Mets fans should jump on the Darin Gorski bandwagon

Darin Gorski is quietly turning in a fine season in Double-A.

You might recall that Gorski had a breakout year in 2011, where he went 11-3 with a 2.08 ERA. Many were skeptical because he was not highly touted and he dominated at an advanced age for his league. The conventional wisdom coming into this season was to see what Gorski did at Double-A before getting excited about him as a prospect.

Last night on the road, Gorski allowed just 1 ER in 7.2 IP, had 1 BB and 9 Ks and won for the third time in his last four games. After 24 games in Double-A, his ledger stands now at 9-7, with a 3.66 ERA at Binghamton. FWIW, Matt Harvey had a 4.53 ERA in 12 games at Binghamton while Zack Wheeler had a 3.26 ERA in 19 games at the same place.

In his last 10 games, Gorski has a 3.06 ERA with 58 Ks in 61.2 IP. He’s finishing the season off strong. Gorski also got off to a good start on the year, as after six games he had a 2.27 ERA. The trouble came in the middle of the season. Actually, that’s a bit of an overstatement. The trouble came in three games when Gorski’s normal pattern was thrown off.

His first bad outing came on May 12th, seven days after a 6 IP, 1 ER performance. Gorski was lit up and surrendered 9 R and 10 H in 4.0 IP. His next appearance, also seven days later, came as a relief pitcher, as the Mets used Gorski to supplement a start that day by Jenrry Mejia. He gave up 3 ER in 4.1 IP in his only relief appearance of the season. His third appearance in this bad stretch was a 4.2 IP, 4 ER performance.

That’s life in the minors, where virtually no one is guaranteed a regular turn in the rotation.

But in that 13-day stretch, Gorski allowed 15 ER in 13 IP. For grins and giggles, if we remove those 13 IP from Gorski’s line, we see a guy with a 2.96 ERA in 124.2 innings. Not too shabby. Of course we cannot just remove stats we do not like from a player’s overall stat line. So we need to use his 3.66 ERA.

Pitchers as a whole in the Eastern League have a 3.91 ERA this year, so Gorski is comfortably above-average in this regard. He’s 10th in the league in innings (137.2) and 7th in strikeouts (109) and holds a very respectable 1.249 WHIP.

The biggest knock on Gorski is that he holds a 4.44 FIP. And the reason his FIP is so high is that Gorski is tied for fourth in the Eastern League with 19 HR allowed. Six times this year Gorski has allowed multiple homers in a game, including two games where he served up three gopher balls. From July 9th to August 15th, Gorski allowed a homer in seven straight games. In that span opponents cracked 12 HR in 39 IP.

But Gorski pitched at least six innings in all but one of those starts. And despite the homer parade, Gorski managed a 3.69 ERA in this stretch. Plus, in his last two starts, Gorski has gone 14.2 IP without a homer. Because most of the homers were solo shots, he survived a stretch that could have been crippling.

Last year Gorski was selected as having the best command among Mets’ farmhands. But Gorski got off to a shaky start with walks in 2012. As late as July 22nd, he allowed 6 BB in 4 IP. However, in his last six starts, Gorski has permitted just nine walks in 39.2 innings.

For the season, Gorski has a 7.58 K/9 and a 3.20 BB/9. Among qualified pitchers that’s the seventh-best strikeout rate and the 21st-best walk rate, right above Wheeler’s 3.34 mark.

At this point I think it’s safe to say that Gorski has passed the Double-A test. While he did not dominate the league like he did last year in Hi-A, no one was expecting him to do that and that certainly wasn’t the barometer for 2012 being a successful season. Instead we wanted to see a guy who could take the ball on a regular basis and not be overmatched and Gorski has without a doubt met that challenge.

Gorski’s overall numbers paint the picture of a guy who has succeeded at this level and is ready for the next step. And we know his numbers have improved as the season’s gone on. While he has a 7.58 K/9 rate for the entire year, he has an 8.46 mark in his last 10. Earlier, we saw how his walks and homers allowed have gone down recently, too.

He is by no means a finished product and will likely need a full season of Triple-A under his belt next season before we can tell more about his major league chances. But we know he’s a lefty who throws hard enough to succeed and those guys do not grow on trees.

Jonathon Niese is just one year older than Gorski and this is Niese’s third full season in the majors. But it is not unheard of for lefties to take a little while longer to put things together and Mets fans should be bullish on Gorski’s chances to be a contributor going forward. Because of the situation the Mets find themselves in – broke and needing to add talent via trades – Gorski may end up being used in a deal.

