New York Mets: Steve Nichols

Farm report: Maron aims to follow Piazza

August, 15, 2012

Courtesy of New York Mets
Mets executives presented catching prospect Cam Maron with a Sterling Award during a pregame ceremony at Citi Field last Sept. 14.
Cam Maron grew up in Hicksville on Long Island, rooting for the Mets and naturally having a particular affinity for Mike Piazza.

“Mets -- the whole way,” Maron said. “Piazza was my guy. I used to love watching him. I liked watching Jose [Reyes], too, when I was younger. When he was coming up, he was always exciting. David [Wright] came up around the same time as well. I remember ’99 and 2000 a lot. It was something they hadn’t done in a while, and it was exciting to watch.”

Courtesy of Savannah Sand Gnats
Cam Maron.

Now, the 21-year-old Maron is on a path toward becoming a major league catcher in Flushing, too.

Maron, a 34th-round pick in 2009 out of Hicksville High School, is hitting .305 with four homers, 38 RBIs and a .393 on-base percentage in 80 games with low-A Savannah. His batting average cracks the top 10 in the South Atlantic League.

Given the lack of catching prospects in the organization, the lefty-hitting Maron has a solid opportunity to rise through the minor league ranks. The other top catching prospects are 2012 supplemental first-round pick Kevin Plawecki out of Purdue, 2010 third-round pick Blake Forsythe from Tennessee, and 17-year-old switch-hitter Jose Garcia out of Venezuela.

Maron was named the Mets’ Sterling Award recipient as the top performer with Kingsport last season, which earned him a visit to Citi Field for a pregame ceremony.

He has been a lifelong catcher.

“I caught from a young age. Since I was eight I’ve been catching,” Maron said. “It all started, I guess, when I was bored doing the outfield or whatever we were doing back in Little League. I guess I wanted to be involved in a lot more action. My dad decided to throw me back there one day, and the rest is history. I’ve loved it ever since. You’re involved in every play. You’re touching the ball every time it’s in play.

“I take a lot of pride in my mental ability behind the plate -- knowing hitters, knowing situations, pitch calling and things like that,” he continued. “Having a good memory of those things really helps. It’s something that not a lot of people can see physically. Only people who are attentive to the game or on the inside are the ones that can see it, which is sometimes tough. I really take a lot of pride in that. It really helps out the pitchers, and they appreciate that.”

Organization leaders

Average: T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, .322; Cam Maron, Savannah, .305; Eric Campbell, Binghamton, .303; Josh Satin, Buffalo, .298; Alonzo Harris Jr., St. Lucie, .293; Wilmer Flores, Binghamton, .290; Fred Lewis, Buffalo, .289; Josh Rodriguez, Buffalo, .282; Juan Lagares, Binghamton, .281; Matt den Dekker, Buffalo, .277.

Homers: Aderlin Rodriguez, St. Lucie, 22; Cory Vaughn, St. Lucie, 19; Matt den Dekker, Buffalo, 17; Travis Taijeron, St. Lucie, 16; Valentino Pascucci, Buffalo, 15.

RBI: Aderlin Rodriguez, St. Lucie, 76; Matt den Dekker, Buffalo, 68; Wilmer Flores, Binghamton, 66; Dustin Lawley, Savannah, 63; T.J. Rivera, St. Lucie, 61.

Steals: Alonzo Harris Jr., St. Lucie, 33; Fred Lewis, Buffalo, 21; Juan Lagares, Binghamton, 20; Matt den Dekker, Buffalo, 19; Richard Lucas, St. Lucie, 18.

ERA: Hansel Robles, Brooklyn, 1.48; Tyler Pill, St. Lucie, 2.31; Jacob deGrom, St. Lucie, 2.33; Rafael Montero, St. Lucie, 2.36; Gabriel Ynoa, Brooklyn, 2.45; Michael Fulmer, Savannah, 2.54; Luis Cessa, Brooklyn, 2.70; Luis Mateo, Brooklyn, 2.82; Rainy Lara, Brooklyn, 3.02; Collin McHugh, Buffalo, 3.03.

Wins: Rafael Montero, St. Lucie, 11; Zack Wheeler, Buffalo, 10; Gonzalez Germen, Binghamton, 10; Cory Mazzoni, Binghamton, 10; Tyler Pill, St. Lucie, 9.

Saves: Fernando Cabrera, Buffalo, 19; T.J. Chism, Savannah, 17; Adam Kolarek, St. Lucie, 16; Adrian Rosario, St. Lucie, 14; Robert Carson, Buffalo, 10.

Strikeouts: Zack Wheeler, Buffalo, 128; Collin McHugh, Buffalo, 128; Matt Harvey, Buffalo, 112; Rafael Montero, St. Lucie, 110; Jeurys Familia, Buffalo, 108.

Short hops

• Mets farmhands earned pitcher of the week honors in three leagues:

Left-hander Mark Cohoon took the Eastern League honor after taking a no-hit bid into the seventh inning and striking out a season-high 10 in a complete-game, 5-0 win for Binghamton against Harrisburg on Friday. It was Cohoon’s first shutout since producing three straight with Savannah in June 2010, which led to a promotion directly to the B-Mets, bypassing St. Lucie.

