1/25/15

Tom Brennan - Majoring on the Minors: Top 30 Prospects - #12 Gavin Cecchini

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MAJORING ON THE MINORS: TOP 30 PROSPECTS – # 12 GAVIN CECCHINI - VOL.19 – Tom Brennan
I’m doing my Top 30 Prospects articles a bit differently – in 2 lists:

·       A top 10 list of lower minors guys who likely won’t show up until 2017 or later.  See list at end of this article. 

·       Followed by my top 20 list of guys who are closing in on the big leagues.  Guys who could help in the near future or be trade bait. 

Here is the list so far:
20.   Daniel Muno
19.   Michael Fulmer
18.   Miller Diaz
17.   Dario Alvarez
16.   Jayce Boyd
15.   Rob Whalen
14.   Hansel Robles
13.   Gabriel Ynoa

Today, selection #12:

GAVIN CECCHINI (pictured above with Kevin Plawecki)

I listed Mr. Cecchini at #12.  Everyone writes so much about him, usually in a “not good enough” way, you’d think he was Wilmer Flores or something.

So far, he is the high first round pick in 2012 who has reportedly fallen short of expectations.  Supposedly can’t field…lacks power…mediocre hitter.  Stop for a second, if that’s how you think, walk over to the medicine cabinet, and take a chill pill.  Wait, take 2.  Feeling better?

Let’s recap…he will spend all of next year as a 21 year old.  He mistakenly was put in rookie ball in 2013, and because he got hurt during the short rookie season, only got up 212 times when he should have gotten up 500 times for his development. 

In 2014, he had his first full year in mid-and high-A ball.  534 plate appearances, .247/.328/.378.  Not so great, not so bad for full year #1. 

Do that production again in 2015, and I will jump on the naysayer bandwagon. 

But what went well in 2014 for GC, as he played his 1st full year as a 20 year old? 

·       How about 40 extra base hits in 534 appearances, vs. only 8 in 212 appearances in Brooklyn in 2013? 

·       How about 8 HRs last year, vs. ZERO in 2013?  Growing up and adding some beef can do wonders.
·       How about 10 of 14 steals, and a solid strikeout rate of only slightly more than once every 6.5 times up? 

·       And a solid 10.6 walks every 100 at bats vs. just 6.6 per 100 the year before?

In some respects, it represented a quantum leap in 2014.  Maybe the just-turned-21 Cecchini has another quantum leap coming in 2015 in AA. 

2014 fielding was shaky at shortstop with 27 errors and a weak .942 fielding %, but part of that could have been hot-sun, full season fatigue; in short, cooler seasons in 2012 and 2013, he clocked in at a very decent .965.  Usually young guys get better.  He will.

So overall, I ranked him at 12th in my “close to major league ready” group of minor leaguers.  I’ll bet he does surge the next 2 years to be at a “competent major league rookie starting player” level by late 2016 or opening day 2017.  Whether there will be room for him or not to be that starting player, or even a utility player, who knows?  Father Time will answer all questions in due time.

Whaddya think, folks?

MY TOP 10 LOWER MINORS LIST:

# 1 - Marcos Molina

#2 – Michael Conforto

#3 – Amed Rosario

#4 – Dominic Smith

#5 - Jhoan Urena

#6 – Vicente Lupo

#7 – Wuilmer Becerra

#8 – Luis Guillorme

#9 - Casey Meisner

#10 - Milton Ramos
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Mack - 2015 Prospect List - #12 – OF – Cesar Puello

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My rankings is solely subjective and based on nothing more than what is in my head at time I’m writing this. I’ve followed the Mets minor league players for many years and I feel I can recognize talent at various levels of their development. What I have failed at is how to determine when this talent seems to diminish. It’s amazing how many first round picks never make it in this game.

I’m old school, so you won’t seem much SABR-discussion here, I do research and, when I find a good quote or two, I’ll add them to my analysis, but, like I said in the beginning of this post, most of this us subjective.

Let’s get started.

