2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Peter Alonso

Peter Alonso is the major household name of all of the NRI’s in camp this year. Like Amed Rosario, before him, his NRI comes with the excitement of eventually seeing him in the majors this season.

By now you probably know a bit about Alonso. He’s a first basemen with an above average bat and a below average glove who saw his stock in the Mets system rise incredibly fast last year as he put together a ridiculous year:

2018 Las Vegas: .285/.395/.579 36 HR
2018 AFL: .255/.339/.510 6 HR

We actually wrote about Alonso recently, less than two months ago, while we were wrapping up our series on the Top Mets Prospects from Baseball America 2018. So if you want to know more about his journey and his other minor league stats, go there.

But also a lot has changed with the Mets since December. Our original preview article for Alonso was published two weeks after the Cano/Diaz trade. Acquiring Cano pushed McNeil off 2B and back then the thought was McNeil would split time at 3rd with Frazier and maybe at the start of the season McNeil would be at 3rd, Frazier at first and the Mets wouldn’t keep Alonso in the minors until the Super 2 deadline passed (ultimately the reason why he wasn’t brought at all last year despite the environment being right in Queens).

Then January happened. The Mets acquired Broxton, JD Davis and Jed Lowrie. Not only does this mess with McNeils playing time, it really puts a question mark for Alonso. At the start of the season the Mets could have Frazier and Lowrie at the corners with Davis as a back up. This creates quite the jam for Alonso.

Ultimately it’s not going to hold Alonso back. Once the Mets call him up, they’ll play him every day. Too much depth in the majors tends to work itself out in the end. Ultimately there will be a lot of competition in Spring.

Peter Alonso showed last year that he can hit. If he has a strong defensive showing in camp this year he will cut through the infield noise.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Ali Sanchez

At the beginning of last season Ali Sanchez was the #27 prospect in the Mets system according to Baseball America. He ended the season playing in the Arizona Fall League, a major step for a #27 prospect.

We wrote about Ali Sanchez for the first time at 213 back at the start of October. Main point in that article:

Baseball America points out, “hit just .223 outside of the complex Rookie leagues, but his defensive tools are so tantalizing – and catchers develop later than other position players – that he remains a prospect of interest.”

Ali made his debut in the Mets organization at the age of 17 in 2014 and spent the season in the DOSL. He did well (.303/.406/.394) so at 18 the Mets moved him state side where he started the year in the Gulf Coast league where he did well again (.272/.330/.306) so in the same year he was transferred to Kinsport. That’s where he hit his first rough patch, hitting .182/.182/.182 over 3 games. He also was 2.6 years younger than the average player in that league.

The Mets continued to push him at an accelerated rate to Brooklyn in 2016 where at age 19 he was still 2.1 years younger than average and he struggled hitting .216/.260/.275. This is where the BA quote starts to come in. Brooklyn is a tough place for some prospects to hit and catchers do develop more slowly. Plus he was still only 19.

Anyway, the Mets continued to push Ali through the system. In 2017 he opened in Columbia where he was 1.5 years younger than the average player and hit only .231/.288/.264. It’s at this point that the Mets start to slow down Sanchez and he opens 2018 in Columbia. Starting two years in a row at low A ball probably leads to his low prospect ranking at the start of 2018. Sanchez responds positively to this and hits .259/.293/.389, his best line since Kingsport so the Mets move him up mid season to St Lucie (where he’s young for the league again) and hits .274/.296/.385. So now it looks like the prospect has found his bat and is becoming intriguing. The Mets brass thought so too and sent him to the fall league where he hit a disappointing .120/.241/.160 over 29 PA’s but probably got a lot of great experience being in a league with so much talent.

This brings us to this year. Ali Sanchez is one of 7 catchers in Mets camp. He’s the only one though with a prospect billing where the Mets don’t expect to sniff the majors at all, rather this is all for him seeing major league pitching as a catcher and as a hitter. Last October we speculated that he would open the season in St Lucie and probably move to Binghamton at some point. With the amount of catchers the Mets now have, we still feel this is the most likely scenario unless he can secure enough playing time to be the starter in Binghamton.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Colton Plaia

If you hear Mets coaches, players, sportscasters etc talking about Colton this spring, they aren’t talking about the current season of the Bachelor, their talking about Colton Plaia, one of seven catchers in Mets camp.

