2016 Initial Affiliate Roster: Columbia Fireflies | Astromets Mind

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

2016 Initial Affiliate Roster: Columbia Fireflies

Be drawn into the warmth of the glow #ItsGlowTime

Previewing the initial roster expected to play in Columbia

            The Columbia Fireflies released a preliminary roster Tuesday morning, so let’s take a look at how things break down. There are 28 players currently assigned to the roster (plus Eudor Garcia, technically), with an average age of just over 22 years old*. The team is full of players from the Mets 2014-15 drafts, which is great for the organization and means there are a lot of guys making their full season debut. Notably absent from the team is the Mets top 2015 draft pick Desmond Lindsay, who is being held back in extended Spring Training after suffering some minor injuries last month – doesn’t sound serious, just precautionary. I didn’t expect him to break camp with the roster anyway, but I’ll be surprised if he’s not with Columbia by midseason. Starting prospect Matt Blackham was also expected to make this roster, but he posted on Instagram that he’ll be out for 3 months after undergoing an elbow surgery Tuesday. For fun I've included the twitter account for all prospects who are on social media, in case you want to let them know they are appreciated.

*Average ages did not consider exact birth date, I just used current age

UPDATE: Patrick Mazeika, Natanael Ramos, and Tucker Tharp are starting the season on the DL.

Pitchers (13, Average age = 22.5)

Starters (6, 22.2)

Tyler Badamo, RHP, 23, @Tyler_Badamo_16
Kevin Canelon, LHP, 22, @Kevin_canelon16
P.J. Conlon, LHP, 22, @pjconlon29
Seth Davis, LHP, 22, @ThaBrownBear
Chase Ingram, RHP, 21, @Magicman18_
Thomas McIlraith, RHP, 22, @thomasmac_5

            The rotation is often 6-deep below AAA, and these are the top-6 candidates to start as far as I can tell, although I’m guessing on Seth Davis, who was a starter in College. This group lacks top of the rotation potential, but any of these guys could emerge as back of the rotation starters or useful relievers. I doubt Gaby Almonte is heading to St. Lucie, so he’s a candidate to join the rotation. The Mets selected several talented lefty arms last year that could force their way out of XST, especially Max Wotell (Round 3), Thomas Szapucki (Round 5), and Sixto Torres (Round 17). Andrew Church finished the year on the DL with a hip injury, but if healthy he’s another possible rotation addition. If a spot opens up due to someone struggling, the Mets could call on former Indy pitcher Raul Jacobson. Don’t expect Blake Taylor, as he’ll probably miss the whole year after late season Tommy John surgery in 2015. I'm surprised Nabil Crismatt isn't on the roster, but he might just be a late join like Lindsay.

            Tyler Badamo is the most accomplished professional pitcher of the group. The 24th round pick from 2014 spent last year as the Cyclones ace, pitching efficiently and often very effectively. He allowed 0 or 1 runs in 8 of 14 starts, and 19 of the 33 runs he did allow came during just 4 of his starts. He won the NYPL pitcher of the week award to start the month of July, and had 3 appearances of 7 innings pitched with 0 ER allowed – he needed 63, 87, and 92 pitches to get through those 7 inning starts.
            Thomas McIlraith is the next most accomplished pro starter of the group. The 20th round pick from 2015 talked to Mets Minors recently, if you’re interested in getting more specifics from the man himself. He had a great debut with Kingsport in 2015, allowing a measly 1.86 RA over 58 IP (12 G, 9 GS), but his 14.2 K% didn’t exactly stand out, so I’m excited to see what he brings to full season ball.
The Mets took lefty P.J. Conlon in the 13th round last year and he had a great debut relieving for Brooklyn. He recently told Mets Minors that the Mets had informed him they saw him as a starter when he was drafted, so it makes sense he’ll be used in that role this year. He was essentially used as a one-inning piggyback starter with Brooklyn last year, as he pitched once every 4-5 days, and never lasted more or less than 1 IP. At one point last year, the self-described crafty lefty struck out 12 of 17 batters over 5 outings.
The Mets signed lefty Kevin Canelon out of Venezuela in September 2010, and after 3 years in the DSL, he made a successful stateside transition to the GCL in 2014. He spent 2015 starting for Brooklyn, and finished with a strong 70 K: 15 BB (21.9 K%: 4.7 BB%) ratio in 77 IP. His fastball tops out in the upper 80’s, so there is little room for error, but he’s shown great control to this point, and his changeup flashes potential.
Chase Ingram has been tabbed the opening day starter, and is another polished college pitcher with an average fastball – like this entire rotation, aside from Canelon, who is a polished international signee. The Mets selected Ingram with their 6th round pick in 2015 after he had a breakout year for Hillsborough Community College in Tampa. Draft reports described a pitcher similar to Logan Taylor – tall, with an overhand delivery, a good curve and natural sinking action – and Taylor had little problems with the SAL when healthy.
Finally, the player I’m least confident will end up a starter for this team, Seth Davis, whom the Mets selected with their 29th round pick in 2015. Unless he struggles, I think Davis will be used as a starter or piggyback starter for Columbia this year, so this is probably the appropriate group either way. He’s another crafty lefty, and he spent all of 2015 relieving for Kingsport once every 4-5 days, finishing with a 27.8 K%: 3.8 BB% in his 19.1 IP. He ended the season with 9 K’s over his final 6 IP (3 G), which includes an appearance during which he struck out 5 of 6 batters faced.

