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Prospect Watch: Week Six

Welcome back to the Baseball Prospectus Mets Prospect Watch! This weekly column will take a look at one pitcher and one hitter from each level of the Mets organization and offer thoughts on their performance thus far, as well as a brief scouting report with a future outlook.

Las Vegas 51s (Triple-A)

Pitcher: Andrew Church

I went down to Binghamton two weeks ago in hopes of getting another look at Nabil Crismatt. However, because it’s minor league baseball and probable pitchers are always subject to change, I instead caught Church by accident for what would be my third look in two months. I wasn’t thrilled, as I had seen enough in my first two looks that I was contemplating writing up a full report for the site, but I figured a third look couldn’t hurt. Little did I know it would be one of the last times Church would ever step out on a mound.

Church was lit up by Erie for six runs on nine hits in just four innings, raising his ERA to 6.44 for the season. It seemed likely that Church would spend the rest of the season in Double-A and probably repeat the level next season. I had Church down as a 3, an organizational pitcher unlikely to ever reach the big leagues. All that being said, you can imagine the look on my face when I heard the news only two days later that Church had been promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas. I immediately shared the news with our own Jeffrey Paternostro, who theorized that Church was on turn and Vegas needed an arm in the rotation.

What we didn’t know was that Church informed the Mets organization of his intent to retire from professional baseball. Church was born in Las Vegas and asked the organization if he could make one last start in front of his family and friends before he decided to hang his cleats up. After making one relief appearance with Vegas, he started this past Sunday and allowed five earned on seven hits in four innings. The following day, Church announced his retirement from professional baseball. Arm injuries plagued the former second-round pick, who saw his 95 mph fastball from his days as an amateur drop down to the high 80s this season. Church obviously didn’t pan out, but it’s hard to blame a player who consistently battled injuries for his failures. I wasn’t high on Church’s potential as a major league pitcher, but that doesn’t make it any less sad to see someone’s dreams crushed. Baseball players are capable of some amazing things but don’t forget that they’re human. Celebrate and enjoy their greatness while you can because as we’ve seen with Matt Harvey and others, you never know when it’s all going to come crashing down.

Hitter: Kevin Kaczmarski

A ninth-round pick in the 2015 draft, Kaczmarski will turn 27 in December and is running out of time to prove why he deserves a shot in the majors. With Vegas in need of outfield depth, Kaczmarski was promoted from Port St. Lucie and is taking full advantage of the opportunity, slashing .529/.545/.706 in his first 17 at-bats. The organization doesn’t have great minor league depth in the outfield, hence the Jose Bautista signing, so Kaczmarski could possibly receive a chance in the majors if the opportunity presents itself (which, sorry Kevin, hopefully doesn’t happen).

That being said, there is a valid argument to be made that Kaczmarski is among the top minor league options in the organization though. He slashed .274/.370/.369 last year for Binghamton but lacks the traditional power required to profile in a corner outfield spot. He’s shown an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio throughout his minor league career, but it’s not good enough to make up for the complete lack of home run power.

Although he played center in college, Kaczmarski is a left fielder with a fringe arm. He doesn’t excel at any one particular skill and it’s hard to see where his value comes from. I don’t think there’s enough here for Kaczmarski to be a major league contributor, but the way things are going injury-wise, he may be called upon to help the big league ball club.

Binghamton Rumble Ponies (Double-A)

Pitcher: Eric Hanhold

Hanhold came over from the Brewers in last season’s Neil Walker trade but was overshadowed by fellow relievers Gerson Bautista, Jamie Callahan and Ryder Ryan, who were also acquired at the deadline. The Brewers had been using Hanhold as a starter but the Mets chose to convert him full time to the bullpen once he joined the organization, a wise decision that’s seemingly fast-tracked him for a potential big league role this season. I was incredibly impressed when I saw Hanhold during the second game of the season and aggressively threw a 7 out on his fastball.  Hanhold sits 97-99 mph with it and generates fantastic movement that helps him induce a ton of ground balls.

