First Notes from Spring Training

What we’ve seen so far from the New York Mets in the first few days of spring training games …

From loyal MetsToday reader and commenter “Argonbunnies”:

Matt Harvey looked like 2013 Harvey. Dominant. Can’t speak to health takeaways.

Noah Syndergaard looked like Mike Pelfrey with a better curve.

Scott Rice threw strikes.

Michael Cuddyer doesn’t have a grooved swing, taking different cuts at different pitches. At first base, he let a routine pickoff throw sail right past his glove.

– Wright had the Bad David Wright swing going.

Curtis Granderson’s swing looked shorter to the ball. Much closer to what I saw in 2011.

– Otherwise, the Mets looked like their 2014 selves. Juan Lagares made D look easy, Travis d’Arnaud made D look hard, Wilmer Flores got beat by fastballs, Matt den Dekker hit soft liners, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia showed good stuff and poor command, etc.

My notes are not nearly as detailed. I haven’t spent much time watching the game action, but rather, focusing on the pitching mechanics of Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard. There are still some things with Harvey’s mechanics that don’t sit well with me, but I’m conferring with Angel Borrelli before making any comment. It was encouraging that the radar gun clocked him as high as 96 to 98 MPH, even if it was “dialed up” for the occasion (I’m not suggesting it was, just pointing out that the guns can’t necessarily be trusted). So much buzz about Harvey’s “new” curveball has me confused — didn’t he always have a curveball? I remember him having one, and using it. Maybe SNY and the official blog were given a talking point.

Syndergaard’s mechanics REALLY scare me. His arm is WAAAAAAAAAY behind his body. To understand what I mean, watch the game via or a DVR and hit “pause” just as his front foot lands. You’ll see his right forearm is almost parallel to the ground, with his palm and the ball facing the ground. To get an idea of what I mean, it kind of looks like when you want to poke the person next to you in the ribs to grab their attention. That’s not a good place to be at that point in the motion. He need to have his hand and forearm higher at that point, so that his arm looks almost like a capital “L.” His arm has looked like that at foot strike frequently in all the video footage I’ve seen of him going back three years. It’s no surprise that he suffered elbow issues last year and it won’t be a surprise if more arm problems occur in the future, unless he / the Mets are working on correcting the flaw. Who even knows if they’re aware it’s a flaw? All they seem to care about is how hard he can throw and how nasty his stuff looks — which are both good things, but not terribly useful if he can’t stay on the mound. See: Rich Harden, Mark Prior, Joel Zumaya, and dozens of other pitchers through the years with “filthy stuff” but who couldn’t stay healthy because of damaging flaws in their pitching motion.

I heard comment by GKR that Kevin Plawecki is advancing quickly and is “big-league ready.” Is that true? I’m anxious to see if he’s made any strides since last spring; he seemed to be an offense-first, pull-happy backstop with questionable power last March. There’s always chatter around Plawecki and Travis d’Arnaud but sometimes I think Anthony Recker is the Mets’ best choice behind the plate, based primarily on his superior catching and leadership skills but also because he has that surprising “Todd Pratt Power.” Then again, I also used to think that Justin Turner was their best all-around choice for second base, so what do I know?

This early evaluation is spotty, so fill in the holes in the comments. Thank you.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Quinn March 9, 2015 at 1:35 pm
    How badly could the Mets use Turner right now rather than their revolving door of utillity players.
    More notes, their relievers against the Red Sox couldnt buy a strike, good thing they were mostly minor leaguers; bad thing that could be a product of coaching from the farm system.
    Additionally Kirk is playing well, I will be interested to see if he can maintain any resemblence of this as the spring continues and pitchers find their groove.
  2. david March 9, 2015 at 8:09 pm
    Did you get a chance to watch Matt Reynolds, and if so what were your thoughts on his D and his swing?

    Ditto for Matz, as to his mechanics?

    As for catcher, Pratt and Recker is a good comparison. Especially since they both tend to hit bombs when they count.

  3. argonbunnies March 10, 2015 at 5:06 am
    I finally read about a Mets employee talking about having the arm cocked at foot strike — and it was Guy Conti. I think he was acting a minor league advisor or rehab coordinator or something, talking about how someone who was coming back from injury looked good in that respect — Harvey, I think. So, the Mets certainly have that knowledge tidbit (“arm should be cocked at foot strike”) accessible to them; my guess is that they just aren’t proactive about checking for it until AFTER a guy’s hurt.

    Speaking of pitching motions, Josh Edgin’s throwing from a lower angle than when he was good last year. Maybe not on every pitch, but I noticed it on a couple sliders. There was a little more body-spin there too — maybe he’s rocking toward third base or something.

    As for Syndergaard, his last outing REALLY reminded me of Pelf. Issues with confidence and command. That plus the injury risk makes me think the time may be right to sell high, either now or after a (hopefully) good start in AAA. Of course, Alderson has never looked to sell high on someone he actually had any interest in keeping.

    • argonbunnies March 10, 2015 at 1:34 pm
      Looks like I wasn’t imagining things with Edgin. Bummer…
  4. argonbunnies March 10, 2015 at 5:10 am
    Other observations:

    David Wright took a nice, short, level swing at a high outside pitch on Sunday, lining a double to the left-field corner. Then on Monday, he tried to pull an outside pitch and whiffed. So perhaps he’s not in a good or bad groove yet, and is still putting things together.