Part of the idea of developing a strong farm system is to have enough prospects where you can trade guys in a position of strength for a position of need. Hands down, the strongest position for the Mets is starting pitching, so we should prepare ourselves for a deal where they trade someone promising from their pitching ranks to address their needs in the outfield.

Gorski has to be viewed at this point as someone promising. His strong finish to 2012 should elevate him from a standard “C-level” prospect into at least a C+ or perhaps even a B- grade. By himself, Gorski will not fetch a big return. But it’s easy to see him being part of a package to bring in the big hitter that the club so desperately needs.

And if Gorski is still in the system when the 2013 season rolls around, we should monitor his Triple-A outings closely. If he can continue to limit his walks and keep his homers at a respectable clip, Gorski will be a starting pitcher in the majors. Not bad for a seventh-round draft pick out of Kutztown University. Ryan Vogelsong is the only player in MLB history to make the majors from that school.

Vogelsong made his major league debut in 2000 but he did not put it all together and have success in the majors until 2011, at age 33. But in his last 54 games, covering 52 starts, Vogelsong is 24-14 with a 2.80 ERA. Hopefully Gorski can duplicate the success in the majors that his fellow Kutztown alum has enjoyed. It would be even better if he did it before age 33. Come join me on the bandwagon if you see success for Gorski in the majors sooner than that.

Mets Minors: Wilmer Flores the next David Wright or Fernando Martinez

Although I’m sure the New York Mets’ brain trust won’t admit it, there must be a little concern over Class A shortstop Wilmer Flores, who entered 2010 as the Mets’ finest young hitting prospect and one of the best youngsters in the lower levels.

Flores hit .269/.309/.380, not bad for a kid who just turned 20 in August, especially since he’s playing against players two to three years older on a nightly basis.

His career up to this point has somewhat followed that of two other top Mets hitting prospects in terms of being highly regarded and being challenged at a young age: David Wright and Fernando Martinez.

In 2003 as a 20-year-old at St. Lucie in the Florida State League, Wright hit .270/.369/.459 with 39 doubles, two triples, 15 homers with 72 walks, 19 steals and 98 strikeouts in 133 games and 549 at-bats.

Martinez actually made it to St. Lucie for 119 at-bats in 2006 as a 17-year-old, batting .193, and started the ’07 campaign at Class AA Binghamton, a campaign that kick-started a career of injuries, lack of development and inconsistency.

Wright buzzed through the two highest levels the following season before starting what has turned out to be a very productive major league career. Martinez, who may have been a little older than listed, has never hit .300, has reached 10 homers just once and never had a season with an OPS of .800. Furthermore, he never walked showed a propensity to work the count, showing no improvement over his career.

So where does Flores fit?

Flores, a shortstop who most scouts feel will outgrow his spot and move to the hot corner where Wright played, split the ’10 season between Class A Savannah and St. Lucie, hitting .289/.333/.424 with 36 doubles, 11 homers and 84 RBI with 32 walks and 77 strikeouts in 133 games and 554 at-bats.

It’s a little unsettling that after Flores spent the last 67 games at St. Lucie in ’10, New York felt the Venezuela native wasn’t equipped to make the jump to AA Binghamton at all this summer. And his numbers fell across the board.

The problem with Flores is that it appears he may have plateaued. One thing scouts and front-office people look at is an ability for hitters to make adjustments. Flores had a .688 OPS in the second half this season, after posting a .690 OPS in the first half. And his numbers fell across the board from 2010 even though he had the comfort of returning to a league he spent half of last season..

The 6-3 righthander hit just nine bombs this season after 11 last year – his most over his four years of professional ball. However more concerting to scouts and analysts has been Flores’ inability to command the strike zone. He had just 27 walks over 516 at-bats this year and has just 92 in four years and over 2,000 at-bats.

So where does Flores fall?

It’s fairly obvious now that Flores isn’t tracking like Wright, but will he be a bust like Martinez? On the positive side, Flores has proven to be extremely durable over four seasons, therefore there’s little concern he will be stunted by a plethora of injuries. However, his productivity closely resembles that of Martinez, who has been indifferent statistically in the minors and a disaster in a few major league auditions.