My favorite large adult son had a 2.84 ERA and 32 strikeouts against nine walks in his 25.1 innings with the Rumble Ponies. Notice I used “had,” because Hanhold was promoted to Triple-A Las Vegas on Wednesday. With the Mets calling up Tim Peterson, the 51s needed a relief arm and Hanhold is as good as any in the system. I’m quite high on Hanhold, as one might have guessed, and think he’s got high leverage reliever written all over him. There isn’t much for Hanhold to learn out in Vegas and the stats won’t tell us much, so the hope is he can stay sharp and prepare for a big league call-up that now seems likely to come before September.

Hitter: Tomas Nido

What a roller coaster ride it’s been for Nido this season. After beginning the year with the Rumble Ponies, Nido was called up to the majors to back up Jose Lobaton after Travis d’Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki went down with injuries. Then the Mets traded for Devin Mesoraco and got Plawecki back, sending Nido to Triple-A for 17 at-bats. Now, Nido finds himself right back where he started, in Binghamton.

Nido looked extremely overmatched at the plate during his big league stay, struggling to a .159/.208/.182 line in 44 at-bats. Many of his at-bats were simply non-competitive and it became clear quickly that Nido needed more reps down on the farm. I saw Nido with Binghamton before his call-up and thought he was showing signs of improvement with the bat. His pitch recognition looked to be well improved and his bat control was impressive. I noted that I hoped Nido would try to sell out for his 60 raw instead of hitting an empty .265 and I still hold that same position. While he looked good at the plate in my look, it was against some middling Eastern League pitching, quite a step down from the majors.

Although his work with the bat left a lot to be desired, Nido was terrific behind the plate. He impressed with his framing and ability to actually throw runners out, something d’Arnaud in particular struggled with. His oft-raved about defense looked every bit as good as it was advertised and will carry him to the majors one way or another. If the bat develops, Nido’s going to be a starting catcher and if it doesn’t, he’s still likely going to be a major league backup. There’s risk here, but Nido has a high floor because of his ability behind the plate.

Columbia Fireflies (A)

Pitcher: Joe Cavallaro

I decided to switch things up this week and go with two pitchers, so let’s take a look at two starters who are off to great starts in Columbia. Cavallaro was a 24th-round pick in last year’s draft out of the University of South Florida. The 6’4” right-hander has some deception in his wind-up and hitters struggle to pick the ball up. He sits in the high 80s and low 90s with his fastball, but his best pitch is a low 80s slider. He’s comfortable using the slider in all counts and is currently holding opponents to a .195 average in the Sally League.

In 46.2 innings for Columbia, Cavallaro has a 2.12 ERA to go along with 51 strikeouts against 17 walks. While there’s reason for optimism here, Cavallaro is still a 22-year-old college pitcher in Single-A. The Columbia roster is full of interesting collegiate players who probably need to be promoted at this point, such as David Peterson, Jeremy Vasquez and Tony Dibrell. We’re currently in wait-and-see mode with Cavallaro but there might be something here, so we’ll be keeping an eye on him.

Pitcher: Tony Dibrell

The aforementioned Dibrell was a fourth-round pick of the organization in last year’s draft. The 22-year-old pitched collegiately at Kennesaw State and is off to a nice start with the Fireflies, holding a 3.88 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 51 innings. The right-hander broke out in 2016 on the Cape and planted himself firmly on the radar of major league teams for the 2017 draft with a 1.66 ERA in 38 innings pitched.

Dibrell sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball but doesn’t generate much movement with it. He complements the fastball with a slider, a changeup and a curveball, of which the slider is presently the best of the off-speed offerings. I’d rank them slider, change, curveball, with the curve far behind the others. The Mets have an affinity for fastball-slider pitchers and Dibrell is one of many the organization hopes can blossom into a major league arm.

The biggest problem hindering Dibrell’s progress is his command, as he’s already walked 28 batters this season. Command’s been a problem for Dibrell since college and it’s something he’ll need to improve before he can move up the minor league ladder. Like Cavallaro, Dibrell is a collegiate pitcher in A-ball so we’ll hold off much judgement until he’s promoted. Expect that to happen at some point this season, as the Binghamton and Las Vegas rotations are in dire need of capable starters.

Photo credit: Aaron Doster – USA Today Sports

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