Former Binghamton Mets Abundant in Mets Prospect Lists

Upon perusing the various prospect lists for the Mets, Binghamton baseball fans will recognize a multitude of players who passed through Binghamton—16 former Mets/Rumble Ponies appear on at least one of the four prospect lists we published a few days ago. The players include:

  1. Peter Alonso (22)
  2. Ty Bashlor
  3. Gavin Cecchini
  4. J. Conlon
  5. Philip Evans
  6. Chris Flexen (36)
  7. Luis Guillorme (43)
  8. Kevin Kaczmarski
  9. Patrick Mazeika
  10. Marcus Molina
  11. Jeff McNeil
  12. Tomas Nido (29)
  13. Corey Oswalt
  14. Drew Smth
  15. David Thompson
  16. Adonis Uceta.

We include Alonso, Flexen, Guillorme, and Nido in boldface here because those are the players who received the widest support from the ranking organizations. The number in parentheses after each respective name indicates the sum of the prospective rankings for each player (.e.g., Alonso was ranked #7 by MLB and Amazin Avenue, #4 by Baseball America and Prospects1500, totaling 22). Nido’s number includes an asterisk, as his number only includes three organizations, as Baseball America did not include him in its top ten.

I think most Binghamton fans would agree that Alonso, Flexen, Guillorme, and Nido were the top prospects from the 2017 Rumble Pony team, so let’s discuss them briefly.

Though Alonso’s stay was only during the final two seeks of the season, his raw power was impressive. When he squares up the ball, that “crack” of the bat is special. Though his glove work needs a lot of work, he reminds me of a young Pat Burrell, the slugger for the Phillies a few years back who hit 292 homers in the majors.

Chris Flexen was totally dominant at Binghamton before he got called up to the Mets. Though Flexen struggled in the majors, his record at Binghamton (6-1, with a 1.66 E.R.A.) superseded that of any of the current Mets young starters—that’s right, he was more dominant than Harvey, deGrom, Matz, Syndergaard, and Wheeler while at Binghamton!

Luis Guillorme was a magician in the field throughout the season; his ability to turn the double play and the quickness of his hands are reasons to have visions of him teaming with Amed Rosario to form a stellar defensive combination up the middle at Citi Field for the next decade or so, staring in 2019.  Watching Guillorme take infield practice is almost worth the price of admission alone—he’ll backhand a grounder and transfer it to his throwing hand by putting his glove between his legs! The only question with Luis is how much he will hit; if he can hit .260 he’ll be a fixture in Queens. His on-base percentage will offset his lack of power and speed.

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There are a few gold gloves awaiting Guillorme in the majors. His great eye and ability to draw walks will give him an on-bae percentage a 100 points higher than his batting average!

Nido’s ability to control an opponent’s running game, as well as provide verbal support for his pitcher was evident throughout the season. He threw out an astonishing 45% of attempted stealers in 2017! Right now he is better defensively than d’Arnaud and Plawecki. If he can hit .250 in the majors, a decade of starting in the majors awaits him as well.

In a few days we’ll take a look at the dark horse names from the 16 players listed in this article.

 

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With Spring Training Approaching, Let’s Look at Some Prospect Rankings for the Mets

As spring training approaches, various media outlets are updating their prospect lists for the 2018 season.  We post four views of the Mets farm system here. The Prospects1500.Com site breaks the prospects into tiered ratings (Tier = future all star; Tier 2 = above average chance to be solid contributor; Tier 3 = average chance to be a solid contributor; Tier 4= minimal impact major leaguer; Tier 5= will never make 40-man roster.)

According to Propects1500, the Mets do not have any perennial All Stars (Tier 1) in the system. Conversely, all Top 30 prospects should make the major league roster at some point.  As shown in the below table, the first nine prospects rated by Prospects 1500 have good chances to be solid contributors in the majors; the prospects ranging from Nido to Kaczmarski fall into Tier 3 (below average chance to be a solid contributor),  while the final seven prospects fall into a typical utility/fringe major leaguer role (Tier 4).

In the ensuring days we’ll explore these lists further.

2018 prospects Scan0641

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Since that Championship Season, Part 2…

Last week we looked at the 11 pitchers who played for Binghamton’s 2014 Eastern League Championship team and  have since gone on to play in the big leagues; this week we look at the 11 position players who played on that team who have gotten some major league time.