Flores needs to show he gets it as far as his approach at the plate. His bat could play in the major leagues if he can remain at shortstop – he did commit just 20 errors this season – but it won’t play at a corner infield or corner outfield spot.

There have been too many young hitting prospects with physical tools, a projectable body and bat speed that couldn’t master the mental aspect of the craft and fizzle out. Flores won’t fizzle out, but he won’t be anything more than a bit player for the Mets.

**************************

LHP Darin Gorski (11-3, 2.08 ERA), the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year, will start Game One of the playoffs for St. Lucie against Bradenton. “I couldn’t have imagined this, not (during spring training),” Gorski told Bill Whitehead of the TCPalm.com. “I started out in the bullpen, and just to get a chance to start was so exciting for me. One thing led to another, and things went great. It’s been a fun season.” Following Gorski will be Zack Wheeler (2-2, 2.00 ERA) and Greg Peavey (5-4, 3.97 ERA). … In the opening round of the low Class A South Atlantic League playoffs, Savannah plays Augusta in a best-of-three series starting Wednesday. …

AROUND THE MINORS: Binghamton RHP Matt Harvey led the organization with 13 wins. He had his five consecutive winning-starts streak snapped Saturday against Reading, allowing four runs, three hits and four walks in three innings. The 2010 first-rounder finished with a combined record of 13-5 and a 3.19 ERA in 25 starts. He allowed 123 hits in 132 2/3 innings, while striking out 154 batters and walking 43.… RHP Collin McHugh, promoted on May 29 from St. Lucie, won his last seven starts of the season to finish with a record of 8-2 at Binghamton. … OF Juan Lagares, who split the season between St. Lucie and Binghamton, hit .349 – fifth best in the minor leagues. The 22-year-old hit .370 in 38 games at AA.

Mets Minors: Gorski’s record-setting start comes to an end

Matt Harvey left Class A St. Lucie with an 8-2 record and a 2.37 ERA before heading to Class AA Binghamton. Darin Gorski has been even better than the 2010 first-rounder as the “ace” of the St. Lucie rotation.

Gorski set a club record with his 10th straight win July 18 against Clearwater, surpassing the nine straight wins by Pat Strange in 2000. Unfortunately, the lefthander’s streak ended Saturday when, despite a seven-inning complete game against Brevard County, he was beaten 3-2.

Gorski yielded three earned runs and six hits with a walk and four strikeouts, including a wind-aided homer in the seventh that cost him and the Mets the first of two seven-inning games.

“That’s how it goes sometimes,” Gorski told Bill Whitehead of the TCPalm.com. “I didn’t think it was that bad of a pitch. It was a changeup low and he got the bat on it. I didn’t think it was going to make it out.”

For the season, the 23-year-old is 10-1 with a Florida State League-best 2.15 ERA with 25 walks and 111 strikeouts in 104 2/3 innings.

“It’s so much easier pitching with some confidence,” the Kutztown (Pa.) University alum told Whitehead. “The first couple of seasons had some rocky moments, but I had a good spring this year. I came in and pitched with confidence and pounded the strike zone.

Primarily a reliever in the first month, Gorski used a spot start in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Brevard County two months ago to plant himself firmly in the rotation. He is 10-1 with a 2.03 ERA in 15 starts. In his first start on April 27 in Bradenton, he struck out nine Marauders in the first three innings, and had 10 strikeouts in the first 11 outs recorded.

St. Lucie manager Pedro Lopez had Gorski in Brooklyn in 2009 after he was drafted and also last season at Savannah.

“It’s impressive, and I’m happy for him because he’s a hard-working kid. You want to see stories like his, Lopez told TCPalm.com. “He’s a guy who has battled and kept grinding, outing after outing, day after day.”

Meanwhile, Harvey continues to struggle at Class AA.

In his latest outing Saturday against Reading, the Phillies rode a three-run first inning to a 3-2 victory. Of the 18 runs Harvey has allowed with the B-Mets, 10 have come in the first inning. Overall, the 6-4 righthander is 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA and 31 hits allowed in 22 2/3 innings.

*********

St. Lucie 3B Jefry Marte was the talk of the club in April. The then 19-year-old hit .321 with four homers and 16 RBI in 23 games. However, the third baseman has lost his power touch since, drilling just one in his last 70 games – none in June or July. He has a .553 OPS this month and hasn’t reached .700 since posting a .920 OPS in April.

