2017 Columbia Fireflies Season Recap


COLUMBIA, SC – Year two of Fireflies baseball at Spirit Communications Park was a highly-anticipated season that lived up to every bit of the hype. Columbia drew a record number of fans to the park, hosted the 58th annual South Atlantic League All-Star Game and played a game during a total solar eclipse.

Here’s a look at some other memorable highlights from the 2017 season:

At the Park:

  • The Fireflies have now set an attendance record in each of its first two seasons after 315,034 fans made it to Spirit Communications Park in 2017. That surpasses last season’s record-breaking total of 261,134. The Fireflies averaged 4,773 fans per game, a 21% increase from the inaugural season (3,785).
  • A single-game record 9,629 fans came out to the park on August 21 for ‘Total Eclipse of the Park,’ as the team welcomed guests from 34 states to the ballpark.
  • Twenty-three games featured crowds of 5,000 or more, and eight times the Fireflies played in front of a crowd of 7,000 or more.
  • Not only was Columbia among the best draws in all of Class A in terms of total attendance, the Fireflies out-drew 29 of the 30 Class A Advanced teams, 16 of the 30 Class AA teams and three Class AAA teams.
  • Former Heisman Trophy winner, Tim Tebow, began his professional baseball career in Columbia on April 6, 2017. He hit a home run in his first professional at-bat.


  • Six Fireflies were named South Atlantic League mid-season All-Stars: RHP Merandy Gonzalez, RHP Jordan Humphreys, RHP Max Kuhns, INF Michael Paez, RHP Adonis Uceta and INF Dash Winningham.
  • Dash Winningham was named All-Star Game MVP.
  • Matt Blackham was twice named South Atlantic League - BC Powder Relief Pitcher of the Month (July, August). The right-hander did not allow an earned run in July or August and finished the year with a 4-2 mark and a 1.43 ERA in 40 relief appearances.
  • Uceta won the SAL BC-Relief Pitcher of the Month Award for June. The righty also posted 13.1 scoreless innings during the month he won the award, and pitched to a 1.26 ERA during his time with Columbia, going 11-for-11 in save opportunities.
  • Highly-touted Mets pitching prospect Thomas Szapucki was named SAL Pitcher of the Week (June 19-25) following a six-inning, 10-strikeout shutout performance against Kannapolis on June 25.
  • The success carried over to the front office as well: team President John Katz was named SAL General Manager of the Year and Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations Abby Naas was named Female Executive of the Year.

The Stars:

  • Twelve Fireflies were promoted to a higher level in the Mets organization (Class A Advanced St. Lucie, Class AA Binghamton) at points during the season: Anthony Dimino (STL) Cam Griffin (STL), Austin McGeorge (STL), Michael Paez (STL),Jordan Humphreys (STL), Merandy Gonzalez (STL), Tim Tebow (STL), Adonis Uceta (STL, BING), Jacob Zanon (STL),Colby Woodmansee (STL), Harol Gonzalez (STL) and Ian Strom (STL).

  • Here’s how the six Fireflies All-Stars fared this season:
  • Merandy Gonzalez: At the time of his promotion to Class A Advanced, had the second-most wins (8) and second-best ERA (1.55) in the SAL.
  • Jordan Humphreys: Led the league with 10 wins and a 1.42 ERA when promoted to St. Lucie.
  • Max Kuhns: Was 1-0 with a 2.10 ERA and five saves in 17 appearances with Columbia.
  • Michael Paez: Led Columbia with a .290 batting average before he was called up to advanced-A at the all-star break; was tied for the league-lead with 21 doubles, tallied 31 extra-base hits (2nd, SAL), 43 RBIs (4th, SAL) and eight home runs.
  • Dash Winningham: Led Columbia in 2017 with 13 home runs and 70 RBIs.
  • Adonis Uceta: At the time of his call-up to St. Lucie, was third in the league with 11 saves and was 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA; in fact, Uceta was a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities with Columbia.

