Mets Demote Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard

In case you missed it, two of the Mets most promising pitching prospects have been reassigned to minor-league camp.

In other, somewhat unrelated news, Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost named 22-year-old phenom Yordano Ventura as his team’s #3 starter.

Ventura — no relation to Robin Ventura — made 3 September starts last season, lighting up the radar gun with triple digits and striking out 15 batters in 15 innings. The promotion came after excelling in 11 starts at the AA level, followed by 14 impressive but not outstanding starts in AAA. He had a very strong spring, the Royals had an opening in their rotation, and they’ve decided that the future is now for the 22-year-old fireballer.

Meanwhile, in Port St. Lucie, where the Mets have at least one and possibly two open rotation spots (depending on the health of Jonathon Niese), 23-year-old Rafael Montero was sent to the minors, as was towering 21-year-old Noah Syndergaard.

I can sort of understand demoting Syndergaard. Despite his obvious raw talent, he’s only pitched 54 innings at the AA level, where he did well but fell short of completely dominating. The Mets must believe he needs more time to hone his skill set before a call-up to the bigs.

Montero, though, is something of a head-scratcher. His stuff isn’t overpowering, but he did a great job of retiring hitters at the AA and AAA levels — of particular note is the fact his success in AAA came in the hitter-happy PCL. Over the past month, he performed pretty much as advertised — pinpoint control, keeping batters off-balance, efficient use of pitches. I’ve yet to see something from Daisuke Matsuzaka or John Lannan to make me believe that either of those veterans deserve a spot over Montero. But there are other reasons for Montero’s demotion that go far beyond who is seen and/or projected as the top performer.

Also sent to the minors in this round of cuts were Joel Carreno, Cory Mazzoni, Brandon Allen, Matt Clark, Juan Centeno, Ryan Reid, and Miguel Socolovich. Of that group, only Mazzoni impressed me. In fact, he showed quite a bit — to me, anyway — to suggest he deserved a longer look for a spot in the bullpen. But, the Mets would rather give Kyle Farnsworth and Jose Valverde — among others — a better shot.

What’s your thought? Are you happy to see Montero and Syndergaard go down to the minors for more seasoning? Would you have preferred to see either or both of them for another week or so before making a decision? What’s your reaction to the news of Ventura? Does it relate / compare / contrast to the situation in Port St. Lucie? Answer in the comments.

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. Bob March 19, 2014 at 8:03 am
    Happy? No. But I understand it. This is not a year where they’re going to win anything, so they’ll keep Syndergaard and Montero down for two months for more experience and to allow them to have another year of control of the pitchers when the team returns to relevance.

    Lannan will probably make less than 10 starts, Dice-k less than 20 and if they are halfway decent can be used for trades.

