Tagged: Jon Niese

Nationals pitching prospect grabs top spot…Syndergarrd is #2

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Lucas Giolito (Top) and Noah Syndergaard (Bottom)

The release of the MLB.com pitching prospect rankings should have been a good day for the Mets, and their fans, to boast about their pitching depth. But you didn’t have to look any further than the number one spot to be reminded that the Mets are still playing second fiddle to the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals 20-year-old right-hander Lucas Giolito was named the top pitching prospect in all of major league baseball. Noah Syndergaard, 22, of the Mets followed him in the rankings. Both Syndergaard (6’6″ 240) and Giolito (6’6″ 255) have big frames and are known for their power arms.  Syndergaard is expected to start the season in Triple-A and could be promoted to the big leagues as soon as 2015. Giolito has never pitched higher than A-ball and is expected to start the year in Double-A. Although their timetables are slightly different, they will undoubtedly be compared to one another upon their arrival to the major league level.

Much has been made of the Mets young pitching. This is supposed to be the year they start to lead the organization back into relevancy and play meaningful games into late September, and then hopefully October.  Although I don’t question the potential in the Mets rotation, the Nationals signing of Max Scherzer not only solidified themselves as the team to beat this year, but for years to come.

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon is likely to be the Mets opening day rotation. I excluded Dillon Gee from this list because all signs point to him being traded in the near future. Minus Colon, this group is as young and talented as there is in the game. Harvey, before undergoing Tommy John Surgery, looked like a premier pitcher in the game. DeGrom was the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year. Wheeler has struggled with his command but showed his potential as a front-line starter in the second half of the season. Niese is a consistent lefty who provides stability. Colon will be the staffs innings eater who GM Sandy Alderson will likely look to trade come the All-Star break. Thus opening up a spot in the rotation for Syndergaard to make his debut sometime this summer.

Max Scherzer, Jordan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez are projected to be the Nationals opening day rotation. That has the makings to be Atlanta Braves 1990’s good. In the event one of these starters is traded before the season, a more than formidable Tanner Roark will step right in. Giolito might be the top pitching prospect in the game, but the Nationals feel he is a year away. GM Mike Rizzo is well aware of what he has in Giolito and could be the reason why he would be okay with trading one of his soon to be free-agent starters. One hole that remains on the Nationals roster is their bullpen. Don’t be surprised if Giolito, assuming he continues to progress, is promoted to bolster the pen down the stretch. The more likely scenario would be Giolito joining the rotation in 2016 when a spot opens up due to trade or free agency.

There is no shame in having the second-best pitching prospect in baseball. These rankings are nothing more than someones personal opinion. And at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is how these pitchers perform on the major league level. Despite many off-season rumors of teams asking for Syndergaard, the Mets were unwilling to part with him. They clearly view him as a big part of their future. Only time with tell if Syndergaard, along with the rest of the Mets young pitchers, will be able to out-duel the Nationals rotation in the years to come.

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Stick to rapping 50 cent…

Apparently it’s not only the players who find a way to embarrass the Mets at Citi Field. Before tonight’s game, Curtis Jackson, better known as 50 cent, threw out the first pitch. Jackson, was on hand to promote his post-game concert next month, while he might not get much press for that show, his first pitch efforts will certainly make headlines. While I know nothing about the performer’s athletic background, I can tell you he most certainly was not a baseball player.

When I saw him step foot onto the actual mound, I had high hopes for him, as only people who have confidence in their abilities step that far back. But that was quickly washed away once he brought his arm back. Jackson, threw one of the worst ceremonial first pitches you will ever see. I don’t know if he had one too many “up in da Caesar’s Club” or not, but that was more embarrassing than his acting career.

It was reminiscent of Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate’s first pitch a few years back. Hard for me to say which one was worse, as I never expected to see Baba Booey topped, but 50 cent may have done just that.

Jackson, 50, or whatever I’m supposed to call you nowadays, stick to rapping.

Watch below:

Jonathan Niese’s Return Is An Important One

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Jonathon Niese reportedly has two rehab starts remaining before he is ready to rejoin the team. The 26-year-old lefty has been on the DL with a partially torn rotator cuff since June 21. His health, and return to form, are going to be crucial for the Mets success going forward.

Niese is part of the young core of starting pitchers that Sandy Alderson is looking to build this team around. The Mets signed him to a five-year extension after going 13-9 with a 3.40 era in 2012. He appeared to be reaching his potential and looked to be a front of the line starter for years to come.

But, Niese got off to a rocky start in 2013, posting a 3-6 record with a 4.32 era. This was looking more and more like a regression season, leaving many to question just what do the Mets really have in Niese? Then his shoulder issue became public. It was feared intially that he would need surgery. Thankfully, for his own and the Mets sake, it would only require rest to heal his partial tear.

Now Niese will look to prove his early season woes were due merely to injury. These next two months will be important for the Mets to see if their core rotation of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and lets trow Dillon Gee in there as well, can come together down the stretch. With the recent promotion of Jenry Mejia, there is no lack of youthful talent on this roster.

