Series Preview: Going Going, Back Back, To KC KC

Well the 2016 MLB season has finally arrived. We already got a preview of this opening series last November. It’s 2015 World Series rematch time. The scheduling gods somehow miraculously put this one on the calendar well before we even faced off for the championship. And then those same gods for some reason gave us only two games in the first five calendar days of the season really screwing up our rotation. God giveth, God taketh away.

Rumors leaked this week that despite winning the World Series and getting the ultimate revenge, the Royals are still upset with Noah Syndergaard for throwing up and in at Alcides Escobar to start off Game 3. Apparently, they plan to retaliate in the opening series. When asked about this, the Royals were pretty united in denying the rumor and emphasizing that they already got revenge when they won the championship. Ned Yost called the New York reporter who wrote it a “buffoon”.

Former Met Dillon Gee  who now plays for KC said, “That’s the New York media for you. I’ve been here all spring and I don’t think anyone has even brought up the Mets.” Ooh really Dillon? Nobody asked you all spring what team you came from? They probably assumed you wouldn’t make the opening day roster.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1: It’ll be Matt Harvey vs. Edinson Volquez in game 1. Let’s see if Matt Harvey looks like himself on Opening Day. I know everyone has joked about it, but the guy had a real medical issue this week. He was scared. He was weak for a few days. Harvey had his typical nasty fastball and command this spring, but it always takes some time for pitchers to get into shape in the early part of the season. I’m sure the Mets will be closely monitoring his performance considering he’s been pissing blood all week.

When they both played for the Reds, I always thought of Volquez as Scrappy Doo and Johnny Cueto as Scooby Doo. A lil sidekick with a similar delivery and comparable stuff but in a big moment, it was obvious who was the number one dog. I think that dynamic was clear in the World Series as Cueto outshined all of the Royals starting pitchers with his Game 2 performance. Well now Volquez gets the Opening Day nod for the world champion Royals, and Cueto is on the Giants. Some of the current Mets have good career numbers against Volquez. Asdrubal Cabrera has 4 hits in 13 ABs including a home run. Juan Lagares has 3 hits in 8 ABs. However, David Wright is 2 for 13 and Neil Walker is 3 for 17. So clearly mixed results against Volquez historically. Hopefully we can get something going early against him.

Game 2: Thor was originally supposed to face off against new arrival Ian Kennedy in game 2. Kennedy is a classic doofy ginger that eats innings for a living. However, he tweaked his hammy in his last spring start. So now former Met Chris Young gets the nod. Chris Young has had so many reconstructive shoulder surgeries, they should name the procedure after him. But he’s still managed to overcome his injury problems and be effective at the major league level. The Royals signed him this offseason to a two year deal. The Mets don’t have a lot of career ABs against him, but he’s a middle of the rotation flyball pitcher. We have Thor. We should win 99 out of 100 times. And we’re playing in the AL park, so Thor should be able to be nice and aggressive on the mound and keep the stupid Royals from getting too comfortable in the box.

Things To Look For:

World Series Ceremonies: The Royals are doing all their World Series ceremonies during the opening series. They are going to hurt. Don’t look away. Soak it in. Watch it. Let it burn your eyes. Let it drive us this season as fans. Keep us focused. The Royals said they have a 30 second video clip honoring the Mets or something. I’m sure it’s just going to be the clip of Duda overthrowing d’Arnaud at home plate in Game 5 on a loop for 30 seconds.

Fight Club: The Royals may have denied the retaliation rumors, but they got into fights and brawls many times last season. It’s the reason everyone laughed in their face when they complained during the World Series about Thor’s pitch. The Royals are classless dicks, and they love to fight. Ned Yost almost fought the reporters for even mentioning the idea that they wanted to retaliate.

I mean Jesus, look at these MLB file photos of Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Kelvin Herrera, and Luke Hochevar. They look like mugshots of four guys who robbed the local convenience store, beat the hell out of the clerk and his son, and then jumped in their pickup truck firing their guns in the air as they fled from the scene.