The Top Performances:

  • Jordan Humphreys fanned a franchise-record 12 batters in his start against the Asheville Tourists on April 24; he did that over just 6.2 innings.
  • On May 29Dash Winningham had not just a career day, but a franchise-record day against the Augusta GreenJackets; the first baseman became the first Firefly to whack two homers in a game (a feat he accomplished again on June 8), drove in six runs and tallied 10 total bases, also single-game records.
  • The Fireflies scored a franchise-record 16 runs on July 19 against the Lexington Legends; the final score was 16-2, and the 14-run margin of victory was also the largest in club history; Dan Rizzie recorded the franchise’s second five-hit game (5-for-6).
  • Gabriel Llanes (May 10 @ Delmarva) and Harol Gonzalez (July 23 @ Kannapolis) recorded the lone nine-inning complete games in 2017.

The Streaks:

  • Columbia won a franchise-record nine games in a row from June 4-12; this stretch helped the club finish the first half with a 40-28 mark, the best half in the franchise’s short two-year history.
  • Merandy Gonzalez chased a league record his first five outings of the season; the right-hander hurled 28.2 consecutive scoreless innings (April 9-May 3) which was 11 innings shy of the SAL record (39.2).
  • Adonis Uceta also tossed 29.1 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run (May 11-July 22).
  • Matt Blackham followed Uceta’s lead and ended the year by hurling 26.2 consecutive innings without an earned run (July 4-September 1).
  • Three Fireflies – Jay Jabs, Andres Gimenez and Luis Carpio – all recorded season-best 17-game on base streaks during the 2017 season.

League Leaders (Fireflies that finished in the top 10 in SAL statistical categories):

  • 1st, 13.0 K:9 IP Ratio (Relievers): Matt Blackham
  • t-1st, 3 complete games: Harol Gonzalez
  • 3rd, .185 Batting Average Against (Relievers): Matt Blackham
  • 3rd, 9.2, Fewest Baserunners Allowed per 9 IP (Relievers): Matt Blackham
  • 4th, 86 Strikeouts (Relievers): Matt Blackham
  • 4th, 0.86 ERA: Adam Atkins (among pitchers with 30 or more innings pitched)
  • 6th, 142.2 Innings Pitched: Gabriel Llanes
  • 7th, 125 Games Played: Luis Carpio
  • 7th, 70 RBIs: Dash Winningham
  • 8th, 53 Walks: Luis Carpio
  • 10th, 48 Walks: Gene Cone




2017 for a Mets fan has been awful - a dreadful, injury-filled season for the Mets and 6 of 7 minor league teams having losing records.

So it is nice to have someone do considerably BETTER than you would have expected.  As in the case of Corey Oswalt.

Of course, prior to 2017, it was hard to feel that way about him.  A seventh rounder out of HS in 2012, the big righty stunk in his cameo season (8.15 ERA over 35 rookie ball innings at age 18).  Then, due to a series of injuries, he managed to compile only 287 innings over the next 4 seasons.  

He did show some promise in 2016 in St Lucie, going 4-2, 4.06 with 71 Ks in 69 IP, but his career hits allowed were always high (344 hits in 313 innings through 2016), so I remained skeptical.  

My skepticism continued in April this season.  In his first 2 starts spanning 10 innings in his AA debut, he allowed 9 runs (7 earned) - see, I knew he was another Mets bum.  Until his next start (7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run) began a stellar remainder of his season.  In fact after those first 2 starts, Corey did this: 124 innings, 12-3, 1.96 ERA.  he pitched so well he was tabbed as the Eastern League's pitcher of the year, in a pitcher's league.

He still (considering such dominance) allowed a somewhat high 118 hits in 134 innings, but walked only 40, and his career-spanning high point has been in allowing just 102 walks in 448 innings pitched.

Oswalt's 2017 has truly put himself on the radar screen as a 2018 Mets starter if the injury bug rears its head again with the Mets' starters.  Otherwise, I see the just turned 24 year old targeted for Vegas Hell at season's start, with perhaps a mid-season call up as starter or reliever for the Mets.

Maybe he can be another Roy Oswalt (twice a 20 game winner with the Astros); time will tell.

Oh, and he can put bat on ball too - just 2 for 13 in his minors career, but the 2 were both homers.  Give Noah Syndergaard some hitting competition from the pitcher's spot, perhaps.



Mack – Draft Stuff – Griffin Conine, Longenhagen, Law


Good morning.

Mack’s Mets Draft Target –

            Griffin Conine:

College stats from Baseball Cube:
2016: .205/.306/.247, 3 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 3 SB, 0 CS, 11 BB, 16 K
2017: .298/.425/.546, 11 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 9 SB, 0 CS, 41 BB, 45 K

MLB Pipeline's Top 10 college prospects for the 2018 Draft:
5. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke
The son of former All-Star Jeff Conine, Griffin led the Cape Cod League with nine homers and scouts voted him the top prospect in the prestigious summer circuit. He provides left-handed power to all fields, manages the strike zone well and fits the right-field profile with his pop, athleticism and solid arm.

