New York Mets: Neil Kozikowski

Farm report: Taylor tuned out speculation

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
9:44
AM ET
NEW YORK -- The Mets shipped Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 18 for right-hander Zack Thornton. It took another two months, until the one-year anniversary of Blake Taylor’s signing after the draft, to learn that the southpaw was the player to be named heading to the Mets in the deal.

“There were rumors online and all that stuff. Everyone was saying it was between me or [Neil] Kozikowski or Cody Dickson. There were just a bunch of rumors,” Taylor said. “I was like, ‘I’m not going to believe everything I hear on the internet.’ Once I hear it from the Mets or Pirates organization, I’d believe. … I was just going to keep playing and keep going.


Courtesy of Allen Greene/Kingsport MetsBlake Taylor


“The day I found out, I was shocked. But I was like, ‘All right, I’ve got to pack my things. This is baseball. You’re going to play for a different team.’”

Taylor, who turned 19 on Aug. 17, was drafted by the Pirates in the second round in 2013 out of high school in Dana Point, Calif.

After joining the Mets organization in mid-June, Taylor made three appearances in the Gulf Coast League. He allowed two runs, neither earned, on one hit, seven walks and a hit batter while striking out 10 in 10 2/3 innings. He since has moved to the Appalachian League. In seven starts with Kingsport, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Taylor is 2-1 with a 5.16 ERA. He has allowed 39 hits and 22 walks in 29 2/3 innings.

Taylor’s fastball sits at 86-90 mph. He also possesses a changeup and curveball.

“I’m still getting better. I still have a lot more to learn with command and all that stuff,” Taylor said. “But I’ve been progressing this year and throwing my changeup for a strike more than I have been normally. It’s been a very, very educational year for me just to learn. This is my first full season.”

Said Mets VP Paul DePodesta: “We liked Blake a lot leading up to the 2013 draft. We felt he was an athletic left-hander with size and the makings of a plus breaking ball.”

Taylor had signed with the University of Hawaii out of high school, but being taken in the second round (along with a reported $750,000 signing bonus) prompted him to turn pro.

“Going into the draft, I didn’t really want to have high expectations,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t really known, so I kind of accepted the fact that I probably might go to college. It was a big surprise to go in the second round. So I was like, ‘Well, baseball has been my dream. Let me go do it.’”

He arrived with the Mets not knowing anyone beyond having played against Dominic Smith and Andrew Church in the Area Code Games. Still, Taylor said, his new teammates have been “welcoming me with open arms.”

Said Taylor: “Everyone has been really nice and cool and showing me the ropes. Baseball is a fraternity. You go anywhere and it’s the same group of guys, basically.”

Organization leaders

Average: T.J. Rivera, Binghamton, .352; Matt Reynolds, Vegas, .347; Matt den Dekker, Vegas, .334; Dilson Herrera, Binghamton, .320; John Mora, Brooklyn, .319; Kevin Plawecki, Vegas, .310; Jean Rodriguez, Kingsport, .303; L.J. Mazzilli, St. Lucie, .297; Jeff McNeil, St. Lucie, .295; Wuilmer Becerra, Kingsport, .294.

Homers: Brian Burgamy, Binghamton, 23; Dustin Lawley, Binghamton, 20; Andrew Brown, Vegas, 19; Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 16; Travis Taijeron, Binghamton, 15.

RBIs: L.J. Mazzilli, St. Lucie, 76; Brian Burgamy, Binghamton, 75; Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 74; T.J. Rivera, Binghamton, 72; Dilson Herrera, Binghamton, 70.

Steals: Champ Stuart, Savannah, 27; Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 23; Dilson Herrera, Binghamton, 23; Matt Reynolds, Vegas, 19.

ERA: Marcos Molina, Brooklyn, 1.56; Corey Oswalt, Brooklyn, 2.04; Steven Matz, Binghamton, 2.19; John Gant, Savannah, 2.59; Robert Gsellman, Savannah, 2.67; Matt Bowman, Vegas, 2.88; Kevin McGowan, St. Lucie, 3.63; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 3.98; Casey Meisner, Brooklyn, 4.08; Ricky Knapp, Savannah, 4.19.

