MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Detroit Tigers

Notes from the Field: Columbia Fireflies

If you are here for Tebow—as many, many people were in Lakewood this week—Jarrett Seidler has you covered at the mothership. And I’ll be writing something more in-depth on Andres Gimenez next week, but in the meantime here are some assorted notes on the rest of the Fireflies roster. “Don’t Scout the Statline” will return in this spot next week.

Harol Gonzalez, RHP

The trend of my only seeing the best Harol Gonzalez starts continues. I watched him almost toss a perfect game in Kingsport a couple years back, then he spun six hitless frames last summer in Norwich. This time, despite getting knocked around more than I expected so far in the South Atlantic League, he cruised through seven innings, carving up the Lakewood lineup and featuring improved stuff across the board. Gonzalez has filled out some since my wife confused him for a ball boy in the Appalachian League. He’d still generously be referred to as an undersized righty, but the added bulk—and a couple mechanical tweaks—has given him more velocity, and he’s holding his stuff deeper into games than I’ve seen in the past. He touched 93 a few times and sat 89-92, which is a couple ticks higher than the past two seasons. He held the low 90s velo through 100 pitches, and the heater has more plane than I’ve seen in the past. I think it’s possible they’ve tweaked his armslot up to high-three-quarters, but I don’t have any video to check this theory against. Regardless, it’s a much better pitch now and his above-average command is still present.

Gonzalez has a full repertoire of offspeed pitches. The change is still his best secondary offering. He’s thrown a distinct traditional change and split before—and I believe he still does—although they bled together more than they have in past looks. The cambio ranged from 81-84 with the split action showing at the upper range of the velo band. Overall, the pitch shows good sink and fade and he maintains his arm speed well. He added a cutter/slider type thing, which sits 86-87 and features good late tilt, last year in Brooklyn. There is above-average command here too, and it works especially well off his sinking fastball. The curve is tighter that what he’s showed in past years, but it’s still a bit of a big, loopy breaker. He’s usually shown a tighter 12-6 ones in warmups, and this outing broke off a few of those in game action as well. He can keep the tight shape when spotting it for a strike, which is unusual at this level.

So the stuff has improved across the board. Gonzalez’s prior calling cards are still here too: advanced pitchability and the confidence to throw any of his pitchers in any count or game situation. There’s potentially four average or better offerings here now and plus makeup/mound smarts to help the arsenal play up.. Still, it’s a difficult profile: he’s a short, lean righty who has to make it as a starter to have a real major league role, as there isn’t an obvious bullpen fit for this profile. In the past I have pegged him as one of my acquire 3s, but that feels light now.

Desmond Lindsay, OF

There have been some furrowed brows and tweets of concern from #MetsTwitter about Lindsay’s slow start, but he looks like the same dude we ranked #5 preseason for good and for ill. The most important thing for Lindsay is he looks healthy. He moved well in center field and on the basepaths. When I saw him last season in Brooklyn, he was clearly compromised by his hamstring issues so it was difficult to get a feel for the athletic profile, although he *ahem* certainly looked the part. But now he looks like a decent bet to stick in center with more reps, and his jumps and routes compared well to his up-the-middle counterpart in Lakewood, Mickey Moniak. I didn’t get a useable home-to-first dig, but he’s clocked as a plus runner for me before and I have no reason to think that isn’t still the case. At the plate, he has quick hands that generate plus bat speed, although his eventual over-the-fence power may be limited by minimal loft and an all-fields approach. He is a strong kid though, and should yank enough mistakes to find 10+ home run power at his peak due to his average raw pop. Lindsay struggled with the more polished breaking stuff you see at this level, but overall I liked the plate approach. What he needs now more than anything else is pro reps, and I could see him having a decent second half as he continues to adjust to a full-season assignment, even if the final stat line—and don’t scout the statline—is unlikely to look too shiny given his slow start. I don’t see a reason to downgrade him at this point, although he is remains a very high risk prospect.

Luis Carpio, IF

My fondness for Carpio is well-documented. Labrum surgery derailed his 2016 season save for a few August DH appearances. He’s playing mostly second base now, and the arm was going to be stretched at short even pre-surgery. He might be a plus second base glove though, due to his excellent instincts and smooth, quick actions. The move to the right side of the infield puts more pressure on the bat though, and the early returns were a little disappointing. He’s just a bit over a year removed from going under the knife, but while his strong approach and contact skills are still present, the ball doesn’t jump off the bat the same way it did in Kingsport, and the bat speed looked fringy. That may come back, but it may not. There’s less physical projection now too as he’s filled out in the last two seasons. He’s quite young for the level, and I still think he’s the kind of polished player that will do enough at every stop to keep you dreaming on a major league future. But until the line drives get louder, Carpio looks more like a fringe utility guy than the potential regular of two years ago.

Blake Taylor, LHP

The player-to-be-named later in the Ike Davis deal—a trade that feels like it happened three full lifetimes ago for Mets fans—Taylor is still somehow only 21. In the interim, he’s struggled with performance and injuries, lost a year to Tommy John surgery, and finally made it to full season ball four seasons after being drafted. There isn’t much projection left at this point; Taylor has a mature frame with thick legs, but there’s enough stuff here at present to at least be intriguing. He sat 89-91, but he can cut it a bit, and it has some life up in the zone. His command of the pitch has improved, and he had success running it in to righties and splitting some lumber. His upper-70s curve had a nice shape to it, although he would cast it at times. It is a potentially average offering. He still throws a very forgettable cutter/slider thing, and I think I saw two changeups. There’s some deception in his delivery, and everything is very compact and repeatable. You are probably looking at a standard issue two-pitch lefty reliever here, but hey, that’s a major league role too.

Ali Sanchez, C

If Carpio was a little disappointing this week, Sanchez was very disappointing. I have advocated for him since the GCL—and yes, catchers are weird—but if I didn’t have better priors on Sanchez, I’d be tempted to call him a non-prospect. That is a pretty harsh grade for a catcher, as it doesn’t take much to be a viable emergency third catching option. So what’s changed? Despite pedestrian numbers in the complex and downright bad ones in Brooklyn, I’ve been fairly bullish on Sanchez’s bat. The swing I saw this year just had no oomph. He doesn’t use his lower half at all anymore, and while there is still enough feel with the barrel to make contact, it’s mostly bad/weak contact. There’s 20 power now, and the good contact tends to be short line drives up the middle or to the opposite field. The defense behind the plate was fine, but a little indifferent. He didn’t have to make any throws, but the reports are the arm is markedly improved at least. I have no special knowledge here, but Sanchez looked like a player struggling with a back or lower body injury right now. If he isn’t, well that non-prospect possibility looms a little larger.

Short Hops

LHP Jake Simon has room to grow into his wiry frame and an advanced curveball for the level, but there’s a lot of effort in the delivery at present and he was topping out at 90. OF Ricardo Cespedes underwhelmed again. The swing is mostly arms, all slash and chop and there isn’t much power there for how long it gets. He’s probably a corner outfielder long term too. C Brandon Brosher has 70-grade raw power and a plus arm, but the defense is still very rough, and he may not get the power into games enough to survive a move to one of the corners.

Photo credit: Reinhold Matay – USA Today Sports

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