Griffin Conine, RF, Duke Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/200 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m
Notes: Athletic right fielder with plus bat and power potential; good, sound approach at the plate from a slight open stance; good balance; plus bat speed with quick hands and quick wrists; plus barrel control, barrels up balls and projects as a plus hitter; present strength; loft and leverage to all fields, projects to plus power; below-average run; did not produce home-to-first run time; above-average arm strength (55) with good carry; average defensive actions; tools to be above-average major league regular contributor.

Griffin Conine (08-03-2017) CCBL at Y-D (Yarmouth, MA)

Griffin Conine—2017 Cape Cod League All-Star Game

Eric Longenhagen on the draft -  

Jr.: Who is the best 2018 draft prospect?

Eric A Longenhagen: It’s early for such declaration but I have been thinking about it lately. The college arms who I’ve had atop my board at this point in the process had mixed junior years. Alex Faedo, Alec Hansen both had mixed results. So I’m not comfortable anointing Brady Singer at this point but he’s the highest profile college arm at this point. Kumar Rocker has the best stuff on the high school side, his size creates some dissent among scouts who worry he’s too big, and Tyler Kolek (who didn’t carry his weight as well as Rocker does) is casting a recent shadow on that profile.

As far as hitters go, I love Brice Turang’s athleticism and glove but some scouts can’t see taking a guy without an impact bat at the top of the draft. 
Jared Kelenic has a well-rounded skillset but no elite tools.

 College bats look meh. I like Jeremy Eierman.

Keith Law discussing draft in recent chats -

Nate: Keith, are there 5 names to keep an eye on for the 2018 draft?

Keith Law: In no order, Ethan Hankins, Kumar Rocker, Brice Turang(arang), Jackson Kowar, Seth Beer. I don’t know if those are the top 5, but they’re 5 to watch.

Lilith: How do Ethan Hankins and Kumar Rocker compare to Hunter Greene? Is it close at all?

Keith Law: All pretty different. Greene is the best athlete and was younger on draft day. Rocker is already filled out with a body like a 23-year-old. Hankins is the most polished pitcher of the three for his age.

Andrew: At this point, who’s the favorite to go # 1 overall in the 2018 MLB Draft?

Keith Law: There is no clear favorite. The best player might be Rocker, mentioned above, but no HS RHP has ever gone 1-1 and there’s clearly a disinclination among teams to take a prep arm first.

M.D. Pepper : Jarred Kelenic, all five-tools average or better?

Keith Law: Not at all.

Hinkie: Is Brady Singer a better prospect than either AJ Puk or Alex Faedo were after their sophomore years at Florida ?

Keith Law: Nope. If healthy, Kowar is a better pro prospect than Singer.

Adam D.: As it’s impossible to know who will be best player available come June, who is the better fit for the Giants right now, Brady Singer or Seth Beer and why in your opinion?

Keith Law: Neither. Singer has big reliever risk – reminds me a bit of Jonathan Crawford – and Beer is at the far end of the defensive spectrum.

Leo: My early view of the 2018 draft is that it has a lot of depth but not much up top. A lot of HSers that project to be ok and high-floor college arms. Thoughts?

Keith Law: Don’t agree. Better HS crop than that, worse college arm crop. No Bryce Harper types at the top but good talent in the top ten overall.

Philip: Ultimately does Madrigal’s size prevent him from going top 5? And at this way too early point which range would you be comfortable on taking him?

Keith Law: Don’t think he’s a top 5 guy even if he were average size. First rounder for sure.





It is a sad state of affairs for the Mets when a slot as high as my # 4 Mets prospect:

a) hardly pitched in 2017 and

b) will miss most or all of 2018 with Tommy John surgery.

A # 4 ranking assumes a full and healthy recovery, which may be too much to assume, frankly, but I woke up on the positive side of bed today.

After a 2015 5th round selection and a 2015 minors cameo, Thomas Matthew Szapucki was a supernova in 2016.

