May 2011

The stalled advance of Matt Harvey

The Mets fully expect their brightest pitching prospect, 22-year-old Matt Harvey, to progress to Double-A Binghamton at some point this season. The question, for Harvey, is when.

His first professional season now two months old, Harvey has been at times brilliant and at others pedestrian. A promotion seemed imminent after Harvey went his first four starts without allowing an earned run. But the right-hander has since posted a 4.82 ERA over his last six outings at Class A St. Lucie, striking out 30 and walking 10 over 28 innings. The peripherals are nice but the results uneven, leading one Mets insider to note that “you wouldn’t want to move someone when they’re going through an adjustment period.”

A promotion will still come for Harvey at some point this summer — just don’t expect it anytime too soon.

“It’s something we’ve thought about,” general manager Sandy Alderson said. “He’s pitching well, but it’s his first year in pro ball. There’s no reason to rush a move.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Fred Wilpon and baseball ops

I tend to look at things through the prism of baseball. I enjoy the game, the people and the stories; the extraneous stuff that sometimes pops up does not interest me.

So when I read Fred Wilpon’s critical comments in today’s New Yorker magazine (see previous post), my mind turned immediately of their effect on the team’s baseball operations. The three stars Wilpon criticized — Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and David Wright — are all trade candidates for the Mets this summer. Reyes and Beltran in particular are likely to be gone before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

So why would the owner of the team come out and disparage those three players, calling Wright “not a superstar,” referring to Beltran “sixty-five to seventy percent of what he was” and saying that Reyes “had everything wrong with him”?

Now, shred general managers can flaunt those comments in front of the Mets when they look to extract value from their stars this summer. That premium package for Reyes may lose some of its luster in light of the team’s self-deprecation. The Mets may have just given other clubs reason to lower their offers for Beltran, as well. And what about Wright, who remains under contract for two more seasons? Will he be as willing to stick around long-term?

Judge Wilpon as a person if you must. More damaging to the Mets may be the effects of his comments on the team.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Fred riffs on Wright, Beltran, Reyes

A feature released today in the New Yorker follows Fred Wilpon, focusing on the Mets owner’s recent struggles surrounding the Bernard Madoff lawsuit. But he also drops several critical lines to writer Jeffrey Toobin about three of the most popular Mets. Judge for yourself:

***

In the game against the Astros, Jose Reyes, leading off for the Mets, singled sharply up the middle, then stole second. “He’s a racehorse,” Wilpon said. When Reyes started with the Mets, in 2003, just before his twentieth birthday, he was pegged as a future star. Injuries have limited him to a more pedestrian career, though he’s off to a good start this season. “He thinks he’s going to get Carl Crawford money,” Wilpon said, referring to the Red Sox’ signing of the former Tampa Bay player to a seven-year, $142-million contract. “He’s had everything wrong with him,” Wilpon said of Reyes. “He won’t get it.”

After the catcher, Josh Thole, struck out, David Wright came to the plate. Wright, the team’s marquee attraction, has started the season dreadfully at the plate. “He’s pressing,” Wilpon said. “A really good kid. A very good player. Not a superstar.”

Wright walked.

When Carlos Beltran came up, I mentioned his prodigious post-season with the Astros in 2004, when he hit eight home runs, just before he went to the Mets as a free agent. Wilpon laughed, not happily. “We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one series,” he said, referring to himself. In the course of playing out his seven-year, $119-million contract with the Mets, Beltran, too, has been hobbled by injuries. “He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Beltran singled, loading the bases with one out.

Ike Davis, the sophomore first baseman and the one pleasant surprise for the Mets so far this season, was up next. “Good hitter,” Wilpon said. “[Bad] team—good hitter.” Davis struck out. Angel Pagan flied out to right, ending the Mets’ threat. “Lousy clubs—that’s what happens.” Wilpon sighed. The Astros put three runs on the board in the top of the second.

“We’re snakebitten, baby,” Wilpon said.

***

*****Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Turns out you can hit it out of Citi Field

In case you missed it, check out Marlins outfielder Mike Stanton’s mammoth blast to straightaway center field last night. The website HitTrackerOnline.com, which uses a combination of atmospheric data, observed data and initial trajectory to measure the true distance of home runs, pegged it at 465 feet, the longest homer ever hit at Citi Field. (Mark Reynolds, then of the D-backs, had the previous longest shot at 462 feet.)

The Top 10 (or 11, rather), according to HitTrackerOnline:

1. Mike Stanton, FLA, 465 feet (5/16/11)
2. Mark Reynolds, ARI, 462 feet (8/1/09)
3. Ike Davis, NYM, 458 feet (7/11/10)
4. Ike Davis, NYM, 456 feet (4/21/11)
5. Ike Davis, NYM, 450 feet (4/23/10)
6. Adam Dunn, WAS, 447 feet (5/27/09)
6. David Wright, NYM, 447 feet (7/30/10)
8. Carlos Delgado, NYM, 445 feet (4/16/09)
8. Troy Tulowitzki, COL, 445 feet (7/37/09)
10. Carlos Pena, TB, 444 feet (6/29/09)
10. Ike Davis, NYM, 444 feet (6/8/10)

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Mets all tapped out in Buffalo?

The Mets recently released their probable pitchers for the next week, confirming that Dillon Gee (below) has joined the rotation until further notice. The following day, the team announced that Chris Young has opted for surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder, almost certainly ending his season.

Teams don’t ever go 162 games using only five starters, most poaching proven pitchers from their farm systems several times throughout the course of a season. But the Mets currently have no such luxury, having seen a plague descend upon Triple-A Buffalo. Boof Bonser has already undergone Tommy John surgery. Top prospect Jenrry Mejia is scheduled for the same procedure. Gee’s promotion to the big leagues has further undermined what was supposed to be one of the International League’s top rotations in Buffalo. (And even Gee has a history of shoulder trouble — despite optimism, there’s no telling how long he may last in the bigs.)

This, for the Mets, is a problem. It would be almost impossible for them to play out the remaining 80 percent of the season with just five starting pitchers, but they have little else available on the farm. Buffalo’s rotation currently consists of D.J. Carrasco, who was exiled from the Mets last month; Casey Fossum, a former big leaguer who represents little more than organizational depth; Brian Sweeney, another journeyman starter; Josh Stinson, a former 37th-round Draft pick without much serious potential;  and Chris Schwinden, so far the best of the bunch. In six starts with Buffalo, Schwinden is 2-1 with a 2.20 ERA, striking out nearly a batter per inning and showcasing solid control.

If the Mets need a starter in the immediate future, Schwinden may be the pick, unless the Mets opt to go with Carrasco, who is already on the 40-man roster.

Either way, the situation is not ideal, and considering the team’s tight budget, searching for help outside the organization may not be a viable option. It is critical, then, for the five starting pitchers in New York to remain healthy — both now and for the immediate future.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Frenchy pops off on Citi Field

Citi Field can be death on right-handed hitters, as Jeff Francoeur knows better than anyone. In New York this week to play the Yankees as a member of the Royals, Francoeur criticized the field to the New York Post. Among his thoughts:

“Poor David [Wright] hits the ball to right-center so well and there it’s an out,” Francoeur told the Post. “To me, you start trying to pull the ball and getting into habits. And I know it’s frustrating for David playing in that park.

“They’ve gotta shorten the park up. It’s huge. I’m not saying make it a bandbox like Philadelphia, but they have to do something.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Which Mets starter do you trust the most?

To date, no one pitcher has stood out in the Mets’ rotation. Chris Young has certainly performed the best, but his shoulder began barking in early April, forcing him to miss two weeks. Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey and Chris Capuano have all been steady but unspectacular. Mike Pelfrey endured a miserable start to the season, but now has two impressive starts in his last three outings.

All of which begs the question: in a big game, which Mets pitcher would you most want on the mound?

(No, Matt Harvey doesn’t count. Not yet, at least.)

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Pelfrey recalls a near no-hitter

No, not in the Majors. But after his modest achievement of taking a no-hitter into the fourth inning against the Giants Thursday, Mike Pelfrey readily admitted what many pitchers never do: from the first inning on, he’s well aware if he has not allowed a hit.

Pelfrey was especially cognizant as a junior at Wichita State in 2005, taking a no-hitter into the ninth against Illinois State. He retired the first batter, then the second.

“Everybody was standing up, cheering, and I started thinking about it,” Pelfrey said. “I know that’s the biggest cardinal sin. So I stepped off, and I said, ‘God, if you want me to get this, let’s get it. But if not, no big deal.’

“The next pitch, the guy got a hit, so He didn’t want me to have it.”

Even before that experience, Pelfrey said, he understood the difficulty of throwing a no-hitter. So he certainly appreciates how hard it will be for him or one of his teammates to throw the first no-hitter in Mets history, now 7,837 games and counting.

“In order for that to happen, there’s so much luck that has to take place,” Pelfrey said. “The biggest thing is you’re trying to execute pitches. That’s the name of the game.”

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Where will you go, Jose Reyes?

Welcome to speculation season. Various reports Wednesday pegged San Francisco as a possible trade destination for Mets shortstop Jose Reyes — which it is. But the reigning World Series champions are hardly alone in their desire. To nab Reyes at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, a team must be both in contention and in need of a shortstop — a rare combination that eliminates two-thirds of the league at first glance.

