Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Coach Turgeon Talks 2013-2014 at Booster Breakfast

by John Vittas

Mark Turgeon spoke candidly about the upcoming season at the Coaches vs. Cancer benefit breakfast Tuesday, which was attended by about 50 of the team's top boosters.

Turgeon was in good spirits, telling stories of on-campus parking mishaps, personal experiences with boosters, and even his GPA at Kansas.

He went on to talk about what he expects from each of his players, and began with the man he'll lean on most.

"Dez Wells has really grown up and has matured quicker than anyone else I've ever been around," Turgeon said. "And he's been through a lot."

With reports indicating that Wells will take over for an injured Seth Allen at point guard, it's obvious that Turgeon has developed immense trust in Wells.

Turgeon's comments at the breakfast came just hours before Allen broke his foot in practice Tuesday afternoon.

"Seth Allen has really improved defensively and now he even passes the ball every now and then," he joked. Fans won't get a chance to see that until January.

Allen broke his foot in practice Tuesday

"Nick's got to be our best perimeter defender. In a scrimmage against a very good Big East team, he held their best scorer to 1-for-7 shooting."

The team played Villanova in a closed scrimmage, so it can be infered that Faust had Ryan Arcidiacono's number. Arcidiacono hit 71 three-pointers last season, averaging 12 points-per-game.

"Chuck [Mitchell] and Shaq [Cleare] have improved their bodies a lot and Jake Layman has turned it around in the classroom. He's become a better student with the new haircut."

Layman is now sporting a traditional look and has left the freshman flow behind.

Turgeon talked glowingly about 6-9 freshman Damonte Dodd, "He's really coming fast. I'm not sure he knows what he's doing yet, but he plays fast and really runs the floor. And he's not a pre-Madonna like you see so often."

Turgeon also mentioned that Michigan transfer Evan Smotrycz will play a big role on the 2013-2014 Maryland team, as he figures to crack the starting lineup, especially after the Allen injury.

The Maryland coach went on to mention some higher profile names that won't be suiting up in red, black and gold this winter.

"I'm trying to get Obama up here for the Oregon State game," he said. Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson is the head coach for Beavers, which is why many believed the game was scheduled in College Park, just miles away from the D.C.

Turgeon went on to reminisce about a recent conversation he had with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Turgeon said Krzyzewski takes pride in being the most hated man on Maryland's campus.

Duke and Maryland will have one last conference showdown in Durham on February 15.

The Terps open their season on Friday, November 8 against No. 19 Connecticut at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Top 10 Breakout Performers in Baseball in 2013

by John Vittas

Many new stars emerged this season for baseball to market and fans to savor for years to come. In case you missed it, here’s the guys who made a name for themselves in 2013.

Honorable Mention: Shelby Miller, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Belt, Yu Darvish, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Travis Wood

After a promising 51 games as a teenager in 2012, Manny Machado hit the ground running in his first full Major League season. Anchoring the hot corner in Baltimore, the Miami native racked up 189 hits (including 68 for extra bases) and a league-high 51 doubles. At an age where most kids are either in A-ball or college (20), Machado is already one of the most productive players in the Majors.


The former Astros farmhand went from an afterthought to a legitimate offensive threat in the span of one season. Johnson was neck-and-neck for the batting title all season long, and finished with a .321 mark, the highest of his career by a longshot.

After three years of trying to stick in America, Iwakuma accomplished that and then some in 2013. The former Tokohu Rakuten Golden Eagles star blossomed into an elite pitcher, earning the All Star title in his first full season in an MLB rotation. Both his 14 wins and 2.44 ERA exceed his superstar teammate, Felix Hernandez.


Domonic Brown had never batted above .242 in three Major League seasons, before dropping 27 bombs and raising his average 37 points in 2013. In a year marked by an aging Phillies team, it’s Brown that’s headed in the other direction.

At just 23 years old, the Dominican shortstop racked up 173 hits in his first full Major League season. He was one stolen base away from leading the league and made the All Star team as a rookie. Segura will be a fixture on the Brewers infield for years to come, following a long line of Dominican shortstops.

Probably the most shocking of any name on this list, the former Auburn Tiger finished top-10 in the A.L. in RBIs, SLG, OBP and OPS in 2013. Prior to 2013, Donaldson had struggled in his brief Major League stints and batted just .248 in two seasons of Triple-A.

Speaking of a lot of hits in his first full MLB season, Matt Carpenter stroked 199 for St. Louis. After moving to second base in honor of David Freese, the former blue-chip prospect batted .318 in 2013, leading the Majors in hits.