Colton was drafted by the 33rd round of the 2012 draft but went back for another year at Loyola Marymount and was drafted by the Mets in the 15th round the following year. He’s been in the Mets system since then and has never been younger than the average age at any playing level.

His best season was in 2015 with St Lucie where he had 311 PA’s slashing a .285/.342/.347. He then played in Binghamton for two years before getting to Vegas last year. With Vegas last year he had 222 PA’s slashing .255/.332/.474, showing more pop than he ever had in the minors (9 of 17 career homers). He’ll be fighting this spring to maintain his spot with the Triple A club where we’ll see if his jump in power was due to playing in Vegas or his approach at the plate.

It feels like he has an NRI because he’s at a crossroad age wise. He has played moderately well for a catcher at every level from Brooklyn up in the Mets system, with the last spot being Queens. The problem for Colton: Ramos, d’Arnaud, Mesoraco, and Nido are all in front of him. Mazeika is right behind him for a back up catcher role and the Mets also have Ali Sanchez as catching prospect who should get the bulk of the time wherever he ends up.

The question about Plaia has been his pop, which he found last year. He’s so far down the Mets depth chart he’s not even competing for a roster spot but a spot on Syracuse’s roster depending on how things shape up. But if the Mets decide to trade d’Arnaud (thus moving Mesoraco to back up backstop) then Plaia and Mazeika will be directly competing to back up Nido in Syracuse.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Devin Mesoraco

At 213 we did not think at the end of 2018 that we would be writing a Devin Mesoraco NRI preview in the same week that pitchers and catchers report to camp. Knowing the Mets propensity to resign players who were with the team, it seemed plausible if not likely that Mesoraco found his way to the 2019 club however not in an NRI position. We thought the Mets catcher situation would end up in one of the following ways:

  1. Plawecki and d’Arnaud
  2. FA signing and Mesoraco
  3. FA signing and one of Plawecki/d’Arnaud
  4. Mesoraco and one of Plawecki/d’Arnaud

So when the Mets signed Wilson, after tendering a contract to d’Arnaud we thought that was the end of the Mesoraco era in Queens. But baseball FA is weird and ignored Mesoraco’s marginal improvements in Queens last year post trade so here we are.

Career: .232/.309/.406/100 DRC+
2018 Mets: .222/.306/.409/99 DRC+

With the Mets last year, Mesoraco was almost exactly his career line, which sitting at 100 DRC+ means he’s exactly average. It was an uptick for him by DRC+, he had one astounding year in 2014 where he posted a 135 and then has touched anything about 89 any other year except last year.

Since he’s not consistently an average player, generally slightly below average, he’s here on an NRI. Out of all the catchers in camp though (there are 7) he stands the best chance to upset d’Arnaud. He also stands the best chance to leave camp as a free agent if he isn’t given a spot on the roster.

On the other hand, Brodie likes to trade and having Mesoraco in camp will allow the Mets to entertain serious offers on d’Arnaud, if he produces.

If anything Mesoraco makes an interesting sub plot for Mets this spring. What if he tears it up and makes the team? What if Wilson and d’Arnaud tear it up enough to be starters and d’Arnaud is traded? What if Mesoraco is better than d’Arnaud? We’ll get our answers in about 2 weeks when the games start! Until then there is no shortage of backstops for pitchers to throw to.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Patrick Mazeika

New week, new position for our 2019 NRI preview series! Yesterday we finished profiling every pitcher the Mets have offered an NRI too (unless they sign more, which we’ll get on the back end) and now we start catchers.