For the most part, all of these players are still looking to establish themselves in the majors. At a cursory glance, this group has not achieved as much success as the pitchers. There is no Rookie of the Year in this bunch, as there was with the pitchers with Mike Fulmer’s winning that award in the American League in 2016. Also, only Kevin Plawecki was active for the 2015 World Series for the Mets, while Steven Matz and Hansel Robles were active for the series on the pitching side. Plawecki never got to bat in the series, while Robles and Matz pitched effectively in the Mets’ losing effort against the Royals.

Here’s a quick snapshot of how the position players have fared in the majors thus far.

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Now let’s take a look at each player, in alphabetical order.

Gavin Cecchini, the Mets first-round draft choice in 2012 (#12 overall pick), was drafted six picks ahead of two-time All Star Corey Seager and nine picks ahead of star Toronto pitcher Marcus Stroman, but has yet to establish himself as a major leaguer. He has seen spot duty with the Mets during the past two seasons, primarily as a September callup. He does not appear to be in the Mets’ plans for the future, as the team has spent much of this offseason looking for a second baseman to team with Amed Rosario. Cecchini is a confident player who no doubt would love an opportunity to prove to the Mets that he can be a solid contributor at the big league level, but at this point he looks to be targeted for a third year at Triple=A.

Outfielder Darrel Ceciliani battled shoulder injuries last year and was outrighted off the Blue Jays roster on November 1st; at this point he looks to be targeted for Triple-A in 2018. Catcher Juan Centeno played in 22 games for the Astros in 2017 and was part of the World Series winning team, though he did not get an at-bat in the series; the Rangers selected him off waivers from the Astros last month.

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Tovar, left, and Ceciliani share a pre-game handshake in Binghamton in 2014.

Matt Clark got his only taste of the majors in 2014, and since then has bounced around in various leagues. In 2017, playing in the Mexican League for the Acereros de Monclova team, the first baseman hit .277, with 21 homers and 75 RBIs. Dilson Herrera, arguably Binghamton’s best player in 2014, last played in the majors with the Mets in 2015; in 2016 the Mets sent him to the Reds as part of the trade for Jay Bruce. In 2017 he hit .264 with 7 homers and 42 RBIs in Triple-A.

Brandon Nimmo showed a knack for getting on base as a backup outfielder for the Mets in 2017, compiling a superlative .379 on-base percentage, an astonishing 119 points over his batting average. Kevin Plawecki showed signs of fulfilling his promise in 2017, providing solid defense behind the plate for the Mets and hitting .260, with an on-base percentage of .364. The Mets currently plan to have him split time with Travis d‘Arnaud behind the plate in 2018.

Matt Reynolds, though only sporting a career average of .228, has played solid defense for the Mets for the past two years in spot duty as a utility infielder, manning innings at 3B, SS, and 2B. T.J. Rivera has proven he can hit in the big leagues during part-time duty with the Mets the past two years, but is still searching for an infield position that he can call his own. He had tommy john surgery on his throwing shoulder last August and his return date in 2018 is still to be determined.

Travis Taijeron, unimpressive in a September stint with the Mets at the end of last season, was signed by the Dodgers as a minor league free agent in November. Wilfredo Tovar, the glue of Binghamton’s infield in 2014, got his major league at-bats during September callups with the Mets in 2013 and 2014, respectively, but has not seen big league action during the past three years.

The bottom line is that three years after Binghamton’s championship, chances of stardom for any of the positioin players is remote. Interestingly, Binghamton favorites Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera have also become popular at Citi Field, as the fans in Queens, just like denizens of Binghamton,  love rooting for players who are great guys off the field and underdogs on the field.

Author’s Note: A great account of the 2014 Championship season, Six More Wins, can be found here.

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Since that Championship Season…

The Binghamton franchise is now three years removed from its 2014 Eastern League Championship. An astonishing 22 members who suited up for at least one game for Binghamton in 2014 have gone on to play in the majors. Today we take a quick look at the 11 pitchers who have gone from Binghamton to the big leagues. Although only one pitcher has truly established himself as a star, there is still plenty of potential in this group for a few more stars to emerge.

Here are the basic major league career statistics for the eleven pitchers who have made it to the big leagues from that 2014 championship team:

Bingo pitchers Scan0638

Only four pitchers still remain in the Mets organization, with Steven Matz clearly showing the most promise. Both Paul Sewald and Chasen Bradford made their debuts for the Mets in 2017. No question that the pitcher who has garnered the most success thus far is Michael Fulmer, who won the American League Rookie of the Year Award in 2016 and now is unquestionably regarded as the ace of the Tigers staff. Fulmer had only one start for Binghamton in 2014, and it was not pretty, as he pitched to a 16.20 E.R.A. He returned to Binghamton in 2015, where he was dominant until he was traded for Yoenis Cespedes (along with Luis Cessa) in July 2015.