Below is the remaining one-third, in no particular order:

Team: Giants
Current SS: Miguel Tejada

The Giants have a clear need with an anemic offense, no true leadoff hitter, and an aging and unproductive starting shortstop in Tejada. Hardly a Moneyball disciple, general manager Brian Sabean is also unlikely to fret over Reyes’ history of low on-base percentages. But if a bidding war is in the offing, the Giants may fall short — their farm system remains thin beyond top first base prospect Brandon Belt.

Team: Brewers
Current SS: Yuniesky Betancourt

The Brewers could use someone to set the table for sluggers Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. But they also have greater needs — pitching, anyone? — and if they fall out of the race in the NL Central, the small-market Brewers are liable to turn into sellers themselves.  Like the Giants, they also have a weak farm system, widely considered to be the league’s worst.

Team: Cardinals
Current SS: Ryan Theriot

Acquiring Reyes would allow the Cardinals to shift Theriot down in the lineup and over to second base, improving their team in more ways than one. But they already have four dynamic offensive players in Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and Colby Rasmus; like the Brewers, the Cards may be more interested in shoring up their rotation.

Team: Reds
Current SS: Paul Janish

Put Reyes in Cincinnati, and the Reds suddenly become clear favorites to repeat as NL Central champions. But given their rotation struggles, they may also mirror their division rivals, the Cardinals, in prioritizing a pitcher.

Team: Dodgers
Current SS: Jamey Carroll

It’s unclear how Major League Baseball’s takeover of the Dodgers’ day-to-day operations will affect their ability to take on salary at the deadline. If the Dodgers can indeed spend, they’d be an ideal trade partner for the Mets: a big-market team with playoff aspirations, a glaring lack of middle infield punch and a strong-enough farm system.

Team: Tigers
Current SS: Jhonny Peralta

As in St. Louis, acquiring Reyes would allow the Tigers to shift their current shortstop to second base. But if former top prospect Scott Sizemore pans out in Detroit, the Tigers may be more inclined to allocate their resources elsewhere. A big outfield bat may be a more pressing concern.

Team: Angels
Current SS: Erick Aybar

As long as the Angels remain unwilling to expose young center fielder Peter Bourjos to the leadoff spot, they could use a player such as Reyes. Their need is not glaring. But Reyes could be enough to vault them past the Rangers in a crowded AL West, and the Angels possess a deep enough cache of prospects to outbid almost anyone.

Team: A’s
Current SS: Cliff Pennington

A longshot, considering the team’s perennial small payroll and general manager Billy Beane’s affinity for on-base percentage. But Reyes would still represent a major upgrade over Pennington by any measurement, and the A’s do have the ability to take on some payroll. If they’re in serious contention come July, it’s not impossible.

Team: Twins
Current SS: Alexi Casilla

It’s clear the Twins are in need of an offensive jolt, and it’s clear that Reyes would be a major upgrade over Casilla. But after adding significant payroll in recent years by signing several key players to long-term contracts, they would the Twins would be unlikely to pursue Reyes in free agency. That makes a trade for the shortstop unlikely, as well.

Team: Red Sox
Current SS: Jed Lowrie

If Lowrie continues to produce at his current clip, this may be a moot point. But the Red Sox are never shy about trading for top talent, and despite the Adrian Gonzalez trade, they still have several intriguing arms in their system. Toss their deep pockets into the equation and they could be a match.

Team: Yankees
Current SS: Derek Jeter

It doesn’t make sense. But it’s the Yankees. Don’t ever count them out, ever.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

Pedro Beato two outs from history

Today’s Mets.com coverage today is dominated by stories of last night’s inspirational game at Citizens Bank Park, and rightfully so. Being in the midst of such unabashed patriotism was one of the coolest things I’ve experienced in my year-plus on the beat.

For those looking for some more baseball-centric tidbits, however, this is the spot. Three interesting notes:

  • After pitching three shutout innings in Sunday night’s victory, Pedro Beato has now thrown 17 scoreless innings to begin his Major League career. With two more outs, he will tie Jack DiLauro for the longest streak in history to begin a Mets career. DiLauro’s streak came way back in 1969.
  • Going 5-for-7 with the game-winning double, Ronny Paulino became the first Mets player ever to hit safely five times in his first start with the team, and the first Major League player to do so since Hank Foiles in 1960.
  • Chris Young’s seven-inning, two-hit performance tied him with Jake Peavy for the most scoreless starts since 2005 of at least seven innings with no more than two hits. Both pitchers have accomplished the feat nine times.

—–Follow along on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo.

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