Wins: Greg Peavey, Binghamton, 12; Gabriel Ynoa, Binghamton, 11; Logan Verrett, Vegas, 11.

Saves: Chasen Bradford, Vegas, 16; Akeel Morris, Savannah, 15; Cody Satterwhite, Binghamton, 15; Shane Bay, Brooklyn, 14.

Strikeouts: Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 135; Matt Bowman, Vegas, 124; Steven Matz, Binghamton, 121; Greg Peavey, Binghamton, 118; Tyler Pill, Binghamton, 117.

Short hops

Manuel Hilario, who was unconscious and suffered a seizure in a second-base collision Friday with the Gulf Coast League Mets, was released from the hospital and is “recovering well,” according to the organization. Hilario, 22, is done for the season with the GCL season ending Thursday.

• The organization placed multiple players on year-end all-star teams. Already announced: Las Vegas’ Matt den Dekker in the Pacific Coast League, St. Lucie’s Cam Maron in the Florida State League and Kingsport’s Wuilmer Becerra in the Appalachian League.

• Several Mets affiliates are playoff-bound as minor-league regular seasons wrap up by Monday:

Triple-A Las Vegas (79-60) has won the PCL Pacific Southern Division.

Double-A Binghamton (83-53) has clinched no worse than a wild-card spot. The B-Mets trail Portland by two games for the division crown with five games remaining.

Low-A Savannah (82-48 overall) won its division in the first half in the South Atlantic League.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn (39-31) has a two-game lead on Connecticut for the New York-Penn League’s wild-card berth with six games remaining. And Kingsport is on the outside looking in right now. The K-Mets trail Johnson City by two games for the second wild-card spot with three games remaining.

• Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, middle infielder Matt Reynolds, right-handers Julian Hilario, Cory Mazzoni, Paul Sewald and Rob Whalen and one position player to be determined will represent the Mets in the Arizona Fall League. Valentino Pascucci, who received rave reviews in his first season as an instructor, will serve as a hitting coach.

Sewald received a promotion to Double-A on the eve of the Eastern League playoffs. The 24-year-old University of San Diego product had posted a 1.73 ERA and 1.038 WHIP in 40 relief appearances with St. Lucie.

• Right-hander Michael Fulmer, who was selected with the 44th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of high school in Oklahoma, went on Binghamton’s DL after making his Double-A debut. Fulmer has a bone spur in his pitching elbow. He needs to be evaluated by doctors to determine if the spur needs to be surgically removed.

• Left-handed reliever Paul Paez, a 38th-round pick in 2013 out of Rio Hondo College in California, was named South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week. Paez allowed one hit and one walk and struck out nine batters in 6 1/3 innings with Savannah.

• Right-hander Johnny Magliozzi, a 17th-round pick in 2013 out of the University of Florida, underwent Tommy John surgery.
NEW YORK -- Right-hander Jon Velasquez has considered retiring from professional baseball at least twice in the past few years, first after playing independent ball for the Rockland Boulders in 2012, then again when he went to winter ball last November to pitch for Santurce in Puerto Rico.

Eight months later, the 28-year-old Bronx native is pitching in Double-A for the Binghamton Mets, where he has a 3-2 record and 3.52 ERA in 19 appearances. He has produced a 0.913 WHIP.

He throws a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph, cutter and changeup while working in relief.


Courtesy of New York MetsJon Velasquez


“I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I thought the game was getting a bit unfair to me,” Velasquez said about his flirtations with walking away. “But I only know myself to play baseball and I knew this is what I wanted to do. Graduating from college and having student loans, it’s hard to deal with. It was getting hard to make ends meet at the time. That was pretty much what it came down to, because I wasn’t making much in indy ball.”

After graduating from Harry S. Truman High School in the Bronx, Velasquez played college ball, picking up an associate degree in entertainment and sports promotion management, then a bachelor’s degree in management from Northwood University in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Undrafted, he signed with the Phillies and rose to the Florida State League. In 2010 with Clearwater, he went 3-9 with a 3.19 ERA in 45 appearances (five starts) for the high-A club.

