Player Profile: Tyler Bashlor: Strikeouts are His Calling Card

Tyler Bashlor was outstanding in his late season call-up to the Rumble Ponies, posting a 0.75 E.R.A. in 14.2 innings over his 12 appearances, while striking out 23 batters. Bashlor, an 11th round draft pick out of South Georgia State in 2013, has been a strikeout machine throughout his minor league career, striking out 175 in 121 innings. Bashlor consistently hit 96-98 mph while at Binghamton, displaying excellent control and a tatoo-laden forearm.

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With his high-velocity fastball and tattoo-filled forearm, Bashlor is an intimidating force on the mound. 

The hard-throwing right hander had Tommy John surgery in May of 2014, then suffered from some scar issues the following season, so he did not return to the mound until the start of the 2016 season. Since then he has tried to make up for the two years he lost, rising rapidly from Columbia to St. Lucie to Binghamton.

Bashlor started his career as an outfielder at South Georgia State and only pitched one season; the Mets liked his live arm and paid him a $550,000 signing bonus in 2013, which was way above slot for an 11th round pick. In paying Bashlor a large bonus, the Mets continued their pattern of drafting players with live arms who were relative newcomers to the mound; both Jacob degrom and Corey Oswalt were primarily position players before the Mets drafted them.

On November 20th the Mets put Bashlor on its 40-man roster, so he would not be eligible to be selected by another team in next week’s Rule 5 draft. With the Mets focusing on improving its bullpen in 2018, Bashlor is one of many hard throwers in the organization that will be watched closely next year. His early career elbow problems have prevented him from being mentioned on prospect lists for the Mets, but his outstanding 2017 season should have him cracking the top 30 list by next spring.

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Player Profile: If Only Champ Stuart Could Steal First Base…

You won’t find Champ Stuart’s name on many prospect lists for the New York Mets, even though he is one of the organization’s fastest players and can run down just about anything in the outfield. Known for his defense and speed, in five minor league seasons Stuart has compiled 1,544 at-bats and has a career batting average of .225 with 21 homers and 127 RBIs.

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Champ Stuart catches up on his football during a rain delay by catching a pass as Luis Guillorme looks on.

Stuart’s outstanding season in the Arizona Fall League in 2016, where he hit .300 in 70 at-bats and stole 12 bases, generated a lot of enthusiasm for his Double-A assignment in Binghamton last year.  During his full season in Binghamton in 2017, Stuart led the team in stolen bases with 35, but hit only .222 with 5 homers and 34 RBIs in 320 at-bats.

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Stuart steals second against the Hartford Yard Goats.

Stuart, Pat Biondi, Kevin Kaczmarski and Kevin Taylor all shared outfield time at Binghamton in 2017, with Stuart spending most of his time in center. Stuart, a sixth round pick in the 2013 draft, always seemed to have a smile on his face when he took the diamond for the Rumble Ponies. The Mets are hoping he can turn some of his strikeouts (38% of his minor league at-bats have ended in a strikeout) into walks (approximately 13% of his at bats have ended in a walk) so that he can take advantage of his outstanding speed. If Stuart can get on first base more often, he has the potential to steal 30+ bases in the big leagues.  He will no doubt man the Las Vegas outfield next year and Sandy Alderson and his staff will be rooting for Stuart to decrease his strikeouts and increase his on base percentage and batting average.

Author’s Note: Click here to learn more about the history of baseball in Binghamton. 

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Player Profile: David Thompson Showing Signs of Being a High Flier

At a cursory glance at David Thompson’s three-year minor league career, there is nothing that jumps off the page, nothing that indicates a future major league star. He has a pedestrian batting average of .261 in 1,114 at-bats and has stroked 30 homers, which translates to hitting one home run every 37 at-bats. He’s made more errors than he’s hit homers, and his 39 errors translate to a disappointing .948 fielding percentage.

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Thompson displays a level battig stroke and excellent eye discipline during an at-bat in Binghamton. 

With Thompson, however, statistics do not tell the full story. He showed marked improvement throughout the season in Double-A Binghamton last year, getting off to a miserable start in the field and the plate during the cold months of April and May before raising his play in July and August. As the weather heated up, so did his hitting and fielding, and he wound up leading Binghamton in homers, doubles, and RBIs.  In August he hit 7 homers, knocked in 17 runs and hit .295.

A fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft (119th overall) out of the University of Florida, Thompson acknowledged the cold weather was an adjustment for him. He had played in warm weather his entire amateur and professional career until he got to Binghamton. After starting his professional career in Brooklyn in the summer of 2015, he split the 2016 season between Savannah and St. Lucie, so seeing snow on the field when he arrived in Binghamton in early April of 2017 was a first for him.  He had an anemic April, hitting .194 with one home run.