Talk about the path less traveled, Jose Fernandez never threw a pitch in Double or Triple-A, but was still tabbed as the ace of the Miami staff heading into 2013. He did not disappoint. The Cuban fireballer gave up 111 hits and 172 innings (yeah, seriously) and as you would expect, finished with a WHIP below one. That 5.8 H/9 pace was the best in baseball. It’s safe to say he has NL Rookie of the Year on lock.


Overshadowed by his recent Tommy John surgery, Matt Harvey’s 2013 was marked by stardom. Having allowed just three runs over his first four starts, Harvey and was off and running. He sustained his dominance throughout the summer, earning the All Star Game start on his home mound. Harvey would have been top-3 in strikeouts if not for the injury and still wound up third in the Majors in ERA.

When the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, 42 million dollar deal in 2012, Baseball America called the deal “puzzling.” Well, now we all know why they did it.

Whether it’s his shocking speed or infuriating flair, Yasiel Puig will make you watch. And for 6 million per season? Whose puzzled now?


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Top 10 Minor League Headlines from 2013

by John Vittas

1. The Dominance of Noah Syndergaard

By far the most Major League-relevant storyline from the farm system in 2013 was the first season of Noah Syndergaard. He wasn’t good, he was great. All the numbers indicate future success, and from what the scouts say, he will be an ace.

Syndergaard gave up 10 less hits than innings, and struck out better than 10 batters per nine. If you take out his disaster of a final start in August, he posted a 2.43 ERA. But superseding the numbers is his stuff, which reportedly improved in 2013.

Syndergaard dropped his arm slot and didn’t lose any command, allowing him to pump 96-98 consistently. Not to mention he has a wipeout curveball. I’d be shocked if Noah wasn’t in the Mets’ rotation by July 1 next year. The prospects of a Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Niese, Gee rotation is a pleasant one. When you factor in Rafael Montero and Jenrry Mejia, it gets even scarier.

Photo: Baseball America
Syndergaard stands to make the Harvey-Wheeler duo a trio

2. The Success from Top to Bottom

The once A-ball prospects we’d been hearing about have now reached the upper levels and Paul DePodesta has continued to stock talent from top to bottom, resulting in wins throughout the program.

The system-wide .532 winning percentage is impressive, but consider that the four full-season squads posted a .569 mark. That percentage over a 554-game sample will make statsitcal nerds jump out of their seats.

The 51’s 81-63 mark was the best by a Mets Triple-A team since the Matt Franco-led 2001 Norfolk Tides. Keep in mind, the majority of the Triple-A talent resided in Flushing this season, and their rotation was full of journeymen, so it’s no surprise that the 51’s led the PCL in slugging. Give Wally Backman a lot of credit here.

A championship was won by a Mets affiliate in 2013 as well (seeing “championship” and “Mets” in the same sentence is mind-blowing). It was the first by a Mets’ affiliate since 2006. The low-A Savannah Sand Gnats took the South Atlantic League title thanks to a Johnson-Schiling-like postseason rampage put on by Steven Matz and Gabriel Ynoa. Those two led the league’s second-best pitching staff to a 3.15 team ERA and a 77-61 overall record.

But the best team in 2013 was the Double-A Binghamton Mets. Their 86-55 (.610) mark cleared the rest of the competition in the Eastern League by a comfortable 10 games, as the pitching staff and offense both ranked top-2 in the league. Manager Pedro Lopez led the B-Mets to their first playoff appearance since 2004 in his first season at the helm. He has dominated at every level he’s coached at, and has become a major managerial prospect in baseball.

1B Allan Dykstra was a huge reason for the B-Mets offensive success

3. The Arrival of the Lefty Relievers

For a Major League team that lacked a lockdown lefty, the Mets’ now possess several successful southpaws in their farm system. Jack Leathersich, Adam Kolarek, Hamilton Bennett, Jim Fuller, TJ Chism and Chase Huchingson all had dominant seasons, and made believers out of many scouts.

Outside of Leathersich, the rest of the group appeared to be non-factors on most prospect lists, but Kolarek and Huchingson have continued to dominate Double-A hitters, and could be in Flushing sooner than later.

Here’s some of the numbers:
Leathersich: 102 strikeouts in 58 innings
Kolarek: 2.28 ERA - third straight season with an ERA below 3, has improved that mark in each of his 4 minor league seasons
Bennett: 1.85 ERA (2nd straight sub-2 season, career 2.30 ERA)
Huchingson: 55 hits in 67 innings, 1.61 ERA in his first season in the pen
Fuller: 0.84 ERA in St. Lucie, 15 hits in 32 innings
Chism: 2.21 ERA (3rd consecutive season below 2.40)

4. The Power of Dustin Lawley, Allan Dykstra and Travis Taijeron

Speaking of non-factors on the prospect scene, the three sluggers listed above all had tremendous seasons. All with 20-plus homer seasons, it was Dykstra who posted a .938 OPS, walking an eye-popping 102 times.