Relievers (7, 22.9)

Tyler Bashlor, RHP, 23
Witt Haggard, RHP, 24, @witthaggard
Johnny Magliozzi, RHP, 24, @Money_Mags
Craig Missigman, RHP, 22, @craigmiss54
Christian Montgomery, RHP, 23, @montymet29
Alex Palsha, RHP, 23
Joe Shaw, RHP, 22

            Unlike the group of starters, this group has a pair of pitchers who spent time with Savannah previously, although Christian Montgomery and Alex Palsha only joined the Sand Gnats last August. There is generally a lot of pitcher turnover for the Mets SAL team, but I won’t even begin to guess which pitchers might join the Columbia bullpen this year, although I expect Corey Taylor (2015 Draft, Round 7) to join the fray at some point. You may notice there are currently only righties in this group, so Seth Davis would be a good addition.
            The Mets 11th round pick of 2011, Christian Montgomery is the potential stud of the group, and I hope he’s off to St. Lucie by midseason. He throws hard, featuring an upper 90’s heater and a big curve, and when he finally put everything together last year, he went strikeout crazy. My prediction is that Montgomery is the biggest riser in the Mets system this year, because I think he will finish at least in AA.
            Alex Palsha is poised to continue what he’s done since the Mets selected him with their 27th round pick in 2014, which is pitch really well in relief. He allowed a run in only 2 of 24 appearances last year, and spent most of the season closing for the Cyclones. His heat doesn’t match Montgomery’s, but his average fastball and curve should keep him dominant in the SAL.
            The Mets selected Tyler Bashlor in the 11th round of the 2013 draft due to his ability to reach the upper 90’s with his fastball, but he hasn’t pitched in a game since 2013 due to Tommy John Surgery. He was wild back then and his secondaries needed refinement, but that heat plays in a SAL bullpen.
            Witt Haggard was considered more of a senior sign/bullpen project heading into the 2015 draft, so it’s safe to say the Mets selected him in the 10th round to save that money for other picks. That said, he’s athletic (former backup QB in College), sits in the low-90’s with his heat, and has always racked up the K’s. Haggard struck out 21 batters in just 12.1 IP for Kingsport last year, but he also walked 9 batters during that time (37.5 K%: 16.1 BB%), so there is plenty of work left to do.
            Johnny Magliozzi is another 2013 draftee who missed all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. Unlike Bashlor, Magliozzi made it back to Brooklyn last year, although I didn’t get any reports on his stuff.
            Craig Missigman was the Mets 37th round high school pick from the 2011 draft who is making his full season debut. He missed all of 2012, so his minor league free agent clock hasn’t ticked as far as you’d expect. He was pretty solid in the Cyclones pen last year, but he also issued 16 walks in just 34.2 IP.
            Finally, Joe Shaw (2015 Draft, Round 12) is the one guy from this group I think could be in the rotation instead of Davis. After hitting 97 from the pen in college, he was moved to the rotation, but he was only sitting around 90 MPH as a starter. I don’t like the delivery he was using in college because it looked like an arm injury waiting to happen, but it was funky and might’ve added deception.

Catchers (4, 21.8)

Patrick Mazeika, 22, @pattayymaz10
Tyler Moore, 22, @tylermoore21
Natanael Ramos, 22, @NataRamos1

            The catching situation is kind of awkward when you consider the financial angle. The Mets signed Jose Garcia for $800K back in July 2011, they went over slot for Tyler Moore in 2014, and then went under slot for Patrick Mazeika in 2015, but the cheapest guy is looking like the best player right now – I don’t see how Ramos fits in this rotation unless there are injuries.
            Mazeika signed quickly after the Mets selected him in the 8th round, and he was on fire all season for the Kingsport Mets, finishing with a .354 average (.991 OPS) and 32 extra base hits in 62 games. He’s relatively inexperienced as a catcher, so the Mets might be keeping him in the SAL so he can spend more time focusing on his defense. Expect him to also spend some time at 1B and DH to keep his bat in the lineup.
            Garcia chose to ditch batting from the right side in 2015, and the decision paid off, as he had his best offensive effort yet, slashing .295/.351/.352 over 114 PA for Brooklyn – Fangraphs has him at .286/.342/.343 because they are missing a hit, but that was still good for a 105 wRC+ in the NYPL last year. Scouts have mostly written him off at this point, but at only 21, there’s still hope he can reward the Mets for their investment.
            Going over slot for Moore has always confused me, and he’s struggled to hit in the minors while being used as a catcher – he showed some improvements once the Sand Gnats started using him at 1B half of the time last year. He doesn’t appear to be in line for much playing time, but that could change if Mazeika is promoted quickly (and the Mets don’t replace him with another catcher).