Thompson just completed an impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League; he hit .328 and led his team, the Scottsdale Scorpions, in slugging percentage, with a .569 mark.  His impressive second half stint at Binghamton and excellent play in Arizona warrant a top 15 position in the spring prospect rankings. For those who want to dream big, Thompson’s 16 homers and 68 RBIs at Binghamton compare favorably with Daniel Murphy’s 13 homers and 67 RBIs in Binghamton in 2008.

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Thompson poses for the camera during the Welcome Home Dinner for the Rumble Ponies in April 2017.

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Harvey and Mets Realize the Road to Recovery from TOC Surgery Not a Smooth One…

by Jim Maggiore

November 17, 2017. This week Scott Boras, the agent for Matt Harvey, expressed optimism about Matt Harvey’s career. He explained that Harvey just needed to regain the command he had had before his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOC) surgery. Boras felt Harvey’s offseason regimen would allow him to this, as he could engage on a tailored throwing program. Boras does have a point, as in reviewing Harvey’s horrible 2016 season, Harvey’s ineffectiveness can be directly traced to the ridiculously high number of walks he issued and the alarming number of home runs he gave up — in 92 innings, Harvey issued 47 walks and gave up 21 homers.  But as Harvey’s agent, Boras is paid to be optimistic and the Mets, in trying to estimate Harvey’s contribution in 2018, cannot afford to be as optimistic.

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Harvey and catcher Tomas Nido walk in from the bullpen before Harvey took the mound for the Rumble Ponies on August 19 last season. 

In reviewing the careers of pitchers who have undergone TOC surgery, the results are mixed. Some pitchers, such as Chris Young and Jaime Garcia successfully came back; others, such as Chris Carpenter and Noah Lowry did not. Every pitcher is different and every case is unique. Harvey underwent his surgery at a relatively young age, which is in his favor. His velocity ticked up with each outing he had last year (he ended the season hitting 95 mph on the radar gun), another factor in his favor.

Following a daily offseason regimen and pitching with confidence are two elements entirely within Harvey’s control that can very well translate into a comeback season in 2018. As the Mets implement their offseason strategy, however, the following table, which shows a quick snapshot of 13 pitchers who have undergone TOC surgery, provides a cautionary tale. In viewing the table, Mets fans must also temper their expectations; the table shows Harvey has a big challenge.

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Player Profile: Peter Alonso: Thunder Someday Accompanying Thor’s Lightning?

Binghamton fans were treated to a cameo appearance by Alonso at the end of the 2017 season and were excited by the raw power that Alonso displayed. At first glance Alonso’s statistics were not all that impressive: 45 at-bats, two homers and five runs batted in and a .311 batting average. But those fans in attendance at NYSEG Stadium on August 30th saw Alonso’s potential at its best. He hit two gigantic homers against Erie in Binghamton’s 5-1 win. Both shots were hit well over 420 feet and one nestled beyond the train tracks that run far beyond the stadium. Distance, however, is not what left an imprint on all the fans in the stands. Rather, it was the thundercrack of Alonzo’s bat meeting the ball that sent gasps throughout the stadium. It was as if Alonso had used a cannon, the baseballs left the park so quickly and loudly—and Alonso did it twice!

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Aonso settles into the batter’s box at Binghamton.

Alonso, a second round pick by the Mets out of the University of Florida in 2016, is purely a first baseman or designated hitter, as his 6’-3” frame and 245 lbs. limits his mobility in the field.  His glove is presently far behind his bat, and during his brief stay in Binghamton he worked diligently during his infield practice sessions. In 462 minor league at-bats, Alonso has hit .297 with 23 homers, giving him a rate of hitting a homer every 20 at-bats. He has had some nagging hand injuries that have slowed his progress at times, but when he has been fully healthy he has shown tremendous power, a quick bat, and an ability to hit for average. As with most inexperienced power hitters, his “hunting the fastball” has made him prone to low outside breaking pitches and how well he adjusts to recognizing and staying back on breaking pitches will dictate how quickly he ascends through the minors. Currently MLB ranks him as the seventh best prospect in the Met organization, one spot ahead of infielder Gavin Cecchini and one spot below pitcher Marcus Molina.

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Notice how far off the plate the catcher set up to catch this low, outside breaking pitch that Alonzo chased with an off balance swing.

 

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Nobody Asked Me, but Carlos Santana? Mets Should Look Elsewhere…

Binghamton, November 15. Recent media reports have the Mets showing interest in Carlos Santana, the slick fielding, power-hitting first baseman for the Indians. At a cursory glance, this makes sense—the Mets need another bat in the lineup to offset the power lost with the trades of Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda, and Neil Walker. Also, Santana has won three gold gloves in his career at first base and last year only made 5 errors, finishing the season with a .996 fielding percentage. And finally, As Mets fans know too well, Smith was a disappointment during his six week audition last season, when he hit only .198 in 167 at-bats.

