Right-handers of Savannah, with Baseball America’s Jim Callis
The Savannah Sand Gnats are a perfect example of old versus new. Some of prospects are thanks to former New York Mets GM Omar Minaya’s, such as right-handed pitcher Domingo Tapia, who excelled at low-A Savannah. even Montero finding much success at High-A St. Lucie. On the other hand, the new regime came in and asserted their new players. Now general manager Sandy Alderson included pitchers like Tyler Pill and Logan Verrett, two 2011 draftees who both excelled at the level. Alderson upped the international market by signing Rafael Montero, who showed maturity beyond his years. And you can’t forget about first-round supplemental pick Michael Fulmer; he’s the youngest out of the bunch and looks promising as well.
Each pitcher brings something different to the table. One can fall in love with the fastball; your man would be Domingo Tapia. Just 20-years-old, Tapia possesses a mid-90s fastball that has touched 99mph. Some might prefer the guy with the plus slider, somebody like Logan Verrett, who if not for a sub-par junior campaign could have found himself in the 1st round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Then there’s the pitcher that has the perfect arm, contains a deadly slider, fastball, and barely walks anybody. His name is Rafael Montero. And finally, there’s the player that has had the most success, yet questions still linger to whether he can pitcher at the higher levels. That’s the story with 2011 5th-rounder Tyler Pill.
There’s also the guy who lurked in the shadows of Oklahoma prep stars Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley. The Mets first-round supplemental selection Michael Fulmer is continuing to slip under-the-radar, but is he the best out of the core?
Each pitcher brings something different yet all of them have one thing in common: they have all had immense success in Savannah. The only question left is, who’s the best? Every analyst has their preference. Here’s where I’d rank them.
1. Michael Fulmer, RHP
Acquired: 2011 MLB Draft (1st-round supplemental pick)
Stat line: 7-6 2.74 ERA 8.29 K/9 3.27 FIP 1.26 WHIP 2.16 BB/9
Why?: The most intriguing part of Michael Fulmer is he’s only 19-years-old and doesn’t receive even half the publicity that farmhands Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler get. Part of the reason is because he’s so far away from the majors, but he could be moving up the ladder quickly after a very impressive 2012 campaign.
In the beginning of the season, I wasn’t as impressed with Fulmer and didn’t doubt his talents, just thought he was maybe over-challenged. Fulmer only made a handful of starts in Kingsport in 2011, but Mets Minor League Blog’s Toby Hyde notes this:
The 19-year old has improved measurably over the course of the year, lowering his ERA from 3.35 in 11 starts and 51 innings in the first half to 2.20 over 57.1 inning and 10 starts in the second half. His strikeout rate increased from 20% in the first half to 24% as his slider improved.
The strikeout rate is a very encouraging sign, just like his lowering walk-rate. When Fulmer was drafted some thought he’d be more of a 3/4 starter, but that has changed. The Mets decided to place Fulmer on the disabled-list this past week which may be to cut his innings down, since he’s thrown over 100 innings in his first full season. As he matures as a pitcher he’s going to start getting more recognition for what he is doing. As I said, he’s been blocked from the lights because of the excitement at the higher stages, but next season I believe Fulmer will really blossom.
I asked Jim Callis of Baseball America what he thought of Fulmer’s campaign and his future status:
“I haven’t tried to plot out a Top 100 yet, but I think there’s a good chance that Fulmer makes it. He got overshadowed coming out of high school by Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley, but he was a legitimate sandwich pick. I didn’t think he’d dominate low Class A like this so quickly. His fastball and slider are plus pitches, and he has made nice progress with his changeup. He definitely looks like a frontline starter.”
2. Rafael Montero, RHP
Acquired: INT Free Agent
Stat line (Combined low-a & high-a): 11-5 2.36 ERA 8.11 K/9 2.58 FIP 0.96 WHIP 1.40 BB/9
Why?: Montero basically bursted onto the scene out of nowhere. The only prospect analyst that had him anywhere was MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, who aggressively ranked #11 in the Mets organization at the beginning of the season. Montero’s key to success has been his impeccable control. He maintains a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a very good slider, which helps his create strikeout chances.
In his last four starts, Montero eclipsed 10 strikeouts twice, even striking out 14 against Clearwater. Like Fulmer, Montero was placed on the disabled-list and is likely to stay there, as the Mets try to keep his innings down. I was hoping they’d send him to the Arizona Fall League but they may feel that he deserves a rest after a busy 2012 campaign. He looks destined to start at Double-A Binghamton in 2013 and will be in my personal top-10. I’m not sure if he’s a “safe-bet”, but he’s definitely showing encouraging and promising signs.