#12 – OF – Cesar Puello – 23-years old – La Romana, Dominican Republic

                       6-2, 220.  - R/R – International free agent signing 2007

           2008 – GCL -  151-AB, .305/.350/.364/714, 1-HR, 17-RBI

           2009 – K/Port -  196-AB, .296/.373/.424/796, 5-HR, 23-RBI

           2010 – Savannah -  404-AB, .292/.375/.359/734, 1-HR, 34-RBI, 45-SB

           2011 – St. Lucie -  441-AB, .259/.313/.397/710, 10-HR, 50-RBI

           2012 – St. Lucie -  227-AB, .260/.328/.423/751, 4-HR, 21-RBI

           2013 – B-Mets -  331-AB, .326/.403/.547/950, 16-HR, 73-RBI

           2014 – Vegas -  318-AB,  .252/.355/.393/748, 7-HR, 37-RBI


Let me try and explain why I still have Puello this high at #12.

(First of all, there’s no reason to go back and quote what everybody said when this kid was signed by Walter O’Malley or somebody that long ago. After seven seasons, it’s tough to still consider him a prospect at all.)

I said going into this ranking process that this was a subjective thing so, for the same reason I caught a rash of shit for my Cecchini ranking being too low, this one will probably not be a favorite for being this high.

And frankly, I can’t come up with many reasons to say he should be ranked here. Puello came to the Mets with a ‘5 tool’ reputation, but he seemed to only use one at a time. He was 5th in the league in stolen bases in 2010, but that sort of went away the next year. The power only really developed during that infamous Binghamton year that still seems to be in question.

All I remember was being told that all of the ‘smaller players’ in that scandal were suspended without testing. They simply received their suspension for having their name in an appointment book.

At this point, who cares.  Puello had ample time last season to right the wrongs.


Right now, I rank Puello as the fourth top outfielder in the minor league system. The air is right in Las Vegas to earn his old job back very quickly.
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The Morning Report – 1-25 – Marc Carig, Andy Martino, Bill Bear, Tim Kurkjian

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Marc Carig/Newsday –

            Michael Cuddyer dazzled about a dozen schoolchildren Thursday during a visit to Citi Field. Displaying the sleight of hand that he has perfected since he was a boy, the new Mets outfielder unleashed an array of card tricks that left his pint-size audience stunned.

Perhaps the Mets will need some of that magic, too, now that the Nationals have ascended to World Series favorites with the addition of pitcher Max Scherzer.
But with some impressive pitching of their own, Cuddyer believes the Mets already have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the Nationals for supremacy in the NL East.




Andy Martino/NY Daily News –

            You spend enough years around David Wright, and you see a clear pattern emerge: The captain is happier, and often better, when sharing the clubhouse with a gregarious, media-friendly second in command.

And for Wright, happiness means sleeping better, gripping the bat a little more loosely, granting fewer exhausting interviews — basically just lightening up, which the third baseman has many times admitted is hard to do. This is a guy who places heavy pressure on himself to save the Mets, and needs help easing the burden.

It was once Jeff Francoeur who ran the clubhouse card games, and split the postgame media scrums with Wright.

Now Wright’s longtime buddy Michael Cuddyer has rolled into town as the team’s lone major acquisition, and is poised to play a vital role. The season relies on Wright returning to health and All-Star form. Having an old friend around, and one who happens to be a people person, will be a relief.




Bill Baer – Hardball Talk

Hold on to your hats, folks, because you’re never going to believe this one: reliever Gonzalez Germen has been claimed off waivers. This time, he’ll be going from the Rangers to the Cubs, per ESPN’s Adam Rubin.
In case you’ve not been following Germen-related news this off-season, here’s a synopsis:
Through December 14: Germen gainfully employed by the Mets
December 15: Mets designate Germen for assignment
December 19: Yankees acquire Germen from the Mets for cash considerations
January 13: Yankees designate Germen for assignment
January 20: Rangers acquire Germen from the Yankees for cash considerations
January 21: Rangers designate Germen for assignment (to make room for Carlos Corporan on the 40-man roster)
January 23: Cubs claim Germen off waivers from the Rangers
In a little over a month, Germen has been with four organizations and counting. He may not want to sign a lease in Chicago until the dust settles.
Germen, 27, has a career 4.31 ERA and a 64/30 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings in the big leagues.


With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 19, it's time to continue dissecting the Mets' 2015 roster. This is the third of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Next up: corner infielders. Think back a year to the Mets' corner-infield situation. Third baseman David Wright was essentially a sure thing, coming off an injury-shortened season, but still one of his best ever. First base was a mess, with Ike Davis the favorite for a job that ultimately went to Lucas Duda.
A year later, first base appears set, even if Duda has improvements to make. Third base is the one with questions, foremost among them Wright's ability to stay healthy.