With ESPN We All Lose: We lost the World Series. But now the Mets are so mainstream. And as a result, we get to be on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball. We are all going to have to suffer through their awful broadcast. Despite his retirement, Jon Miller saying “Carlos Beltrán” on a loop still haunts my nightmares. I would give anything to watch this game on SNY with Gary, Keith, and Ron doing the broadcast. But baseball is finally back. So I will make do.

The Next Generation: 2016 Top 10 Mets Prospects 

Today, ESPN’s Keith Law released his highly anticipated 2016 Mets Top 10 Prospect rankings. Law is one of ESPN’s baseball analytics gurus, and he previously worked as a special assistant for current Mets Assistant GM J.P. Ricciardi when Ricciardi was GM of the Blue Jays. This year, Law had the Mets farm system ranked at 16th out of the 30 teams. Middle of the pack. Not showing off. Not getting left behind. Now that did represent a significant drop from our 4th place ranking in 2015. That being said, the drop makes some sense considering we promoted the top three prospects from his 2015 list (Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto and Kevin Plawecki), and we traded our top pitching prospect Michael Fulmer to Detroit at the 2015 trade deadline for Yoenis Cespedes.

Anyway, here is Law’s list and my thoughts:

1) Dominic Smith: The scouts love this guy. He was drafted 11th by the Mets in the 2013 draft. Law has him at 29th in his overall MLB Top 100 Prospects list. Law describes him as “one of the best pure hitters in the minors”, and he hit .305 in 118 games at High A ball last season. His power is still developing, but his glove is supposedly MLB ready and gold caliber. The idea of a defensive-minded player in our infield is borderline unfathomable (closes eyes…sees Lucas Duda throwing ball over D’Arnaud’s head in Game 5… shudders). His ETA is 2017 which would align well with Duda’s free agency timeline after the 2017 season. The only negative mentioned by Law is that Smith looked like he had gained a lot of weight in the Arizona Fall League, and he wasn’t talking about muscle mass.

Keith Law just fat shaming the hell out of Dom Smith. I think we can cut the guy a break, I mean after all it is winter. A perfect time to put on a little mass in the midsection for the sake of warmth. Granted, Smith is from California so additional blubber might not be entirely necessary. And conditioning is part of his job description as a professional athlete. But I am just going to pretend its a minor seasonal weight fluctuation, and that he’s on track for a breakout rookie campaign in 2017.

2) Steven Matz: Hard to count Matz as a prospect, but he didn’t hit maximum rookie innings thresholds in 2015. So he’s still technically a rookie. And why didn’t he meet the thresholds? Late promotion but also injuries. And injuries are the biggest red flag with him. In fact Law indicated his ceiling is capped at a number 4 starter with number 1 stuff because he fears he just won’t pitch enough. He doesn’t see him as a horse like Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, or Jacob deGrom. Let’s hope Matz proves Law wrong.

3) Amed Rosario and 4) Gavin Cecchini: Two shortstops in our Top 5 and in the leagues Top 100? Really? Is a Jose Reyes successor really on the horizon? Are the annual Spring battles between Ruben Tejada and someone else finally coming to an end? According to Law the answer is yes. Rosario, ranked at 42 in Law’s Top 100, is 20 years old but projects as a possible star. Law says “he has the kind of raw tools and athleticism to be a top 10 prospect in the game in a year”. Cecchini, ranked at 89 in Law’s Top 100, is closer to the major leagues then Rosario. He projects as a contact hitter with above average defensive skills. We selected Cecchini 12th in the 2012 draft, so the high expectations around him make sense. He broke out offensively at AA last year and is likely to start at AAA Vegas this season. If he can get past the distraction of the Vegas clubhouse slot machines and have a big season in AAA, he may be in the plan for 2017.

5) Wuilmer Becerra: We got this OF in the R.A. Dickey trade. He is 20 years old and projects to be a regular who can hit for average and power. The idea to trade R.A. Dickey after he won his CY Young Award in 2012 was an absolute no brainer. However, the haul Sandy got for him is truly astounding. Thor, Travis d’Arnaud, and this outfielder Becerra. It’s already looking like an all time heist based on the early success of Thor and D’Arnaud. If they both really go on to have successful, healthy major league careers and Becerra actually becomes a viable major leaguer, it’s going to look even more lopsided in the Mets favor.

6) Brandon Nimmo: Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and Joe Panik. All pretty good players right? Well we passed on all of them in the 2011 draft when we selected Nimmo 13th out of high school. Nimmo doesn’t project to have the defensive skills to play CF, and he has not developed the power that the Mets originally anticipated. He was going to start the season at AAA, but he tore a tendon in his foot so he will now miss 4 to 6 weeks. “4th outfielder” is being thrown around. “Bust” can’t be far behind.

7) Desmond Lindsay: Mets second round pick in 2015. He projects as a speedy defense first CF.

8) Robert Gsellman: He’s a sinkerballer that projects as a 5th starter. Should start the year in AAA Vegas and serve as rotation depth. Hopefully, our young starters are healthy and we never see him in the rotation. Ever.

9) Jhoan Urena: He’s a 21 year old third basemen that played at Single-A last year but battled injuries. Keith Law likes his swing and propensity to make contact.

10) Luis CarpioHe’s a 17 year old SS that has raw skills and handles himself well in the field and at the dish for his age.

Weekly Roundup: Takeout Slides, Chipper Predictions, and Prayers for Maverick

MLB/Union Closer to 2B Takeout Slide Rule Change: I ranted in a January 27th post about how the league still hasn’t done a damn thing to rectify the 2B takeout slide problem. Well it seems they heard my complaining. Now that Ruben Tejada has finally shed his walking boot and Jung Ho Kang is making big strides in his daily physical therapy, the league has finally made some alleged progress. Heck, according to Buster Olney’s report, the Union and MLB claim they may make real changes before the season begins. Olney said they want to make sure runners “touch the base or make an effort to touch the base”. The planned rule change is meant to “improve safety” while maintaining “players’ aggressiveness”. In addition, they are still debating whether slides in question can be reviewed by instant replay.

So to recap, the current 2B slide rule essentially says the runner should be close enough to touch the base. The proposed new rule would say the runner must attempt to touch the base, and it wouldn’t discourage aggressive slides. I can really see the differences in the rules. Sounds like a groundbreaking reform that will really change the sport. And of course they don’t want umpires to be able to review these types of slides because it may slow down the games. This is going to go well. I will reserve judgement until the final rule is published but needless to say I’m skeptical. If it goes anything like when they changed the home plate collision rules, we are in for a long season full of confused players, managers, and umpires.

Chipper Predictions: Chipper Jones in a radio interview this week said the Mets are his early season favorite to win the World Series. Larry is really something else. From the Mets archrival to the team’s biggest booster. After the Chase Utley takeout slide he came out and ripped Chase a new one. Now he’s endorsing the Mets as future 2016 World Champions? And it’s not like he’s unemployed and endorsing the Mets from his couch. He literally works for the Braves. He just got hired as a special assistant.

He’s got to be working an angle. Still trolling us after all those years of crushing the franchise. It started with him naming his kid Shea. Now he’s taking it up a notch by pretending to be our biggest fan. I completely understand why Chipper would love our team. It’s designed exactly like his 90s Braves squad. A potential juggernaut built around young pitching. However, I think Chipper’s “love affair” with the pitching rich Mets is kind of like Eli Manning’s “love” for his brother Peyton. Right now, Chipper has the championship swag like Eli did before last week’s Super Bowl. So he’s “rooting” for the Mets like Eli was “rooting” for Peyton. The Mets are just a similarly designed team with aspirations to be as successful as the 90s Braves. We want to win 14 consecutive division titles like the Braves did between 1991 and 2005. We want to advance to the World Series 5 times like they did in the 90s. But the second we win one lone championship like Chipper did with the 1995 Braves, his cheerleader routine will stop. If we ever found a way to win two, Chipper could have twins named Citifield and Shake Shack, and he still wouldn’t get his championship mojo back.

