Who is Next Year’s Matt Tuiasosopo?

While the Tigers were in town to devour the Mets a few weeks back, you may have noted a no-name corner outfielder swinging a big stick — Matt Tuiasosopo. If you watched or listened to one of the game broadcasts, you may also have learned that Tuiasosopo was in the Mets organization last year.

Yes, the sometime left fielder for one of the top teams in baseball played for the Buffalo Bisons last year after toiling 8 years in the Seattle Mariners organization. Remember over the winter, and then in the early spring, when the Mets were looking for outfielders — and preferably, any that could hit with some power from the right side? They had one right in their backyard during all of 2012, and despite glowing reports and recommendations from Buffalo, the Mets turned Tuiasosopo loose at the end of last year.

Will they make a similar oversight this year?

I can’t kill the Mets for letting a career minor leaguer / AAAA player walk away, even if he did find his stroke elsewhere. And it’s not as though Matt Tuiasosopo turned into an everyday outfielder and MVP candidate. What’s bothersome, though, is that upper management completely ignored the advice of its own people. Further, that with glaring holes in the outfield, they preferred to roll the dice with unknown quantities outside the organization instead of working with an owned asset who showed potential.

Don’t get me wrong — I think the Mets had to, and have to, continue to look outside their minor league system to fortify the 25- and 40-man rosters. But part of the reason for this is that they’ve been less than stellar in developing talent. While they’re investing considerable energy forcing square pegs into round holes (Daniel Murphy, Josh Thole, Lucas Duda, et al), I wonder how often they’re allowing less-intensive projects such as Tuiasosopo fall under the radar — to the point where they leave the organization? To be fair, the Mets did see something in Jeremy Hefner that others (including myself) didn’t, as well as Omar Quintanilla (though they did jettison Quintanilla to Baltimore before he returned) and Justin Turner. I’m not talking about finding gems off the scrap heap, such as Scott Rice or Marlon Byrd. Rather, I’m focused on what the Mets do with the talent they have in their organization, even if it is only for a year. How are they evaluating players, particularly at the upper levels — i.e., close to “big league ready”? If their own people are making recommendations for personnel who can fill glaring holes, why aren’t they using that proprietary information to their advantage?

In the case of Matt Tuiasosopo, I’ll quote this from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News:

Several times last summer, the New York Mets called then-Bisons manager Wally Backman looking for a player. One day last August, Backman told me that on at least three occasions, he had recommended the Mets call up Herd utility man Matt Tuiasosopo. But the brass in New York had other ideas and Tuiasosopo never got a look.

When the season ended, Tuiasosopo gave the Mets a chance to sign him again for 2013, and they said thanks but no thanks. So just as he did a year earlier, he sent an email around to teams looking for a job. The Detroit Tigers answered and Tuiasosopo, impressed by watching the Tigers’ run to the World Series, signed a minor-league deal with them after Thanksgiving.

With a strong spring training, Tuiasosopo made the Detroit Opening Day roster and became the righthanded side of a left-field platoon. He’s cooled off considerably after injuring his rib, but hit .329 in the first half with a .447 OBP and 1.070 OPS, whacking 6 HR and 22 RBI in 85 at-bats. Not too shabby.

Granted, his stat line for the Bisons in 2012 isn’t spectacular. He hit .242 with 12 HR, .329 OBP, and dismal .690 OPS. But if stats meant everything in evaluating minor leaguers, then a nine-year-old could do it. Evaluating talent is not about what’s happened in the past, but what might happen, or could happen, in the future, at a higher level. Stats can help project, but rarely tell the whole story.

With Tuiasosopo let go, the Mets searched outside the organization for a AAAA outfielder with offensive potential. They brought in — among others — Colin Cowgill, who failed miserably, and Andrew Brown, who did not. Brown, in fact, shows flashes of extraordinary power, and posted eye-popping numbers in the hitter-happy PCL. Considering his age (29), and his sub-.300 OBP at the big-league level this year, he’d seem a good bet to be set free this winter. Will he emerge elsewhere as a useful, semi-regular player for a contending club next year? Who knows? But he would seem to have the best opportunity to be the 2014 version of Matt Tuiasosopo — if indeed, one exists.