    Plawecki swings pretty hard; nice to see that his contact skills aren’t a result of just slapping at the ball. Only fierce winds kept his deep drive in the park on Saturday.

    John Mayberry does not appear to be a first baseman, missing a throw from Flores due to bad footwork. Cuddyer looks awkward over there too.

    Den Dekker crushed a triple on Monday — nice to see that his new swing hasn’t removed all his pop. On the other hand, he’s whiffed a few times, so maybe he’s partially gone back to his old swing (doesn’t look that way to me, though).

  5. Jon C March 10, 2015 at 9:24 am
    off topic, but Joe it would be great to get some pictures of the pitching motion, would make it much easier to understand.

    I’d also love to see some more variety from you this season as far as articles go. For example, I’d love to see you pick a pitcher and do an article with some nice graphical breakdowns of each point in the motion and explain what is going on, good or bad. Same for a hitter’s swing.

    I enjoy reading about this stuff but sometimes its hard to visualize. I’d like to be able to watch a game and pick up on these things myself.

    I understand you have a busy schedule and other things going on in your world, so maybe some of these things are too time consuming. But it would be nice to see once in a while. Enjoy reading, keep it up!

  6. DaveSchneck March 10, 2015 at 10:23 am
    Despite all the over-the-top optimism this spring, I considered Alderson’s winter to be very poor. This was specifically because he failed to acquire at least one left-hander for the pen that could be considered a sure thing with at least a decent track record of success in the bigs (as much as you can consider any pitcher a sure thing). For some reason (could it be cheapness?) the viewed Josh Edgin as Bill Wagner approaching his prime. Now Edgin’s health is in question and Alderson’s “competition” of unproven and unreliable lefties can become a major problem. Secondly, I did not like the Mayberry signing. Yes, he can hit lefties, but Alderson needed to add a better bat and one that could truly back up at 1B (do I smell some cheapness again?). These situations may pan out, or they may become glaring holes that are difficult to fill…especially the lefty arm in the pen. Matz could be a candidate, but not until later in the season once he logs enough starts in the minors to continue his needed development.
    • argonbunnies March 10, 2015 at 1:38 pm
      Well, if nothing else, Rice can keep lefties in the yard.

      I like the odds on Gilmartin based on his minor league stats, but it’s a pure LOOGY deal, the guy should never face a righty.

      Lefty relievers who are actually just good, period, seem fairly rare. I’m sure Matz would be elite in that role, but the Mets have no idea how to safely transition young pitchers from starting -> relief -> starting, so they’re going to play it safe and leave him a starter.

      • DaveSchneck March 10, 2015 at 11:02 pm
        Edgin, Rice, Gilmartin, each of these guys fits the role of true LOOGY in my book – pitch in 95 games and rack up 55 innings facing exclusively lefties. This pen has been screaming for, as you say, a just good period lefty. While they are not in large supply, it strikes me that one should be easier to acquire than, let’s say, a quality SS. Water under the bridge, but a creative GM can find a way, if there is a will that is. I still don’t see the will from management that is consistent with the expectations of a playoff team. Whether Edgin is hurt badly or this is minor, a just good lefty for the pen should be a daily target for our dream team executives.
        • argonbunnies March 11, 2015 at 11:49 am
          Agreed. I know the price tag on Andrew Miller was historically high for a reliever with one good year, but history is changing and these guys are getting paid. No way around it. If they actually want to win, at some point the Mets will have to pay for quality; someone needs to shake the Wilpons out of this delusion that they can be the 2008-2013 Rays.
  7. Colin March 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm
    Travis can frame a pitch with the best of them, but my god he lets a lot of balls get by him. I heard Keith say they had thought about the outfield for him. Don’t like it.

    Sign up Capt K. SIGN HIM UP!

    Michael Cuddyer looks like a very, very old man.

    We need lefty pitching.

  8. DanB March 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm
    The problem with trying to be the 2008-2013 Rays, besides the fact they didn’t ever win a championship, is that the market has changed. The steroid-fueled star in his late 30’s is gone. His money has settled down towards the bottom of the roster. There are no more Bonds who can make $30 million/year however the top relievers are no longer making $500,000. The market has evolved and Alderson, once again, appears to have not anticipated it. When it comes to salaries, he is often two to three years behind.
  9. mckeeganson March 12, 2015 at 6:26 pm
    I think this excerpt today from Adam Rubin’s gameday rundown just about says it all about Alderson’s inability to operate in reality.

    As for the rash of injuries to overworked Mets left-handed relievers in recent seasons, from Pedro Feliciano to Tim Byrdak to Rice and now to Edgin, Alderson — perhaps generously — framed it mostly as bad luck rather than the result of extreme usage.

    “I think that’s something that there may appear to be a thread there,” Alderson said. “I don’t really think there is. This is something that obviously we’ll continue to take a look at, but we’ve had right-handers with injury issues as well.”

    Edgin has always been a strong injury risk and the fact that they didn’t sign another major league lefthanderm shows how much the ownership cares about winning.