Velasquez subsequently was released. He pitched for Rockland in the Can-Am League in 2011 and ’12 and was prepared to walk away and get a regular job when his manager, former major league pitcher Dave LaPoint, called with an opportunity to finish the season with Camden in the Atlantic League.

Velasquez enjoyed the experience and returned for 2013.

“I was thinking about retiring and just moving on with life and getting a regular job,” Velasquez said. “My manager, Dave LaPoint, called me up like 12 days after our Can-Am season and asked me if I wanted to go out and play in the Atlantic League. I was like, ‘Sure.’ So I went there and played and had such a great time. I had a newfound love for the game after I went to Camden. They asked me if I wanted to play in 2013.”

Still, though, independent ball can be a difficult way to make a living. And Velasquez still did not get an offer from a major league club to join its farm system, even though he posted a 1.95 ERA in 61 relief appearances last year with Camden.

He resolved to go to winter ball in Puerto Rico to try to draw interest. If that did not work, he was done with pro baseball.

The decision worked out. The Minnesota Twins signed Velasquez less than a month after he arrived in Puerto Rico. Then things got interesting.

Because he had signed only a week or so before the winter meetings, Velasquez was exposed for the minor-league phases of the Rule 5 draft. The Mets selected him. Velasquez, not expecting such a move, found out via Facebook while trying to reach a Spanish-language baseball site’s alert on his phone. Velasquez is of Puerto Rican descent but not perfectly fluent in Spanish.

“I had a notification on Facebook and I clicked on it,” Velasquez said. “Usually they just put things up if I pitched the night before with how I did. I was like, ‘I didn’t pitch yesterday. Why did they tag me?’ And I started reading it. It was in Spanish, and I’m not really fluent. It takes me a little bit to understand. So I was reading through it and I kind of saw something about the Mets. As soon as I was like, ‘Wait, what’s going on?’ my agent called me.”

Organization leaders

Average: Andrew Brown, Vegas, .359; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, .356; Eric Campbell, Vegas, .355; Matt Reynolds, Binghamton, .352; Jairo Perez, St. Lucie, .351; Jeff McNeil, Savannah, .346; Kevin Plawecki, Binghamton, .335; Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie, .332; Matt Clark, Binghamton, .331; Wilfredo Tovar, Binghamton, .313.

Homers: Andrew Brown, Vegas, 13; Taylor Teagarden, Vegas, 8; Matt Clark, Binghamton, 8; Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 8.

RBIs: Allan Dykstra, Vegas, 44; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, 44.

Steals: Jeff McNeil, Savannah, 14; Patrick Biondi, Savannah, 13; Dilson Herrera, St. Lucie, 13; Brandon Nimmo, St. Lucie, 9.

ERA: Kevin McGowan, Savannah, 1.66; Steven Matz, St. Lucie, 1.73; Darin Gorski, Vegas, 2.44; John Gant, Savannah, 2.67; Matt Koch, St. Lucie, 2.70; Ricky Knapp, Savannah, 3.09; Gabriel Ynoa, St. Lucie, 3.88; Luis Cessa, St. Lucie, 3.98; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 4.02.

Wins: Matt Koch, St. Lucie, 6; Miller Diaz, Savannah, 5; John Gant, Savannah, 5; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 5; Gabriel Ynoa, St. Lucie, 5.

Saves: Chasen Bradford, Binghamton, 11; Robert Coles, Savannah, 10; Vic Black, Vegas, 7; Randy Fontanez, St. Lucie, 7; Jeff Walters, Vegas, 6; Beck Wheeler, St. Lucie, 6.

Strikeouts: Darin Gorski, Vegas, 59; Dana Eveland, Vegas, 58; Noah Syndergaard, Vegas, 57; Miller Diaz, Savannah, 53; Dario Alvarez, Savannah, 52.

Short hops

• St. Lucie will have seven players in the Florida State League All-Star Game on June 14 in Bradenton, Fla.: second baseman Dilson Herrera, center fielder Brandon Nimmo, infielder T.J. Rivera, catcher Cam Maron, left-hander Steven Matz and right-handers Matt Koch and Randy Fontanez.

