AFL Preview; New York Mets


Aug 18, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher

Matt Harvey

(33) against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Editor’s Note: Adam Rubin of ESPN NY has reported that Harvey is eligible to play in the Arizona Fall League as he has less than two years of major league service time and has missed a considerable number of games due to injury.

After a slow September that featured extended periods without stars Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, or David Wright, Mets fans may actually be able to look forward to the Arizona Fall League.

As none of the prospects that the team will send are likely to generate significant buzz or make a legitimate impact on the future of this ballclub, most of the October commotion could be centered around the NL all star team starter, Matt Harvey. Harvey, 24, hasn’t pitched in a game for the Mets since August 24th, when he reported feeling “tired” during a start against the Detroit Tigers. Two days later, he was diagnosed with a UCL tear in his elbow, a devastating injury that generally leads to Tommy John surgery and sidelines pitchers for over a year. Harvey, however, opted to avoid surgery and, in an effort to be ready for opening day 2014, rehab the tear.

Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson suggested in an interview with ESPN NY this morning that part of Matt’s rehab could be pitching to “near competitive batters,” such as those presented in the Arizona Fall League. This could be a great opportunity for Harvey to prove that he is alright and for Met fans to experience some excitement during the sixth consecutive Met-less postseason. Still, it might not matter what Alderson wants as the AFL rules clearly state that pitchers with more than one year of eligibility as of August 31st may not play in the competition. A major league executive, Alderson was certainly cognizant of this when he made the statement, so he may know something we don’t.

Now for the prospects. The Mets announced in August that they will be sending five prospects to the AFL; pitchers  Chasen Bradford and Hansel Robles, infielder Aderlin Rodriguez, and outfielders Cory Vaughn, and catcher Cam Maron. This afternoon, beat writer Adam Rubin of ESPN NY reported that pitcher Jeurys Familia will represent the team as well. All Met representatives will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions, which also consists of players from the Giants, Pirates, Yankees.

Chasen Bradfrod – Taken out of the University of Central Florida  in the middling rounds (35th) of the 2011 draft, Bradford earned his nod by establishing himself as a legitimate middle relief prospect. After a good season in the SAL (A ball), Bradford was promoted to the FSL (A+) to start this season. While his 3.71 ERA was less than ideal, his 8.9 SO/9 and 1.9 BB/9 were encouraging and Bradford was promoted to AA Binghamton. He had the opposite experience there as he posted a dominating 0.71 ERA but walked more batters (2.8 BB/9), and struck out fewer (6.4 SO/9).  Nevertheless, there is always a need for relief pitchers, and while Bradford’s ceiling is nothing more than a garden variety middle reliever, an injury in New York next season could put Bradford on the fast track to the majors.

Hansel Robles – After a few seasons of toil in the DSL and rookie leagues, Robles hit the prospect radar last season following a dominating performance in short season A ball. His 1.11 ERA, 0.784 WHIP, and 6.60 K:BB ratio earned him a spot (#10) on Keith Law’s top ten Mets prospect list. This year hasn’t been terrible for Robles, but certainly a return to reality. The 22 year old pitched to a pedestrian 3.72 ERA over 84.2 Innings, and was particularly bad in the second half, putting up a 3.96 ERA and getting beat up to a .287 average against. With a low to mid 90’s fastball, a strong changeup and a below average curveball, hes probably a reliever down the road, but he does have an outside chance at a starter.

Aderlin Rodriguez – Standing 6’3 and a very muscular 210 pounds, Rodriguez is a corner infielder whose value is predicated largely on his power. Rodriguez knocked out 14 home runs in half a season as an 18 year old three years ago, and hit 24 as a 20 year old last year. This season, however, as Rodriguez battled injuries, appearing in only 62 games in A+ ball, and struggled at the plate. His power was sapped by the pitcher friendly FSL, as Rodriguez hit only 9 home runs (.427 SLG) and showed a startling inability to get on base, hitting .260 with a .295 OBP. Worse, his defense was as poor as it’s always been, and the Mets began trying

Mar. 23, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; New York Mets outfielder

Cory Vaughn

in the dugout during the fifth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Braves won 9-4. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

him out at first base instead of third, a move that greatly diminishes any future value. There is a lot of power in that strong frame, but right now, it does not appear as if Aderlin can harness it.

Cory Vaughn – The son of former all star outfielder Greg Vaughn, taken in the fourth round out of college, and having torn apart the NY Penn leauge in the two months following his draft, Cory was expected to rise quickly through the minors. Instead, the holes in his swing were exploited in the minors, and Vaughn has gotten bogged down in the lower levels. He’s shown on base ability (.348+ OBP and 59+ walks in every full professional season) and power (.447 minor league slugging percentage, 23 home runs last season), but he simply needs to make more solid contact. The 24 year old outfielder has a an overly long swing that has led to him to amass over 100 strikeouts in 2011 and 2012, and 96 this past season, despite only playing in 92 games. In turn this has led to a low averages, as his .267 batting average in AA in 2013 looked amazing in contrast to the .243 and .255 he put up in years past. His swing is going to have to get more compact, or it will be exposed in AAA and the majors, never allowing him to become even a fourth outfielder.

Cam Maron – Maron is a guy who reminds a lot of people of former Mets catcher, Josh Thole. Both were prep catchers taken out of the top ten rounds in the draft, and more importantly, both showed or have shown little power but an affinity for getting on base in the minors. IN 2012, Maron hit only five home runs, but he managed to compile a .300 batting average and a .400 OBP in A ball. This year, however, was a different story. Playing in the pitcher friendly FSL, Maron did not belt a single home run and hit only .235, although he did have enough plate discipline to get his OBP up to .327. Although these numbers are indicative of a player who may never reach AA, the Mets decision to send him to the AFL is a sign of their confidence in him and of his true potential as a back up catcher.

Apr 23, 2013; Flushing, NY,USA; New York Mets relief pitcher

Jeurys Familia

(27) pitches during the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citi Field. Dodgers won 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Jeurys Familia – After undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow, Familia missed most of the season, but returned this month after a surprisingly speedy recovery. Although the 23 year old is on the Mets active roster, he has only appeared in one game all month, and will likely use the AFL to get some reps in after what was virtually a lost season. Familia was once a top 100 prospect thanks to a blazing fastball that yielded a ton of strikeouts when he was a starter in the minors, and will only lead to more as a reliever in the majors. Regardless of his performance in the AFL, expect him to be a major cog in the Mets bullpen come 2014