The 6'2" hard throwing lefty went 4-3, 1.38 in 9 starts in 2016.  52 innings, 26 hits allowed, 86 Ks in rookie ball - those are high school numbers, right?  Better than the college numbers of #1 draft pick David Peterson this season, by comparison.

Yep, but the Szapucki euphoria of 2016 was short-lived.  

He started only 6 games for Columbia in 2017, with early season disability, not starting his first game until early June.   

Of course, I felt on June 25 that the old Szapucki was back:

A 6 inning start, 2 hits, no runs, 10 Ks.  Whoosh!

But as with most things "Mets", that was followed very soon thereafter by injury and a shutdown after pitching just 2/3 of an inning in his final start on July 6.  Followed, of course, by the dreaded TJ surgery in mid-July.

Looking ahead, maybe he gets into a few games in 2018, but hopefully in 2019 he starts a rapid post-Tommy John ascent similar to that of Jake deGrom.   And becomes a star lefty starter for the Mets in 2020, with competition from lefties Peterson and Anthony Kay (who is in TJS recovery himself).  
One can only hope.   The last two guys I had high hopes for prior to their Tommy John surgeries were Luis Mateo and Marcos Molina.  Luis never was quite the same afterwards and seems stuck in the high minors.  Marcos returned well this year, but also seems to me not 100% as good (yet) as the pre-TJS potential he showed when he was the best pitcher in the NY Penn League in 2014.

Here's hoping for a great recovery and return, Mr. Szapucki.


Reese Kaplan -- Pulling the Trigger on Risky Trades


Back in the day when the Mets were facing innumerable and seemingly insurmountable problems they extended the contract of their young superstar, David Wright.  No one could have predicted how his health would betray him, but the fact remains it was a questionable business decision given the alternative of trading him to replenish the farm with prospects and saving the $138 million they committed to paying him.  I bring this up not to beat a dead horse but because the parallel situation is evolving right now as the Mets face pitchers approaching that pivotal point in their careers when you have to decide whether to lock them up long term or to trade them away for prospects.

There have been rumblings around the media that the Mets should consider shopping Jacob de Grom and perhaps Noah Syndergaard to accelerate the rebuilding process.  For purposes of these hypothetical transactions let’s leave Matt Harvey out of the equation as he has pretty much no value until he heals completely. 

There have been many recent cases of young star pitchers traded perhaps too soon.  Sometimes the rationale is that you’re selling high on a player coming off a terrific year.  Sometimes it’s the old Branch Rickey thing about trade ‘em a year too soon rather than a year too late (as is the case of pending free agents).  Sometimes you want to get out from under say a catcher who has just turned 30 and is likely to decline rapidly. Often it is simply about the money.  Oakland and Montreal seemed to make it a business model to develop players until they were about to become expensive and then trade them for whatever they could get.

In general, when a team trades away a young, star quality pitcher the results have not been good.  Let’s take a look at a few of these types of transactions:
Tom Seaver – As a Mets media venue, you almost have to start with Tom Seave who, although aged 32, still had several years of quality pitching ahead of him.  He was obviously in the money category as justification for the Midnight Massacre trade.  If you can get past the fact that he was “The Franchise”, the Mets did get an interesting return.  Pat Zachry had been co-holder of Rookie of the Year honors, Steve Henderson was a Rookie of the Year candidate, Doug Flynn was a 2nd baseman in the mold of shortstops like Bud Harrelson whose stellar defense outshined mediocre offense.  Only Dan Norman didn’t amount to much of anything.  Still, if you asked 1000 Mets fans about that trade, maybe 1 would concede it wasn’t half bad.  Well, maybe not even 1.

Believe it or not for Mets fans it could be worse.  Suppose you traded away outfielder Leroy Stanton, pitcher Don Rose, catcher Francisco Estrada and a hard throwing young pitcher to land All Star 3rd baseman?  That doesn’t sound half bad until you fill in the names Nolan Ryan and Jim Fregosi.  Double ugh!

A former Met was traded twice as a young pitcher – once from the Dodgers for 2nd baseman Delino Deshields and then later from the Expos for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr.  I think in both cases the Dodgers and Expos would wish they had instead held onto Pedro Martinez.