What say you? Is there someone playing under the radar in the Mets organization that may be let go this winter? If so, does it concern you? Are you wondering why I’ve wasted 850 words on this subject? Answer in the comments.

Mets Item of the Day

How about a Mets 3D iPhone 5 case? C’mon, you know you want it. It’s 25 bucks and there are only 7 left in stock, so buy it now.

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. Reese September 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm
    I was enamored with what Josh Satin did upon his early arrival, but, like Justin Turner, he got exposed with playing too much. The same may be holding true for Brown, but he has something those two infielders don’t have — power. I think it is not beyond the realm of possibility to see Brown invited back unless they feel den Dekker (with superior defensive skills) is the better bet. If they do jettison him, I hope they find a place for Lutz who also has power from the right side but must be in Terry’s doghouse since he almost never gets an at-bat (let alone a start).
  2. DanB September 18, 2013 at 6:24 am
    First of all, how can someone named Tuiasosopo ever be treated like a nameless minor leaguer? Second, I cant blame the Mets for missing one or two prospects. However, it bothered me last year hearing a lot of reports of people leaving Mets management, especially in player development, and not being replaced. Too many corners are being cut for the sake of saving money. They are a poorly run organization who deserve to have moves questioned.
  3. TJ September 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm
    It is easy to second guess someone’s decisions.

    The Mets got rid of a 26 year old outfielder that has put up good bench numbers for the current team. Big whoop.

    It is not like the Mets got rid of a rising star. The Mets got rid of a role player that the Mets seem to groom like Satin, Baxter, Turner, etc.

    Matt Tuiasosopo had a good first half, but slipped off the face of the Earth. Hits for more average against right handed, but more power against left handed pitching. Matt will average out 200 k’s in a full season and will have to compete with Duda at the start of the season. Does not seem to be a great fielder, so would have been a bad bench player or minor leaguer in the Mets organization.

    There are worse decisions that need to be discussed than criticize trimming the fat in the role player department.

    • Joe Janish September 21, 2013 at 12:25 am
      Is second-guessing the point? Or is the point that the Mets don’t trust their own personnel to evaluate their assets? Or is the point that the Mets have a hard time evaluating their own assets, period?

      I can easily write a post about all the players the Mets let go who did well elsewhere, but that’s too easy and not worthy of discussion beyond annoying people. My goal here is to ask how well the Mets are doing in terms of understanding what they have, and/or what metric or other evaluation properties they’re using to make personnel decisions.

      Further, how and/or why did the Mets willingly let a righthanded-hitting outfielder with a positive internal recommendation leave the organization, knowing full well that they had a desperate need for righthanded-hitting outfielders?

      Also, I’m extremely curious about the decision-making process when it comes to investing time and energy in someone like Jordany Valdespin, Josh Thole, Mike Baxter, and Lucas Duda, as opposed to someone like Tuiasosopo, Andrew Brown, or Eric Campbell? Maybe it’s being picky because these are likely all role players at the MLB level, but the devil is in the details — sometimes the difference between an also-ran and a World Championship club is the ability to find the right “extra” parts, such as a Shamsky/Swoboda or Roenicke/Lowenstein platoon.

      Talent evaluation is talent evaluation, regardless of whether one is trying to discern whether someone will be a future MVP, winner of a batting crown, or half of an efficient platoon. In fact, it can be argued that seeing the future All-Star talent is easier than projecting the role players. For example, did anyone think David Wright, Jose Reyes, Junior Griffey, or A-Rod wouldn’t be stars from the first time they saw them?

  4. DanB September 20, 2013 at 6:26 am
    I thought the game plan was for the Mets to invest in and develop their own young players? If they are cutting costs in the one area they are supposedly focused on, then it is an extremely big deal that deserves discussion.