**********

Class AAA Buffalo first baseman Val Pascucci leads the International League with 68 RBI in his quest to become just the third player in the franchise’s modern era to lead the league, joining American Association leaders Jeromy Burnitz (1995) and Nigel Wilson (1996). Buffalo has not had the winner of the IL RBI race since Pancho Herrera had 108 in 1962.

The 32-year-old was originally a 15th-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos in 1999. Pascucci is batting .268/.388/.498 with 14 homers and 24 doubles in 89 games. He’s batting .366 with four homers and 17 RBI in his last 10 games.

*********

Infielder Josh Satin was promoted from Binghamton to Buffalo this week. The 26-year-old was 2-for-13 in his first three games with the Herd after batting .325 with an Eastern League-leading 35 doubles, 11 homers and 60 RBI at Binghamton.

Satin hit a combined .311 last year with 12 homers and 74 RBI at Class A Savannah and Binghamton and then went 16-for-41 in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League. He is a career .306 hitter in 412 minor league games.

“The goal for me coming into this season was to get here because once you’re here if you do well, you never know what can happen,” Satin told Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News. “I’m thrilled to be here. I’m going to work my butt off to do everything I can to succeed and help the team. If all goes well, there’s always that chance. It’s great to be here.”

AROUND THE MINORS: Binghamton 2B Reese Havens returned from his latest injury by going 3-for-5 on Wednesday at Portland. He went 1-for-9 in his next three games and is batting .257/.333/.398 in 26 games at Class AA. He had been out since late June. … Teammate CF Matt den Dekker continues his power surge, drilling four homers over three games last week. He has six homers in 33 games for Binghamton and has rebounded after a poor start to hit .234/.315/.461 with 15 extra-base hits (6 homers) in 128 at-bats. The 23-year-old defensive whiz hit .296/.362/.494 at St. Lucie. … Savannah C Albert Cordero snapped a 1-for-11 skid with six RBI, including a two-run homer and a game-tying RBI in the seventh. He had three more hits Sunday to raise his average to .257 – .315 in the second half. … OF Juan Lagares was promoted from High Class A St. Lucie to Binghamton and went 6-for-9 in his first two games. The 22-year-old was leading the Florida State League in hitting at .339/.381/.495 with seven homers and 49 RBI in 81 games.

Is Darin Gorski part of a new market inefficiency?

There’s an old joke that asks why so many Polish names end in ski. And the answer is because they’re too dumb to know how to spell toboggan.

If you followed baseball in the 70s (or earlier) there were no shortages of players with last names ending with ski. There was Carl Yastrzemski and Greg Luzinski and Bill Mazeroski. And Ron Perranoski and Ted Kluszewski and Ray Narleski. To say nothing of Stan Coveleski or Dick Tracewski or Rip Repulski.

But according to Baseball-Reference.com there have been 1,034 players to appear in the majors so far this season and only three of those have surnames ending in ski. Chances are you know that A.J. Pierzynski is one of them. But any guesses on the other two?

While you’re pondering that one, let me bring this to the Mets. I utilized the wonderful Ultimate Mets Database and scanned all of the names and only found one player in team history with the ski ending. He played 21 games for the club over parts of two seasons and anyone under 40 is forgiven for not knowing who this is. And the greybeards can be forgiven for forgetting this guy.

This whole thing started due to Mets minor league pitcher Darin Gorski, who ran his record to 10-0 Monday night with a win over Clearwater. It was not a particularly impressive win for Gorski, who allowed 3 ER in 5 IP. But no matter what league you’re in, a 10-0 record with a 2.03 ERA is an impressive achievement.

Of course readers here were introduced to Gorski back in early June. The Kutztown University product started the year in the bullpen but worked his way into the rotation where his fastball-slider-change repertoire could get more of a workout. And the results speak for themselves. In 81.2 IP as a starter, Gorski has a 1.87 ERA with 21 BB and 85 Ks.

All enthusiasm should be tempered by the fact that Gorski is 23-years old and pitching in the Florida State League. But a promotion to Double-A should be in his near future. And we should recall that Gorski was not even considered to be one of the Mets’ best prospects according to prospect maven John Sickels before the year started. Sickels wrote up bios on 39 players in his prospect book and Gorski was not one of them.

If Gorski eventually joins the Mets, he’ll join the immortal Phil Mankowski as the only players in team history with the ski ending. As for the other two players in the majors in 2011 with that suffix, they are Mike Zagurski, who has pitched in four games with the Phillies, and Marc Rzepczynski, who has been in the bullpen all year for the Blue Jays.