Tim Kurkjian –

The Chicago Cubs were playing a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The date doesn't matter; it could have been any time from 1953 to 1971. Ernie Banks, the always ebullient, always energetic slugger who famously told us, "Let's play two," popped his head out of the Cubs dugout, looked first at the bright blue sky and then at the big crowd, and said, "Let's play three!"
That was Ernie Banks. One game in a day wasn't enough, and when there were two, he wanted three. No one, but no one, loved playing the game more than Ernie Banks. And not many played it better, especially as a young man when he changed, at least for a few years, the way baseball looked at the position of shortstop. He is a Hall of Famer, one of only 26 players who have hit at least 500 home runs (he finished his 19-year career with 512). And he is, in every way, on and off the field, Mr. Cub.


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1/24/15

Mack - 2015 Prospect List - #13 – 1B – Dominic Smith

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My rankings is solely subjective and based on nothing more than what is in my head at time I’m writing this. I’ve followed the Mets minor league players for many years and I feel I can recognize talent at various levels of their development. What I have failed at is how to determine when this talent seems to diminish. It’s amazing how many first round picks never make it in this game.

I’m old school, so you won’t seem much SABR-discussion here, I do research and, when I find a good quote or two, I’ll add them to my analysis, but, like I said in the beginning of this post, most of this us subjective.

Let’s get started.

#13 – 1B – Dominic Smith – 19-years old – 6-0, 185 – L/L

                       Drafted 1st Round 2013 – Junipero Serra HS (CA)

                       2013 – K/Port – GCL:  173-AB, .301/.398/.439/837, 3-HR, 26-RBI

                       2014 – Sav -  461-AB, .271/.344/.338/683, 1-HR, 44-RBI


What they said about Smith at the time of his draft –

From Keith Law: - Smith is one of the best pure hitters in the high school class, showing a smooth left-handed swing with power and a plus glove at first base. When he keeps his weight back, his swing is outstanding, with great balance through contact and good hip rotation to generate power from his legs. He has quick, strong wrists, with a projectable body that should lead to very hard contact when he fills out in three or four years. He can drift forward at the plate too early, getting his weight out over his front side before he's started his hands, losing power and struggling to control the bat head behind him. His stride is long and early, which may be part of the reason for his trouble staying back but is an easy fix in pro ball. Smith is an excellent defender at first with a 70 arm, hitting 92 off the mound the one time I saw him pitch, albeit with a rough delivery. He doesn't show a lot of energy on the field, which has positive aspects (he's a confident, relaxed hitter) and negative ones (some scouts have questioned the effort level, myself included), but there are no serious concerns about his makeup. In this draft, with so few potential impact bats, he's a clear top 20 talent.

Adam Rubin ‏@AdamRubinESPN - Paul DePodesta said Smith is "special defender" at first base, so no intention to move him. But he can play right field, too.

Churchill - Smith offers a strong hit tool and future power and the Mets clearly went best player rather than need or an attempt to save a significant amount of cash under MLB's recommended bonus for later picks. This could also signify the club's long-term plans at the big-league level, possibly including an active free-agent winter.

greg schaum greg schaum ‏ @ Greg_Schaum - Dom Smith might end up being the best bat In this draft. High character guy who can swing it, pick it, and throw it.

Aaron Fitt Aaron Fitt ‏ @ aaronfitt - Every SoCal scout I know loves Dominic Smith -- really special makeup, special swing, plus defender. # Mets fans will love him.

Jessica Quiroli Jessica Quiroli ‏ - 1B Dominic Smith was all over the place on draft boards. Awesome pick for the Mets. # MLBDraft

John Manuel John Manuel ‏ @ johnmanuelba - Had a scout comp Dom Smith to Adrian Gonzalez. that would be pretty sweet value at No. 11 # Mets # mlbdraft

Jim Callis Jim Callis ‏ @ jimcallisBA - As you just heard on @ MLBNetwork, I think # Mets got a very nice bat at 11 in Dominic Smith. # mlbdraft

JIM BOWDEN ‏ @ JimBowdenESPNxm - Dominick Smith bat reminds me of David Ortiz when he was a kid and his defense reminds me of Adrian Gonzalez


Well, as you can read, everybody loved this kid on draft day and I can tell you after meeting him, he will be a big fan favorite. This guy has a more positive personality than Curtis Granderson. He started wonderfully in 2013, hitting over .300 for K-Port/GCL after the draft.