The Mets catching situation has been complicated all off-season and it just got more complicated. At the start of the off-season, the Mets decided to non-tender Kevin Plawecki and tender Travis d’Arnaud for aprx 4 million. This signaled both an end of the Plawecki era and that the Mets would probably have to acquire another pitcher. There was a flirting with the Marlins for Realmuto, a massive contract offered and turned down by Grandal and ultimately an out of no-where signing of Wilson Ramos.

Then the Mets gave Devin Mesoraco an NRI, who will probably directly compete with d’Arnaud. Plus there is Ali Sanchez who is the up and coming catching prospect. In short, there’s a lot going on.

Then there is Patrick Mazeika. We wrote a profile about him back in October as part of our 2018 Baseball America Top 30 review. Where we started his review talking about his early success:

The Mets drafted Patrick in the 8th round of the 2015 draft after he hit .348 for three years at Stetson University. He started his minor league career at Kingsport and he dominated hitting .354/.451/.540 – eyepopping numbers really spreading the ball all over the place. The next season, he was 22 at this point, he continued, hitting .305/.414/.402 in Columbia. Two years in a row like this you start to turn heads (except for the defense stuff). In 2017 he mostly played in St Lucie but had a week or so in Binghamton. He combined for a .290/.389/.416 line.

But then noted how unlucky he was last year:

Patrick came into 2018 needing to continue his production at Binghamton. Over 87 games that just didn’t happen the same way. He hit .231/.328/.363. Not bad for a catcher, but a large drop off from previous years. These numbers could be a combination of a couple of things. First off, he’s getting better defensively. Second, as John Sheridan at MMO found, he had a .216 BABIP, so super unlucky and in August for a period of time he was hitting .381/.480/.524. The article also talked about his decrease in playing time.

It’s still unclear where Mazeika plays next year, which is why his NRI will be so important. In the profile in October we talked how Nido may dictate which level Mazeika ends up in. That’s even more complicated right now. Most likely Wilson and d’Arnaud are at the major league level, then Nido at Syracuse. If Mesoraco is still around (and not on the ML roster due to a d’Arnaud trade), then he is at Syracuse as well. Ali Sanchez is probably going to start in Binghamton.

A good spring can go a long way for Mazeika. Let’s see what happens! And how the Mets juggle 6 catchers in major league camp.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Preview: Steve Villines

Non-Roster Invites to camp break down to three groups: 1) Veterans trying to find their way back in, 2) Minor League Journey Men, 3) Prospects. Steve Villines, who will be 23 this season and was drafted in 2017 falls into the last group.

He was drafted by the Mets in the 10th round of the 2017 player draft and has already played across 5 levels of Mets baseball in 2 seasons. If you only get your prospect news here, 1) thanks, 2) that’s a really bad idea, you probably haven’t heard much about him because we’ve been focusing on Baseball America’s top Mets prospects from 2018 and he didn’t make that list (and I’m assuming he’ll be on the 2019 list)

Before we break down his stats, head over to Amazin Avenue to read more about Villines path to become a college pitcher (because it almost didn’t happen) and then a break down of his mechanics. He’s a low/slot almost submarine pitcher.

He had a strong, albeit short, campaign in 2017 after he was drafted where he pitched in 19 games between Kingsport and Brooklyn posting a 1.65 ERA over 27.1 innings with a 0.878 WHIP. Only 8 of those games were in Kingsport where he was pretty quickly moved up to Brooklyn.

He started last year in Columbia where he was a tick (0.1) older than the average player and it was also his worst stretch of the year. He posted a 4.86 ERA, 1.140 WHIP over 33.1 innings with a 4.86 ERA. He then got moved up to St Lucie and dominated, and this is where he started to get noticed. In 16 games and 22.0 innings he allowed 1 run. He also only allowed 7 hits. This led to an ERA of 0.41 with a 0.591 WHIP. That’s astounding and earned him a call up to Binghamton where he dropped to 2.4 years younger than the average player. He was still effective over 11.1 innings and 7 games with a 3.18 ERA and a 0.706 WHIP (which is the real part to concentrate for him).

