Browsing Archive November, 2011

Nick Evans Signs with Pirates

Nick Evans has signed a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, presumably with an invitation to spring training.

Good move for Nick, who — ironically — may have an opportunity to platoon with lefthanded-hitting Garret Jones at first base.

I say “ironically” because it was less than two weeks ago that I compared Evans to Jones. Whether Evans gets a fair shot at regular MLB duty is dependent upon what direction the Pirates go to fill first base; there is buzz that they may bring back veteran Derrek Lee for another year. The 36-year-old Lee posted a .982 OPS in 28 games after being acquired from Baltimore at the trade deadline last year.

If the Bucs choose not to fill first base with Lee or another veteran free agent, Evans would probably battle with Matt Hague — who is, essentially, the Pittsburgh version of Nick Evans. Hague is a 26-year-old, righthanded-hitting first baseman / third baseman who has hit well in the minors, flashed some power, but just hasn’t had an extended opportunity to prove himself in the bigs. Sound familiar?

As you know I’ve been a big supporter of Nick Evans, and I’ll continue to quietly root for him. Good luck, Nick.


Red Sox Hire Bobby Valentine

In case you haven’t heard, former Mets utilityman Bobby Valentine has been chosen by the Boston Red Sox to be their manager in 2012.

Valentine also managed the Mets at one point — if memory serves correctly, he was in the dugout the last time the Mets went to the World Series.

Personally, I’m thrilled to see Bobby V. back in MLB as a skipper, and believe he’s a good fit for Boston right now. His love for the spotlight will take pressure off the Red Sox players, and his hands-on, disciplinarian approach is the right contrast to follow the laid-back Terry Francona. The question is how long before Bobby rubs the Boston media the wrong way — a few months? a year? He’ll surely butt heads with a few of the current Bosox players; I’m betting on John Lackey to be the first to lock horns with Bobby V. But jeez louise, if Valentine could lead a team like the 2000 Mets to 94 wins and a World Series, what will he do with REAL talent? If nothing else, it will be interesting to watch.

What say you? Will you be following Bobby Valentine’s exploits in Boston? Rooting for, or against? Do you wish he was back in Flushing? Why or why not?


Blog Roundup: The Lull

Ever since Jose Reyes “signed with the Marlins” on November 13th, not much has been happening in Metsville.  Or MLBville for that matter (MLBville is a nice place, but stay away from Jose Canseco Boulevard).  No big free-agent signings (Including that of a certain shortstop), no big trades, and hardly any rumors that aren’t worth ignoring.  This, however, may just be the calm before the Winter Meetings storm.

Let’s see if the Blogs can bring some thunder:

  • Mets Fever says the team will not pursue the well-fed Jonathan Broxton
  • Metsmerized thinks the Mets should add plucky Jed Lowrie for infield depth.
  • Real Dirty looks at options the Mets have to round out their outfield.
  • Mets360 takes an all-around look (Get it?  No?  OK.) at the Mets offseason thus far.
  • Sweetspot (shameless plug) offers some solutions for NL East teams, including the Mets.
  • Amazin’ Avenue looks at the life and times of Butch Huskey.  Well, his Mets career, anyway.

Try to stay awake out there – when something happens, we’ll have it on Mets Today.


Would You Trade Fernando Martinez for Chris Tillman?

According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, the Orioles “would be willing to” trade right-hander Chris Tillman.

If you recall, Tillman, who will be just 24 next year, was, not too long ago, one of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the game. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by Seattle, the Mariners traded Tillman in a five-player package highlighted by outfielder Adam Jones to the Orioles for Erik Bedard before the 2008 season.  Tillman’s prospect profile took off from there; he dominated AA in 2008, ranking as the 22nd best prospect in the game by Baseball America heading into 2009. Tillman continued his success in AAA the following year, making his major league debut at 21 years-old in July of 2009.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Tillman’s arrival has thus far marked the high point of his career. He has bounced between AAA and the Majors the past two seasons, struggling mightily in the big leagues; he is 7-15 with a 5.58 ERA in 180.2 career innings. His fastball velocity has steadily declined over the last three seasons, from an average of 92 mph in 2009 to 89.5 last season (although that might be partly be due to throwing a two-seamer more often), and his overall development has clearly stalled.

One thing I find interesting is that Tillman’s performance did show some marked improvement at the big league level in 2011. In 62 innings, he posted a 5.52 ERA but his BABIP  (.348) was high and his LOB% (65.7%) was well below the league average. His K/9 rate was 6.68, and his BB/9 3.63, both of which aren’t too far from average and was an improvement over his 2010 campaign. Tillman’s Achilles heel is his extreme fly-ball tendencies, inducing grounders just 37.3% of the time in 2011. Nevertheless, Tillman’s 4.83 xFIP is far more representative of his 2011 season. While not exactly ace-like, it’s hardly terrible, especially considering he pitched in the AL East.

