Seth Lugo and the core of the matter

Before the 2012 season Lugo underwent spinal fusion surgery and was bedridden for months. “The surgery was pretty scary,’’ admitted Lugo, who will arrive here Sunday.

From that hardship, Lugo worked that much harder on building his core when he was allowed to work out again and he believes that has made him a much better pitcher.

“I started using my legs more,’’ he said of his motion. “Without that surgery I never would have started working out like I do.’’

Source: Kevin Kernan, New York Post

His peripherals paint the picture of a guy who was very lucky last year. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something more here.

Dave Cameron on the Mets’ recent pitching success

During this 20-7 run, the Mets have gotten zero innings from Matt Harvey or Steven Matz, and just 9 2/3 ineffective innings from Jacob deGrom, who allowed eight runs in the two starts he made, with the team losing both games he started. This isn’t the same group that steamrolled through last October, but even without any contribution from those guys, the Mets have allowed the fewest runs in baseball. And the main reason? They’ve been fantastic at stranding runners.

The Mets have an 82% LOB% over the last month, easily the best in baseball. Their ability to get out of jams has been huge for them, and has saved them about 20 runs during the course of the last month. This isn’t the kind of thing you should expect to continue, of course, but we’re not really trying to figure out if this Mets team is a great one — it’s pretty clearly inferior to what they’d have if they were healthy — but simply diagnose how the Mets backups and fallback plans have managed to go on this kind of run. And runner stranding has had a lot to do with it.

Noah Syndergaard has been pitching like an ace, but he’s been doing that most of the year; the difference over the last month is that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have managed to give the team 64 innings of work with a combined 2.39 ERA. They aren’t going to keep doing that, as Lugo and Gsellman are no Harvey, Matz, or deGrom, but they’ve done a good enough impression of them when they needed to get out of trouble lately.

Nice to see the team get this positive press. Not a lot new in here for those of us who are watching regularly but points for coming up with “Jofery Blevsmokas.”

Source: FanGraphs

Dave Cameron on Yoenis Cespedes

In New York, Cespedes started elevating the baseball in a way he hadn’t earlier in the season, and the result was that balls started flying over the fence. His average launch angle so far in 2016? 17.4 degrees. A one-month spike is now a three-month trend, and the spike in balls in the air is one of the primary reasons why Cespedes is producing at an elite offensive level.

But the remarkable thing isn’t so much that he’s been able to hit the ball in the air more often; lots of guys could do that by changing the angle of their swing. But the downside to an uppercut swing is that it also usually leads to an increase in whiffs; there’s a reason why guys like Chris Davis run strikeout rates over 30%. Cespedes, though, hasn’t really sacrificed any contact while finding this power stroke.

Since September 1st, lining up with this change in launch angle, Cespedes has made contact on 86.8% of his in-zone swings and 76.3% of his swings overall. For his career up through August 31st, Cespedes had made contact on 85.3% of his in-zones wings and 76.5% of his swings overall. Cespedes has somehow pulled off the pretty rare trick of adding power without having to swing and miss more often, and that has made him a substantially better hitter than he was earlier in his career.

Source: FanGraphs

Dan Warthen on Jeurys Familia and the quick pitch

“The quick pitch is a good tool,” Warthen said. “It can be very effective against guys with big leg kicks, or guys that are on your stuff pretty good. I just thought that one was a poor decision because he threw a sinker the pitch before and (Gordon) hit the top of the baseball and fouled it straight down, basically to the catcher. So he hadn’t shown that he could handle the sinker, and there was no reason to change anything. But the quick pitch has worked very well for Jeurys, and he will continue to throw it.”

Source: John Harper, New York Daily News

I understand Warthen’s logic but I’d still prefer that Familia make his normal pitches and leave this tool to someone who doesn’t throw 97 or have a devastating splitter.