One Met trade that probably would have worked out as even or perhaps in the team’s favor was when they traded David Cone to the Toronto Blue Jays for 2nd baseman Jeff Kent and outfielder Ryan Thompson.  Yes, Cone did eventually win a Cy Young Award upon his return to Kansas City, but Jeff Kent won an MVP while playing for the Giants.  (Of course, it’s not a total bust of a return for the Mets as they, ahem, wisely parlayed Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino for the immortal Alvaro Espinosa and a prematurely washed-up Carlos Baerga.   

Personality conflicts with the manager or owner can precipitate a trade and that was the case that saw young Steve Carlton shipped to Philadelphia for Rick Wise.  The former Phillie had a respectable career from that point forward, going 113-105 with a 3.74 ERA.  Carlton, of course, went 252-181 with a 3.22 ERA for the remainder of his career while winning four Cy Young awards.    

No list of dubious trades could be complete without the Big Unit, Randy Johnson.  The first time around the Mariners traded homegrown Mark Langston and Mike Campbell to Montreal for Johnson, Gene Harris and Brian Holman.  That’s one for sure that the Expos would like a do-over.  Then the Mariners thought they could peddle the big guy to Houston where they received three minor leaguers – Freddy Garcia, John Halama and Carlos Guillen.  Guillen was the best of the three and Halama had a long but mediocre career.  .

The Baltimore Orioles never quite got out of Jake Arrieta what they had hoped and sent him along with reliever Pedro Strop to the Cubbies for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.  Ouch. 

The Milwaukee Brewers once decided it was worth a roll of the dice to trade pitcher Zack Greinke to the Angels for infield prospect Jean Segura and two other warm bodies.  Segura turned out to be a pretty solid player but Greinke was one of the top five pitchers in baseball. 
One that might make the Mets fans feel a little better about their front office personnel is the Tampa Bay Rays trade of David Price to Toronto for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt.  Phew! 

Finally, one last stinker – the Chicago White Sox traded perennial All Star Chris Sale for a package including Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz.  All Sale has done is lead the Red Sox with a 17-7 record and a 2.75 ERA.  It may be too soon to call this one a clear cut disaster, but Moncada being the centerpiece of the trade hasn’t helped much by batting just .236 for the White Sox (though he is just 22 years old). 

Yes, trading de Grom and/or Syndergaard could bring back 3-4 top level prospects, but it’s always a crap shoot.  After all, when the Red Sox needed relief help they thought they solved the problem when they gave away some minor leaguer named Bagwell to the Astros for 37 year old Larry.Anderson.  Or then there’s the time the Tigers needed a veteran pitcher and the Braves sacrificed Doyle Alexander for a guy named Smoltz.

Considering the Mets track record in trades, you’d probably be very afraid to pull the trigger on such a deal.  There are not too many Neil Allen for Keith Hernandez type stories in the win column. 


Mack – Draft Stuff – Top 10 College Prospects, Travis Swaggerty


Good morning.

MLB has gone to print with their current Top 10 College picks in the pcoming June draft. 

They are –

1. Brady Singer, RHP, Florida - For the third straight time, a Gators pitcher will enter the year as the top college prospect and a strong favorite to go No. 1 overall. After playing a major role in Florida's 2017 College World Series championship, Singer once again will look to carve up hitters with a 92-96 mph fastball with nasty life and a slider with which he can alter the depth and speed at will.

2. Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida - McClanahan redshirted in his first year with the Bulls while recovering from Tommy John surgery, then came back this spring and maintained a 93-96 mph fastball. He needs to further refine his secondary pitches and command, but he's a lefty with a big arm.

3. Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn - Unlike Singer and McClanahan, who took the summer off, Mize pitched for Team USA -- but got shut down with a tired arm after having the same thing happen during the spring. When healthy, he offers the best combination of stuff (lively 93-96 mph fastball, devastating 83-88 mph splitter) and command of any college pitcher.

4. Nick Madrigal, 2B/SS, Oregon State - Scouts have to get past Madrigal's small stature (5-foot-7, 161 pounds), but they do so pretty easily because he has outstanding instincts in all phases of the game and good tools as well. He is a premium hitter with some gap power and plus speed, and defensively he'll become either a respectable shortstop or a quality second baseman as a pro.

5. Griffin Conine, OF, Duke - The son of former All-Star Jeff Conine, Griffin led the Cape Cod League with nine homers and scouts voted him the top prospect in the prestigious summer circuit. He provides left-handed power to all fields, manages the strike zone well and fits the right-field profile with his pop, athleticism and solid arm.

