On Wednesday evening, I had the pleasure of sitting down with MilB.com’s up-and-coming analyst, Jake Seiner. Seiner covers the entire minor leagues very closely, but he agreed to keep our discussion solely focused Mets current crop of talent, with a few exceptions.
We mainly talked about the very top of the Mets farm system, as every player we discussed landed on or near GotC’s Mets Top 15 Prospect list for the 2015 season.
I will avoid the specifics, but Jake had a very interesting opinion on Brandon Nimmo, a positive spin on Matt Reynolds, and made a claim at the end of the interview which should make all Mets fans scream for joy.
So, without further adieu, here’s my full the full transcript from my interview with Jake. Enjoy!
Quinn B: First, as an aspiring writer, I’d love to know you’re professional background. How did you get involved in baseball and pro scouting with MLB.com?
Jake Seiner: I should clarify first that my position with MiLB.com is much more reporter than scout. There’s so much good scouting content available on the web, and I simply don’t have the scouting acumen to contend with the likes of Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo, Kiley McDaniel or the army of folks contributing at Baseball Prospectus. Scouts rely on an internal rolodex of “This is what an average curveball looks like. This is what plus power looks like. This is how you evaluate a hit tool.” I simply don’t have that, and there’s no point pretending.
Jake Seiner: What I do have is access, though. Throughout the season, I end up talking to hundreds of players, coaches, front office people, etc., and I try to contribute to the prospecting community as much as possible with what I discern from those chats. I share the occasional self-generated opinion on Twitter because it’s fun and who doesn’t love to occasionally to that. But largely, if I’m hyping a guy on Twitter or on our blog, it’s because I’ve heard something from somewhere in the industry.
As for my background: I’ve had an avid interest in baseball since I was a child and played through college at the club level. I majored in journalism at BU with an eye on becoming a baseball writer. I did four years for the school newspaper there, The Daily Free Press, and based on that experience, landed an internship with the Boston Globe. The internship led to regular freelance work through and after graduation. From there, I took a paid internship with the Atlanta Braves, working in their publications department. After that, I did like six months of college sports with the Associated Press, then leapt at this job with MiLB.com when it opened in 2013.
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Quinn B: One general question before we get to the Mets. Yoan Moncada and Hector Oliviera are examples of recent Cuban prospects who received 30M+ signing bonuses. Still, the best American baseball players can only earn up to 8M through the draft. Do you see an international draft coming in the near future?
Jake Seiner: The one thing new commissioner Rob Manfred seems set on is creating a single entry point for all amateur players, which makes a lot of sense if you’re Major League Baseball, but also presents a ton of hurdles. The detail involved in implementing an international draft is sort of mind blowing, when you think about working with all the governments and acquiring the visas and birth certificates, etc. I think that’s one thing that gets underplayed in all this discussion: MLB will find a way to make an international draft happen if it wants — and I think it does — but it’s going to be a massive undertaking to set up. My bet is something is coming, but don’t be surprised if it’s a gradual process or takes more than a year or two to put in place.
Mar 25, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Rafael Montero (50) walks to the dugout at the end of the third inning against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jake Seiner: I don’t think you lose much by trying Gee out in the rotation first. I’m not sure I’d definitively take Montero over Gee, but I’d lean that way, ceteris paribus. That said, I think Montero profiles in the bullpen better than Gee, and giving the veteran first cracks to start is probably a good move for clubhouse management on Terry Collins‘ part.
I do think Montero should be given the chance to start in the Majors at some point. He wasn’t at his sharpest when he made his debut last year. He definitely has another level beyond the guy who posted an 87 ERA+. Is that next level a legitimate MLB starter? I’m not sure, but I think it’s close enough that you want to find out at some point. That time doesn’t have to be this April, though, and I think Montero has enough feel for pitching that he’ll handle jumping between rotation and bullpen better than most. So, right move? Maybe. Reasonable one? I definitely think so.
Jake Seiner: I’m not sure Alderson is ever actually going to have to choose. Catchers are tough to keep healthy, and having two guys who can start at the Major League level is a conundrum most GMs and managers would welcome. I think this one works itself out either way. If d’Arnaud is outstanding out the gate this year, I think you’re fine to let Plawecki marinade for most or all of 2015 in Triple-A, then let him break in as d’Arnaud’s backup in 2016 — that’s an ideal way for most catchers to break in, regardless of prospect status. If d’Arnaud struggles this year, maybe Plawecki comes up a bit earlier and takes the reigns and d’Arnaud falls into a backup role. The point at which Alderson needs to make a call to keep one and trade the other doesn’t come up this year. If d’Arnaud breaks out as a no-doubt first-division starter this year, then Plawecki is probably expendable if he brings back MLB pieces, but he’s not a must-move at that point. It’d be totally reasonable to break him in as a backup and make that decision in 2017 or ’18 if he really hits.