• Savannah placed seven players in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game, which will be played June 16 in Hickory, N.C.: right-handers Kevin McGowan, Miller Diaz, Akeel Morris and Robert Coles, left-hander Dario Alvarez, third baseman Jeff McNeil and shortstop Gavin Cecchini. Gnats manager Luis Rojas will lead the Southern Division team.

Nimmo resumed playing Monday after missing three days with pinkeye. Rivera also just returned from a three-game absence because of soreness.

Frank Viola, who underwent open-heart surgery on April 2, is due to join Las Vegas on Friday as pitching coach. Viola and Mike Piazza first will represent the Mets on the opening day of the draft Thursday at Secaucus, N.J.

• The player to be named in the Ike Davis trade with the Pirates will not be announced immediately after the draft. The PTBN can be announced a year after he signed his first pro contract, not a year after he was drafted. If it does turn out to be Connecticut prep right-hander Neil Kozikowski, which has been speculated, he signed June 21. So the Mets would have to wait until the one-year anniversary to receive him. Kozikowski was selected in the eighth round and signed for an over slot $425,000 in 2013.

Rafael Montero walked four in 5 1/3 innings in his return to Las Vegas on Tuesday night. Combined between the Mets and 51s this season, Montero has walked 33 in 67 innings, or 4.4 per nine innings. That is the highest rate of his career by a wide margin. The rate was 1.6 per nine innings in 2011, 1.4 in 2012 and 2.0 in 2013.

Noah Syndergaaard is due to reenter the Vegas rotation Thursday after dealing with a forearm strain.

Cory Mazzoni, who suffered a lat-muscle injury starting for the Mets in the final Grapefruit League game, is due to pitch an inning in extended spring training on Wednesday for the first time since suffering the injury.

Rob Whalen, who raced to a 4-0 start with a 1.80 ERA through 20 innings with Savannah before developing an infection in his pitching hand, has been cleared to start throwing on flat ground.

Amed Rosario is not yet done with Savannah, even though he was transferred off their roster temporarily to clear a spot. The 18-year-old shortstop still will be joining Brooklyn when the New York-Penn League season opens June 13 at Staten Island. Rosario struck out in all five at-bats in his lone South Atlantic League appearance so far.

Jairo Perez, who missed two weeks in April with a right hamstring pull, now has enough at-bats to qualify for the Florida State League leaderboard. Perez checks in at No. 2, with a .351 average. Rivera, his teammate, is first overall at .356. Nimmo ranks fourth in the league at .332.

Morning Briefing: Wainwright curve on tap

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
5:40
AM ET

Al Behrman/Associated PressThe Mets face Adam Wainwright on Tuesday night at Citi Field.
NEW YORK

FIRST PITCH: The Mets moved back above .500 with a win against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday night, but Terry Collins knows the Amazin’s have a tough task ahead the remainder of the series.

Adam Wainwright (of curveball-to-Carlos Beltran fame) opposes Dillon Gee on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. at Citi Field. The Mets then face Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn the final two games of the series.

Wainwright actually is 2-4 with a 6.02 ERA in eight career regular-season appearances (six starts) against the Mets. Still, he is coming off a two-hit shutout of the Washington Nationals and arrives with a 1.80 ERA in 2014.

“We’ve got our hands full the next three nights,” Collins said. “We’ve got Adam. I mean, there’s nights he could be as good as there is in baseball. Lance Lynn is throwing the ball very, very well. Michael Wacha showed what he could do last year in the World Series.”

Tuesday’s news reports:

Jenrry Mejia tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings to shave his ERA to 1.99 as the camouflage-jersey-wearing Mets blanked the Cardinals, 2-0, Monday. Newly installed closer Kyle Farnsworth notched his first save as a Met, although looked to be nursing his forearm in the clubhouse postgame.

Curtis Granderson struck out three times while upping his hitless streak to 19 at-bats -- two shy of matching his career high. Ruben Tejada made a pair of diving stops up the middle. David Wright extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a broken-bat RBI single in the third that opened the scoring.

Read game recaps in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Post, Daily News, Times, Star-Ledger, Record, Newsday and at MLB.com.

