Tag: reese havens

Greetings from Coca-Cola Park!

Happy Baseball Season everyone. I was able to attend last night’s Buffalo Bison-Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs game at beautiful Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, PA. I bought these seats in January, hoping to get a glimpse of either Matt Harvey or Jeurys Familia. Instead, we got Dylan Owen, making an emergency start for Jeremy Hefner, who was called up that afternoon. As a “bonus” the Pigs pitcher was old friend Pat Misch. The real treat was seeing just-promoted Josh Edgin. A good outing for Edgin: 1.1 IP, 2Ks, 1 H and 0 runs. The Bisons won, I think. The frigid temps and light flurries during the 7th-inning stretch forced us to leave before the final out.

After too long of a wait (glad to be working again!) it was good to see professional baseball again. Minor league baseball is a hoot. For about $75, I got four tickets behind the Bison’s dugout, a parking pass and some warm food. The baseball is good and the Iron Pigs do a decent job of keeping the patrons entertained in between the action. There are stats aplenty for us prospect-watchers and an accurate radar gun.

But enough about me…

Matt Harvey’s start in Buffalo matches how he finished the season in Binghamton. For the record, his numbers this year in AAA read like this: 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA, 1.84 WHIP and .308 BAA. Not exactly Top of the Rotation numbers. Yes it has only been four starts, but at this juncture, Harvey appears to need plenty more seasoning before he can be rightly considered as part of the solution.

No Reese Havens last night, either on the field or on the roster. Comparisons to Fernando Martinez abound, but Havens’ injury history reminds me more of the Jay Payton saga. Like Havens, Payton was taken as a compensation pick for losing a lefty free agent pitcher (Payton: Sid Fernandez, Havens: Tom Glavine). Drafted in 1994 and highly-touted, Payton had four surgeries, three on his elbows and one on his left shoulder. After spending the better part of his first several professional baseball years on the DL rehabbing, he finally made his debut late in 1998 season, only commit to a major base running gaffe in a key loss to Atlanta. The good news is that he later rebounded to help the Mets to a World Series berth as the starting CF in 2000. Hopefully Reese’s story has a similar outcome.

The time off has got to be killing Havens. Daniel Murphy is looking less and less like the long-term answer at second base and Jordany Valdespin is apparently being groomed as a utility player. If healthy, Havens would probably be on the fast track to Citi Field. Instead, he is off on another rehab taking swings in a Port St. Lucie back lot somewhere.

Like most fans, I was pleasantly surprised by the Mets decent start. And I really enjoy rooting for a bunch of guys who came up thru the system. But let’s be real: none of these baby Mets are likely to ever become perennial All-Stars. My sense is that the ceiling for most of them is a complimentary role on a good team. That isn’t to knock them at all and hopefully, that future good team for most of them is the Mets. I just don’t see any of them developing into the centerpiece of a World Series winner. Pick any one: Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Murphy, Josh Thole, Dillon Gee, Bobby Parnell, Lucas Duda, Ruben Tejada, Ike Davis and even the recently-extended Jon Niese. There is no consistently outstanding facet of their game and each is missing something. As the team did in the mid-80’s with Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter and then again a dozen years later with Mike Hampton and Mike Piazza, they will probably have to go outside of the system to get those missing ingredients that push them to the top.

And finally, I resist the notion proffered in some places that having half a roster comprised of homegrown players is proof that Omar Minaya wasn’t such a bad GM. Please. First off, the austerity movement imposed on/implemented by Sandy Alderson left the Mets with little choice than to give several of these players roster spots. Then there is WAR (Wins Above Replacement), a stat that works pretty well in measuring value. The WAR for each of the aforementioned players is in the 1.5 to 2.5 range. Consider that the top five or so elite players for each position typically post a WAR of 3.5 or above. A bit more subjective perhaps (and that’s one of the beauties of baseball), but pull up any of the top Mets prospects lists that came out last winter. Two of the names at the top of every list are Zack Wheeler and Brandon Nimmo, both of whom arrived after Omar left.

What do you think? Concerned about Harvey? Have a Reese Havens sighting to report? Think Omar was a good GM? Sound off in the comments section!


Down on the Farm: Binghamton

So my first day on the farm didn’t go as expected. Torrential rains delayed my pursuit of finding that gem in the weeds. So on Monday (for now), I am scheduled to have my first day as a farmhand.

So let’s dig up the interesting character named Matt den Dekker. A 5th round selection out of Florida in 2010, Den Dekker


Free Agent Focus: Second Base

Is there a Mets fan alive who wants to see Luis Castillo at second base on Opening Day 2011?