6. Jeremy Eierman, SS, Missouri State - Jake Burger became the first Bears position player to get picked in the first round this June, and Eierman should become the second next year. His right-handed power is his calling card, and he also has soft hands and a strong arm that could make him a plus defender at third base if he lacks the quickness to remain at shortstop.

7. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama - Swaggerty reached double figures in homers (11) and steals (19) during the spring before serving as a catalyst atop Team USA's lineup with Madrigal. He is an on-base type with plus speed and flashes of power, and he covers a lot of ground in center field.

8. Seth Beer, 1B, Clemson - Beer is the most polarizing player in the college crop. Scouts who like him point to his 1.157 OPS and 34 homers in two years with the Tigers and say he has the best combination of hitting ability and power in the 2018 Draft. Those who don't note Beer's .631 OPS in two summers with wood bats with Team USA and his lack of athleticism and defensive value.

9. Ryan Rolison, LHP, Mississippi - The Rebels' best starter as a freshman this spring, Rolison continued to shine in the Cape League and is on course to become a first-rounder as a sophomore-eligible. He can miss bats with both his low-90s fastball and his sharp curveball, and he continues to throw more strikes as he gains experience.

10. Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson - Another potential frontline starter from the program that produced Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom. Gilbert rivaled Rolison as the Cape's top pitching prospect after winning Atlantic Conference Pitcher of the Year honors during the spring. He has size (6-foot-6), velocity (93-97 mph) and life on his fastball, plus deception and strike-throwing ability, though he needs to develop the rest of his repertoire after being more of a position player in high school.

BA had their own Top 10 High School players for the draft –

           1 Brice Turang SS Santiago HS, Corona, Calif.
2 Ethan Hankins RHP Forsyth Central HS, Cumming, Ga.
3 Kumar Rocker RHP North Oconee HS, Bogart, Ga.
4 Will Banfield C Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga.
5 Nander De Sedas SS Montverde (Fla.) Academy
6 Luke Bartnicki LHP Walton HS, Marietta, Ga.
7 Jarred Kelenic OF Waukesha (Wis.)West HS
8 Slade Cecconi RHP Trinity Prep HS, Winter Park, Fla.
9 Mason Denaburg RHP/C Merritt Island (Fla.) HS
10 Carter Stewart RHP Eau Gallie HS, Melbourne, Fla.

Mack's Mets Target - Travis Swaggerty

College stats from Baseball Cube:
2016: .303/.431/.422, 12 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 20 SB, 11 CS, 42 BB, 49 K
2017: .361/.487/.567, 11 2B, 1 3B, 10 HR, 19 SB, 9 CS, 47 BB, 43 K

MLB Pipeline's Top 10 college prospects for the 2018 Draft:
7. Travis Swaggerty, OF, South Alabama
Swaggerty reached double figures in homers (11) and steals (19) during the spring before serving as a catalyst atop Team USA's lineup with Madrigal. He is an on-base type with plus speed and flashes of power, and he covers a lot of ground in center field.

Baseball America's TOP 10 COLLEGE PROSPECTS FOR 2018:
4 Travis Swaggerty           OF       South Alabama      5-11   180
The twitchy center fielder has the power-speed combo to earn Jacoby Ellsbury comps.

Travis Swaggerty, OF, Univ. of South Alabama
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/185 lbs. B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 9m
Notes: Played both center and left field in viewings; compact, athletic frame with both present strength and room for additional weight and strength gain over course of physical maturation; plus athlete; slight open stance to start, closes with good trigger; quick bat with ability to manipulate the barrel and use the entire field; comfortable will going the other way; good plate discipline, ability to make adjustments; will fight off pitches he can’t handle to get counts in his favor; good pull power with loft and leverage in his swing; projects to plus hit/power guy; arm plays average to above-average with good carry; average glove, steady fielder; plus runner underway with fringe average times out of the box (4.25 seconds home-to-first times).

Travis Swaggerty (7-1-2017) vs Chinese Taipei (Cary, NC)



Richard Herr - Don’t Wait Until Next Year! It Starts Now - 1


I’m throwing aside that old cry of “Wait until next year.” Next year starts right now. 2017 is creaking its way toward the end of the season, but preparations for next year have to begin. There are a couple areas of concern that have to be handled right away so they are in place at the end of the season. The club has to be ready to move forward with the off-season programs in place. Needless to say, this series is going to stretch into the off-season as I consider the whole list of topics, rendering the title of this series obsolete as time goes along.

