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State of the Mets’ farm: An introduction

The first in a three-part series looking at the state of the Mets’ farm system.

Ricky Knapp, May 18, 2016 Gordon Donovan

Don’t scout the stat line. Or at least that’s what they tell you. But we all do it. The stat line ends up being the confirmation bias to our evaluation. Unless it doesn’t support it, in which case, well, you shouldn’t be scouting the stat line.

Any amateur prospect enthusiast starts out as a stat line scout. My earliest memory following the minor leagues was checking the stats to see who was hitting (Daniel Murphy and Mike Carp, if you were curious). Eventually, you realize the stats are a lagging indicator. Or a misleading indicator. The leading indicator is watching these guys play.

It takes time to understand what you need to look for. You need to see how things play out, start to finish, a few times before you develop an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. It’s easy enough to see a guy throw 98 with a killer slider and think he’ll be a good major leaguer. It’s harder to figure out the fringier prospects.

Writing about prospects can often feel like mad lib bingo. There are so many ways to say someone might be good if everything possibly, maybe goes just right. There’s a 20-80 scale that I constantly have to google to remember what means what. What does OFP mean again?

With the minor league season in the books, I’m going to roll out a couple of posts on the state of the farm system. We’ll cover the state of pitching tomorrow and the state of hitting the following day. I won’t cover everyone, just the guys I find interesting and have something to say about. The goal is to communicate my thoughts on these guys in a relatable way.

But who wants to wait? Let’s kick things off by discussing my favorite fringe prospect.

Ricky Knapp, RHP

Knapp caught my eye late this season as I was casually scouting the stat lines of the minor league affiliates. He was striking out nearly a batter per inning in Double-A, so it seemed worthwhile to watch a start or two. I ended up liking what I saw. His fastball can be anywhere from 88-92, with a lot of 89s and 90s as you would expect. He’s able to spot the fastball to either side of the plate, and even saw him start one off the plate to a lefty and then run it over the corner for a called strike three. I saw him get one called strike three on a fastball he started off the inside of the plate to a lefty and then ran it over the corner.

He also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup, all with about equal regularity. They are all clearly distinguishable, which seems like a low bar to hurdle, but is an indication that he has feel for all three. And that’s apparent watching him pitch. I like the curve the most; it has a consistent 11-5ish break and he’s able to bury it away or drop it in for a called strike. The slider comes in around 83-85 and has solid movement. I didn’t see him throw many for strikes, and many were started off the plate and used as two-strike chase pitches, which did work well against some bad right-handed hitters. The changeup is a decent offering. It comes in a bit firm, but it has good separation from his fastball (9-10 mph) and he was able to throw it for strikes.

So it’s a four-pitch mix at present with three potentially average offspeed pitches. What makes it interesting to me is I think the fastball can get up to consistently average as well. Knapp’s has low effort delivery where’s he extremely upright and has a short stride. He generates most of his velocity with a quick arm. I think if he lengthens his stride a bit and starts using his lower half more, he will sit in the higher velocities of his current range and then touch higher. If that happens, I think he can be a sixth starter for the Mets, like a better version of Logan Verrett.

That’s not terribly exciting, but you need those kinds of guys as you deal with the attrition of a 162-game schedule. In the end, he’s probably more Chris Schwinden than Colin McHugh, and he probably would have a better chance to make the majors on a second-division team, but it’s an intriguing profile nonetheless.