Unfortunately, it will take a minor miracle by Sandy Alderson to move him this winter — without swallowing some or all of the $6M left on his contract.

But let’s pretend Castillo is out of the picture, and the Mets are looking at the free-agent market to take his place. In such a case what are the Mets’ options?


The Problem with Prospect Rankings

I have been following Amazin Avenue’s Community Prospect List. It appears that Kirk Nieuwenhuis has emerged as the consensus number-two prospect in the system behind Wilmer Flores. I am not saying I disagree with the ranking, but I will say, if accurate, it is more a testament to the weakness of the Mets farm system, than it is a fair reflection of Nieuwenhuis’s talent, which really would not be number-two worthy in most organizations.

I really brought this up, though, because I find it interesting how Sean Ratliff, who profiles very similarly to Nieuwenhuis, has yet to appear on the list (AA is voting on number eight, and Ratliff is sixth in the voting for that spot last time I checked), and people still shy away from calling him a top-ten prospect. In fairness, Nieuwenhuis has a lengthier track record of success, while Ratliff, aside from his two-and-a-half months in Binghamton, was a non-prospect.

If you compare their production with AA Binghamton, however, there is no comparison. Ratliff has vastly outperformed Nieuwenhuis:

Ratliff: 272 PA .332/.379/.614/.993 OPS. .426 wOBA .275 ISOP 7% BB% 23.5% K%

Nieuwenhuis: 430 PA .289/.337/.510/.371 wOBA .220 ISOP 6.7% BB% 21.6% K%

Yes, Nieuwehuis has a larger sample size, and for what it’s worth he is six months younger than Ratliff, but I do not think either of those facts compensate for an over 50 point disparity in wOBA, or an almost 150 point difference in OPS. Nieuwenhuis has also struggled mightily since being promoted to Buffalo (.195/.264/.329 in 91 PA).

Also, while his strikeout rate has remained on the high-end during his time in Binghamton, check out Ratliff’s walk rate over that span:

June (67 PA): 3%

July (123 PA): 4.1%

August (82 PA): 14.6%

The dude basically went from Jeff Francoeur to Adam Dunn in a month. I am guessing that has a lot to do with the fact pitchers are finally pitching around the new and improved Ratliff, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Both players are regarded as athletic outfielders, that may or may not have the range to stick in center field.

It is difficult to rank the Mets farm system. I think Reese Havens and Zach Lutz are far superior to Ratliff and Nieuwenhuis when they’re on the field, but neither of them has proven they can stay healthy. Duda is the best pure hitter of the bunch and has stayed healthy, but he is also probably a below average corner outfielder. You could make a real radical statement and say Darrell Ceciliani or Aderlin Rodriguez is the best of the bunch, but they carry with them a lot of downside. Then you have to factor in pitchers like Jeurys Familia and Matt Harvey, and suddenly you have nine guys with no obvious advantage over each other.

And that is the problem with rankings. They add the illusion of distinction when, sometimes, as in this case, none is warranted. At the same time, that is what makes it fun, challenging, and let’s face, gives it real world pertinence. Out of the nine, one might blossom into a superstar, one or two of them might pull a Brad Holt next year, and you wonder why they were ever considered prospects in the first place, and the rest will end up in between. As a general manager, most of them are your trade chips, and you have to remember prospects get you fired, lest you end up looking like Steve Phillips.


Reese Havens: Swing Evaluation

reese-havens-closeThe 22nd pick of the 2008 draft — shortstop Reese Havens — has quickly emerged as one of the Mets’ top prospects.

He is a strong all-around player, both in terms of talent and sound fundamentals, and has the “makeup” that scouts adore. Recently, the Mets decided to move him from his natural shortstop position to second base — presumably to accelerate his path to the big leagues.

A solidly built middle infielder, his promotion to MLB will be tied directly to his bat. He has had trouble keeping his average above .250 and making contact, but he’s shown some pop. I’m very high on him because he’s a grinder and plays the game the right way, but he definitely needs to continue developing as a hitter to make the ultimate jump.

That said, I took a close look at his swing, using video from his stint in the Cape Cod League and more recent footage shot by Toby Hyde in the Arizona Fall League (thanks Toby!). With help from someone who teaches hitting for a living, we came to the conclusion that he has room for improvement — which is a good thing.

You can see the videos and read the evaluation of Reese Havens’s swing at OnBaseball.com. For the most part it’s a good swing, but he has one major flaw that, if corrected, can unleash his true potential as a power hitter (i.e., become the next Jeff Kent).