Lawley finished second in the organization (Wilmer Flores) with 96 RBIs and led the system with 26 home runs. However, Taijeron might be the most promising of the bunch, since he can play multiple outfield positions and led the trio in average for most of the season, posting a .303 mark with St. Lucie.

5. Michael Fulmer’s Lost Season

The young Oklahoma star missed the first half of the season after tearing his meniscus in Spring Training, and then was forced to shut it down at the end. He managed just nine starts, two of them of the rehab variety. He did fare well, however.

Despite the lack of time on the mound, Fulmer is touted as a kid who already knows how to pitch, so the lost time isn’t as detrimental as it usually would be for a 20-year-old. He’ll probably be back in Port St. Lucie next year, but his 2015 arrival time may still be feasible.

Photo: ESPN
Fulmer in Spring Training (left)

Disclaimer: He may fall out of the top-10 on many prospect lists, but don’t get caught napping on Fulmer.

6. The Next Wave of Starting Pitchers Takes Shape

This could be the most promising news of the year. Despite the plethora of arms throughout the system, the lower levels lacked them. But four youngsters posted big-time numbers after showing considerable improvement in 2013:

John Gant: 81 Ks in 71 IPs (2nd in league behind teammate Miller Diaz), 2.89 ERA
Chris Flexen: 8-1 with a 2.09 ERA, 53 H in 69 IPs, 2 shutouts at 19 years old
Rob Whalen: 1.87 ERA in first full season, .187 opponents AVG, 2.4 ground outs per fly ball
Robert Gsellman: 2.58 ERA pitching at all 3 levels of A-ball, only 20 years old

A little seasoning has given their Big League bodies some Big League arsenals. All were drafted for their potential, and all are beginning to realize it. All four have gotten their fastballs consistently over 90 miles an hour, and all have touched 94 at one time or another.

Chances are we’ll see them all together in Savannah next year, which would make for yet another dominant, promising staff for famous pitching coach Frank Viola.

19-year old Chris Flexen

7. The Suspension of Cesar Puello

No position player in the system has as high of a ceiling as Cesar Puello. He was often talked about before 2013, but there was always a caveat next to his prospect status: he never put up numbers. Well this year, he did.  And he hit a lot. He batted .326 in 91 games, boasting a robust .950 OPS at the Double-A level. It took him five years, but at 22, Cesar Puello was finally hitting, and doing it for power (16 HRs).

However, he did it all under a cloud of suspicion, as his name was one of the few non-Major Leaguers on the Biogenesis list. And sure enough, the suspension came down in August and Puello’s best professional year came to a screeching halt.

There was a chance he would have played for the Mets in September if he was clean, but regardless, I’d bet we see him in New York at some point in 2014.

8. The Domingo Tapia Project

Domingo Tapia throws hard, 100 miles-an-hour to be exact. But his first stint in the Florida State League did not go well, as he walked 63 batters in 101 innings. The worst part was that he averaged less than five innings per start, including a few where he was yanked in the second inning.

There’s no doubt the Dominican Tapia has promise, but he will have to sharpen up his breaking ball and locate more consistently to reach the Show.

Domingo Tapia

9. Matt Reynolds Looking Like a Waste of a Second Rounder

He was never a big prospect, but Matt Reynolds was an elite college hitter with leadership ability and a strong  all-around game. Well in his first two years in the Minors, he’s a career .234 hitter with just eight home runs. A 23-year old who can’t hit in A-ball leaves doesn’t sound as appetizing as a 21-year old 2nd-round captain out of the SEC, which is what Reynolds was less than two years ago.

Former Razorback star Matt Reynolds

10. Rainy Lara and Gabriel Ynoa Not Looking Back

Remember that dominant 2012 Brooklyn Cyclones rotation? Well the crew had an overall successful 2013. Luis Cessa and Hansel Robles had solid years, but it was Gabriel Ynoa and Rainy Lara who shined.

While in Savannah, Lara led the entire Minor Leagues in WHIP (0.89) and ERA (1.42) through his first eight starts, earning him the promotion to the Florida State League. Ynoa, on the other hand, remained in Savannah and absolutely lit up the South Atlantic League.

He finished fourth in the league with a 2.72 ERA, giving up just five runs in his final four regular season starts. Ynoa carried his dominance into the playoffs, where he gave up just two runs in 14 and two-thirds postseason innings, leading the Gnats to the SAL championship.

Former Met, New York-native and 3-time MLB All Star Frank Viola continues to work wonders with young Mets' arms when they reach Savannah

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Top Ten Disappointments of the 2013 Mets

by John Vittas

1. Matt Harvey’s Torn UCL

This was an absolute tragedy. It can only lead you to believe that the organization is cursed. Harvey represented everything that was “right” about the Mets. He signified the attitude, the skill set and the method for future success. And it all came crashing down at that August 26th press conference.