Rafael Montero captured the Florida State League honor for tossing 7 2/3 no-hit innings against Palm Beach last Tuesday. He departed with the bid intact, having reached his pitch limit. It turned out to be Montero’s final 2012 outing. The organization is shutting him down for the season due to an innings limit. The 21-year-old right-hander went a combined 11-5 with a 2.36 ERA between Savannah and St. Lucie this season and has struck out 110 and walked 19 in 122 innings. He only logged 71 regular-season innings in 2011.

Brooklyn right-hander Hansel Robles earned the New York-Penn League honor after carrying a perfect-game bid into the eighth inning in what became a 1-0 win against Vermont on Friday.

• Right-handed reliever Scott Patterson, who was granted free agency by the Mariners at his request and recently signed with the Mets, may not be long for the organization. Patterson, 33, landed on Buffalo’s DL after two relief appearances with a shoulder injury. A team source said the Mets are attempting to void the contract, maintaining the issue predated his signing.

• Buffalo right-hander Collin McHugh has impeccable timing. For the second straight season, a Mets affiliate will play a Red Sox affiliate at Fenway Park. And for the second straight season, McHugh lines up for the start. After a rainout altered the schedule and deprived Jeurys Familia of the opportunity, McHugh now lines up to face Pawtucket at the historic stadium Saturday. On his blog, “A Day Older, A Day Wiser,” McHugh wrote last year about his experience:

We could talk about all the buildup to the game. The eight-hour bus ride from Bingo to Portland. The two-hour bus ride from Portland to Boston, wherein our bus broke down a mile and a half from the park. The makeshift locker room that we shared with the opposing team. Walking around the park for a couple of hours. But all of that pales in comparison to actually toeing the rubber at Historic Fenway Park. I don't consider myself a baseball historian by any means, but a student of the game? Absolutely. I know about Fenway. The oldest major league stadium in the country. Pesky's pole. The Lone Red Seat. The Green Monster. I know about Fisk's homerun that he waved fair in the ’75 series. Ted Williams going 6-for-8 on the last day of the season to ensure his .400 batting average. And, last but not least, “The Babe” pitching and hitting in his (pre-Yankees) uniform.

Roughly 25,000 strong, the stadium was filling quickly. As I began warming up on the same plot of ground as so many that had gone before me, I felt confident. “If they could succeed here, why not me?” It was, in fact, just like any other start this season. It was the third time I had faced the [Portland] Sea Dogs, each time pitching better than before. I was coming off one of my best starts of the year, and it was my turn. Taking a deep breath and relaxing my shoulders, I threw my first warm-up pitch. Right down the middle. I was really there. I was really pitching at Fenway Park. The noise was no longer a factor. The mystique of past heroes died away. It was me and the catcher. Time to go to work.

• Brooklyn’s representatives had a solid showing in Tuesday’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game. Luis Mateo started for the National League in an 8-1 win and contributed a scoreless inning with two strikeouts. John Mincone was credited with the win after striking out both batters he faced. Robles and Gabriel Ynoa each allowed one hit in scoreless innings.

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Adam Kolarek’s numbers speak for themselves: In 16 2/3 relief innings with Class A St. Lucie, the southpaw has yet to allow a run. He has struck out 25 and walked two. He has four saves. And lefty batters are hitting only .130 against the 11th-round pick in 2010 out of the University of Maryland.

He’s one of many reasons why St. Lucie is off to a 25-7 start this season.

Courtesy of New York Mets
Adam Kolarek

“I think we’re a very fundamentally sound team -- moving runners, getting the runner in, playing strong defense -- and then both our starters and relievers have really put together a strong start to the season,” Kolarek said.

As for his striking-throwing ability, which starts with fastball command, Kolarek added: “I wouldn’t say I’ve always had the best control, but it’s definitely something I’ve been working on. I really started seeing a lot better control last year. And I worked on it again in the offseason. And so far this season I’ve had pretty good results. It’s right where I want to be.”

Kolarek, 23, had solid tutoring from a young age. His father Frank, who also played at the University of Maryland, caught in the minors for the Oakland Athletics in the late 1970s. He reached as high as Triple-A Ogden in ’79, and played alongside Rickey Henderson at multiple levels of the minors.

“He was a catcher, so he taught a lot to me about how to pitch batters,” Kolarek said. “I talk to him after every outing and we go over the hitters. … He’s definitely my go-to guy. I did it in college too. It’s nothing new. We just go over the outing. He can only hear so much when he’s listening on the radio or following online, so I fill in the story and go over things.”

Kolarek and Adrian Rosario both have accumulated saves for St. Lucie this season. Five of Kolarek’s 14 appearances have been two innings. Kolarek primarily worked as a reliever in college as well. This season, the slider has been a good out pitch, particularly against lefties, in inducing groundballs. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph. He also has a changeup, which he uses more against righty batters.