If you are a player or coach, you may learn something useful from the videos and article that you can apply to your next practice session.


Mets Spring Training Game 3

I’m not counting the game against the Italians, so game three is the one the Mets played against the Cardinals.

The final score was Cardinals 9, Mets 8, but we’re not concerned with the score prior to April. Once again, we’ll focus on specific players and other errata.

Livan Hernandez

I must admit I’m personally pulling hard for “Not-Duque” to make this club, so my analysis may be rose-colored. I liked the way his fastball was sinking and was inducing ground balls. His slow curve was a little scary, though, hanging up there like a balloon. Can he get a way with it? We’ll see. He had some command issues when he got lazy with his follow-through, but otherwise was hitting his spots — something he must do to be successful.

Freddy Garcia

Can I pull for two starters to take one rotation spot? Unfortunately for Freddy, he didn’t look so hot. His fastball was flat, at a very hittable velocity, and was all over the place. His curve — important to his success — had little bite and also was hard for him to spot. To me he looks like he’s not yet as strong as he needs to be — and a 100% healthy and strong shoulder is vitally important since he doesn’t use his legs or momentum at all to power the ball. Still, I like the Mets rolling the dice on him, provided he will accept a AAA demotion to build himself back up.

Carlos Delgado

Carlos is looking great at the plate, waiting long on pitches, and keeping the hands back the way he did when he was in Toronto. He does this nearly every spring, though … will he keep this approach once April arrives? I said it last year, and I’ll say it again: Delgado is key to the Mets’ success.

David Wright

The only reason David made an error was because Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez made a point to talk about his defense and Gold Gloves. Jinxed!

Reese Havens

He didn’t play, but we were able to see him do an interview with Kevin Burkhardt. I’m very high on this kid, and think he can climb the ladder quickly if he can stay healthy. He’s an all-around ballplayer, and appears as though he’s already comfortable in front of the camera — a key to succeeding in NYC. The “step program”, though, didn’t sound particularly intriguing. Not that it needs to be.

Casey Fossum

The little lefty was effective, pitching a 1-2-3 inning in his first frame and allowing no runs and one hit over two innings. However his stuff looked ordinary and his fastball didn’t have much movement. His curveballs — he throws them at several speeds and angles — were always his forte, and I only saw him throw a handful, which were mostly the flat, low-80s, sideways, sweeping breaker (though, he did mix in one super-slow roundhouse that conjured memories of Ross Baumgartner). Hard to make an analysis on him just yet. I do like the way he uses momentum to power the baseball — very old school.

Connor Robertson

Robertson, like Fossum, was effective in the boxscore but didn’t throw enough to help make much of an evaluation. He reminded me of Jon Adkins — a below-average, straight fastball, average breaking ball. But his 1-2-3 inning consisted of about five pitches, so it’s impossible to make a judgment.

Adam Bostick

You can see why scouts have salivated over Bostick for years despite his persistently underwhelming performances. He’s big, tall, lefty, and comes from a low 3/4 angle with decent velocity, reminiscent of John Candelaria or even Ollie Perez. But his command is below average and his fastball looks like it stays on one plane (no downward movement). He’ll need to do two things to make the big leagues: concentrate on placing the fastball in one specific spot consistently and mixing it up with an average slider. Even then, his ceiling is as a LOOGY.

Albert Pujols

Keith Hernandez mentioned that “El Hombre” looked like he might have dropped a few pounds, and looked a little thinner in the face. I thought the same thing. Maybe he’s no longer taking those “B12” shots. Hmm.

Jason Motte

The Cardinals righty reminds me of a combination of Eric Gagne, Derrick Turnbow, and Keith Foulke. He throws pretty hard, and looks scary. But he only throws one pitch, so nothing to be concerned about. If he ever develops a split-fingered fastball, the Cards may have something.

Mike Shannon

Nice to hear that the Cardinals broadcaster has a fine restaurant with a great wine list. He certainly is among the worst baseball broadcasters in history — Tim McCarver and Joe Buck included (funny, all the awful announcers come from St. Louis).

Royce Ring’s Beard

Hmm … hard to figure how much his beard truly affects his performance. He’s had it now for at least two years, and he’s still not come close to the early comparisons to Randy Myers.

The Mets travel to Lakeland, Florida, to play the Tigers on Saturday at 1:10 pm. However it does not appear that the game will be televised, so instead, get your fill by posting your comments below.