Yesterday, I took a look at how Buffalo had performed over the season's first half. We'll be doing the same for each of the Mets' four full-season affiliates. Today, Alex evaluates Double-A Binghamton:
Like most of the teams in the Mets' organization, the B-Mets have been sitting right around .500 for most of the season. And looking at their runs scored and allowed, it's pretty easy to see why.
The B-Mets have scored the second-most runs in the Eastern League this season. And it's easy to see how they've done that. Almost everyone has produced. Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been one of the league's best performers, as had the mysterious stranger, Evan Nicholas (or something like that). The third base duo of Zach Lutz and Eric Campbell were phenomenal before injuries set in, and Reese Havens even moreso when he's been healthy. It goes further. Brahiam Maldonado is slugging over .500. Lucas Duda was great before his promotion. Even Luis Hernandez was hitting close to .300. And while some of those guys have been promoted, guys like Campbell, Sean Ratliff, and Josh Satin have stepped in without missing a beat. It's a tremendous offense.
So why are they only five games above .500? I'll bet you'll never guess. Need a hint? It starts with "P" and ends with "ITCHING." The pitching has been terrible, and the B-Mets have allowed the second-highest number of runs in the Eastern League this season. Only the lowly New Britain Rock Cats are worse, and they're 25-65 on the season. Scott Shaw has possibly been the worst pitcher in the league (7.97 ERA), Brad Holt was even worse before his demotion. Eddie Kunz has been Eddie Kunz, and others like Mark Cohoon, Roy Merritt, and Chris Schwinden have been disappointing. Even the guys with gaudy ERAs, Josh Stinson, Dylan Owen, and Eric Niesen, have been helped out by their defense. In fact, the only pitcher who's really been worth a damn has been Michael Antonini.
It all adds up to a team that's a little better than average. And just to prove it, here are the standings:
The Usual Suspects
SP Mike Antonini - STOCK HOLDING
Antonini got off to a terrible start but has been improving as the season has gone along, a great sign from a young pitcher. His control is outstanding, and while his strikeout rate isn't tremendous, it's solid and not a major issue for Antonini. The real problem is the lack of stuff—Antonini really only tops out around 91—and that flyball rate. Homers have been a small issue this season, but there's the potential here for them to become much more than a small issue.
Still, he's a lefty, and those guys have a tendency to buck the odds. The only problems here are problems we saw coming last year, and he's exceeded expectations in some ways.
SP Mark Cohoon - STOCK UP
Cohoon's in a similar place to Antonini, just a step or two behind. Cohoon absolutely dominated in Savannah this year, and that's why I've listed his stock as up. But sometimes you can get by just throwing strikes, and it's possible that that's what happened to Cohoon in the Sally. Because ever since his demotion to Double-A, he's been bombed.
He may still rebound, but I'm not too optimistic. He doesn't get a ton of ground balls, and you have to figure the soft-tossing lefty's strikeout rate won't stay as strong, nor will he continue to only allow two homers per hundred innings. But he did skip a level on his way to Bingo, so there are good reasons for his struggles. And like I said above, finesse lefties have a way of surprising.
3B/OF Eric Campbell - STOCK UP
How do you stop Eric Campbell? Easy. You break his finger. But other than that, you simply can't, at least not in 2010. Campbell started the year down in the nortiously pitcher-friendly Florida State League, and he raked. Pure and simple. He made excellent contact, walked a fair bit, and showed some power with an isolated power of nearly .200. At the end of May, the Mets realized Campbell wasn't learning anything in the FSL and promoted to young third baseman to Binghamton.
And at Binghamton he was nearly as good. There was some attrition: the walk rate sank some, as did the contact rate, but neither was terrible. And he hit for just as much power as he did in St. Lucie, despite facing significantly more advanced pitching. It's a pity that he was sidelined with the broken finger when he was; it would have been interesting to see how he'd hit as the opposition grew more familiar with him. There are some issues. He's not much of a defender and saw plenty of time in both left field and first base for that reason. Still, no prospect will jump higher up the Mets' prospect lists than Campbell this offseason, and there's plenty of reason for that. He has an excellent chance to be a bat-first third sacker with average-to-above average power and contact ability.
2B Reese Havens - STOCK DOWN
Havens is a tough evaluation as you can argue he's actually holding here. On one hand, he's been awesome when healthy. On the other hand, for the second-straight year, Havens has just been unable to stay in the lineup on a consistent basis, currently out with an oblique problem that does not sound like it's getting any better.
As I said, performance wise, he's been great (though sample-size warnings apply). The walk rate is great, he's hitting for even more power than I expected, the average is good. The strikeout rate is a little high, but I'm not too worried yet. As with Zach Lutz below, Havens now has the injury-prone label, and until he stays healthy for a full season, it's going to stick, and for that reason, I'm giving Havens a falling stock grade.
SP-RP Eddie Kunz - STOCK DOWN
His stock wasn't very high to begin with, but it's worse now. Guy gets some ground balls, but he's allergic to the strike zone and beyond that his complete lack of secondary stuff makes him far too hittable. There's just nothing really to recommend here, and, in my eyes, he's no longer a significant prospect in any way, shape, or form. He's 25 next year and has never really performed well in any role. They tried him as a starter for a little while in what looked like a last ditch effort to salvage this former first rounder but a bad pitcher is a bad pitcher no matter how you use him.