Now let’s see... Where do I start? What is the most crying, screaming need that this ballclub has that needs to be straightened out  before we go into the off-season?


-----Boy! How about them Dodgers? Are they the envy of the league or aren’t they? Record earnings. Record profits. An on-the-field juggernaut that is plowing through the league. A stunning lineup. An incredible list of starting pitchers. A minor-league system that is just oozing with prospects.

Wasn’t it just a few years ago that the franchise had a lot of problems? The owner was going through an ugly divorce. He was siphoning money out of the club to help make alimony payments. The club was floundering around, directionless, in one of the largest markets in baseball.

So Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped in and forced a sale of the franchise. What was the result? In few short years the club is the envy of the industry.

At that same time, there was another club that was going through a lot of pains. The owners had imprudently sunk a lot of money into a Ponzi scheme headed by a guy named Madoff. They were scrambling around for money, borrowing from various sources including Major League Baseball to keep themselves afloat. A lot of people were calling for the commissioner to take the same action with them as was taken with the Dodgers: force a sale, bring in new blood. The commissioner in that case was Bud Selig, an old friend of the embattled owners. He chose to select a general manager for the club who was known for his close-fisted practices with money.

And he accomplished those goals. He took a payroll that was well over $150 million and got it down to about $50 million. He was so interested in cutting payroll, he let go two all-star infielders and a centerfielder who was given a a long-term contract and started for a World Series team.

But more on the General Manager in a later article in this series.

In the meantime, the owners set stringent budgets on the GM as far as payroll was concerned. This large-market team had payrolls that were restricted to under $100 million. There was a string of sub-.500 seasons as the owners tried to patch their Ponzi-Scheme-induced debt. Their alleged main business was in construction and real estate, but they didn't seem to be very active there. It appeared that they were using the team as a source of cash. (That sounds kind of similar to getting alimony payments out of the club.) The GM resorted to dumpster diving to find players to fill out his roster.

What else happened with the ownership? Son of Wilponzi was appointed COO of the Mets. He promptly went about not returning phone calls from the team's AAA affiliate in Tidewater putting their noses so out of joint that they took the first opportunity available to move their affiliation away from the Mets. That started the team on the death spiral that eventually left the team with Las Vegas, the worst possible AAA franchise for developing young talent.

Additionally, the new COO made snide comments about an employee who was having a child out of wedlock, costing them a large amount of money settling a lawsuit.

The owners built a new ballpark, one that seemed more devoted to the Brooklyn Dodgers than the Mets. They imprudently decided to make the field a large, pitcher-friendly park, because they thought that fans wanted to see tight, well-pitched games. The rest of the league was rushing in the opposite direction, making parks smaller and smaller, encouraging more and more home runs. The Mets hitters became frustrated and disoriented trying to launch the ball out a Grand-Canyon-sized park. The team was finally forced to bring the fences in in a process that took two steps to finally settle on the proper dimension.

There are two other things I've observed with this ownership,which I have no proof on, but I would be willing to bet serious money on (maybe even a whole nickel).

I'm quite certain there was an edict put out by ownership that if a player was making a certain amount of money, (I'd guess about $10 mil a year) they'd better be in the starting lineup rather than sitting on the bench making all that money. It didn't seem to matter how well the guy was playing.

On the second point, I'd like to walk you down memory lane. Remember the original left field home run line in Citi Field? The one that came down the foul pole, ran horizontal for a bit, did a quick loop-d-loop, cha-cha'd a bit deeper, hopped on a quick side trip to Cleveland, came back and finally ran along the top of the left field fence? My assessment of that architectural oddity is that it bears all the signs of someone who said, far too late in the process, "I don't want that."  This would be someone who owns a construction company and therefore should know how to a read an architect's rendering. He forced through a change that made the left-field home run line look like a laboratory maze.

 So what conclusion have I reached about ownership? I think it sucks. They are really no better than Frank McCourt, former Dodger owner. They were forced to take a general manager whose penurious practices put them in a slightly better financial situation. However the team took a nosedive this year and looks primed to continue a downward trend that will carry them through the next 5 or 6 years.

The franchise is bleeding. It is going to get worse. It will be a drain on the league when it should be one of the gems. Please, Mr. Manfred, send these owners packing. 
Mack's Mets © 2012