  2. DaveSchneck March 19, 2014 at 8:13 am
    Syndy definitely needs some fine tuning, even he admits it. Montero’s demotion does not upset me either. He won’t be down there long so long as he doesn’t get bombed. Regarding Mejia, I have mixed feelings,, but would prefer to see he in the Vegas rotation as opposed to the Met bullpen. The thing with him is that while he showed great flashes last year, I don’t think he has much exceeded 100 innings in a season, so he is still very unreliable health-wise. Bottom line, I am OK with DiceK “winning” that 5th spot, as he should be servicable enough and will need to pitch well to hold his spot with the kiddies on the way. For the first time I can remember, the AAA rotation should be loaded with guys that can help the big team. This is clearly the strength. Alderson needs to focus on SS, 1B, and the 8th inning guy so he can give this squad a puncher’s chance.
  3. Izzy March 19, 2014 at 2:24 pm
    Nice to know the Alderson PR machine has convinced so many t[of the importance of winning in Vegas. Afterall, last year’s rookie of the year would have been in St Lucie had he had the misfortune of being in the Met system. The Mets are the only franchise that believes that every player must follow the same path to the bigs and it shows in being one of only two franchises with 5 losing seasons on a row. And why are we going nowhere. Didn’t the greatest GM in the world proclaim this to be a 90 win season. Was he lying!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe the plan is to keep them in the minors long enough to be ready for TJ when they finally reach the bigs so Alderson can have excuses for losing for years to come.
  4. DanB March 19, 2014 at 3:25 pm
    I think if the Mets were a 90 win team, sending Montero to AAA would be silly. However since the Mets project to 75 wins, it makes less sense. Keeping him in AAA might increase his trade value and certainly save money. Is it a loser’s strategy? Yes, however 75 wins is a loser’s win total. Speaking of AAA, I read the the Mets will likely resign with Las Vegas, guaranteeing another two years in the worse AAA outlet. Hardly a good reflection on a team that supposively emphasizes their farm system.
    • DanS March 20, 2014 at 12:29 am
      Looked up attendance stats for Buffalo (2012) and Las Vegas (2013). The Mets franchise in Buffalo outdrew the Vegas edition by almost 200,000 fans. And, of course, when the Mets did need to call someone up, it was a lot easier to bring in a player from Buffalo than from the wilds of Vegas. The whole Vegas connection and the story that the Wilpons once wanted to put up a casino next to the new ball park (is this actually true?), just doesn’t smell right. When (if) Bud Selig leaves office will he take his good friends the Wilpons—father and son—with him? The can all go back to selling used cars in Milwaukee.
  5. argonbunnies March 19, 2014 at 10:53 pm
    Dice-K looks like a poor man’s Nelson Figueroa to me. For someone who supposedly “showed up to camp in mid-season form”, he has not impressed me. He hasn’t looked terrible, but he certainly hasn’t “earned” or “won” anything either.

    Montero is clearly ready to face major league hitters, but I do see some holes in his game, and perhaps AAA is a better place to work on holding runners etc. I’ll try not to be too pessimistic as long as he’s replaced Dice-K by May or so.

    Avoiding Super Two makes sense to me when you’re determined to promote someone who isn’t a finished product. Starting Wheeler in MLB last April would have been stupid — his 2013 was about growing pains on a bad team, and that isn’t worth paying extra (via S2 arb. awards) for the years where he actually contributes.

    Montero, on the other hand, may be just as good now as he’ll be in his walk year — or better, if he follows the typical path of the modern pitcher, which is to begin breaking down by age 27. So I don’t see much point in waiting. Although I suppose the more good health habits he ingrains in AAA, the more he might be able to resist whatever idiocy goes on in MLB.

    As for Mejia, I don’t think he’s thrown a single pitch on TV. I can’t have much of an opinion until I see him. If he shows any glimmer of the guy he was last year, then he should be a priority for the rotation. But it wouldn’t shock me if he’s nowhere near that now.

    • Joe Janish March 19, 2014 at 11:49 pm
      I completely understand the Super Two / arbitration clock thing, but I also heard that the Mets’ goal is 90 wins. How can you have any true faith behind such a goal when you’re going north with less than your best? There’s an inconsistency between message and action — in other words, typical Mets hot air.

      Further, I agree with you on the pitchers breaking down, especially knowing that the Mets aren’t employing scientists to help evaluate and fix pitching mechanics. As long as they are going to continue to pretend that pitching injuries are unavoidable, and they have several young hurlers with major mechanical flaws, I see no reason to wait — get them on the MLB mound and use them up now, while they’re still healthy. Best yet, do as Billy Beane has done and wring them dry early, and sell high on them when they’re only 25/26. I hate that process, but as long as the world is flat, it makes sense to sell off the ships before they fall off the edge.

      • argonbunnies March 20, 2014 at 12:31 am
        I’d heard of James Andrews’ biomechanics lab by 2001 at the latest. All 30 MLB teams have been aware of the quantitative science for 15 years at least. I can’t imagine Andrews has never worked with qualitative specialists like Dr. Borelli. Am I wrong?

        The resources are out there in plain sight. I can’t figure out why no one’s using them — it isn’t simple ignorance. Perhaps it’s fear of anyone or anything outside the old boys’ network. Expecting a 66-year-old GM who’d worked for MLB to bring modern thinking to the Mets was such a false hope.