On Lucas Duda swinging fewer times this year

“[Duda] is really one of the hardest workers I’ve been around,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “Some of the challenge I have as a hitting coach is backing him off. We still have our days, some days I can’t keep him away from the field or away from some of the drills, but for the most part I would say instead of going six out of seven days max-out crazy, he is probably at one or two days, which is quite a turnaround.

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“The main goal for spring training is to remain healthy, get your work in and get ready for the season,” Duda said. “I think the program I’m on right now, whether it be 80 percent of what it was last year, I feel great, my body feels great and I’m looking forward to the season.”

Source: New York Post

Dan Warthen on sending Rafael Montero to the minors

He missed almost a whole year. It’s going to take at least a couple of months for him to get back into throwing, get his arm in full shape, get himself going. We’re going to use a sixth starter during the course of the year. So he has to get down there and get some innings in, start to get the velocity back, start to see hitters again, start to do the things that we were so high on him about before. When you miss a whole year, it takes a while to get back.

Source: ESPN.com

Dan Farnsworth on Wuilmer Becerra

The most impressive development last year for Becerra was the improvement in his approach, resulting in fewer chases out of the zone and his best strikeout rate in three years. His slight swing changes have helped him make more contact, but he has more work to do to ensure he can handle the better command and offspeed stuff he will face over the next three levels. With average speed and a strong but inconsistent arm, he fits the prototypical right-fielder mold as long as the bat develops.

Last year could end up being the turning point of his young career toward becoming an everyday player, or it could be his best statistical year that he never repeats. I’m less confident in this evaluation because of the collection of positives and negatives in his profile. I think he’s at least going to be a solid platoon player, since facing lefties will mitigate any weaknesses he has with higher level offspeed. He’s a player I will be keeping an eye on early this year to monitor his progress.

Source: Dan Farnsworth, FanGraphs

Lots of good stuff at the link. While I cannot recommend his individual rankings, you should read it for the information, rather than the opinions.

Chris Mitchell on Dilson Herrera

Herrera doesn’t look the part of a future All-Star. He’s listed at just 5-foot-10 (which means he’s probably even shorter than that), and by most accounts, doesn’t have the defensive chops to play shortstop. He also lacks the loud physical tools of a Bryant or Correa. Heading into the season, erstwhile lead prospect analyst Kiley McDaniel rated all of Herrera’s tools very close to average. Herrera’s hit tool received the best FV with 55 on the 20-80 scale, while he projected his game power and arm to remain below-average (45). Guys with merely average tools don’t generally populate prospect lists.

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With last year’s showing, Herrera proved he’s too good for the Triple-A level. All indications are that he’s ready for the show. Steamer and ZiPS both peg him for a 98 wRC+ this year, while the ever optimistic fans call for a 116 mark. League-average offense from a second baseman? That’s pretty darn valuable. However, the Mets don’t seem particularly eager to give their potentially valuable second baseman a shot.

Source: Chris Mitchell, FanGraphs

Hey, it could have been worse. They could have signed Ben Zobrist to a four-year deal.

Before they were signed: Amed Rosario

I was doing some research into International Free Agent signings by the Mets and came across this scouting report on Amed Rosario:

11. Amed Rosario, ss, Dominican Republic
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. B-T: R-R.

Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara set the international bonus record last year when he signed out of Ivan Noboa’s program for $4.95 million. Growing up, Mazara played in La Javilla youth league in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Rosario was one of his boyhood teammates, but because he was born six months after Mazara in November 1995, he is part of this year’s July 2 class. Rosario trains with John Carmona, who is also the president of La Javilla. Ellis Pena, known as “Peñita”, a former scout who was fired by the Pirates, is also one of Rosario’s coaches.

Rosario might be the most divisive player in Latin America. He has a long, lanky build, good bat speed and raw power in batting practice along with average speed. Some scouts who like Rosario enough to have him ranked as the top prospect in the Dominican Republic, seeing him as a true shortstop who with power who can hit in games. He showed that at the MLB showcase in February in games against Venezuela, going 4-for-7 with a double, a walk and no strikeouts. Supporters like his fielding instincts, hands, arm strength and ability to make the barehanded play.