He did only one thing wrong in 2014 and it wasn’t his fault. He played the entire full season for Savannah in a terrible humid climate, especially in July-August. He hit .320 in May, .301 in June, and .292 in July, but ‘the grind’ caught up .217 in August.
Folks, this is a real time bat and he’s only 19-years old.

Outlook –

The sky’s the limit.

My guess is he’s bulking up in the off-season and will open the season for St. Lucie.
The slow road would get him to Queens in 2008 and it will be the Mets decision it they someday replace a 30+ home run hitter like Lucas Duda with a Keith Hernandez-type first baseman like Smith looks to be.


Sounds like a win-win to me. 
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Tom Brennan - Majoring on the Minors: Top 30 Prospects - #13 Gabe Ynoa

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MAJORING ON THE MINORS: TOP 30 PROSPECTS – #13 GABRIEL YNOA - VOL.18 – Tom Brennan
I’m doing my Top 30 Prospects articles a bit differently – in 2 lists:

·       A top 10 list of lower minors guys who likely won’t show up until 2017 or later.  Already completed. See list at end of this article. 

·       Followed by my top 20 list of guys who are closing in on the big leagues.  Guys who could help in the near future or be trade bait. 

Here is the list so far:
20.   Daniel Muno
19.   Michael Fulmer
18.   Miller Diaz
17.   Dario Alvarez
16.   Jayce Boyd
15.   Rob Whalen
14.   Hansel Robles

Today, selection #13:


So far, Ynoa has been pitching in the mode of….well, Whitey Ford.  Whitey, the former Yankee great, pitched well his last 3 years, but only went 20-22 in those years. Before that, he had a stunning .720 career win %. Ynoa so far is 38-16, a .704 win %.   Comparable.   Nice.

Before I focus on Ynoa, let me add that Whitey won 236 games, but after a 9-1 rookie season, had to spend 2 years in the early 50’s in the military.  Amazing what a career he would have had, even beyond his Hall of Fame career, had he not lost those 2 prime years.

Back to Gabe. Ynoa is a slender (so far) 6'2" righty, whose velocity increased into the low 90s by last year.  Some say he reminds them of Rafael Montero, but with lesser secondary stuff.  I say, stop being picky with the kid, he was just 21 last year!

Gabe has exceptional control (63 walks in 489 innings, a miniscule 1.15 per 9 innings).  And with 148 innings last year (not including playoffs), he should have virtually no innings limit this year.

OK, let me stop being a fan for a second....is it all coming up roses? Any areas of concern? Well, 4 of them, actually.

·       He allowed 169 hits in 148 innings.  Excellent control or not, he needs to reduce that rate...a lot.  

·       Secondly, he allowed 16 homers in 148 innings last year, also too many.  

·       Thirdly, just 106 Ks in 148 innings.  

·       Lastly, an uncharacteristically high 4.07 ERA in 2014.

The ability to pitch to contact is really good, but he needs to lessen the frequency and quality of contact in 2015...or he'll possibly get tattooed in AAA.  And I am not a big fan of pitchers getting tattooed.  The only tattoo I like is from the Fantasy Island show, actually.

On the bright side, he only turns 22 around Memorial Day 2015, so maybe he can add another tick or 2 of velocity.  If he does that with his control…WOW!

But, lest we stray too far from the main path, HE WINS GAMES.  It's not all ERA, K rate, WHIP, folks....it's winning, and he excels in that category.  No reason to think he won't be ready by late 2015 to mid-2016.  Winners move quickly.

Let me conclude by saying "Ynoa good thing when you see one."  Bad puns aside, whaddya think?

