Prospect Mailbag: Darrell Ceciliani, Pitching Prospects, and more

Binghamton outfielder Darrell Ceciliani is currently batting .285/.338/.411.

Join us as we dive back into the Prospect Mailbag! This week we answer questions about the Mets growing number of pitching prospects as well as an under-the-radar outfielder.

Question no. 1

cpins asks:

"Do high minors pitchers work with full scale scouting reports? Are there charts for every hitter? Just the top prospects? None at all?

If not, it seems like that'd be another piece of the big league learning curve that could separate "talent only" guys from "aptitude w/ tools" hurlers. What say you?"

Good question. But seeing as how I've never really pitched in the high minors, perhaps better to defer to someone who, you know, has. Thus I'll let noted friend of the site and current Binghamton Mets relief pitcher Adam Kolarek field this one:

"Every day the starting pitcher, catcher, and pitching coach have a meeting to go over all the hitters. At the beginning of a new series, the pitching coach and the bullpen have a meeting to go over every hitter. Mainly about who's on a hot streak, who's struggling, and who you have to keep an eye out for on the basepaths."

Editor's Note: Adam's use of the serial comma isn't necessarily the main reason we like him, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Question no. 2

TeddysGhost asks:

"Even accounting for TINSTAAPP, between Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Syndergaard, Fulmer, Montero, Mateo, Ynoa, Matz, Leathersich, Tapia, Familia, Mejia, and Lara (not to mention back-end guys like Gee, Mazzoni, Pill, Verrett, deGrom, etc.) - fair to say the Mets will have a pretty great home-grown, cheap staff in a couple years? I mean, even with attrition, isn't it likely that enough of these guys pan out to make up a good staff?"

Frankly, yes, the Mets are on the path to a talented, young, homegrown pitching staff. And that's exciting for Mets fans because we've seen the kind of success that template can generate. The model that gets referenced most is the Giants. The Rays are another good example.

Take those Rays: Until earlier this season, Tampa Bay had a streak of over 1,200 games between starts by a pitcher acquired through free agency. During that streak, they maintained another streak of over 700 games started by a pitcher under 30 years old.

Never underestimate TINSTAAPP.

Obviously we know the kind of success the Rays have achieved these past half-dozen years. No championships, but perennial contention -- which is pretty much all you can ask for. And as the team that's also been no-hit the most since 2007, it ain't because of their offensive prowess. It's all about the pitching. They've very effectively stockpiled and graduated talented arms and leaned on those arms to carry them.

And the Mets have done/are doing the same. In fact, the club seems primed to establish a similar streak of young, homegrown pitching prowess in the very near future. While, this front office has made it a habit to sign the likes of Chris Young and Shaun Marcum -- the low-risk, moderate-upside free agent starters as a sort of safety net -- with a rotation that boasts names like Harvey, Wheeler, Niese, Gee, and Hefner and secondary options like Mejia, Montero, and Syndergaard, those safety nets may no longer be necessary*.

*Are guys like Wheeler, Hefner, and Syndergaard 'homegrown', per se? While they didn't necessarily originate in the Mets organization, all three spent time in the Mets farm system and will all be able to say they made their major league debut with the Mets.

Now the young, homegrown pitching model, in and of itself, is not a guarantee -- but the Mets are certainly doing everything in their power to follow that path. But that's the thing -- not everything is within their power. A club can stockpile all the arms it wants. It can hedge risk between upside and pitchability guys. It can mix equal parts prep pitchers and college guys. Things can still fall apart.

A strength is never more than a pair of injuries and a pair of flame-outs away from being a weakness. Ask the Orioles about the sure-fire strategy of relying on talented, young arms. Or the Pirates. Despite numerous high-round draft picks, high-profile trades, and high-dollar international free agents populated both farm systems with myriad talented arms over the past decade, neither club has been able to establish the young staff it longed for.

In short, things are looking about as good as they can an that front -- but, never underestimate TINSTAAPP.

Question no. 3:

Scott asks:

"No mention of the super-hot Darrell Ceciliani? Shocked you haven't seen fit to let your readers know about a kid who's been hitting about .320 since May 1st. His bat has exploded in a decided pitcher's league. Why isn't he getting more pub?"

Fair question. Despite a generally impressive season in the prospect litmus test of Double-A baseball, Ceciliani hasn't gotten as much attention as guys like Puello, Vaughn, or even a guy like Travis Taijeron.

The problem, at least for me, is two-fold: The first is that he hasn't been quite that jaw-dropping. In fact, taking that May 1st starting point, he's batted .305/.354/.444. Impressive, yes, but not quite earth-shattering. Especially not when considering that his strikeout rate has skyrocketed to 23% this season while his walk rate is dropping fast. One could also point to his .367 BABIP as an indicator of luck -- though he's always been a high BABIP guy so I'm more tolerant of that fact.

The second reason? After generating some interest early-on as an under-the-radar, early-round selection in '09, Ceciliani just hasn't taken off like one would hope -- limited mostly by nagging injuries. Since '09 he's managed more than 400 plate appearances just once and his bat hasn't developed into the impact tool many hoped for when he generated Jacoby Ellsbury comps around draft time.

Those are my explanations for why he hasn't gotten a ton of love -- not necessarily why he's not a very intriguing prospect. My rebuttal to myself is that despite the apparent lack of an impact bat, Ceciliani still offers valuable upside as a speedy, glove-first center fielder with just enough bat to make it work. He brings the dimension of stolen bases and hasn't exhibited much platoon split against lefties. He'll have to bring the contact rates back to his career norms to profile as a big leaguer, but the fact that he's stayed healthy this season is a definite plus.

Frankly, the Mets farm system isn't quite flush with impact outfield prospects so it isn't wise to overlook any of them -- especially not when they're performing like Ceciliani has in 2013.

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