteran like Cairo, Mientkiewicz, Matsui, Snow, Graffanino (someone mentioned him), or whoever else might be out there that you know will give you mediocrity at best.

Edgy DC
Sep 14 2005 03:12 PM

Mike Jacobs and Brian Bannister have been named as the Sterling Award winners as Mets Minor League Player of the Year and the Minor League Pitcher of the Year, respectively.

Jacobs was also the 2003 winner and, while he deserves much congratulations, perhaps should have had his qualities looked at in the light of him repeating the same level he dominated two seasons earlier.

Delmon Young --- Tampa Bay's 19-year-old AA-er --- has been named Baseball America's 2005 Minor League Player Of The Year. He's the second Devil Ray so honored, following Rocco Baldelli in 2002.

Bannister goes today for Team USA against Cuba. They were launched there by a ninth-inning go-ahead hit by Lastings Milledge.

Frayed Knot
Sep 14 2005 03:21 PM

"Jacobs was also the 2003 winner and, while he deserves much congratulations, perhaps should have had his qualities looked at in the light of him repeating the same level he dominated two seasons earlier."

Keep in mind that this award is more akin to a kind of 'Employee of the Month' recognition-type commendation than it is a prediction of who has the best future.
BA, on the other hand, def takes the prospect part of things into consideration; Young didn't necc have the best stats but was playing in AA & AAA as a 19 y/o.

Sep 14 2005 03:38 PM

Like Garth Brooks winning the 2000 spring training rookie award.

Sep 14 2005 05:33 PM

IIRC, Baldelli was the posterboy for anti-OBP. When he played at AAA (roughly 150 AB) I don't think he recorded a single BB. But that didn't stop them from naming him minor league POTY.
I guess you have to evaluate every player individually, in terms of what you think they'll contribute.


Frayed Knot
Sep 14 2005 08:19 PM

BA has often been accused by stats guys of being overly "tools oriented" and so their naming of Baldelli wasn't too surprising. He also went on to justify their faith by having a good rookie campaign before missing this year with injuries.
Most of BA's Minor Leaguer of the Year picks have gone on to have decent to good careers, or at least a good start towards one in the more recent cases:

1981 - Mike Marshall, 1b, Albuquerque (Dodgers)

1982 - Ron Kittle, OF, Edmonton (White Sox)

1983 - Dwight Gooden, rhp, Lynchburg (Mets)

1984 - Mike Bielecki, rhp, Hawaii (Pirates)

1985 - Jose Canseco, of, Huntsville/Tacoma (Athletics)

1986 - Gregg Jefferies, ss, Columbia/Lynchburg/Jackson (Mets)

1987 - Gregg Jefferies, ss, Jackson/Tidewater (Mets)

1988 - Tom Gordon, rhp, Appleton/Memphis/Omaha (Royals)

1989 - Sandy Alomar, c, Las Vegas (Padres)

1990 - Frank Thomas, 1b, Birmingham (White Sox)

1991 - Derek Bell, of, Syracuse (Blue Jays)

1992 - Tim Salmon, of, Edmonton (Angels)

1993 - Manny Ramirez, of, Canton/Charlotte (Indians)

1994 - Derek Jeter, ss, Tampa/Albany/Columbus (Yankees)

1995 - Andruw Jones , OF, Macon (Braves)

1996 - Andruw Jones , OF, Durham/Greenville/Richmond (Braves)

1997 - Paul Konerko, 1b, Albuquerque (Dodgers)

1998 - Eric Chavez, 3b, Huntsville/Edmonton (Athletics)

1999 - Rick Ankiel, LHP, Arkansas/Memphis (Cardinals)

2000 - Jon Rauch, RHP, Winston-Salem/Birmingham (White Sox)

2001 - Josh Beckett, RHP, Brevard County/Portland (Marlins)

2002 - Rocco Baldelli, of, Bakersfield/Orlando/Durham (Devil Rays)

2003 - Joe Mauer, c, Fort Myers/New Britain (Twins)

2004 - Jeff Francis, lhp, Tulsa/Colorado Springs (Rockies)