        It’s an interesting culture clash — Mike Marshall has some unique expertise, but also claims that MLB has this vast conspiracy to keep his theories and students out of baseball. Could be true! But then, Marshall doesn’t help his credibility by calling walk machine Jeff Sparks “the most accomplished pitcher in the world”. Marshall’s techniques may be ideal for arm health and pitch movement, but his claims that they’re also ideal for velocity and control are pretty clearly bogus.

        My point is that if MLB’s going to trust an outsider, it’s probably not going to be one who claims they can work miracles.

        • Joe Janish March 20, 2014 at 11:47 am
          Regarding Dr. Andrews, yes, the lab and ASMI have been around for over 20 years. All of the data that is collected there, and the evaluations done, are about numbers and angles.

          From the ASMI website:
          “To accurately measure and calculate these parameters of human motion, a biomechanics computer program was developed at ASMI. Reflective markers are first placed on some of the pitcher’s anatomical landmarks.

          The pitcher’s motion is then collected by a 3D, high-speed, infrared, eight-camera Motion Analysis System (Eagle digital system, Motion Analysis Corporation, Santa Rosa, CA) that picks up the reflective markers on a computer.

          The pitching computer program is then used to calculate the kinematics (body angles, joint velocities, and timing mechanisms) and kinetics (joint forces and torques). Data from an individual’s evaluation are compared to cumulative data from a set of elite pitchers previously tested by ASMI. The data is also studied by researchers at ASMI to determine the anatomic comfort of the shoulder and the elbow joints as that individual pitcher throws the baseball. The results of the biomechanical pitching evaluation are based upon the motion analysis data as well as ASMI’s knowledge of biomechanics, baseball, orthopaedics, physical therapy, and strength & conditioning. You will receive a 15-page evaluation packet that includes a written evaluation with our comments concerning the efficiency of your pitching delivery and still photos taken of you during your test.”

          What’s missing in the above? It’s only half the story — the evaluation is just that, an evaluation. So a pitcher goes through the test, and a scientist tells him how efficient (or inefficient) his motion is. Maybe there’s something about how his elbow needs to flex a certain number of degrees at a certain millisecond in his motion — but how helpful is that? The pitcher may be aware that there is a problem, but has to find another scientist to FIX IT.

          It’s like taking your car to the dealership, sending it through a 50-point inspection, but then, there is no mechanic on-site to fix anything wrong.

          I don’t know if Dr. Andrews has worked with qualitative scientists or not. When it comes to qualitative science, there aren’t as many hard numbers involved — much of it is art. Many people in this world respond only to numbers / data as “proof” of anything, so maybe that’s part of the problem.

          I’m glad you’re stirring this pot, as it is a subject I’d like to discuss with Angel on one of our upcoming podcasts.

          As for Mike Marshall, studies were done at ASMI (and elsewhere) that were mostly inconclusive, and most of the scientists (quantitative and qualitative) familiar with his work have little faith that he’s on the right path (many think he’s a crackpot). Marshall’s theories haven’t been accepted by enough other scientists to warrant further investigation — and he’s been doing this for decades. Who knows, maybe some point down the line, that will change.

          I agree 100% with your thoughts on the “old boys network” — that is absolutely, positively, at the root of the problem. The only reason sabermetrics were accepted in MLB was because the A’s were in a desperate situation, and were lucky enough to succeed in their efforts. It’s likely going to take a similar desperation for an MLB club to bring in someone from the outside to help keep pitchers healthy.

        • argonbunnies March 20, 2014 at 6:36 pm
          Fantastic reply, Joe. Thanks!

          I assume we’ll continue to cover this topic, but for now, one more thought on Doc Marshall. I suspect there’s some crackpottery there, but also some truth. Sparks may have had no idea where the ball was going, but he did have sick movement with several different pitches and claimed he never had a sore arm ever. Not that the Devil Rays ever actually used him for all those consecutive days he claimed he could pitch…

          Anyway, even if it isn’t wise for many or even most pitchers to try Marshall’s motion, it does strike me as a viable alternative to, say, submarining. If you’re looking for a niche to give batters a different look, or if you simply can’t top 85mph, it might be easier than learning a knuckleball. To have Marshall’s approach entirely excluded from MLB does strike me as a shame. But I feel that way about Jenny Finch too…

        • Joe Janish March 20, 2014 at 11:15 pm
          Interesting thought. I’ve always been keen to the idea of having a submariner, for the simple reasons that they seem able to pitch more often and they provide a “different look” (channeling my inner Willie Randolph there).

