Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scouting Trip #5: Buffalo Bison (Mets AAA) at Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies AAA)

SOrry for not updating more often...I've had serious writer's block. I should have plenty to write about in the next few weeks with players being called up and the mlb draft and such. With that said, let's get to a quick scouting report.

As Sun Tzu and Green Day tell us, "Know Thy Enemy". A good way to do this is to keep tabs on the Mets farm system. When the Buffalo Bison (NY AAA) came to play in the Valley, I had a chance to do just that. Here is my opinion on some future Mets, that will soon be choking late in a season near you.

Josh Thole - Catcher - 6'1", 205lbs, Bats:Left Throws:Right Age: 23

Thole was drafted straight out of high school (where he played nothing other than catcher) in 2005 and was promptly moved to first base. In his first 3 years as a pro, Thole only caught a few dozen games. In 2008, the Mets decided to move him back behind the plate. Why? His bat doesn't profile at first. Thole hit just 8 HRs in his first 5 pro seasons. Major league teams need more pop from their first baseman. The little raw power Thole possesses is sapped by his ubiquitous two strike approach. He chokes up for every pitch, a pure singles hitter. So while he doesn't strike out a lot (just above 10% of his atbats) he doesn't walk alot either (again, just a bit more than 10% of the time). His career minor league On Base% is .380 (good) but his Slugging% is .375 (really bad).

Defensively, Thole's 3 years off from catching everyday have set his defense back. His arm strength is below average and the long and slow motion he uses doesn't help his Pop Times either. Several of his throw downs to second before innings tailed off toward the first base side of 2nd base, which tells me his arm angle is too low. While reports indicate his is coachable and a hard worker, it seems he still has a ways to go to be major league ready defensively. At age 23, thats not good news.

So Thole might one day be a singles hitting catcher who is average defensiely. He's not someone Phillies fans should be worried about.

Ruben Tejada- Shortstop - 6', 165lbs, Bats:Right Throws:Right Age:20

Yes, Tejada is just 20 years old and already in AAA. The Mets have moved several International players through the system rather aggressively. It hasn't really paid off. More on that later.

Tejada is quite good defensively. He can turn plays that would otherwise be singles into outs using his above average speed and range at short and his good arm strength. While he made several highlight plays during the game, they were made more difficult than they had to be by what, to me at least, looked like slow reactions to balls hit his way. I think he is a fine defender, but the aesthetically pleasing aspects of his game may cause some to overrate him.

Offensively, Tejada is awful. Yes, he's rather fast and probably has the wheels to steal 15 or 20 bases in a season, chances are he won't get on base enough to do that. He has poor pitch recognition, zero power, and even some strange habits in the box. For instance, at one point during his second atbat, Tejada moved up in the box midway through the pitcher's windup. Just struck me as odd.

AT only 20 years of age and a paltry 160lbs, Tejada has plenty of time to improve his offensive skills and get stronger before the Mets can give up on him. He looks to me like a future utility infielder (Wilson Valdez redux?) and possibly a stopgap at 2nd between Luis Castillo and superior prospect, Wilmer Flores, who is only 19 right now and a LONG way from the majors. Again, not someone to b worried about.

Jennry Mejia- Right Handed Pitcher - 6', 165lbs, Age:21

Mejia entered the season as the Mets' top prospect. The dominican righty dominated advanced-A ball last year and earned himself a late season promotion to AA, no small feat at age 20. He has top-of-the-rotation kind of stuff, but has the command one would expect to see in a kid with only 210 innings in pro baseball (the Mets have limited him to about 50 innings per season so far).

His fastball sits at 93-96 and will tick higher, and the ball sometimes shows natural cutting action toward left-handed hitters. His changeup is his best off-speed pitch and, at 85-87 mph with good tail, looks like a soft two-seamer. His curveball is very inconsistent, but at its best, it's plus with good two-plane break and depth in the upper 70s.

He's thick but not tall, and his arm slot is just below 3/4 -- so he has to work on staying on top of the ball, and the finger injury reduced his already below-average command. He can be a #1 starter.

You may be asking, "Eric, did you see this guy pitch?" No, I just wanted to mention him to dig at Mets fans. You see, Mejia was not even close to being ready for the big leagues, but the Mets threw him into the bullpen this year anyway, where he has been lousy and thrown fastballs around 80% of the time. The past few months of baseball have set a potentially dominant pitcher back immeasurably. I love it

Check back this weekend for more stuff

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