I would assume the “armchair analysis” for some of his success right now may be because of how unusual his pitching style is, especially in the lower minors where most people are throwing the same way, power pitchers haven’t lost their “umph” yet but still haven’t found their location yet, etc. Villines control sets him apart and this is what I’m hoping to see in Spring. Does his pitching style still lead to weak ground balls against major leaguers? If so, then he should find his way to Queens in 2019 or 2020.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Joshua Torres

One of the goals for the Mets in the off-season was to redesign their bullpen from top (Diaz, bringing back Familia from “loan” to Oakland) to bottom (depth in the minor leagues). To some degree, this has been a multi-year process although BVW kicked it into overdrive this off-season. Joshua Torres though represents a move the Mets made back in 2017 that hasn’t been discussed at all here at 213MFS, so today, we correct that!

Torres was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Brewers in 2012 and was in the Brewers system until 2015. The highest level he reached was low A ball and after a season split between low A and rookie ball where he put up a 4.20 ERA over 79.1 innings (despite being a year younger than the league average for low A ball), the Brewers released him.

At this point he remains unsigned and he pitches in the Puerto Rico league for a couple of seasons.

2015-16: 1.93 ERA, 5 G, 4.2 IP
2016-17: 2.96 ERA, 21 G, 27.1 IP, 1.024 WHIP

At this point the Mets notice him and sign him to a minor league contract and he spends all of 2017 in high A ball where he is almost exactly the average age (just a tick below). He posts a 3.14 ERA over 41 games and 63.0 innings with a WHIP of 1.206. He goes back to the Puerto Rico league for only 5 games and 9.1 innings after the 2017 season and posts a 0.96 ERA.

So the Mets decide to push him the next year. He moves up to AA where he’s still basically the average age of a player at the level (24 years old, 0.4 below the mean) and he responds really well posting a 1.19 ERA over 35 games and 45.1 innings with a 1.103 ERA. Even though it is a meaningless stat, he manages to pick up 9 wins and no losses during this stretch. The Mets then sent him to Las Vegas (this is the push) and he didn’t do so well, posting a 12.96 ERA over 8.1 innings. He closed the season back in Puerto Ricko with a 2.37 ERA over 16 games and 19 innings.

That’s a lot of numbers. Basically, statistically, Torres has responded well to several new levels of play, increasing his challenge each year. It makes sense for the Mets that the next step to push him is major league camp. He almost definitely opens the season at Syracuse and if he makes the next positive move in his career path, he’ll be pushing for a roster spot at the end of the season.

The Mets are the poster child for “you can never have too many arms” and despite a crowded bullpen, Torres is interesting, especially since he was cut so early from the Brewers and has had success at different levels. The knock I see om him statistically is the two times in his career where he has moved up mid-season (2015/2018) is when he struggled the most.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Corey Taylor

We’ve been doing this article series since at least 2017. I hope we’ve been doing it only since 2017 so this next sentence is true. Every year we’ve previewed Non-Roster Invitees, we’ve written a profile about Corey Taylor. So here’s to preview for Taylor #3!

The first year we profiled him, we wrote this:

However, and stop me if you heard this before for non-roster invites, his numbers have been impressive in the minors and forced the issue that we need to talk about him. In his first season in Brooklyn he tossed 18.0 innings over 18 games with a 1.50 ERA with 16 K’s and a 1.000 WHIP. Pretty good.

And then last year we wrote this:

This is still the case for Taylor. His numbers returned to Earth last year but he went from working in St. Lucie to putting a whole season in Binghamton… Last year in Binghamton he posted a 3.61 ERA, 1.332 WHIP in 62.1 innings.

Well it looks like he took another step forward in the minors last year. He went back to Binghamton to start the season and posted a 2.41 ERA, 1.439 WHIP in 29 games and 41.0 innings. Then he got promoted to Las Vegas where he posted a 4.26 ERA, 1.421 WHIP over 25.1 innings. His ERA responded positively while his WHIP did the opposite, which is usually a bad sign. He still took a step forward in my opinion because Mets pitchers were performing awful in Vegas.