What’s perplexing is that Tillman actually performed worse in AAA during 2011, posting a 6.25 FIP with a 6.37 K/9 and 4.48 BB/9 in 76.1 innings. Perhaps he was just experimenting at the AAA level, and his big league performance is a better reflection of what he is capable of right now.

On the plus side, Tillman doesn’t have any history of arm injuries. Even if he does regain his old form, Tillman’s fly-ball propensities will probably preclude him from ever really dominating at the big league level. But, many pitchers — such as Ted Lilly — have performed quite well in spite of similar fly-ball tendencies. Worst case, Tillman can very easily be a decent bullpen arm.

And who knows, the good ol’ change of scenery might do wonders for the youngster. While it’s hard to say the Orioles have shown a systemic failure in developing young pitchers, a long line of disappointing pitching prospects — Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Tillman, Matt Hobgood, Daniel Cabrera, Hayden Penn, Rhadames Liz, newly signed Met Adam Loewen, Matt Riley, etc. — at the very least, suggests Tillman might benefit from working with a different coaching staff.

So would it be worth trading F-Mart for Tillman? Tillman probably has a better chance of making at least some impact for the Mets, as either a back-end starter or a middle reliever, given his lack of injury history. At this point, whom would you rather gamble on?



2011 Analysis: Ronny Paulino

For a while, it was questionable whether Ronny Paulino would ever get going in a Mets uniform, and what kind of contribution he’d make. Visa issues kept him out of Port St. Lucie until Mid-March, and when he finally arrived, manager Terry Collins announced he’d be Josh Thole‘s backup. Not long after he arrived in spring training, Paulino was diagnosed with anemia, further setting him back — and then there was the remainder of his PEDs suspension to serve.

Despite these multiple issues that prevented Paulino from properly preparing for the 2011 season, things turned out OK.


2011 Evaluation: Mike Nickeas

It took Mike Nickeas a long time to reach MLB, but when he finally did, he proved capable if unspectacular.

The Canadian-born catcher spent seven years in the minors before grabbing a cup of coffee with the Mets in September 2010. Thanks to visa problems, injuries, and the end of a drug suspension for Ronny Paulino, Nickeas was able to parlay that coffee klatch into a spot on the Opening Day 25-man roster in 2011.

But it wasn’t all because of Paulino’s problems that Nickeas made the big club; the career minor leaguer proved to be a reliable and solid “catch and throw guy” who seemed to have a strong rapport with the Mets pitching staff.

Nickeas was sent to AAA after Paulino finally joined the Mets, and didn’t return until August. While serving as a backup in both Buffalo and Flushing, Nickeas showed very little offensively, but definitely established himself as a fine handler of pitchers and displayed above-average defensive skills. From the perspective of a professional catching instructor, I don’t love his technique, but he gets the job done better than most and he appears to be the catcher that every Mets pitcher wants to throw to — a factor difficult to quantify, but trust me, is a huge asset. Nickeas was no Charlie O’Brien back there, but he was a huge upgrade over Josh Thole and a few ticks better than Paulino. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough defense to overcome his meager offense; his dramatic homer in game 19 was the highlight and peak of his season.

2012 Projection

As much as I like Mike Nickeas, I was completely stunned that the Mets included him on the offseason 40-man roster; did they really think that another team would jump at the chance to pick a 29-year-old, .180-hitting, third-string catcher in the Rule 5 Draft? Seems to me to be a waste of a roster spot, since there are at least two dozen catchers exactly like him throughout AAA. That’s not to say I’m upset; in fact, I’m pleased to know that Nickeas is likely to be in Port St. Lucie come February, and presumably part of the organization’s catching depth in 2012. My guess is he’ll be exactly what he was in ’11: a defensive-minded, backup backstop who can be shuffled between AAA and the bigs as necessary. And within the next 3-5 years, we may see Nickeas move into a minor-league managing post — perhaps in preparation toward a more successful MLB career.


2011 Evaluation: Chris Young

For those who can remember that far back, Chris Young was the key “low-risk, high-reward” signing the thrifty Mets made last winter. Oodles of beat writers, bloggers, and fans couldn’t praise the move enough. After all, when healthy, Chris Young was an outstanding pitcher — a legitimate #2 starter on a championship club. Young would top a rotation that included the surprising R.A. Dickey, the improving Mike Pelfrey, and the poised-for-breakout-season Jonathon Niese. Further, that formidable foursome would be led by superstar Johan Santana, who was sure to be joining the team by June — or the All-Star Break, at the latest.

Remember that pipe dream?