Steven Matz’s progress has been slowed by injury, but has shown when he is healthy he can be outstanding. His poor showing in 2017 (2-7, 6.08 E.R.A.) can be attributed to pitching with an injury throughout the four months he was active. The Mets are hoping he can be injury free in 2018 and build on the promise he displayed in 2015 and 2016. Matt Bowman, a Rule 5 selection from the Mets by the Cardinals in 2015, has been a steady contributor to the Cardinals bullpen for the past two years.   Hansel Robles had a disappointing year in 2017 (4.92 E.R.A.), spending two months in Triple-A, but he was a solid contributor for the Mets out of the pen for the two years prior to last season.

BIG APPLE ROBLES Robles

Robles celebrates closing out the 8th inning at Portland in the playoffs in 2014.

The remaining pitchers on the list—Alvarez, Leathersich, Mazzoni, Ynoa, and Pill—have yet to establish themselves in the majors.

Author’s Note: A great account of the 2014 Championship season, Six More Wins, can be found here.

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Nobody Asked Me, but What’s Wrong with Wilmer Flores at Second Base?

Throughout this offseason, it seems as if every day there is another rumor pertaining to Sandy Alderson’s interest in trading or signing a second baseman for the Mets. The Mets have clearly focused on the idea of getting a proven second baseman, one who can turn the double play, provide excellent defense, and supply some offense as well.

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During a rehab assignment in Binghamton in May 2015, Flores played first base. Here he takes infield warmup practice. If only the Mets would move him to the right a bit, the second base problem would be solved, I think.

Nobody asked me, but I ask Sandy and his front office colleagues, what’s wrong with Wilmer Flores at second?

As the following statistics show, Wilmer’s offensive contributions compare favorably with the second baseman to whom the Mets have been linked:

Player                           HR……RBI…..AVERAGE……AT-BATS….W.A.R.

Wilmer Flores             18……52……..271……………336………….-0.2

Cesar Hernandez          9……34………294……………511………….3.1

Jason Kipnis                 12…..35………232……………336………….0.4

Ian Kinsler                     22….52………236……………551………….2.1

Josh Harrison               16….47………..272………….486………….3.3

Starlin Castro               16….63……….443…………..300………….2.0

Just a quick glance at the above chart shows that Flores, at the very least, is as capable offensively as his rumored competitors. At first glance his W.A.R. (wins above replacement) number is disappointing, as he ranks last among his competition. But focusing the W.A.R. statistic can be misleading in this comparison. Remember, Flores played a large amount of games at first (29) and third (55) last year, so his offensive numbers pale when compared with other corner infielders. But those same numbers are far more impressive when compared against other second baseman. Also, it’s reasonable to assume that if Flores were left alone to concentrate on second base, his fielding would improve. He has more than an adequate arm for second base and has made only three errors as a second baseman during the past two seasons, encompassing 30 games.  Consequently, I think his -0.2 W.A.R. is a misleading statistic. No doubt the W.A.R. number, which takes into account defense as well as offense is what has made Alderson think Flores is best suited to a super utility role.

The Mets have more pressing priorities, however, than getting a fielding upgrade over Flores at second. Amed Rosario has outstanding range at shortstop and Asdrubal Cabrera demonstrated he can handle third with aplomb, so I feel Alderson can sacrifice a little defense at second, especially because Flores has the potential to hit 30 home runs if he gets 550 at-bats.

The money that the Mets save by not pursuing a second baseman can better be spent focusing on the acquisition of a Jay Bruce or a Lorenzo Cain AND another arm in the bullpen. Indeed, the acquisition of Cain would not only help the Mets offensively, but would provide upgrades in overall team speed and defense as well!

Author’s Note: Click here to read about the 2014 Championship season of the Binghamton Mets. An amazing 22 players from that team have gone to play in the majors, including Dario Alvarez, Matt Bowman, Chasen Bradford, Gavin Cecchini, Darrel Ceciliani, Juan Centeno, Matt Clark, Michael Fulmer, Dilson Herrera, Jack Leathersich, Steven Matz, Cory Mazzoni, Tyler Pill, Brandon Nimmo, Kevin Plawecki, Matt Reynolds, T.J. Rivera, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald, Travis Taijeron, Wilfredo Tovar, and Gabriel Ynoa.    