Let’s see what he does this year! He is starting to get older so he strikes me as a pitcher the Mets wouldn’t mind rushing to the majors to become an extra arm if needed. He’ll probably get an extended look in Spring and if it wasn’t for BWV’s overhaul of the pen, we would be 100% confident that he would find his way to the 40 man and see some time in Queens this year.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Hector Santiago

In what is becoming a common theme in these Non-Roster Invitee articles, the Mets signed a lefty pitcher to a minor league contract with an NRI to camp this off-season. Today we’ll look at Hector Santiago, who unlike some of the other pitchers we already profiled in this season, has seen extensive major league time in his career and is trying to rebound at age 32.

Santiago was drafted by the White Sox in the 30th round of the 2006 draft and made his major league debut in 2011 getting into two games and tossing 5.3 scoreless innings. He would be come a regular pitcher, mostly a starter from that point on getting at least 61 innings of work from every season from 2012 to 2018.

After the 2013 season was part of a three team trade that sent him to the Angels (the more famous players in this trade include Mark Trumbo and Adam Eaton). In 2016 he was traded at the deadline to the Twins for Alex Meyer and Ricky Nolasco. He became a free agent in fall of 2017 and signed a free agent with the White Sox for a reunion of sorts. Now he’s a Met.

2018 MLB: 49 G, 7 GS, 102.0 IP, 4.41 ERA, 5.12 FIP, 6.37 DRA, 1.52 WHIP
Career: 238 G, 137 GS, 887.0 IP, 4.05 ERA, 4.86 FIP, 5.74 DRA, 1.37 WHIP

The obvious short term use for Hector is as a lefty reliever if the Mets need one, especially since he was signed before the Mets signed Wilson. What Hector really gives the Mets is a bullpen guy who can swing as a starter, where he spent most of his career. The two pitchers in the pen who can do that right now are Lugo and Gsellman (and Vargas in the rotation for the other way). If the goal is to stabilize both Lugo and Gsellman, especially without calling up a prospect too early (since the starter prospects are all too far away), there’s Hector. If he has a strong spring, he could fight his way into the 40 man. He’s a much more experienced option than bringing in Flexen to start two games in a row.

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2019 Mets Non-Roster Invitee Preview: Ryder Ryan

In August of 2017 the Mets traded Jay Bruce to the Indians and got Ryder Ryan in return. The move at the time puzzled Mets fans as Jay Bruce was smashing homers and the Mets acquired a player who was drafted in the 30th round in 2016 (and didn’t even end up in the Top 30 Mets Prospects in Baseball America in 2018). But it was an August trade and the Mets it seemed were moved more by money than anything else.

Ryan came to the Mets from single A ball with the Indians were he posted a 4.79 ERA over 41.1 innings, up from 3.86 over 18.2 innings the year before. This also led to the criticism the Mets received.

However, since joining the Mets, he’s fared better! He finished 2017 off in Columbia posting a 2.08 ERA and a 0.846 WHIP over 13.0 innings. This earned him a promotion to St. Lucie last year where he pitched in 16 games, 20.1 innings posting a 1.77 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP. Which in turn earned him another promotion to Binghamton where he pitched in 26 games, 32.2 innings with a much higher ERA (4.13) but still a low WHIP at 1.133.

The change in his WHIP has been fascinating before becoming a Met. Even in his first season with the Indians where he had a respectable ERA, his WHIP was 1.607. The next year with the Indians it was a 1.476. He hasn’t posted numbers anywhere close to this as a Met.

At age 23 last year, he was 1.4 years younger than the average AA baseball player. In my opinion, it’s a toss up right now if he starts the year in AA or AAA, especially since they are both close to NY. With the Mets restocking their bullpen this year, there’s more space between him and Queens.

I expect him to get a long look in Spring Training since he’s a reliever and since the Mets have parted ways with other players they traded for in the sell-off years (Hi Bautista) Ryan naturally moved up the depth charts as a young pitcher replacement. If the drop in his WHIP is a trend, maybe Ryan makes a lot of us, including myself after the Bruce trade, eat crow.

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