          Hey, why not? But how many Marshall disciples are capable of retiring MLB hitters? I have no idea.

          For what it’s worth, Angel Borrelli’s students also claim never to have sore arms while under her guidance — and they throw conventionally. Just sayin’ …

  6. argonbunnies March 19, 2014 at 11:06 pm
    Separately, the word on Nick Franklin is that he’s a solid 2B with pop and patience, but he’s K-prone, got worse as last year went on, and is stretched defensively at SS. As for Didi Gregorius, apparently he’s never hit much, and the D’backs are trying to sell high after a hot start made his 2013 numbers look respectable. On the plus side, he’s an excellent defender.

    Who would you trade for these guys? Montero? I say no. Plawecki? I also say no. But am I simply falling in love with the home-grown guys I already know?

    • Joe Janish March 19, 2014 at 11:52 pm
      If the Mets had a shortstop anywhere in their organization, I’d agree with you. But considering they don’t, and that both Montero and Plawecki are unknown entities, and the team has perceived depth both on the mound and behind the plate, I’d trade both to get Gregorious. Franklin? No way — may as well put Wilmer Flores at SS, hope for offense, and live with the horrendous defense. It’s worked well enough with Daniel Murphy, right?
      • argonbunnies March 20, 2014 at 12:14 am
        I think Plawecki is the catching depth. Trade him, and we have just d’Arnaud. Are you 100% sold on Travis? I’m not.

        I agree about the lack of Mets shortstops, but Didi is no better than Tejada with the bat. He’d better be unbelievable on defense to merit 2 of our top 5 prospects. Is he? I don’t know.

        Any thoughts on Seratelli? Looks to have more speed and pop than Tejada and Quintanilla….

        ESPN writer Matt Meyers recently asserted something that I’ve often guessed — underdogs only over-achieve with high-risk, high-reward strategies. So maybe Wilmer at SS isn’t such a bad idea for this team.

        • Dan42 March 20, 2014 at 5:19 am
          I wouldn’t take Didi, he can’t handle LHP and is somewhat error prone, with a strong but inaccurate arm. Owings would be a better bet, but why not Flores, instead of giving up Montero and/or Plawecki, if not Drew?
        • argonbunnies March 20, 2014 at 6:22 pm
          Yeah. His rep is good, and I don’t trust Defensive Runs Saved much in small samples, but still, last year he rated 3 runs saved, and Simmons has never had a similar period where he didn’t net ~20 DRS. So I agree, Didi’s glove may be an improvement but is not worth giving up a big haul.
  7. david March 20, 2014 at 1:58 am
    Glad to see someone agrees with me about Flores. It is pathetic for the Mets each year to prefer retreads dumped by other teams instead of giving their prospects ML experience and a chance to develop in pro ball. We read endless stories about these arms, and then I read Dice-K will be the 5th start over Meija and John Lannan gets a bullpen spot over Jeff Walters, or Caorey Mazzoni or perhaps even over Meija. If you doubt what I say just read the kerfuffle about Harvey and the media. All because he wants to rehab with his teammates – come on man, he is the prototype and every one in that clubhouse favours him over management. For years I blamed the Wilpons because ultimately when a business is run so very, very badly ownership has to accept the blame but I am jack of Sandy and his excuses. Don’t talk to me about Super 2, talk to me about winning baseball games. Not excited to watch another year of scrub ball.
  8. david March 23, 2014 at 1:03 am
    Just wanted to clarify my final comments on March 20. I did not mean to brand the team a bunch of scrubs. Far from it there is a lit of talent and some of it is exceptional. I was referring to the prospect of seeing Dice-K trotted out there as a holding move while better players wait in the wings, for budgetary reasons. Ditto Q who is very likable but not really deserving of playing starting SS on the NY Mets. I realistically expect 80 wins but wish they played to win more, instead of playing not to lose (games or money).