Ahhhhh…the real start of spring is here. That’s right folks; the minor league baseball season is upon us, and not a moment too soon. In Binghamton, NY the temperatures are rising and the snow is melting….well, not really – BUT, the Binghaton Mets are ready to take the field tomorrow night. Let’s take a look at who the B-Mets are, and who to keep an eye on.
Wall Backman returns to the Mets organization after guiding the Short Season A Brooklyn Cyclones to a 51-24 record and an appearance in the New York Penn League finals last year. As we all know, Wally had his years in the ‘shunned-by-organized-baseball” wilderness put to an end when the Wilpons, in their quest to bring every member of the ’86 Mets to the Brooklyn coaching staff (Danny Heep is sitting by his phone), made Backman manager. In all fairness, Wally was considered an excellent manager in other organizations in the early 00’s before personal issues waylaid his career. After throwing his hat in the ring to helm the Mets this year, the new front office regime opted for Terry Collins. Wally, however, chose to stay with the Mets and is now skipper of the B-Mets. Look for him to being his trademark fire to the team as well as his aggressive style of play (taking extra bases, laying down bunts, forcing the opposition to make mistakes). And Collins is not exactly firmly entrenched in Queens. If the Mets look to make a managerial change sooner rather than later, Backman’s ready to make his play once more – this time with upper level experience in the Mets system.
The backbone of any team, here is how the 2011 B-Mets staff shakes out. The righties are Rickey Brooks, Brad Holt, John Lujan, Brandon Moore, Dylan Owen, Edgar Ramirez, Chris Schwinden, Josh Stinson and Erik Turgeon. The Lefties are Robbie Carson, Roy Merritt, Mark Cohoon and Eric Niesen.
Names to know
Holt is a first round (supplemental) pick from the same draft class that brought you Ike Davis (2008). After an impressive debut at Brooklyn, Holt has badly regressed, and unless can rediscover his command (79 walks in 111 innings last year). He claims that some nagging injuries are not to blame (twisted ankle, etc.) So this is a pivotal year for him to either make his mark as a pro or get a seat on the Eddie Kunz Memorial shuttle out of town.
According to Omar Minaya, Robbie Carson was inquired after by several clubs at the 2009 trade deadline. Fortunately, Omar didn’t pull the trigger on trading away a prospect for a veteran in deluded hopes of making a playoff push. Carson flopped in his first taste of AA last year (1-6, 8.32 ERA), but scouts still believe in his 95mph fastball. Whether he remains as a mid-rotation starter or moves to the pen depends on if his command holds up.
Mark Cohoon held his own after a mid-season promotion to AA last year (5-4, 4.18 ERA), but the high minors is where many a junk-baller was informed that perhaps he needed to learn a new trade. He has about a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio, which is extremely solid. Do the Mets have another Jaime Moyer? Or organizational fodder? Stay tuned…
Others of note – Brandon Moore threw the only no-hitter in Cyclones history (albeit a 7 inning one) in 2009; Edgar Ramirez and Roy Merritt are worth keeping aneye on
The B-Mets carry an interesting catching corps here. Montreal’s own Jean-Luc Balqiere and Kai Gronauer will don the tools of ignorance. Gronauer will get the nod at starter, and had a breakout year of sorts, finishing the season at High A St Lucie and hitting an impressive .324/.375/.403 with 2HR and 20RBI in 139AB’s. And the Florida State League is notorious for being pitching friendly. With the major league catching corps something of a question mark (is Josh Thole a long term answer?), improved receiving abilities and further development of the bat could force the German born Gronauer into the long term conversation behind the plate.
At first base we have Allan Dykstra and Michael Fisher, third is manned by Eric Campbell, and the middle will be patrolled Jordany Valdespin, Jose Coronado, and Josh Satin.
Valdespin struggled after being promoted to AA last year (.232/243/.304, 0HR, 8 RBI, 4SB in 112 AB’s) but the Met still believe in his bat. If he can learn to take more pitches and draw walks, he can be a .275 hitter and use his base path smarts to swipe 20 bags a year. His arm is probably going to force a permanent move to second, which will be present an interesting competition between he and Reese Havens (as well as Brad Emaus) as the heir to the Throne of Castillo. Another thing, Jordany has had some attitude issues. Twice last year he was suspended for confrontations with the coaching staff. Obviously, that will need to stop
There’s another name you may have notices – Allan Dykstra. No, he is not a relation to Lenny (though Lenny’s son Cutter was just traded from the Brewers to the Nationals). Rather, Allen was selected in the first round of the ‘08 draft out of Wake Forest. Highly touted, he had a good abbreviated debut in ’08 at the hitter friendly High A California League, but has completely fallen off the table since (.241/.372/.438 back at High a last year). The Mets just traded for him last week in exchange for Eddie Kunz, whose career peaked on Opening Day 2007 when he got Albert Pujols to ground out. Thanks for the memories Eddie.
Carlos Guzman, Brahaim Maldonado, Jonathon Malo, Raoul Reyes and Lorenzo Scott.
Not the most inspiring group here, but not the worst. Most of the Mets top outfielders in the system are either at Buffalo or St Lucie. Look for Cesar Puello to perhaps make a cameo by year’s end.