Harvey burned two months in ignorant denial, sealing the fate of his 2014 season. Beyond the fact that the Mets will be 6-8 games worse because of his absence, it’s disappointing purely because it will be another 17 months before we get to see him dazzling hitters again. Get well soon, Matthew.

Image: AP /

The Fallout

2. Ike Davis

Ike has Regressed, with a capital R. His first half struggles have become a constant. His once-promising bat is now a liability. His .468 August OBP might keep him on the 2014 roster, but Ike has flaws in his swing that need to be corrected.

His confidence needs to be resurrected and he’d be well-served to learn how to hit a breaking ball on the outer half of the plate. Unless he shows signs of a true Major League slugger in Spring Training, the Mets might be headed in another direction at first base.

3. David Wright’s Hamstring Pull

After signing his big 10-year deal, David Wright did exactly what he was paid to do. As the Mets entered the rebuilding stage of 2013, calling up their young prospects in August and September, it was Wright who was counted on to mentor them into Big Leaguers. But when he came up lame on August 2nd against Kansas City, the Mets lost their leader, essentially ending their season.

Still a presence in the clubhouse, Wright did what he could to help the youngsters from the bench, and even made it back to play seven games in September, but there’s no denying that his hamstring injury derailed his first season as the captain, leaving late-season Mets games anything but intriguing.

Image: Jay Jaffe (

4. Ruben Tejada

The kid appears to have hit his athletic peak at 21 years old, because the past two years have been a consistent free fall. He’s drawn the ire of his head coach and general manager with a lackluster work ethic. With three years remaining on his Mets’ clock, it’s curious as to whether Tejada will be dropped, traded or buried in Triple-A.

Speaking of Triple-A, Tejada ended up in Vegas this summer to rehab, and ended up being stuck there for 57 games (not sure if you can get “stuck” in Vegas). At the Major League level, his average dropped over 80 points and he looked incredibly benign at the plate. On top of it all, his sure-handed defense took a hit as well.

5. The Lackluster Debuts of Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores

Considering these two were the top position-player prospects in the system, a combined .206 average is not exactly what the Mets were looking for upon their arrival. Phenoms are supposed to look overzealous, not overmatched. And both d’Arnaud and Flores appeared lost at the plate at times in September.

d’Arnaud isn’t going anywhere, he’s going to have to figure it out - it’s that simple. On the other hand, the Mets have to make some serious judgements on Flores this winter.

6. The Demise of Jordany Valdespin

Valdespin may have been the most gifted athlete on the Opening Day roster, but he may be unemployed very soon. ‘Demise’ is definitely the right word. ‘Fall from grace’ is another. JV went from being one of the most exciting bench players in baseball in 2012 to an absolute pathogen in 2013.

A consistent pusher of the rules, Valdespin made up for it with offensive pazazz. But when he failed miserably on the field for the first time, his presence became a detriment. Tack on the 50-game drug suspension, and I’d be shocked to see Valdespin in Flushing ever again.

Let's Try to Remember This Valdespin

7. Bullpen Prospect Injuries: Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia

As inconsistent as the Mets’ aging bullpen was in 2013, Josh Edgin and Jeurys Familia had two of the most promising arms coming into the year: Familia a highly touted prospect, and Edgin a southpaw 30th round steal. Both can chuck it in the mid-90s, but both had their seasons halted due to injury, forcing Collins to squeeze more out of guys like Scott Atchison, Scott Rice and LaTroy Hawkins. Personally, I would've rather seen Edgin and Familia.

8. Shaun Marcum

Shaun Marcum failed to be the Zack Wheeler placeholder he was supposed to be. 10 losses in 12 starts...ouch. His 5.29 ERA was better than 1.40 points higher than his career mark. It’s a shame too, because Marcum would have gotten plenty of late-season innings had he been effective.

9. Veteran Relievers (Aardsma, Atchison, Lyon, Feliciano, Byrdak)

With the exception of LaTroy Hawkins, none of the Mets’ veteran relievers were able to reinvent themselves and be high-leverage stoppers. Headlining the list, Brandon Lyon. The 10-year vet gave up 43 hits in 34 innings and couldn’t even make it to the All Star break.

10. Frank Francisco

Francisco must’ve had a thing for Port St. Lucie, because he had no desire to leave. And Terry Collins had no problem hiding him there. The guy who was meant to be New York’s closer wound up “rehabbing” a sore arm for five months, finally making it to the diamond just in time for the meaningless September slogs. Add him to the list of bad contracts, safe to say that $12 million went to waste.

Photo: Getty Images,