MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Toronto Blue Jays

This Week in (Minor League) Baseball, 4/13-4/20/16

Welcome to This Week in (Minor League) Baseball, a weekly look at how Mets prospects and minor leaguers are performing. Think of it as an XL version of the mothership’s daily Minor League Update. Each week we will look at one or two players from each level who have stood out for their performance (good or bad). And remember, the least important information in this piece are the actual numbers, because for all you kids out there, we don’t scout the stat line.

(stats from games played between 4/13/16 and 4/19/16)

Dilson Herrera, 2B (Las Vegas 51s / Triple-A): 9-30, 3 2B, 3 R, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 SB, CS

What are the Mets going to do with Dilson Herrera? This is a rhetorical question I will not be answering in this little blurb, mostly because I have no special knowledge to proffer. If they weren’t going to extend Murphy, the relatively low delta of Neil Walker was a good one-year option in a season where the team expected to compete. Herrera has looked overmatched at time in the majors (especially when pitchers elevated their fastball against him), but his playing time was sporadic in his 2014 and 2015 stints with the big club. He isn’t considered a “prospect” anymore, so gets written about less at sites like, well, this one. If he were still a prospect, he would have slotted in between Matz and Rosario on my Top 10 list as a role 55 second baseman with a broad base of average or better tools, but nothing other than run registering as plus.

To try and answer the question posed: I would guess the Mets want to ride Walker for one good season (so far, so good), extend him a qualifying offer, recoup the draft pick, and then give Herrera the reins in 2017. But you could have easily composed the same sentence about in 2015, just find and replace “Walker” with “Murphy.” You could also argue that this would be an ideal year to work in Herrera, as the Mets have a strong offense otherwise, and could hide a month or two of growing pains at towards the bottom of their lineup. But he is still just 22, and hasn’t spent that much time in the upper minors due to some nagging injuries in 2015. The skill set only really plays at second base, so you can’t sneak him into a hole that opens up somewhere in the infield. As long as Neil Walker remains healthy, Herrera will be in Las Vegas, and the 2016 offseason will look a lot like the 2015 one for the Colombian infielder.

Luis Mateo, RHP (Binghamton Mets / Double-A): 4 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, BB, 2 K

The 2012 Brooklyn Cyclones were a fun team for prospect watchers. They featured two first-round picks in Brandon Nimmo and Kevin Plawecki, and at shortstop was Phil Evans, who had gotten second-round money as a California prep in the 2011 draft. However, it was the Brooklyn rotation that caught people’s attention. Two of the six starters have already made the majors (Luis Cessa and Hansel Robles), and Gabriel Ynoa seems likely to join them at some point this season, but Mateo was widely considered to be the best prospect arm of the group. I never really got it. I saw a lot of that Cyclones team and I had him clearly behind Ynoa as a prospect, and I can’t say I am shocked Robles beat him to the majors.

Mateo had been signed three times as an IFA, the first two deals derailed by a fake birth certificate and a bad medical. The Mets grabbed him as a 21-year-old, and he was expected to move quickly. He was dominant on Coney Island, but always looked like a reliever. The arm action was awful, and there was effort throughout every part of the delivery. Even with all that he’d only touch 95-96, sitting 91-94 for the most part, and bleeding velocity throughout his outings. The slider was fine, more than enough to dominate short-season bats, but it would only flash plus a couple times a start. The reports I read coming off that season sounded like a very different pitcher than the one I saw.

Mateo made it to Double-A in 2013, but quickly went down with a torn UCL. He didn’t look close to all the way back in a 2014 rehab stint, and was shut down late that summer. He worked his way back again in 2015, and this year is in the Binghamton ‘pen as a 26-year-old.  Unfortunately he looks like the same pitcher he was in Brooklyn. The mechanics are still rough; the arm action is painful to watch at times. But the primary issue is this: the stuff just hasn’t improved since his stateside debut. He’s throwing his changeup more, but it’s a straight 20 offering. He slows his arm down as badly as any pitcher I have seen at any level while throwing it, and he can’t get it near the zone. The fastball still has some life, and the slider still flashes, but the days of dreaming on him are long past. He looks like just an organizational bullpen arm now. After watching Bobby Parnell down the stretch, Mets fans likely don’t need this reminder, but guys don’t always get all the way back from Tommy John surgery.

Wuilmer Becerra, RF (St. Lucie Mets / High-A): 6-13, 2B, R, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 2 K

One of the “non-elite prospects” in the R.A. Dickey deal (an epithet I was surprised to learn that I apparently coined), a Mets fan might consider Becerra a bit of a free roll given the success of Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard (and if you really want to stretch it, John Buck was part of the deal for Dilson Herrera). And just looking at his Baseball-Reference page, you might think Becerra was progressing slowly. He spent three seasons in rookie-ball, and all of 2015 in the South Atlantic League. He’s still only 21 though, and started to make some real progress with his swing in his full-season ball debut. I suspect he has been nursing an injury of some sort since Spring Training–he has been in and out of the St. Lucie lineup, and mostly DHing when he’s been penciled in.

Becerra shows easy plus raw in batting practice, but the pop really hasn’t shown up in games since the first half of 2015. He popped eight home runs for Savannah by July 1st, very impressive considering the cavernous home park, but since then he has looked more like a contact-oriented hitter that gaps some doubles. The Savannah staff spread out his stance a bit during the season, so that could be a factor, but if he can figure out how to keep that contact rate while tapping back into this power potential, he could eventually be an above-average regular in right field. He sure looks the part. It’s a great frame, and he is still an average runner with enough arm for the position. A lot needs to happen for it to all come together, but if it ever does, he could be a Top-101-type talent. There is a reason Toby Hyde gushed about him during our Effectively Wild Preview.

Ivan Wilson, CF (Columbia Fireflies / Low-A): 4-19, 2 2B, 4 R, 4 BB, 8 K, SB, 2 E

If I thought Ivan Wilson could hit .240 in the majors, he’d be a no-doubt, top-five prospect in the system. He is also a good reminder why we only gush about five-tool players, not four-tool players. He has arguably the best raw power in the system, 70-grade pop that comes from the easy–and seemingly impossible–carry he gets from his swing. He was a high school shortstop (weren’t they all), and the athleticism has translated well to center field. Wilson is a plus runner with a plus arm, and is already advanced enough in the outfield that it isn’t hard to project a 60-grade glove up the middle. That is a hell of a prospect starter kit.

But oh, about that fifth tool: He just hasn’t hit. He struggles mightily to recognize any sort of spin, and keep in mind that he has only seen short-season spin so far. In my 2014 look at him, he did not put a single ball into play. He hit three bombs, walked a couple times, struck out the rest. I don’t think he even fouled a pitch off. Like Becerra, Wilson looks every bit the part of a major-league outfielder, but that fifth tool is very, very important.

Photo Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports


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