I asked Callis whether Montero could find himself in Top 100 prospects discussion. He said that’s unlikely but had other things to say:
Montero has had a very good year but I wouldn’t put him on the Top 100 list yet. He has a terrific arm, with a fastball ranging from 90-95 mph and a hard slider. He’s also not a real big guy and his secondary stuff is inconsistent, so projections on him range from a No. 3 starter to a reliever.
3. Domingo Tapia, RHP
Acquired: International Free Agent
Stat line: 6-5 4.03 ERA 8.15 K/9 2.69 FIP 1.24 WHIP 2.45 BB/9
Why?: I touched upon the Mets system a few weeks ago, writing about the emergence of Latin American arms. When the piece was published I ranked Domingo Tapia ahead of Rafael Montero. Well a few weeks have passed and I have him one slot below. The problem with Tapia is it’s too soon to label him as a front-line starter without the development of another plus pitch. Everybody knows about his fastball, which consistently hits 95 mph. But besides that, is he a one-pitch pitcher, or can he develop the whole package?
I do think that if Tapia progresses and does touch up his hard slider or develops a good change-up, he’ll be much more valuable. He is just 20-years-old and besides a few shaky starts, he did dominate Low-A hitters for the majority of the season. But as he climbs the ladder, it is pivotal for the development of another solid pitch.
He’ll most likely start in St. Lucie with Fulmer and other promising young arms. Next year is the year where I expect what we’ll really see out of Domingo Tapia and whether he becomes the pitcher people are talking about, or if he’s another fastball slinging reliever.
4. Logan Verrett, RHP
Acquired: 3rd round selection in 2011 MLB Draft
Stat line (combined low-a & high-a): 5-2 2.70 ERA 8.10 K/9 3.25 FIP 1.00 WHIP 1.13 BB/9
Why?: The next two pitchers haven’t been on the average Mets fans radar, but both have made a huge slash this season. I ranked Logan Verrett at #4 right now, but I could definitely see myself possibly ranking him higher than Tapia. The reason: Verrett isn’t as much of a reach that Tapia is. Verrett pitched at Baylor University who participate in Big-12 baseball. The righty also found himself on the Cape Cod Baseball League summer circuit and had success there. Due to a mediocre junior campaign, Verrett dropped from a 1st round selection to the 3rd round, where the Mets snatched him and it looks like a good gamble.
He joined St. Lucie later in the season, but like his teammates, he found immense success there. I could see the Mets holding him back for half the season at St. Lucie, but they could move the trio of Montero, Verrett, and Pill up the ladder to Binghamton. Verrett was injured for about a month, so taking him up slow would make sense. Then again, he has versed the proper competition that would warrant a call-up.
I asked Jim Callis whether Verrett can be considered a mid-rotation arm since some think he’s nothing more than a #5 or a reliever. Here’s his take:
Verrett is more of a mid-rotation guy. He’s a polished college pitcher, so it’s no surprise he’s fared well at his two Class A stops. He throws strikes with three average to solid pitches, and his slider is his best offering.
5. Tyler Pill
Acquired: 5th round of 2011 MLB Draft
Stat line (combined low-a & high-a): 8-5 2.31 ERA 8.42 K/9 2.61 FIP 1.19 WHIP 1.73 BB/9
Why?: My personal favorite and I rank him where he’s supposed to be. While fans love numbers, that doesn’t mean it’ll always translate to success at the higher levels. From what I’ve read I do believe Tyler Pill can pitch at the major league level, however I don’t know if he’s a mainstay in any rotation. He doesn’t have any plus pitches, all average-to-good. But the one thing he has is consistency and that’s what makes Dillon Gee such a successful 5th starter.
Keep in mind, this is Pill’s first year fully concentrating on pitching. At Cal St. Fullerton he played both ways, so who really knows that the Mets have in him. Callis said his “stuff is pretty fringy”, which is a fair assessment. Who knows if it’s luck but the Mets could have yet another interesting piece. I really have no clue what the Mets have with him, but for what it’s worth, his brother Brett plays for the San Francisco Giants.
Pill is the type of guy who will have to prove himself at every level. As with Verrett, he’s a polished college pitcher from a quality program, so he should be expected to come in and thrive in Class A, as he has. His stuff is pretty fringy.
The Mets seem to have something working for them. Between the upper minors guys in Harvey, Mejia, Wheeler, Familia to the Gnats to the Cyclones, there’s an infusion of young, promising talent that certainly looks to refueling a once-depleted farm system.
I’d like to thank Jim Callis for answering my questions. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, @JimCallisBA