It hardly seems right that the season’s first month has come and gone, but here we are again looking at May. To be fair, April is the shortest month of the season, as the Mets minor league affiliates combined to play only 87 games in the month. So, lets take stock. What did we learn?
Eh, it’s still early. At this point, we’re still in wait and see mode when it comes to statistical performances.
The “Prospects” aren’t hitting much.
In 19 games in April, Brandon Nimmo hit .260/.333/.315 with seven walks and 18 strikeouts. One pretty good sign that the season is still young: Nimmo raised his batting average 64 points in the final final five games of the month by going 8-for-17 with two doubles. Again, Nimmo is developing a platoon split, hitting nearly .300 with a .375 on-base percentage against righties while going 3-for-20 (.150) with one walk and 10 strikeouts against southpaws. If you were the kind of person who wondered whether Nimmo would have the offensive chops (both hit tool and power), to play everyday in the big leagues, April will not be terribly encouraging.
The Mets decided last winter that Neil Walker made more sense at second base than handing the job to Dilson Herrera. After Walker bopped nine homers in the big leagues in April, and Herrera hit .258/.279/.364 with seven doubles and no homers in the Pacific Coast League, that looks like a wise call in hindsight. Herrera has been earning less than a walk a week (two in 17 games). That’s not a great sign given that MLB pitchers exploited his aggressiveness in 2015.
Meanwhile, Herrera’s double-play partner–Gavin Cecchini–had a similar batting average, but arrived at the outcome in dissimilar fashion. He showed outstanding strike zone control (11 walks/11 strikeouts) in 20 games on his way to hitting .258/.364/.333 with two doubles and one home run. Yeah, sure, shortstops don’t have to hit 20 homers a year, but at what point does below-average power become a major liability?
The MLB depth guys are looking more, well, depth-y
Matt Reynolds, who’s now 25, hit .299/.379/.468 in 20 games mostly at third base with a few games at short and second. This doesn’t change any of my thinking about Reynolds, who I think would be a fine backup infielder. Should the Mets tire of Eric Campbell (1-for-10 in April), they could turn to Reynolds anytime.
Travis Taijeron, in his age-27 season, hit .299/.415/.522 with 10 extra-base hits and 20 strikeouts in 20 games. Mets fans whose memories go all the way back to Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker, know what this looks like in the big leagues when a pretty good athlete in the OF strikes out this much in Triple-A. (Editor’s Note: Who else can’t believe those two have regular big-league jobs today?)
Speaking of strikeouts on the mound, Gabriel Ynoa isn’t getting enough of them. His 1.48 ERA looks sparkly, but his 12/9 K/BB ratio is a duller shade. It’s just tough, if not impossible to pitch in the big leagues with a 12.3 percent strikeout rate.
Lets compare Dominic Smith’s 2015 to his 2016.
You’re going to see versions of this chart again, friend. In his first month in Double-A, Smith is hitting for a smidge more power than he did in 2015, but his strikeout rate has climbed nine percentage points, an increase of 60 percent. That’s not good.
We’re really interested in guys who are doing something differently in April than they were in the past, or than we had reason to suspect. While Smith’s strikeouts meet that criteria, so too do Robert Gsellman’s.
Akeel Morris’ Heel Turn
Remember when Mets fans wanted to talk about this righthander from the US Virgin Islands? Well, he allowed eight runs on two homers and eight walks in 10.1 innings in Double-A in April. Yeah, yeah, #SSS and all, but if he cannot demonstrate legitimate command, upper level hitters will pounce.
Rosy (Amed) Rosario
The 20-year-old shortstop finished April by hitting .305/.340/.537 with five triples (!) and three home runs. There’s little to critique in this line or his work at the plate. He’s also become an active presence on twitter, where he seems to enjoy engaging with fans.
At the risk of slicing the apple too thin, he didn’t draw a walk in his first 10 games, but admitted on Twitter later in the month that he was working on his plate discipline.
Getting deeper into counts. Taking more walks. https://t.co/S5WRzFeT6Y
— Amed Rosario (@Amed_Rosario) April 25, 2016
Oh, and he finished the month by earning walks in five of his next 13 games. That’s a welcome–if not damn exciting–development.
I was excited about Wuilmer Becerra because I saw a young guy with a big league frame, who was strong and fast and already had easy power. I wondered whether he’d hit for average. And in 2016, he’s hit for average but no power. Oh, well. Through May 2nd, on the heels of an eight-game hitting streak, the 21-year-old is raking at .394/.437/.470. He leads the FSL in batting average by 49 (!) points but did not homer in the month. He’s also striking out far less than he used to. Check out the three year trends since the Appalachian League in 2014.
Becerra the singles hitter is a lot less interesting than the guy who looked like he could threatening to hit 25 homers in a season. Still the power’s in there. The question is whether he can add it back into his more contact-driven approach.
Chris Flexen has made four starts. In each start, his opponents have only scored in one inning against him. The bad news was that in the first three starts, they hung crooked numbers on him (three runs twice and four runs once). In his fourth, he limited the damage to one run. Call it progress? Add it all up, and he’s doing ok: 3.76 ERA, 19 K/6 BB. While the 17.4 percent strikeout rate isn’t much to brag about, his 5.5 percent walk rate is a nice continuation of last year’s 5.2 percent mark with Savannah … and it is light years better (or half) of 2014’s 11.6 percent walk rate as a Sand Gnat. There’s a big league fastball in here, so that makes him one to watch.
I’d be remiss not to recognize 22-year-old 2B Vinny Sienna here. The UConn product is a little old for the SAL, but he hit .362/.495/.536 in April with 19 walks against 20 strikeouts in 22 games. I’ll believe he’s a guy when he does it in Double-A.
Drafted for his defense, the shortstop hit a meager .207/.270/.259 in 18 games for the Fireflies. Meh.
The 21-year-old former football player is showing some pop (12 XBH in 23 games) in an April in which he hit .301/.371/.506. That’s a nice start.
Luck of the Irish
Also, lefty PJ Conlon, who is trying to become the first Irish-born big leaguer since 1945, got going in the right direction with a 1.14 ERA and an 18/1 K/BB ratio in his 23.7 innings of work. It’s worth pointing out that finesse lefties (Mark Cohoon), or really any lefties who can spin a breaking ball, can have considerable success in the SAL. Still if Conlon, who moved to California at the age of two, succeeds, we can have more examples of Irish writing about baseball including such highlights as: “Conlon has work to do before he lines out for the New York Mets first team.” Also, apparently his uncle was a boxing “guru” in Ireland.
Also, I don’t know what you’d call this color (electric yellow? Neon awesome?) but it looks great on the Fireflies, and as a pleasant side benefit, surely offends the stodgiest among us.
Photo Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports