Steven Matz Makes Grapefruit League Debut For Mets

steven matz

Matz displaying the changeup grip.

You’ve heard the name before, but 2013 was the first real look at the Mets’ LHP prospect Steven Matz due to him missing significant time recovering from arm injuries.

I recently named him as my Mets’ pitching prospect to watch in 2014, as he seems to be on a path to be named a top-five prospect very soon. When a scout finds a left-handed pitching prospect that bring an electric 95 mph fastball, it’s like a fisherman landing an 800 pound marlin. It’s easy to see why the Mets protected Matz from the Rule 5 Draft, and added him to the 40-man roster—every angler looking to hook an 800 pound marlin would have cast their line into the water.

Not many Mets fans have gotten a chance to see this young man pitch and see why everyone is so excited. Unless you live in the Savannah area, odds are you are limited to the one video that can be found on YouTube that shows Matz throwing about 15 pitches—some better than others. You may have also seen a Vine of him spinning things on his finger like a Harlem Globetrotter. However, if you hung around long enough in the Mets game yesterday, you would have gotten a chance to see Matz on the bump.

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Matz came in the fourth inning of yesterday’s matchup against the Cardinals, and gave Mets fans another glance of what the future holds. The first batter he faced was Yadier Molina—talk about pressure. He quickly got behind 3-0 in the count, as he couldn’t spot his fastball. But Matz battled back, and struck out Molina on six pitches.

Facing his second batter, he flashed two very good curveballs before giving up a base hit on a fastball.

Here is some further analysis of what we saw in Matz’s appearance yesterday.

Fastball

This is a plus offering for Matz. The command was a little shaky yesterday, but it’s very early in the year. With more innings, the command will come. He wasn’t afraid to come inside on the right-handed hitters, and was very aggressive with his fastball, which was very nice to see from a guy who brings a mid-90s heater.

Curve Ball

I have heard that Matz has scrapped the slider in favor of a more effective curve ball, and yesterday was the first chance I got to see it. His curve didn’t have the 12-to-6 break you normally see, it was more like 11-to-5, but it was extremely effective. However, he stuck to fastballs for the majority of the pitches he threw.

Changeup

Matz throws a very solid changeup that has plus-potential. It has excellent movement—tailing away from the right-handed hitters/in on lefties. He struck out a batter with a changeup to end the fourth inning yesterday and it looked nasty. With his velocity, he can pepper fastballs on the inside half, and changeups on the outside half to keep the hitters off-balance, and be very successful.

In all, Mets fans should definitely look for great things from Matz in 2014. It’s easy to see why he is creating a buzz and there is a ton of excitement building for the young fireballer again. He struck out over 28% of the batters he faced in 2013 and put up a FIP of 2.63, which is excellent. He will probably start the season in St. Lucie and be a nice replacement as the ace of the staff after Noah Syndergaard set St. Lucie ablaze in 2013.

Bold Prediction: After watching him pitch in yesterday’s game, he has the stuff to skip to Binghamton. If he doesn’t start there, he should join Binghamton right around the All-Star break. He could be in the mix for a 2015 call-up and possible bullpen option for late 2014 if he doesn’t exceed his innings limit.

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News Flash: Mets Still Unimpressed With Ruben Tejada

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.23.54 AMThe Ruben Tejada saga won’t go away. The Mets have been linked to free-agent Stephen Drew, and now to Nick Franklin, evidentally because they are not convinced that Ruben Tejada is the everyday shortstop. We know this because if they were convinced Tejada was their man, we still wouldn’t be having these discussions.

Early news in camp seemed to be positive, but now it’s starting to look as if that may just have been a smoke screen, as the Mets and Drew’s agent seem to be in a standoff regarding his services. The latest story in the NY Post states

Even though Tejada attended an offseason strength/conditioning and nutrition camp in Michigan, Mets management has not been overwhelmed by the shortstop’s “new’’ body.

“He looks pretty much the same,’’ one source told The Post on Monday.

Frustrated with Tejada, the Mets still have a strong interest in signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, two sources have told The Post. They also have shown interest in Seattle’s Nick Franklin.

Another anonymous source leaking a story…what a surprise. But it all makes sense.

Sandy Alderson may have been trying to leverage the positivity around Tejada early in camp, and Franklin’s trade availability in his game of cat and mouse with Scott Boras. Boras has said that Drew is willing to wait until June to sign. I find that hard to believe. Unfortunately, the fact that we are even discussing Franklin and Drew, and the Mets willingness to give Wilmer Flores burn at shortstop shows that the Mets have no intention of starting the season with Tejada as their starter. That puts Boras and Drew in the driver’s seat.

Now they just sit back and wait for the Mets to cave. They know that the Mets would be wise to get a deal done before any games are played this spring, because every poor performance by Tejada gives Boras and Drew more leverage. Now we are hearing that the Mets are willing to discuss a trade with the Mariners involving their shortstop/second baseman, Nick Franklin.

Let’s take a look at this scenario.

The Mets have stated that the trade talks could heat up later this spring. Later this spring—meaning we will try to sign Drew before giving away an established major leaguer or top prospect for a second year player that hasn’t accomplished more than Tejada at this point.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 9.25.07 AMThe Mets can sign Drew and sacrifice a draft pick. For this, it will cost them a little extra (money wise) but they will get an established major leaguer to man the shortstop position. The draft pick is unknown, so they would not be losing much.

The Mets can also trade for Franklin. This will give them a potential 20/20 player that is under team control for the next six years—but it will probably cost them a Rafael Montero-like prospect. Many don’t think Franklin has the range to play shortstop at the major league level—the guy can steal 20 bases in a season but has poor range? When was the last time Jhonny Peralta stole 20 bases in a season? I’ll give you a hint: NEVER. Not even close.

Decisions, decisions.

Many baseball experts have Drew pegged as a future New York Met. Whether that happens is yet to be seen.

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Ike Davis’ Batting Practice Video and More Drama For The Mets

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.03.33 AMYesterday, Ike Davis had a conversation with Mike Puma, of the NY Post, where he admitted to having an oblique injury for the majority of the 2013 season, which he kept secret from trainers and coaches.

Davis said, “I probably should have said something earlier, but what are you going to do? I wanted to play better, I didn’t want to come out. If I was hitting .380, I probably would have been like, Maybe I should let this cool down so I don’t miss [extensive] time, but when you’re hitting .200, you can’t take weeks off.”

The first thing that comes to mind regarding this story is what is with the Mets and oblique injuries? The second thing that comes to mind is the fact that when Davis was mired in his slump, the best thing for him to do would have been to take two weeks off so he could clear his head. He was obviously playing mind games with himself and one of the best things a player can do to fix a slump is to step away and stop over-thinking everything.

Today, the plot thickened. Davis apparently approached Puma this morning regarding his story making it sound like Davis was making up excuses. Davis wasn’t too happy.

Metsblog posted some audio earlier today of the encounter. In it, Davis tells Puma “We talked for 20 minutes, I said it’s a basically pointless story. You made it look like it was an excuse. That’s what we talked about before you wrote it, that you shouldn’t write this because it doesn’t matter. But, that was nowhere in the article.”

I doubt Davis’ oblique being tweaked had anything to do with his hitting woes in 2013. The hitting woes had more to do with his swing mechanics and how far he dropped his hands before swinging (above his head, down to waist level). While he still drops his hands, as was evident in the video posted by Adam Rubin of Davis taking batting practice yesterday, it’s not as dramatic. He now keeps his hands at about shoulder height in his stance, cutting down the distance he drops his hands. This should allow him to get to the ball quicker.

After he made this adjustment down in Triple-A last season, he was hitting much better. Take a look at the splits below:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st Half 63 239 212 21 35 3 0 5 18 2 0 25 73 .165 .255 .250 .505 .222
2nd Half 40 138 105 16 30 11 0 4 15 2 0 32 28 .286 .449 .505 .954 .351

After the adjustment, you can see that Davis really became an offensive threat again. He increased his walks and batting average while reducing his strikeouts (and he really reduced his strikeouts). He had almost as many hits, homers and RBI as he did in the first half of the year but with over 100 fewer at-bats.

If Davis can stay focused, there is enough here to think he can get his career back on track. He shouldn’t be concerned with what Mike Puma, or anyone else, thinks about 2013. He has to put 2013 behind him for good, or he will never be able to move on with his career.

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Noah Syndergaard Features the “Hook from Hell”

HOWARD SIMMONS NEW YORK DAILY NEWSIf you read some of the reports coming out of Port St. Lucie yesterday, you would think everyone just crawled out from under a rock. I can’t remember the last time a bullpen session caused so much buzz. Noah Syndergaard, the Mets’ No. 1 prospect, put on an incredible show yesterday.

What was everyone expecting?

You can rewind to about 25 different articles on Metsmerized Online covering his dominating performances in 2013. On April 1, 2013, I wrote a piece entitled Syndergaard Could Be Mets No. 1 Prospect By All-Star Break. Here is what I said about Syndergaard after seeing some bullpen video from 2013 spring training:

Syndergaard is a tall and imposing figure on the mound, and standing in at 6-feet 6-inches is an intimidating presence. I had the chance to watch a bullpen session on Syndergaard and love what I see. His mechanics are effortless and the ball explodes out of his hand (High-90s fastball). His changeup is great, and while there have been some knocks on his curveball in the past, it looks like it is developing nicely. This kid is the goods.

Sound familiar? The only difference is that his curveball is no longer getting knocks, it is being called the “hook from hell” by Mets’ manager Terry Collins.

Everyone was gathered around to get a glimpse of the pitching phenom yesterday. He did everything he could to back up his outstanding 2013—he was bringing the cheese, the knee-buckling curve, and showing to everyone that his stuff is for real.

Syndergaard’s first bullpen was an awesome display—even more impressive due to the fact that everyone was watching—coaches, media, owners, and other players. A pitcher can’t have more pressure for his first 40-pitch bullpen session of the season. But that’s what comes with the territory of being crowned the organizations’ top prospect.

While there was no hitter opposing him, Syndergaard rose to the occasion. His impressive bullpen session validated his outstanding on-field performance in 2013—and as Collins alluded, it’s what he does on the field that counts.

Photo by Howard Simmons, Daily News

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