MY TOP 10 LOWER MINORS LIST:

# 1 - Marcos Molina

#2 – Michael Conforto

#3 – Amed Rosario

#4 – Dominic Smith

#5 - Jhoan Urena

#6 – Vicente Lupo

#7 – Wuilmer Becerra

#8 – Luis Guillorme

#9 - Casey Meisner

#10 - Milton Ramos
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Reese Kaplan - Peeling Back the Layers

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Many of you reading this article may be too young to remember the brilliance of Harvey Korman and Tim Conway on the old “Carol Burnett Show”.  Conway would routinely make Korman break character and struggle to maintain his composure by doing something during the sketches that was so over-the-top that Korman would lose control.  In fact, on a recent episode of Conan O’Brien Tim Conway recounted the time he made Korman wet himself from laughing so hard in this bit: 



I was reminded of this program because one of their other bits involved a speechwriter who had to figure out how to put a positive spin on bad news when his candidate was about to deliver a stump speech to his constituents.  The topic at hand was runaway inflation and they struggled for a bit with how to make this negative into a positive.  Finally you see the candidate practicing his finely crafted line, “I promise you in the coming year you will see more money pass through your hands than ever before!”

My career has taken some odd twists and turns, but in college I thought I wanted to work in public relations and I enrolled for an undergraduate course at NYU entitled “Business Communications:  How To Write a Bad News Letter”.  It was truly one of the finest classes I’d ever taken.  In it we were presented with all kinds of disastrous scenarios and challenged as aspiring PR professionals how we would handle them.  Some of our case studies at the time included the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez and the tainted Tylenol capsule problem that faced Johnson & Johnson.

This trip down memory lane resulted from the recent announcement by the Mets trumpeting the fact that their ticket sales are up almost 20% over the same period of time last year.  That’s great news, right?

Well, when you peel back the layers of this onion it’s enough to make you cry.  First of all, the Mets started selling tickets a full three months earlier than they did for the 2014 season.  Consequently if their sales are up just 20%, that’s pretty pathetic considering the head start of a full business quarter for this season over last season.  They’re comparing apples and oranges.

Second, why announce these non-verifiable numbers at all.  Towards what end would it benefit them?  Obviously they’re taking their hits on the back pages and the blogs for the usual litany of sins including their hot stove inertia, the ongoing niggardly approach to spending, their refusal to dip their toe into the international markets of Cuba and Asia, and the plans to apparently mount a 9-man pitching rotation against the rest of the league instead of trading away some of the excess.  There’s also the move-him-or-lose-him Daniel Murphy scenario, the contract renewal of the rather unimpressive manager and the sacrificing of a precious draft pick on a 36 year old DH who would be uninsurable if not for the Obamacare provision about pre-existing conditions.  So you see, this team is rather starved for some positive news on the back pages.

Still, they are quite often their own worst enemy.  With a three day span the Washington Nationals fortified what was already baseball’s best pitching staff by bestowing the largest free agent contract on a pitcher in the history of the game, the Mets announced a bigger scoreboard then said they were too poor to bid on Cuban wunderkind Yoan Moncada.  See?  They do it to themselves.

However, there’s a more sinister motivation lurking inside this particular shallot.  Remember Jeff Wilpon’s alleged wrongful termination of Leigh Castergnine, Senior VP of Ticket Sales & Services?  Her side of the story is that it was retribution for him not approving of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy.  His side was that it was for incompetence (though selling tickets to the mess he was putting on the field would be challenging for anyone).  Now the Mets are getting their PR machine working overtime to spread the news about the great ticket sale increase.  There couldn’t be any reason to try to build a case for when Jeff goes to court, right?  Stay tuned.  He gets deposed on February 23rd.  

This dull period before the Superbowl and before Spring Training is tedious for sports fans and no one wants to read any more Dillon Gee, shortstop or even #DeflateGate stories.  Consequently editors are starved to fill their column inches with something and several passed along this tidbit without thinking it through.

Furthermore, there’s another shoot-yourself-in-the-foot moment related to this PR-generated story.  Harken back to Sandy Alderson’s tone-deaf proclamation about this time last year in which he said that the Mets would spend more when the fans started showing up at the turnstiles.  Hmmn…doesn’t an increase of 20% in ticket sales mean increased revenue?  It couldn’t be that the numbers are doctored a bit for other reasons, could it?  I mean, it was just a year prior when Fred Wilpon in response to questions about financial constraints said, “It’s all in the rearview mirror.  I think we would anticipate being big investors [next offseason] if that were appropriate, That depends on what the market is.” 

Really?  Payroll went down each of the past several years.  This year it’s up due to some arbitration-eligible players getting increases (and two to three of them are likely on their way out the door which would result in yet another year of payroll reduction.) 


Is it any wonder no one takes what the Mets say at face value?
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