Other scouts see an upright hitter with a leg kick that gets him out on his front foot against offspeed stuff and leads to strikeouts with his uppercut stroke. His body has a lot of room to fill out, so he may end up at third base, but some scouts aren’t sold on his infield actions and see him as a corner outfielder.

Scouts are united in their appreciation of Rosario’s makeup. He is scheduled to graduate high school before July 2. His father is a lawyer who will be influential in the signing, and his mother has a cousin who is married to Brewers scout Rafael Espinal. If a team sees a true shortstop with an impact bat, Rosario could end up the highest-paid player in the Dominican Republic. Some sources think the Mets will be that team, though the Astros and White Sox have also been mentioned.

Source: Ben Badler, Baseball America

Rosario received the highest bonus given to an international prospect by the Mets in the last four years. He’s also their highest-ranked player in that group, now that Marcos Molina has been slowed by injuries.

Dave Cameron on the Mets’ offseason

Dave Cameron ranked the offseason moves of all 30 teams. Here’s what he had to say about the Mets:

The Mets had one of the weirdest offseasons of any team in baseball. After watching their defense betray them in the World Series, they doubled down on poor defenders, bringing in Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker to cover minimal ground up the middle. Once Yoenis Cespedes fell into their laps, they essentially were all-in on an offense-and-pitching strategy, and while it isn’t necessarily the way I’d prefer to build a roster, the individual moves look smart enough to call it a good winter overall. At the prices they paid for Cespedes and Walker, those deals were too good to turn down, while Cabrera is still a useful player, and he didn’t cost much either.

The team’s strength of dominant starting pitching should help alleviate some of their defensive weakness, and if the line-up hits well, the Mets will be contenders once again. Overall, you have to give the Mets positive marks for their moves this winter; they took advantage of a soft market for hitting and set themselves up for a chance to return to the World Series in 2016, and gave up nothing they’ll miss long-term to do so.

Source: Dave Cameron, FanGraphs

Click on the link to see where the Mets rate among all MLB in Cameron’s mind.

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Frank Viola on Noah Syndergaard

“Syndergaard is the guy that made the biggest strides last season,” Viola said. “The best thing that happened to him was Sandy (Alderson) deciding not to bring him up in September (of 2014) after he struggled in Vegas.

“It made him realize he had to work that much harder. When he’d get in trouble that season, his answer was to try and throw the ball harder, and that doesn’t work. He had to learn how to use his off-speed stuff and really pitch, and he did that.

“As much as he took off last year, I think he’ll be even better this season.”

Source: John Harper, NY Daily News

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Mickey Jannis on how he throws his knuckleball

“It’s a two-finger grip, like R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield, and Steven Wright, maybe. But the way the ball is turned in my hand is a little different. I throw it at the bottom of the horseshoe, whereas I know Dickey and Wakefield threw it at the top of the horseshoe. It feels better coming out of my hand that way, and everybody is different.

“Most of the time I throw it hard, but I do change speeds wth it; I throw some soft ones, too. I throw my harder one at the catcher’s mask and let it drop down in the strike zone. My slower one, I kind of aim at the umpire’s mask and let it drop down. So my focal point differs. I try to have a feel for the release, but once it’s gone it does it’s own thing.”

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“The knuckleball is just different. Even if you’re just playing catch with it in the bullpen, guys will gather around to watch. Sometimes it’s hard to keep a straight face when I’m throwing it. One will go off the catcher’s knee, or maybe his mask, and guys will start laughing behind me. I’m trying to be serious, but it’s hard not to smile. It’s definitely a fun pitch to throw.”

Source: David Laurila, FanGraphs

Jannis had nice success in Hi-A last year but got knocked around in his brief exposure to Double-A. His is a longshot story but most of us root for the underdog and after the success we saw with Dickey, why the heck not? I’m glad he’s in the system.

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