Tuesday, August 14, 2012

N.Y. Mets: Sandy Alderson's "Angle" in the Outfield

From the desk of:   HEAD-BUTTING MR. MET

OF - Fernando Martinez
This Former Mets' Prospect Was a Major Bust.
He was said to be a five tool player.  Too bad none of them worked.

Organizational Summary; Minor League Outfield Prospects.

That's not a typing error.  I said angle, not angel.  What's Sandy Alderson's angle?  Or more to the point, how is he going to upgrade this outfield?

From left field to right, the grounds of Flushing beyond the infield are a veritable no man's land.  Even the guys who run chop-shops across the street from Citi Field's right field gate maintain a more stable living than the list of players who've roamed the grass lands of Citi Field in search of steady employment.  Two of the three Mets outfielders; Lucas Duda, and Kirk Nieuwenhuis; who helped launch the team to first half heights are currently elsewhere.  While Duda's return to the club is eminent, none-the-less, he is back playing in Buffalo.  Kirk Nieuwenhuis is even farther away from Flushing.  He's in Port St. Lucie attending to a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

Left to man three outfield positions is a consortium of Andres Torres, Jordany Valdespin, Jason Bay, Jerry Hairston, and the recently activated Mike Baxter.  Maybe Mike Baxter is a personal favorite to some fans, and perhaps others have developed a liking for Jordany Valdespin.  That's all fine and well. But truth is, all three outfield positions are in dire need of upgrades - Major, major, upgrades.  And so personal tastes aside, we'll have to say good-bye to some of these players.  If not all of them...?

Lucas Duda is still the number one hopeful.  He was being counted on to increase the Mets power potential this season.  If that was one season too premature for placing such expectations on him, then we're all guilty as charged.  But there are still many people pulling for him, to include the organization. Thing is, when his head is screwed on straight, and he is feeling self-confident, he sweetly takes lefties to left field, and pulls right-handers with power.  But when he's down, he falls like an ACME safe in the desert.

I believe one of Lucas Duda's biggest problems, if not the biggest, was not having any protection behind him in the line-up.  Without Jason Bay, or any other right-handed bat protecting him, pitchers had no reason at all to offer Duda something appetizing, or remotely decent.  That can mess up any hitter's thinking.  Just look how the same scenario wreaked havoc on David Wright, until he readjusted.

The jury is still out on Kirk Neiuwenhuis.  All he is at this point, is a good story; until he got hurt that is.  Somewhere between his jump from AA-Binghampton to AAA-Buffalo, he lost his ability to hit double-digit home runs per season.  Now, injuries have taken a bite out of his season for the second consecutive year.

It is hard to determine what the Mets have in either player.  What Duda and Nieuwenhuis are not doing so far, is showing glimpses of stardom.  That might be unfair to say.  But at least show some consistency then.  They might yet earn another season to prove they are worthwhile players.  But they can just as easily get packaged and shipped in a trade without being terribly missed.  Am I right?

When it comes to Jason Bay, why beat a dead horse?  I know why.  Because he hasn't been shipped off to the glue factory yet.  The money owed him is just too prohibitive to negotiate or push out the door, which has served to paralyze the Mets and Jason Bay in place.  The club has made it clear they will not be eating the remainder of his contract which runs through next season.  The only hope here is the Winter months bring with them a surprise transaction.

Andres Torres must have eaten a lot of Wheaties during the 2010 season.  But the sun shines on a dog's posterior at least once a day too.  However well Andres played in that 2010 season, he never played like that before, and never came close to replicating that season again.  Just speaking on his one year as a Met so far, Sandy Alderson's pick-up has been an unmitigated failure.  There were low expectations for him to begin with.  But something from nothing, still leaves nothing.

Scott Hairston?  Sandy Alderson is holding on to him like a family heirloom.  That's his prerogative.  The Mets still need bench players.  Hairston not fooling any one either.  He is pretty much playing to the back of his baseball card.

That leaves Mike Baxter.  And what can we say about Mike Baxter?  See Scott Hairston.

So now what?  The only players the Mets have under control are the ones in their farm system.  For the moment, anything else is pure speculation.  Whether the Mets continue grooming these prospects for eventual play on the big club, or are just interested in turning them over for eventual upgrades is inconsequential.

For starters, here is a short list of the outfield seeds planted throughout the Mets farmland:

** MiLB Statistics as of August 13, 2012

Brandon Nimmo - Class-A NYPL.
Nineteen years old; Bats left.
He is currently batting .273 for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
In 183 at-bats - 31 runs, 18 doubles, 3 home runs, 25 rbi, .391 obp, .432 slg., 30 walks.

Brandon's is the story of two seasons - before he was inserted into the lead-off slot, and after being appointed lead-off batter.  On July 24th, he finished the day 1 for 3 hitting eighth in the order, and ended the day with a .228 average.  On July 25th, he was inserted into the lead-off spot.  The Cyclones have played eighteen games since then.  Brandon has batted ..375 over that span accumulating twenty-one hits in fifty-six at-bats.  He has raised his season average to a .277 mark now.  Brandon Nimmo is among the New York Penn League leaders in doubles, walks, and on-base percentage.