Rafael Montero, despite his recent AAA struggles, could be looking at a September call up as well. Noah Syndergaard, who was an after thought of sorts in the Dickey trade, is also getting more and more high praise with every start he makes.

However, all of these young arms are right-handed, except Jon Niese. That is what makes him so important to this team. It is not necessary, by all means, that you have a lefty in your rotation. But it certainly does help to have one or two on your staff throwing from the other side to give teams a different look throughout a series.

I expect Niese to bounce back when he returns. He has come a long way since he was first called up to the majors and possesses all the stuff to make him a quality pitcher. It was unknown early in his career just what his ceiling is as a starter, I see him sliding back in as the teams number 2 upon his return. But as time goes on, and some of these other young arms develop, I believe Niese will slot himself right in the middle of the rotation.

The Mets may not be making a playoff push this year, but these next two months could be a telling sign of where this rotation can take this franchise in the years to come.

Reality Check For The Mets

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Yesterday’s game was a typical “trap game” that we hear about so often in sports. They occur when teams are coming off emotionally high victories and play weaker teams they are expected to beat next. It’s common for a bit of a hangover to occur as teams let down their guard and lose games they are not supposed to. Unfortunately for the Mets, they are not in a position to suffer such a hangover and cannot afford loses like last nights to the Marlins.

The Mets dropped the series opener by a score of 5-1. Shawn Marcum pitched great through the first 6 innings but fell apart in the 7th. He didn’t get much help however as the offense showed very little signs of life throughout the game. They clearly looked drain coming off their 5-game winning steak and sweep of the Yankees. It was noted that the Mets celebrated mightily on the plane ride, which arrived very late, down to Miami. I’m all for them celebrating, this team needed/deserved it for what they accomplished the last week. But with just one lose to the Marlins they have quickly come off of that cloud they were floating on.

Things won’t get much easier today as they face the Marlins young ace, Jose Fernandez, while the Mets will be putting Collin McHugh on the mound for his first start of the year. McHugh, is giving the Mets a spot start in the absence of Jonathon Niese who is skipping a start due to injury. He recently made headlines for a controversal tweet poking fun at the Yankees after the sweep was completed. The tweet would have been fine, coming from any player who played a significant role in the series, but McHugh never made an appearance in the four games. Lets hope he makes headlines for his performance on the field this time around.

This is a series the Mets need to quickly bounce back and win. If the Mets plan on making any sort of run this season they have to take care of business against teams like the Marlins. They can ill afford to struggle against teams of this caliber. Today will be a tough pitching match-up but the offense needs to wake up and carry them through this game heading into Sunday which is Matt Harvey Day.

 

Wright, Murphy Lead The Way In Game 1 Of The Subway Series

The Empire State building was lit blue and orange last night in honor of the Mets win in game 1 of the Subway Series

The Empire State building lit up blue and orange last night in honor of the Mets win in game 1 of the Subway Series

I would say I have attended a Subway Series game just about every season since interleague play began. As a baseball fan in New York there is no better event to attend as you get that unique feel in the stands surrounded by both fan bases as they battle for bragging rights. The match up has certainly lost some of its initial lust, but match up still creates a buzz that is seldom felt in Citi Field these days which made attending last nights game all the better. Last night’s opening game of the Subway Series was everything you could hope for in a baseball game. It was well pitched, had some tremendous defensive plays with late inning dramatics in a 2-1 Mets victory.

Jonathon Niese and Phil Hughes both pitched excellent games. The first run of the game didn’t come until the 6th inning after Lucas Duda misplayed a Brett Garder fly ball which turned into a triple and was later driven in by Jayson Nix. But that would be the only blemish of Niese’s night as he threw 7 innings while allowing just that one run. Hughes cruised through the Mets lineup for most of the game looking the best he has so far this season. Just after the Yankees  had taken the lead in the top of the 6th, Daniel Murphy appeared to hit a 2-run home run in the bottom half of the inning until Brett Gardner made as good a catch as you will ever see to rob him and end the Mets scoring threat.

Hughes wouldn’t be so fortunate the following inning. David Wright crushed a home run to deep left field which left no doubt that this one would not be taken away as well. This was a huge home run for the Mets as the offense had been so stagnant and Wright did what a captain should do and came through with the big hit that changed the game. David Robertson came on in relief in the 8th inning and Daniel Murphy avenged himself after being robbed just two innings earlier. Murphy lined a ball into center field to drive in Jordanny Valdepsin who walked earlier in the inning for what would be the winning run.

Bobby Parnell came on to close the game out and looked terrific, despite a 4-pitch walk to Ichiro. Travis Hafner popped out to David Wright to end the game and I know every Mets fan had the thought in the back of their mind of reliving the nightmare of Luis Castillo dropping that ball in 2009. Luckily that didn’t happen as the Mets hung on to win a great opening game to the 2013 Subway Series.