Interestingly, both Zagurski and Rzepczynski are lefthanded pitchers with big minor league strikeout numbers, like Gorski. Ever since Moneyball came out, teams have been looking for the next market inefficiency. Perhaps teams should start looking for lefty pitchers whose surnames have the ski ending.

Mets Minors: Darin Gorski steps up

The New York Mets may have another pitcher on the horizon.

Unheralded 23-year-old Darin Gorski has struck out 66 batters in 48 2/3 innings at Class A St. Lucie in the Florida State League. A starter in his first two years in the minor leagues since being drafted in the seventh round in 2009, the lefthander began 2011 in the bullpen but has been sensational since joining the rotation.

In his first six appearances – all in relief – Gorski allowed 17 hits in 16 innings with three walks, 22 strikeouts and a 2.81 ERA. In six starts, Gorski is 3-0, 1.38 ERA with 26 hits, 10 walks and 44 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. His overall ERA of 1.85 leads the league.

“I definitely have better command this year and have my mechanics back in order,” Gorski told TCPalm.com. “I feel like I’ve been ahead in the count more this year than in the past. Even when I’ve fallen behind, I’ve been able to get back in the count.

“I have no idea why the strikeouts have been like that. I tell myself to pitch to contact and just pound the zone. Just being aggressive is probably the key to it. It allows you to get ahead and expand from there.”

Gorski hasn’t given up more than two runs or five hits in any of the six starts, beating Clearwater with seven scoreless innings in his last start Wednesday. In his previous start, Gorski fanned 13 batters in 7 2/3 frames.

Although righthanders are hitting .260 opposed to .221 vs. fellow lefthanders, Gorski has fanned 19 of 53 lefthanders while yielding just one extra base hit. With runners in scoring position, he has fanned 28 of 54 batters overall and yielded just seven hits. In those situations with two outs, hitters are 0-for-25.

“The progress he’s made is unbelievable. He and Phil (pitching coach Phil Regan) have put in a lot of work,” added St. Lucie manager Pedro Lopez, who had Gorski at Brooklyn in 2009 and Savannah last year. He’s throwing harder than he did when he was drafted,” “His slider is a plus-pitch for him, and he’s always had good feel for his change-up. He’s just mixing pitches really well.”

The 6-4, 210 pounder was 3-4, 4.91 ERA in ’09 for Brooklyn in the Class A New York Penn League and 6-8, 4.58 ERA for Savannah in the low Class-A South Atlantic League last season. He walked 69 and struck out 159 in 176 1/3 innings during his first two seasons.


******

St. Lucie placed six players on the Florida State League All-Star Team for later this month: pitchers Matt Harvey, Darin Gorski, Scott Moviel and Jeff Kaplan; and outfielders Matt den Dekker and Pedro Zapata will represent the South Division in the 50th annual FSL All-Star Game on June 18 in Clearwater. Noticeably absent from the team was shortstop Wilmer Flores.

Zapata leads the Mets with a .329 batting average, which ranks sixth best in the FSL. He also has scored 21 runs and leads the team with 13 stolen bases. Harvey is third in the league among starting pitchers with 10.83 SO/9 IP.


******

Buffalo righthander Chris Schwinden was literally left waiting for the call last weekend. He was held out of a start after New York starter R.A. Dickey injured his right foot and partially tore his plantar fascia against Chicago on May 26.

Dickey, a knuckleballer, tested the foot extensively a few days later and said it was fine, ironically leaving Schwinden as the pitcher to miss a start.

The Visalia, Calif., native has had a strong nine starts for Buffalo this year and is 3-3 with a 3.04 ERA.

AROUND THE MINORS: LHP Mark Cohoon is 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in his first two Class AAA starts, allowing three homers and 15 hits in 10 innings. … Class AA 2B Reese Havens is 9-for-32 with two doubles and two RBI in his first eight games. His teammate, RHP Jeurys Familia was tagged for six runs – three earned – and seven hits with three walks in four innings in a loss to Erie on Wednesday. … Savannah OF Darrell Ceciliani is batting .368 (7-for-19) in June with a homer and two steals. The 2010 NYP batting champ is hitting .294 with four homers and seven doubles in 68 at-bats away from his pitcher-friendly home park while batting .197 with no homers and two doubles in 71 at-bats at Grayson Stadium.