Pray for Maverick (and Wright): Sandy Alderson conducted an interview with Steve Serby of the NY Post. First off, in the interview Sandy talked about how he was diagnosed with cancer four days after the Mets clinched the NL East last season, and he is still undergoing chemotherapy. The guy is a front office legend and clearly tough as hell. I hope the Wilpons actually give him some time off this season so he can recover instead of making him face the relentless media day in and day out. But it’s more likely the Wilpons remain in the panic room they had built in 2008 after Madoff was arrested and just let their lackey John Ricco deal with the press. Either way, pray for Sandy.

And while we are at it, pray for David Wright. Sandy said he hopes David and his titanium spine can play 130 games next season. Honestly, I will take anything we can get from David. 100 games would work for me. Quite frankly, we’d be better off keeping Wright cryogenically frozen until 2017 when the NL institutes the DH so he can take that job full time. Although considering our trainer Ray Ramirez can barely administer an X-Ray, I’m not sure I’d trust him to handle the freezing procedure.

Two New Cubans: This week, two new Cubans defected from the motherland. 31 year old 3B Yulieski Gourriel and 22 year old SS/OF Lourdes Gourriel Jr. were supposedly two of the top players remaining in Cuba. Are they brothers? Noooooo…….Yes!!!!

These two brothers are expected to be impact players in the major leagues. Pretty much like every Cuban player that has defected to date. The older brother Yulieski is supposed to have an immediate impact while the younger brother may need some minor league seasoning. It’s hard to complain about the Mets lack of interest in Cuban players considering we just signed the best one in the business. That being said, John Ricco should have a welcome party on standby in Florida, and we should be signing every Cuban player that comes ashore. Especially a Cuban star that plays 3B considering Wright is our biggest question mark. But I’m sure he’ll just wind up a Yankee as they are one of the teams rumored to have interest.

Clippard Departs, Mejia Promptly Banned: I wrote earlier this week about the departure of Tyler Clippard for a 2 year deal in Arizona. And of course, four days later Jenrry Mejia is promptly banned from the game for life due to a third positive PED test. Mejia getting banned for life makes too much sense. Things were too quiet in Mets land. It was inevitable that the first bad thing of 2016 was going to happen. I also think it’s hilarious that at the trade deadline we acquired Clippard and immediately afterwards Mejia received his second steroid suspension. And now once again, Clippard’s move and Mejia’s suspension happen simultaneously.

Mejia wasn’t part of the team last year, and we replaced Clippard with Antonio Bastardo, so I suppose our pen will be fine. But it still isn’t good that two relief options for 2016 have evaporated in one week. And speaking of Bastardo, he has to be next on the Mets steroid watch list right? He’s been suspended before, and it wouldn’t shock me at all to see our primary set up man go down for a second time.

Royals Plan Two World Series Celebrations: The Royals announced this week that they plan to have a World Series celebration in both games against the Mets to start the season. Banner raising the first game and then ring presentations on night two. Really just rubbing our faces in it. Well that’s just perfect. At least this doubles the chances for former Royals Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto to catch the ceremonies on TV. But in all seriousness, screw the Royals. I hope this fires the Mets up and helps them keep their eyes on the ultimate prize.

Minor League Notes: This week the Mets signed Roger Bernadina to a minor league deal and invited him to spring training. He may play all 3 outfield positions but he’ll never fill the void left by Triple A Vegas legend Kirk “3 Dingers” Nieuwenhuis.

Also, the Texas Rangers have officially signed former Met Ike Davis to a minor league deal. Oh how the mighty have fallen. From first round pick to Quadruple-A All-Star. I’m not sure how smart it was for him to take the deal considering Texas is just over an hour flight from Arizona where he contracted his Valley Fever. Although I suppose he had no real choice. Maybe another fresh start will finally cure him of the Valley Fever aka Mets disease. Nothing worked for Jason Bay, but perhaps there’s still hope for Ike. Not bloody likely.