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Smith hit .302 with 14 HRs and 91 RBIs for the Binghamton Mets in 2016. He followed that up by hitting .330 with 16 HRs and 76 RBis in 457 at-bats in Triple-A in 2017.

 

Let’s look a little closer, however.

Santana turns 32 on April 8th and is coming off a season in which he hit 23 home runs and knocked in 79 runs in 571 at-bats while hitting .259. Santana’s homer rate was one every 24.8 at-bats. Dominic Smith hit 9 homers and had 26 runs batted in during the last six weeks of the 2017 season. Smith’s homer rate was one in 18.5 at-bats. He committed two errors, finishing with a .994 fielding percentage. If you pro-rate Smith’s output over a full season and plug in the 571 at bats that Santana had, you come up with 30 homers and 89 RBIs.  Granted, Santana hit 61 points higher than Smith and is a trusted veteran. But is closing the prospect door on Smith and paying a large free-agent contract to Santana a judicious approach for the Mets?

Remember, Aaron Judge hit .179 with four homers and 10 RBIs 84 at-bats for the Yankees in 2016 in late season action. Judge followed that up with a 52 homer season with 114 RBIs and a .284 batting average this year.  That’s not to say Smith has a chance to duplicate Judge’s numbers. The comparison is made here only to emphasize that it is far too early to give up on Smith by pursuing Santana. And if the Mets are looking for insurance in case Smith is not the answer, they should be looking at someone who has proven they can play a quality first base as well as cover ground in the outfield, to give the team insurance in the outfield as well. Of the 154 games Santana played last year, 140 were at 1B; 7 were at DH, and only 7 were in right field.  [In my opinion, a much better fit for the Mets, AFTER the first solve the bullpen problem, is someone who is primarily an outfielder and who, in a pinch, can play some first. (e.g., Jay Bruce, Adam Lind). Remember too that Wilmer Flores can play 1B and he his homer rate last year was one every 18.6 at-bats.]

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Aaron Judge struggled in September of 2016, but won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2017. In 250 at-bats for Trenton in 2015, Judge hit .284, with 12 HRs and 44 RBIs.

Here’s hoping the Mets were simply sending a message to Smith by letting it leak they had discussions about Santana. They have let it be known that Smith’s attraction to fast food does not sit well with their wishes. Smith clearly needs to have an excellent spring training to stick with the Mets in April 2018. Here’s also hoping that Smith will report to spring training about 20 pounds lighter from what he finished the 2017 season.

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Binghamton’s Welcome Home Dinner in 2015: Left to Right: First Baseman Dominic Smith, Outfielder Jared King, catcher Xorge Carillo

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Collin McHugh Shines for the Astros a Day Too Early

Collin McHugh threw four hitless and scoreless innings in Game 3 of the ALCS, when the Astros lost to the Yankees, 8-1. Oh how the Astros could have used some of those shutout innings in Game 4, when the Astros lost to the Yankees, 6-4, blowing a 4-0 lead. In Game 3 McHugh came out of the bullpen to keep the Yankees off balance with a steady diet of curveballs and strikes.  In Game 4 the Astros bullpen gave up six runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Granted, there’s no guarantee that McHugh would have had the same success if he pitched in Game 4 instead of Game 3, but with the failure of the Astros bullpen in Game 4, McHugh’s excellence is worth noting.

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Despite winning 8 games for the Binghamton Mets in 2012, McHugh returned to pitch for Binghamton for the first couple of months in the 2013 season, where he won 5 more games for Binghamton.

McHugh, who won 13 games for Binghamton in 2012 and 2013, has quietly won 48 games in the big leagues since 2014, with the highlight being his 19 wins for Houston in 2015. During the past season he was on the disabled list for much of the year, but he joined the Astros late in the season to go 5-2 while posting a 3.55 E.R.A. in 12 starts. Besides collecting wins, McHugh has become known for being overlooked. In 2011 he was the ace of the Binghamton staff, going 8-2 with a 2.89 E.R.A., but Matt Harvey garnered all the attention, even though Harvey’s record paled when compared with McHugh’s: Harvey went 5-3 with a 4.53 E.R.A. McHugh’s 48 wins with the Astros are second only to the 55 generated by Dallas Keuchel since 2014.

McHugh is the third former Binghamton player to figure prominently in the postseason in 2017; Justin Turner is currently starring for the Dodgers in the NLCS and Daniel Murphy was a vital cog in the regular and postseason for the Washington Nationals.

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