By Mike Steffanos
It's still fairly quiet on the hot stove front, but there were a couple of good articles today on some kids who may well be the future of this franchise. In the Bergen Record, Steve Popper discusses the choices the Mets will have to make with Lastings Milledge. Lastings is obviously no big favorite with the fourth estate, so most of what I've read on him so far boils down to calls for the Mets to trade him. Popper is more even-handed than most in this look at a most important off-season decision:
Milledge didn't quite fit in the clubhouse, rubbing some players the wrong way with a cockiness that didn't befit a rookie. But then again, he wasn't a typical rookie.
He's a player who has been touted as having the best tools in the minor leagues. He's been in the spotlight since he was 12 years old, when he played in the Little League World Series, and he carries the weight of family expectations. His father and his brother made it to the minor leagues, but never made the step to the major leagues.
To me it's fairly simple. If you're running the Mets and you still believe in the kid, you only trade him for a young stud pitcher in a deal that's fair to both teams. If you like the kid, but have doubts he will be ready to fill a full-time major league role in 2007, you bring in someone to be a 1-year stopgap. Too many fans and pundits seem ready to run Milledge out of town based only on his struggles last year and his ego and immaturity. A smart, well-run team will figure out how to make it work if the talent is there. They certainly won't panic and trade a kid without receiving proper value in return just because the kid isn't cuddly and loveable enough for some.
On Baseball America's web site, Chris Kline has a Arizona Fall League Notebook that's chock full of Mets-in-training. There is good news regarding Mike Pelfrey's progress in developing the off-speed pitches that he needs to become a top major league starting pitcher:
Pelfrey has made strides--along with some alterations--with his offspeed stuff over the last three weeks. He scrapped his hard curveball for the equivalent of a slider. It's a sharp, late-breaking offering that has shown flashes of having good depth and tilt.
"You can see he struggles with it at times," a scout from an American League club said, "but when he stays on top of it and stays easy in his arm action, it has the makings of a plus pitch."
It's something Pelfrey needed, but with his fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, adding an 85-87 mph slider is only half the battle. He didn't have good command of his changeup for much of 2006 either, but has worked extensively on controlling his arm speed and tinkered with his grip slightly to have an effective third pitch--especially against lefthanded hitters.
..."I just have to keep using the slider and the changeup to where I'm comfortable throwing either one at any time and know I can command and locate it where I want it," Pelfrey said. "I'm happy with where things are right now, but I know I still have a lot of work to do to get them where they need to be."
I still like Pelfrey a lot. He has a 97 mph fastball with great movement that he can locate, as well as a very effective hard sinking fastball in the low 90s. You can't teach that kind of stuff. If he can polish off those secondary pitches and stay healthy, I'm absolutely convinced he can dominate in the major leagues. He seems to have a nice makeup, too, and wasn't at all overwhelmed by his short time in New York this season. I think Pelfrey is summed up very well in this quote by a Twins' pitching prospect playing on the same AFL team:
It's 60-feet, six inches for everybody else, but for Pelfrey it's more like 50 feet--total. He gets such good extension, he's very free and easy and the ball just explodes out of his hand. And with that height advantage, the ball's on top of hitters a heck of a lot quicker than a lot of other guys out here. Add in that velocity and he's dirty ... just plain filthy.
Kline also offers up good stuff on Kevin Mulvey and Fernando Martinez in this same notebook, and you don't have to be a BA paid susbscriber to read it. Check it out.
Mets.com: Marty's back, and he's answering your e-mails
Mr. Noble has returned from the DL with some intersting thoughts on the NLCS.
Sorry, that's all I have time for right now. I have a lot on my plate at work today.