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Matt Bowman, left, and Darrell Ceciliani get on line for some food during a leisure moment during the 2014 season.

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Binghamton Cracks the Top Ten for Best Minor League Town in America

Binghamton was recently named the tenth best minor league town in America in the Sports Business Journal’s semi-annual ranking of minor league towns.  The Journal ranked 216 cities in September of this year, and Binghamton is now in the top 10, raising three sports from the ranking in 2015. Binghamton was rated the top city in New York State, one spot ahead of Syracuse.

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In 2017, Binghamton’s AHL hockey team became affiliated with the New Jersey Devils; previously Binghamton’s affiliation had been with the Ottawa Senators. 

The rankings are not open to cities with major league teams; so Buffalo and NYC were omitted within New York State. Criteria for the rankings include the history of minor league sports in the area and how well the team is supported by the community, which is largely based on attendance figures.

In its thumbnail summary of Binghamton, the SBJ noted:  “At 246,000, Binghamton is the smallest market in our top 10 — and it’s getting smaller. The market lost 1.8 percent of its population over the past five years, and the region’s 5.3 percent unemployment rate is a full point higher than the national average. However, the combined attendance among its two clubs during the past year was 334,791, a 5 percent increase over the previous season. Additionally, the ballpark and arena each recently received a $2.5 million upgrade.”

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Aerial view of Johnson Field. The Johnson City Senior Citizens Center and Interstate 86 now can be found within the footprint of Johnson Field. (Photo courtesy of the Broome County Historical Society.)

Interestingly, Greater Binghamton’s hosting of a world class golf tournament (Dick’s Sporting Goods Open held at En Joie Golf Club) and tennis tournament (Levine Goulding & Thompson Challenger at Recreation Park) did not factor into the ratings, as only minor league sports are considered. The hosting of these two events, which draws world class athletes to Greater Binghamton, would only boost Binghamton’s rankings if one-time annual events were included in the rankings.

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That’s Tiger Woods under the umbrella. He played at En-Joie when it hosted the B.C. Open, which Greater Binghamton hosted from 1971 through 2006. The DSGO came to Greater Binghamton in 2007.

The top ten minor league towns, according to the SBJ:

  1. Des Moines, Iowa
  2. Quad Cities, Iowa
  3. Fort Wayne, Indiana
  4. Charleston, South Carolina
  5. Toledo, Ohio
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  7. Hershey-Harrisburg, PA
  8. Durham-Cary, North Carolina
  9. Greenville, South Carolina
  10. Binghamton, NY

Author’s Note: For more information on the history of golf in Greater Binghamton, click here.

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Player Profile: Ben Griset, Relieving Suits Him Just Fine…

If Ben Griset flew any lower under the radar gun as a prospect for the Mets, he’d be traveling in a submarine. Originally drafted by the Tampa Rays in the 13th round of the 2013 draft out of St. Mary’s College in California, Griset started his professional career as a lefty starter, but after only two years the Rays released him. The Mets signed him to a minor league contract in October of 2014 and converted him to a reliever.

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Griset warms up with (ledt to right) Matt Oberste, Luis Guillorme, and L.J. Mazzilli in the background.

Griset’s results as a reliever have been outstanding. During the past three seasons, Griset has gone 11-4 and the highest E.R.A. he posted was the 2.97 level he had with Savannah in 2015. Last season Griset was simply brilliant with the Rumble Ponies: in 49 innings he posted a 1.1 W.H.I.P and had an earned run average of 2.39. As fine a year as Griset had with the Rumble Ponies, though, it actually was a drop-off from his 2016 season at St. Lucie, where he went 4-2 with a 1.80 E.R.A. in 60 innings.

Lacking an overpowering fastball, Griset gets results with excellent command and a continual change of speed. His best pitch is a big breaking curveball while his fastball has good downward movement that allows him to get a lot of groundballs.

Though he’ll turn 26 in March and is “too old” to be listed on any prospect lists, Griset’s success the last three years as a crafty bullpen lefty should land him a spot in the Las Vegas bullpen next year. Though he doesn’t throw as hard as Josh Edgin, Dave Roseboom, or Josh Smoker (other lefties in the Mets organization at the AAA/major league level), a good spring training might very well put Griset into the discussion as a second or third lefty in the major league bullpen, behind lefty specialist Jerry Blevins.

Note: For more information on Baseball in Binghamton, click here.

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