Infielders (6, 21.5)

Jeff Diehl, 22
Milton Ramos, 20, @Mr_Hands_7
Vinny Siena, 22, @Vinny_Siena
Dash Winningham, 20, @WinninghamDash

            The infield is missing Luis Carpio, who many projected to start with Columbia after his breakout 2015 for Kingsport, but who will miss the season after a shoulder surgery. Still, there are four regulars from the past two drafts who should play at their positions almost everyday, and J.C. Rodriguez makes for a nice backup infielder at all positions off the bench. Although he had a nice season repeating with Brooklyn in 2015, I don’t think there will be many PA’s available for Jeff Diehl, at least early on.
            The Mets 3rd round pick from 2014, Ramos broke out with Kingsport last year, and represents another strong defender at SS with offensive upside in the Mets system.
            Vinny Siena (2015 Draft, Round 14) is basically the same prospect L.J. Mazzilli was when he started for Savannah in the first half of 2014, and I’d be surprised if he’s not promoted to St. Lucie by midseason. If he’s hitting from the start, he could be promoted as soon as Amed Rosario is promoted to Binghamton and the 2B spot opens up in St. Lucie. 
            David Thompson was one of the best college hitters in 2015, but fell to the Mets in the 4th round due to concerns about his power (he’s already had a major surgery) and defense. He didn’t do much in Brooklyn last year, but I’m not worried about a 60 game sample that came after a full senior season of college ball, which included a long College World Series run. He could see some time at 1B this year, but I doubt the Mets are looking to give up on him at 3B already.
            Finally, the first baseman with an 80-grade name and some impressive power to boot, Dash Winningham is a fun prospect to follow within the system. Just like Ramos, Dash will be one of the younger guys in the league this year, and he figures to benefit vastly from the franchises change of venue. Historic Grayson Stadium was murder on lefty power, but the new park in Columbia seems much fairer (319', 400', 330' from LF to RF), so Dash could put up some nice power numbers this year. He tied for the APPY lead with 12 homers for Kingsport last year. UPDATE: Per Ocala.com, Dash will play 5 games at 1B each week and spend the other days DHing or off.

Outfielders (5, 22.6)

Kevin Kaczmarski, 24, @KevinKaz4
Vicente Lupo, 22, @Zeltix
Tucker Tharp, 24, @TTharp303
Joe Tuschak, 23, @shackattack9
Ivan Wilson, 20, @Irod31

            The outfield is currently the least exciting group of the team, but one Desmond Lindsay could change all of that in a hurry. Otherwise, there doesn’t appear to be much help close to ready for Columbia behind Lindsay in the low minors, but I wouldn’t rule out appearances from Enmanuel Zabala, Raphael Ramirez, Kenneth Bautista (2015 Draft, Round 23) or Ricardo Cespedes this year. Tucker Tharp and Joe Tuschak should spend most of the time backing up the younger guys.
            Kevin Kaczmarski is the only safe bet from the group to finish with an average above .250. Some have suggested he doesn't need to go to Columbia, and while that’s certainly possible, I think that’s being a little too high on Kacz. The Mets took a super senior in the 9th round to save ~$150K worth of slot money, and then let him hit .350+ for 60 games in the APPY league, so do you really think they're that high on him? He’s not expected to stick in CF, and doesn’t have a lot of power projection, so it’ll be very hard for him to make it as a LF prospect. Why not let him help the Fireflies kick butt for a while?
            Vicente Lupo struck out like crazy last year, but did a lot of damage on balls in play, and he’s still relatively young.
            Ivan Wilson has struck out like crazy since being drafted, but he does a lot of damage on balls in play, and he’s still very young. The Lupo-Wilson duo is the most hit-or-miss combo I’ve ever seen on a roster, it’ll be disastrous most nights but could be amazing on a few nights.
            Overall, while this team currently lacks that must-see prospect draw, there are a number of B/C prospects on this team, and that’s a strong foundation for the future of the system. The pitching staff appears polished, which should keep the Fireflies in most games, the infield is pretty exciting, and the outfield should become more exciting by midseason. Between Dash, Thompson, Lupo, and Wilson, there is a lot of power potential on this club, but also a lot of swing-and-miss potential. Mostly, there are just a lot of fresh faces who have yet to truly define what kind of prospect they will be, and I think that makes them interesting.

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