“We’ve all kind of been in different situations, whether it’s coming in for that certain matchup, or coming in for an inning or two at a time,” Kolarek said. “Being able to be versatile in any kind of relieving role is important.”

Kolarek’s college highlight actually came at the plate, not on the mound. After entering as a defensive replacement at first base against a ranked North Carolina team on April 2, 2010, Kolarek launched a two-out, walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th. Matt Harvey had tossed the first six innings of that game for the Tar Heels.

“I had some good moments on the mound, but the overall college moment, definitely that home run was something I’ll always remember,” he said.

Organization leaders

Average: T.J. Rivera, Savannah, .358; Bobby Scales, Buffalo, .350; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, .330; Vinny Rottino, Buffalo, .317; Jefry Marte, Binghamton, .315; Zach Lutz, Buffalo, .315; Travis Taijeron, Savannah, .314; Omar Quintanilla, Buffalo, .301; Oswaldo Navarro, Buffalo, .293; Eric Campbell, Binghamton, .286.

Homers: Cory Vaughn, St. Lucie, 8; Travis Taijeron, Savannah, 7; Valentino Pascucci, Buffalo, 6; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 5; Omar Quintanilla, Buffalo, 5.

RBI: Travis Taijeron, Savannah, 23; Wilmer Flores, St. Lucie, 22; Aderlin Rodriguez, Savannah, 21; Cory Vaughn, St. Lucie, 19; Valentino Pascucci, Buffalo, 18.

Steals: Luis Nieves, Savannah, 9; Cesar Puello, St. Lucie, 7.

ERA: Alex Panteliodis, Savannah, 0.89; Jeremy Hefner, Buffalo, 1.64; Tyler Pill, Savannah, 1.65; Zack Wheeler, Binghamton, 1.75; Mark Cohoon, Binghamton, 2.06; Darin Gorski, Binghamton, 2.27; Chris Schwinden, Buffalo, 2.33; Chase Huchingson, St. Lucie, 2.51; Collin McHugh, Binghamton, 2.62; Dylan Owen, Buffalo, 2.96.

Wins: Chase Huchingson, St. Lucie, 4; Collin McHugh, Binghamton, 4.

Saves: Adrian Rosario, St. Lucie, 8; Fernando Cabrera, Buffalo, 8; Adam Kolarek, St. Lucie, 4.

Strikeouts: Matt Harvey, Buffalo, 32; Collin McHugh, Binghamton, 31; Gonzalez Germen, Binghamton, 30; Zack Wheeler, Binghamton, 30; Jeurys Familia, Buffalo, 29.

Short hops

• After tossing six scoreless innings against Gwinnett (Atlanta Braves) on Tuesday night, Harvey is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA in his past four starts. Three of the outings have been scoreless. The lone non-win came against Syracuse last Wednesday, when a 23-minute rain delay forced Harvey to depart after four innings. A new organization policy mandates starting pitchers be pulled following a rain delay of any length if they already have logged two innings.

Jack Voigt, the Mets’ highly regarded minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator, will serve as hitting coach for Magallanes in Venezuela during the next winter league season. Carlos Garcia, who manages Class A Bradenton in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, will serve as that winter league club’s 2012-13 manager. Ex-Yankee Luis Sojo is the bench coach.

Zack Wheeler (1-2, 1.75 ERA) should reenter the rotation later this week with Binghamton after landing on the seven-day DL with a partially torn fingernail. Wheeler threw a bullpen session Monday and reported no difficulty. He had the issue on the middle finger of his pitching hand with San Francisco in May 2010 as well -- with a growth underneath the nail pushing it off. That time, with the Giants officials being cautious, Wheeler was out of action for seven weeks.

With Wheeler temporarily inactive, 24-year-old right-hander Gonzalez Germen was promoted to Binghamton from Class A St. Lucie, where he had been 3-0 with a 3.04 ERA in five appearances (four starts). Germen, signed in October 2007 out of the Dominican Republic, made a deceptively solid Double-A debut Friday against Harrisburg. Although he was charged with five runs in six innings, he struck out nine and walked none and the damage was limited to a five-run second inning. Germen is likely to remain with Binghamton even with Wheeler’s return, although Mets brass was sorting out how to juggle the rotation given a rainout Monday and the extra starter. Germen’s fastball sits in the low 90s. He has a solid, deceptive changeup in which the bottom falls out.

Jacob deGrom’s first official minor league game since July 26, 2010 nearly was perfect. The 23-year-old right-hander returned from Tommy John surgery to retire 20 of the 21 batters he faced with Savannah on Monday. DeGrom suffered the elbow injury and subsequent surgery shortly after signing with the Mets as their ninth-round pick in 2010 out of Stetson University. He primarily played shortstop in college, but was drafted as a pitcher because scout Steve Nichols saw potential in his arm.

Andy Pettitte’s convenience became an inconvenience for Triple-A Buffalo.

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Daniel Murphy
.289 9 57 79
HRL. Duda 30
RBIL. Duda 92
RD. Murphy 79
OPSL. Duda .830
WB. Colon 15
ERAJ. Niese 3.40
SOZ. Wheeler 187