Harvey and Niese and Pray for Rain

Matt Harvey can't carry the pitching staff by himself

Matt Harvey can’t carry the pitching staff by himself

The original saying is “Spahn and Sain and Pray for Rain” was named for the 1948 Braves pitching staff, in regards to their two aces, Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain, followed by an average staff. It was immortalized in a poem written by sports editor Gerald V. Hern:

“First we’ll use Spahn,

then we’ll use Sain.

Then an off day,

followed by rain.

Back we’ll come with Spahn,

followed by Sain.

And followed,

we hope,

by two days of rain.”

Now, “Harvey and Niese and Pray for Rain” may not have the same ring to it, but it does have the same amount of merit with the early season woes by the rest of the Mets pitching staff. Harvey and Niese have separated themselves from the rest of the staff early on, as both seem poised for big season’s, but it’s what behind them that has Mets fans worried. After the debacle the past two days in Philly, Dillon Gee surrounding 7 runs in 3 innings, followed Jeremy Hefner allowing 5 runs in 3 innings, the Mets have to be concerned with the depth in their staff.

Coming into the season, the starting rotation was supposed to be a strength of the Mets, with a solid starting five and young arms such as Zack Wheeler and Rafael Montero waiting in the wings. But, all of that has quickly changed, with Johan Santana requiring season ending surgery and Shawn Marcum back to being his old injury plagued self, it left the Mets scrambling. Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey, were tapped to fill these two voids in the starting rotation. These aren’t exactly the names the Mets, nor their fans were hoping to see pitch this season.

These voids in the rotation have fans eagerly awaiting the promotion of Zack Wheeler, who was sent down for “fine tuning reasons.” But all fans are well aware of the organizations financial troubles in recent years, we realize he is solely down in Triple-A right now to delay his arbitration eligibility. Although I am not entirely against this thought process, once this date has passed, Wheeler must be added to this rotation. The Mets will only be able to go so far off of the arms of Matt Harvey and Jonathon Niese, even if this team isn’t quite ready to contend, the time is now for their young rotation to take form and gain experience together in hopes of turning this franchise back to its winning sooner rather than later.

Opening Day Thoughts

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Finally, we have meaningful baseball games to discuss. In what felt like an eternity of a wait, one of my favorite day of the year returned, Opening day. Despite the long odds Vegas may be giving your team to win the World Series, none of that matters on opening day. Every team gets a fresh start and every fan believes this will be “the year” for their team.

In New York we are looking at two teams going in different directions. We have the aging Yankees, who look to prove naysayers wrong, in that they are not an overall the hill bunch. There opening day lineup was far from intimidating, as they are dealing with a list of perinatal All-Stars , Jeter, Arod, Texeria and Granderson on the disabled list. Then we have the Mets, who’s roster is filled with players that may leave some fans asking “Who are these guys?“. The two teams couldn’t of gotten off to completely different starts,  the Yankees dropped their home opener to lifetime rival, Boston Red Sox, 8-2, while the Mets won in blowout fashion, with an 11-2 victory over the Padres.

The Yankees struggles began with C.C. Sabathia. He has a reputation for getting off to slow starts in April and May, and he showed no signs of that changing this year. Sabathia allowed all four of his runs in the second inning. Although he settled down, He was only able to last five innings on the day, not what the Yankees were looking for out of their ace. Francisco Cervelli did cut with a two run single, but that would be all the offense they would get. The bullpen went on to allow four more runs, three of which were given up by Joba Chamberlin. I’m not sure if I was more disturbed by how ineffective he was or that mustache.

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This was obviously not the start the Yankees were hoping to get off too. The offense, will have to play a different style of baseball than fans have been accustomed to in recent years. This team will not be breaking any home run records, if they want to keep it together while they wait for the Calvary to arrive, they  must learn to play a form of small ball. Most importantly, with the amount of injuries hurting their line up, it will be extremely important for the pitching staff to carry the load these next few weeks to keep them in ball games.

Mets fans are happy, as they sit atop the NL East, even if its only for today. They couldn’t of asked for a much better start yesterday. Jonathon Niese went 6 2/3’s strong, allowing only two runs, showing early signs that this could be a break out season for the left hander. What I enjoyed most about his start, was how he fought with Terry Collins to remain in the game heading into the 7th. It’s that type of attitude this team has lacked in years past and can only hope will spread among the rest of the roster.

The bats were alive yesterday as they recorded 13 hits on the day. Colin Cowgill, Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd, John Buck and Jon Niese all recorded two hits. The biggest hit of the day, came off the bat of Cowgill, who hit a grand slam in the 7th to cap off the day in the 11-2 win. The outfield is the biggest question mark coming into the season, which made is all the more important for Cowgill and Bryd to make an early impact. There wasn’t anything to complain about from a Mets standpoint yesterday, it will just be a matter if these journeyman players can continue to produce along with the young players progressing as the year goes on.

All in all, it is just one game for both the Mets and Yankees. For the moment, it has Yankee fans wondering if this is a sign of things to come and Met fans hoping they can pull off another Miracle year, only time will tell.