3B Zack Lutz - STOCK DOWN
What does Zack Lutz have in common with Fernando Martinez & Reese Havens? That's right, he can't stay on the field either; Lutz has been out since May 20 with a fractured left foot. In 2007 it was a broken foot on opening night, in '08 it was a whole mixed bag including a back strain, a quad injury and an ankle injury, in 2009 he had a month-long case of food poisoning. And to make matters worse, he's probably been passed on the Mets 3B prospect totem pole by the 2010 dynamo that is Eric Campbell.
Many people consider health/durability a skill and clearly Lutz doesn't possess it which is a shame because when he's on the field the kid can clearly hit. He's always had excellent contact skills and good power but in the first month+ of 2010 he seemed to take a step forward, blasting eight homers in just over 30 games, on pace to crush his career high of 11 bombs in '09. At the Double-A level, this definitely portends well for his ability to cut it in the bigs. He's also always had very strong plate discipline leading to high on-base averages, it's his defense that needs work and has probably suffered most from his various DL stints. Lutz definitely resembles a solid, if unspectacular, major league piece but to seal the deal he'll have to stay on the field and a big second half like he had in '09 certainly wouldn't hurt.
SP Eric Niesen - STOCK DOWN
Niesen has an intriguing arm and made some strides with his strikeout rate last year, giving me some hope that he could make it as a reliever eventually. But don't be fooled by that ERA; he's actually taken a step back this season. He's had little command, with both his strikeout rate and his walk rate—never his strength—going in the wrong directions. Whenever a pitcher walks more than he strikes out, it's a bad sign. Second, his BABIP has been a very lucky .260. And third, he's not a ground ball pitcher, so he's also been lucky in terms of the home run in all likelihood.
There is a possible reason for his troubles: he did get beaned earlier in the year when Mike Nickeas hit him in the head on a throw to second. But it's not enough of an excuse to keep his stock from dropping.
OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis - STOCK UP
I'm of two minds about Nieuwenhuis. On one hand, you have to love the power he's shown during his minor league career and the athleticism he brings to the table every day. On the other hand, there are a couple numbers in his line this year that scream out. One, his walk rate is way down. While it's true it's been higher throughout his career, there's always some degree of attrition as the player advances, and sometimes a particular skill just hits a wall, and it's possible that Nieuwenhuis's patience has hit that wall in Double-A. And there's Captain Kirk's strikeout rate, which have been problematic since he was drafted back in 2008.
But there's still a ton to like here. He's hitting for average, and he's a doubles machine. And doubles can always turn into homers. He's fast enough to be able to handle center field, a huge plus. And a very important piece of the puzzle: he hasn't struggled at all against lefties. His platoon splits are just about average, indicating that perhaps lefties' breaking balls aren't confounding him any more than righties'.
SP-RP Dylan Owen - STOCK DOWN
Owen pitched about as well at Buffalo as he did at Binghamton. But while he's been very, very lucky in Double-A, he hit some bad luck at Buffalo. The actual talent level is somewhere in between, but it still doesn't bode well for him that he was demoted before his luck had a chance to turn. The strikeout rate is still middling, but the walks have been a little more problematic this year than they have in the past, and that flyball rate won't work for a finesse pitcher like Owen. And unlike Cohoon and Antonini, Owen doesn't have the luxury of being left-handed.
He still has a chance to help out a team, but they are dwindling away for a guy who turned 24 yesterday.
OF Sean Ratliff - STOCK UP
The Stanford product has had an interesting year thus far, first posting strong totals in the Florida State League (where he made the All-Star team) only to advance and crush the Double-A Eastern League as if it were the easier level. In 25 games with Binghamton he has already crushed seven bombs with a .327 AVG. While the FSL is not an easy hitting environment, the difference in the level of pitching alone makes this sequence improbable.
Nevertheless, Ratliff has shown the kind of ability that made him a 4th round draft pick in '08. He's flashed tremendous power from the left side, good enough speed to cover center field and tremendous splits (.329/.381/.567 against LHP) which was historically an issue for him. His game is almost like a scaled-down version of Captain Kirk. Unfortunately, also like Nieuwenhuis, Ratliff's troublesome K:BB is still a serious issue and the main reason why I don't see this extraordinary success lasting all year. But he does have the talent to remain at a high level and is definitely showing enough as a CF prospect to garner a lot more attention in Mets prospect circles.
2B Josh Satin - STOCK UP
Another impressive Pac-10 product (Cal), Satin has continued to hit his way through the Mets system, one level at a time. Without the raw tools of fellow '08 draftees Havens or Nieuwenhuis, Satin has had to prove himself at each stop and hasn't disappointed. For the second straight year, Satin started the season on fire posting a .343 AVG for the month of May with four home runs (.362 April in '09). Not only did he make the FSL All-Star Game, he won the game MVP.
Soon after he was promoted to Binghamton and he's continued to do more of the same, hitting for good average with solid plate discipline and decent pop. His numbers haven't jumped up like Havens but the fact that he's maintained them at Double-A is the key factor here. Satin doesn't have any one skill that jumps out at you but he does everything well, with the exception of speed. Different story on the defensive side where he isn't as strong and probably doesn't profile as an everyday major league second baseman. However, it's his bat that will need to continue carrying him, possibly into a long-term role as a solid offensive-minded utility man.
Tune in tomorrow for a look at the Hi-A St. Lucie Mets.