Dustin Lawley - Class-A; South Atlantic League.
Twenty-three years old; Bats left.
He is currently batting .277 for the Savanna Sand Gnats.
In 419 at-bats - 72 runs, 33 doubles, 13 home runs, 61 rbi, .353 obp, .463 slg.

Playing the majority of 2010 in Kingsport, Dustin is up-ticking during a full season with the Sand Gnats.  In 2010, he slugged .510 for the season.  Forty-nine of his 116 hits this season have been for extra bases.


Cory Vaughn - Class-A; Florida State League.
Twenty-three years old; Bats right.
He is currently batting .239 for the St. Lucie Mets.
In 397 at-bats - 63 runs, 20 doubles, 18 home runs, 54 rbi, .351 obp, .441 slg.

After a triumphant first season in Brooklyn, offensively, he has stayed fairly consistent through stops in Savanna and St. Lucie; all except for his batting average which has slid precipitously since his Brooklyn days.  He established a few offensive record for the Cyclones in his first professional season.  He should be making the jump to Binghampton next season.


Darrell Ceciliani - Class-A; Florida State League.
Twenty-two years old; Bats left.
He is currently batting .283 for the St. Lucie Mets in only fourteen games due to injury.

After a less than stellar showing in Kingsport in 2009, Darrell received a promotion to Brooklyn for the 2010 season.  His .351 season average qualified to win the New York Penn League's batting title.  But things haven't gone as smoothly for him since.  He battled injuries this season, and has only appeared in fourteen games so far for the St. Lucie Mets.


Joe Bonfe - Split time between A-St. Lucie and AA-Binghampton.
Twenty-four years old; Bats right.
With A-St. Lucie - .152 avg, 33 at-bats, 4 runs, 1 double, 3 rbi.
With AA-Binghampton - .318 avg, 44 at-bats, 7 hits, 1 double, 4 rbi.

He finished his first two seasons (2009, 2010) in the minors batting above the .300 mark.  After dipping in Savanna in 2011, he struggled early again in St. Lucie this season.  Regardless, he was pushed up to Binghampton where his numbers are now appear up to snuff again.


Juan Lagares - Class-AA; Eastern League.
Twenty-three years old; Bats right.
He is currently batting .281 for the Binghampton Mets.
In 427 at-bats - 63 runs, 24 doubles, 6 triples, 3 home runs, 42 rbi, 20 stolen bases, .336 obp.

Juan has been in the Mets possession since the 2006 season.  He finally made his state-side minor league debut in 2007 with Savanna.  Since then, every season has been an incremental uptick through the Mets system.  He now plays for Binghampton, sporting a career minor league .270 batting average.  Last season was his best.  Splitting time between St. Lucie and Binghampton, he batted .349 for the season, and slugged .500 on the nose.  In 471 at-bats, he had 71 rbi.


Matt Den Decker - Split time between AAA-Buffalo and AA-Binghampton.
Twenty-five years old; Bats left.
-With AA-Binghampton - .340 avg, 238 at-bats, 47 runs, 21 doubles, 8 home runs, 29 rbi, .397 obp, .563 slg, .960 ops.
-With AAA-Buffalo - .206 avg, 218 at-bats, 31 runs, 10 doubles, 8 home runs, 35 rbi, .241 obp

After raking for half a season in Binghampton, Matt has struggled in Buffalo.  Statistically speaking though, Matt might be the best prospect the Mets have to yet break into the Bigs.


That's the extent of what the Mets have in uniform, and under organizational control.  I think it is safe to say, up above and down below, the Mets are lacking a sensational outfielder.  If Sandy Alderson's master plan is designed for the 2013, and 2014 season, these are the Mets we will either see on the big club, or the bodies Sandy Alderson will use in trades.

Good luck with that, Boss.

Plain and simple - The Mets need power production.  Ike Davis is not going anywhere; at least we don't believe.  And the David Wright contract drama is still a bridge we must cross.  So traditionally speaking, the Mets must seek an infusion of power from their outfielders.  The Mets are one of seven National League teams not to break one-hundred home runs so far this season.  They currently rank eleventh in the National League, and twenty-fifth in all of Baseball.

Remarkably, the Mets have scored the seventh most runs in the senior circuit.  They additionally rank third in doubles, fifth in walks, and fifth in on-base percentage.  But when it comes to team slugging, they still remain under .400 and rank tenth in the National League.

In so many games, just a little more power could have provided the margin of error the Mets bullpen woes necessitated.  Offensively, if Ike Davis straightens himself out, and David Wright re-ups with the club, then just one formidable bat in either corner outfield position will do.

Team speed and a lead-off hitter is another conversation.  Or do you like Ruben Tejada leading off?  I would rather he didn't.


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