Bobby Abreu joined the Mets on Monday, with Andrew Brown demoted to clear the roster spot. Collins said he expects Abreu to see some action in the outfield, so that the 40-year-old Venezuelan can stay sharp for pinch-hitting duty.

“He fits right into our approach,” hitting coach Dave Hudgens, who managed Abreu during the winter-ball season in Venezuela, told Marc Carig in Newsday. “He doesn't go out of the strike zone very often. He tries to have a quality at-bat. I thought he’d be good off the bench. He’s so experienced.”

Read more in the Daily News, Record, Star-Ledger and at MLB.com.

• Amateur scouts speculate that the player to be named in the Ike Davis trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates may be right-hander Neil Kozikowski, whom the Mets heavily scouted before the draft, the Daily News’ John Harper tweets. Kozikowski, 18, was an eighth-round pick out of Avon Old Farms School in Connecticut in 2013.


Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsIke Davis belted a broken-bat grand slam Monday for the Pirates.


Davis, meanwhile, on Monday connected on a broken-bat grand slam for his first homer with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Sandy Alderson told Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger the Mets got roughly the same return in a trade as they would have if they had dealt Davis during the offseason.

“We got close to spring training and decided to back off because it was a close call between Ike and Lucas [Duda],” Alderson told Vorkunov. “They both got hurt in spring training, so there wasn’t really an opportunity for one to separate from the other. We got into the first part of the season and got another look. It sort of reconfirmed what we had originally thought several months ago -- probably [we] would try to move Ike and keep Duda. There wasn’t any reason to continue the competition or the tension.”

• Alderson told reporters during an appearance at VA New York Harbor Healthcare Hospital on Monday that free-agent reliever Joel Hanrahan has “definitely made progress” as he nears completion of his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Still, the Post’s Mike Puma tweets that the Mets have not internally discussed whether to make an offer -- although they are “interested.” A team official tells Puma that Hanrahan likely would not be ready to pitch in the big leagues until mid-June.

The Mets, along with other teams, watched Hanrahan work out last week.

“The bullpen has been an issue for us a while,” Alderson told reporters. “He’s out there and is available, so why shouldn’t we see how he’s progressing?”

Read more in the Post and Newsday.

• Columnist John Harper in the Daily News advocates inserting prospects Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, starters in Triple-A, into the big-league bullpen. Writes Harper:

These Cardinals, who have become the model organization in baseball, are proof that you can break in talented young starters as relievers and have great success that way.

It’s fair to say that Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals’ ace, has done all right since breaking in as a reliever in 2006, when, of course, his famous strike-three curveball to Carlos Beltran put his team into the World Series.

The Cardinals are doing the same now with the likes of Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez, both highly touted starters in the minors for whom there is no room at the moment in the star-studded rotation.

Zach Lutz departed after the first inning with cramping and Eric Campbell blasted a go-ahead two-run homer as Las Vegas beat El Paso, 5-4. Portland turned a first-inning triple play in a 7-4 win against Binghamton. St. Lucie benefited from consecutive bases-loaded walks to Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera and beat Palm Beach, 5-4. Savannah’s Northeast tour began with a 10-5 rout against Delmarva as Jeff McNeil, Jared King and Stefan Sabol homered. Read the full minor-league recap here.

• The Mets’ payroll is down to about $86 million with the trade of Davis.

• Jared Diamond in the Journal discusses a pair of replay-review kinks that affected the Mets.

• Critic Bob Raissman in the Daily News suggests SNY’s analysts are becoming more critical of Collins.

From the bloggers … Blogging Mets writes about the enigma that is Eric Young Jr.

BIRTHDAYS: No one to play in a game for the Mets was born on this date, but Jack Nicholson, Kaka and Terry Francona celebrate birthdays.

TWEET OF THE DAY: YOU’RE UP: Will the Mets win this series from the Cardinals?

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Bartolo Colon
WINS ERA SO IP
14 4.02 143 190
OTHER LEADERS
BAD. Murphy .295
HRL. Duda 27
RBIL. Duda 81
RD. Murphy 75
OPSL. Duda .821
ERAJ. Niese 3.55
SOZ. Wheeler 173