Jake Seiner: I’ll still take Syndergaard based on track record, but I see what Backman sees. On his best day, Matz looks every bit the stud that Syndergaard is. The difference for me is that Syndergaard has been that guy for much longer. If you’re talking pure stuff and ceiling though, yeah, I don’t think Backman is off base. Either could become a legit No. 2 starter, if not a little more.
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Quinn B: What kind of players do you think Michael Conforto and Brandon Nimmon will look like at the major league level, and how soon can we expect to see them in Queens?
Jake Seiner: Nimmo fascinates me. He has a really unique approach, especially considering his background. For many first-round picks, the one thing they know how to do almost preternaturally is crush fat pitches. If you’re trying to get noticed out of Montana of all places, crushing BP homers seems like a good way to do it. Many prospects start out with that powerful, BP swing in place, then they refine their game from there. Nimmo is the total opposite.
His pitch recognition is above average and his ability to barrel balls while behind in the count is incredible. But if he’s sitting on a 2-0 fastball and gets it, he doesn’t consistently drive the ball with authority like you want from an elite prospect. I’m not sure he has that swing in him.
He’s one of the best in the Minors at hitting behind in the count, but has a long way to go learning to hit when ahead. I don’t have any feel for how prospects like that develop. I’d hedge on him becoming a second-division starter who can play all three outfield spots.
Conforto I actually don’t have a whole lot on other than what others have written. Seems like opinions on his bat varied around draft time — I think Keith Law had him as one of the two or three best sticks in the draft, while others thought he was more of a late first-round talent. The Mets could use a few more power bats in the system, though, so I think his profile fills something of a need — not that I support drafting for need.
Mar 7, 2015; Port St. Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets pitcher Matthew Bowman (79) throws against the Atlanta Braves during the spring training baseball game at Tradition Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports
Quinn B: Is Matthew Bowman minor league filler, a bullpen candidate, or a legitimate starting pitching prospect in your eyes?
Jake Seiner: I want to see him get a shot at starting. Like with Montero, I’m not 100 percent on him as a starter, but it’s a good enough chance that I’d want to see him fail in the rotation before relegating him to the bullpen. That said, opportunity could be tough to come by, and the profile isn’t so enticing that you wouldn’t make him a reliever now if it’d help you make the playoffs.
I’d let him start in Triple-A for a while this year, try to get a better read on what it is you have in Bowman and what the big league team will need this year. Maybe he shows you he’s a no-doubt starting pitcher, and then it’s a matter of finding a spot for him. If his role is still questionable by midseason and the team is competing, then you use him wherever he fits best and ride with it. If the team isn’t hunting for the playoffs, you let him get more Triple-A innings and continue to evaluate. That’s usually how these things work out.
Quinn B: What’s your opinion of Matt Reynolds? Can he be a starting shortstop at the major league level?
Jake Seiner: I think the ceiling is a second-division starter, but much more likely he’s an excellent utility piece on a good team. The hit tool is good, but not good enough for him to thrive with his current power. I’d expect an 85-90 OPS+ type guy whose maybe an average defender at shortstop in his peak. That’s a slightly below average starter, but a really useful bench guy since he can play a bunch of positions.
Many prospects start out with that powerful, BP swing in place, then they refine their game from there. Nimmo is the total opposite.
Quinn B: What can we expect out of Cesar Puello this season? Does he still have the tools to be a starting outfielder?
Jake Seiner: He’s looked like a probable fourth outfielder every year except for 2013, and that was his Biogenesis season, so it’s a real question whether he can cleanly replicate that. I’d wager he carves out an MLB career bouncing around as a bench outfielder.
Quinn B: Which Mets prospect would say is most likely to outperform expectations?
Jake Seiner: Not sure I have a good sleeper for the Mets’ system, actually. I’ve been aboard the Marcos Molina bandwagon since I saw him a few times in Brooklyn last year, and I think he could be a top 100 prospect by year’s end. But I think that might be an expectation for a lot of people, so I’m probably picking a pretty sturdy limb to stand on with him.
Quinn B: Conversely, which player is most likely to bust as a major leaguer?
Jake Seiner: I’d take Nimmo in my farm system in a heartbeat and think he’s an excellent prospect, but as I mentioned before, I really don’t know what he is if he doesn’t become a better 2-0 hitter. I worry that what happens is Major League pitchers just pound him with inside heat and that he doesn’t have the swing and approach to stop them. I still think there’s a better chance he adjusts than doesn’t, but I guess my uneasiness with that profile probably makes him a good answer for this question.
Quinn B: Lastly, which team do you think will have more wins over the next five seasons, the Mets or Yankees?
Jake Seiner: I’ll take the Mets. Yankees have a lot of money and playing time committed to aging assets and I’m not all that enamored with the players they’re counting on to age well, like Tanaka and Headley. The Yankees have the money and prospects to where they’ll probably be able to field competitive teams the next five years, but I have more faith in the Mets and their pitching depth right now. Plus, there aren’t any Yankees blogs lining up to have me chat as a guest.