May 31, 2020

NL East: Mid-Season Mailbag

With Drew Sarver doing such a fine job covering the trade deadline goings on, I’ll take some time out to answer a few questions I’ve received so far this season.

Let’s face it folks…

The NL East has pretty much found its groove.  The Phillies have been the winning-est team in baseball for quite a while now.  The Braves continue to maintain their Wild Card dominance (which is a really strange term if you think about it).  Meanwhile, the Mets, Marlins and Nationals fight it out for “best of the rest” considerations.  While I will obviously continue to cover the happenings within the division for the rest of the season, beginning with recapping the trade deadline (which I’ll do next week), I’ve decided to take a step back and field a few of the items that I’ve received in my virtual mailbag this year.

Q: What percentage chance would you give to the Mets in re-signing Jose Reyes? (D. Ain, Brooklyn, NY)

A: Right now, I’m putting it at 60%.  Coming into the season the feeling around the league, or at least from those who like to think they’re around the league, was that Reyes was not  a Sandy Alderson-type player (low OBP, dependent on stolen bases, etc.).  By late May, Reyes had pretty much established himself as an any-GM-type player.  In turn, rumors of trading Reyes away quickly faded and rumors of the Mets making moves to free up money to sign him quickly surfaced.  That the Mets traded K-Rod was no surprise, but they traded him when they did in order to make sure that his 2012 option was, well, not an option.  So the Mets have made their intentions quite clear.  The front office wants him, the fans want him, and even a familiar hamstring injury hasn’t scared them off.  But it may have scared off some other teams.  Maybe. Still, there will certainly be plenty of potential suitors.  If Reyes chooses to test the market he will obviously get some lucrative offers from all corners of the league.  The Mets appear ready to stay in the mix for as long as Reyes lets them.

Q: Who are the top 5 prospects of NL East teams? (M. Esquandolas – Burlington, VT.)

A:   1) Bryce Harper, Nationals – I probably don’t have to tell you about this guy.  If you haven’t heard of him, you will.  He’s struggled some since being promoted to double-A Harrisburg, but this means little.  The Nationals didn’t sign him to excel in the minors.  In fact, he’s probably there as much to refine his skills as he is to properly mature before becoming a major leaguer.  While early-season accounts suggest he has a ways to go, it’s probably best to keep in mind that he’s only 18 years-old and barring anything unforeseen, will likely be a part of the sport’s future for years to come.  2) Julio Teheran, Braves - While scouts, and wannabe scouts, may debate Teheran’s ceiling, nobody can deny his talent and minor league results.  In 18 starts with Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Teheran has an 11-1 record, 1.67 ERA, a 1.050 WHIP and 98 K’s in 107.2 innings.  He has a low/mid-90′s fastball (which has registered as high as 97 on occasion), a nasty curve and a dangerous changeup.  Some question his command, others worry about the lack of movement on his fastball.  But, at just 20 years-old, Teheran has given the Braves enough to believe in that they refuse to discuss him in any potential trades (so far, at least).  3) Brad Peacock, Nationals – This 23 year-old righty’s value has definitely jumped from 2006, when he was picked in the 41st round of the draft.  Throughout his minor league career, Peacock has shown the ability to strike batters out, but he’s steadily maintained an unremarkable ERA in the 4′s.  However, after taking some advice from Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Spin Williams and Double-A Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin, Peacock has made some adjustments to his delivery.  They seem to be working.  Peacock went 10-2 with a 2.01 ERA, 0.861 WHIP and 129 K’s in 98.2 innings with Harrisburg before being called up to Triple-A Syracuse.  While Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen and Bryce Harper get much of the Nationals-related hype, it seems that Peacock may be just as much a part of their future.  4) Matt Harvey, Mets – The Mets first round draft pick from 2010 has had an impressive pro ball debut.  His 8-2 record, 2.37 ERA and 92 K’s in 76 innings for Single-A St. Lucie was enough to promote him to Double-A Binghamton.  While he hasn’t fared as well since the promotion, he’s shown that he has four reliable pitches (fastball, slider, curve, changeup) which is enough to give hope to many in the Mets organization right now.  5) Zack Wheeler, Mets – Honestly, it really is something of a coincidence that these 2 pitchers rank 4th & 5th on my list; it’s not me trying to be cute.  Since being taken as the 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft, the tall righty has shown plenty of raw talent.  Like the other pitchers on this list, Wheeler has a low/mid-90′s fastball that can be dialed up a little from time to time.  His curveball has reportedly improved somewhat from what it was last year with Single-A Augusta.  The Mets were certainly looking at his ceiling when they acquired him from the Giants in return for Carlos Beltran this past week.  Most reports sum Wheeler up by saying that he’s got great stuff but also has control issues.  In other words, this talent needs to learn how to pitch.  The Mets obviously believe in their organization’s ability to teach and in Wheeler’s ability to learn.

Q: Which NL East stadium is the best? (D. Climent – Weehawken, NJ)

A: This should be fun…

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia) – It’s really a perfect combination of classic and modern, and the prices are manageable, in relative terms. Citi Field (New York) – While the stadium hasn’t seen enough Mets success to take a spot in anyone’s hearts just yet, it’s so nice that even most Yankees fans will concede that it’s the better NY stadium.  Only question, why aren’t the fences blue? Turner Field (Atlanta) – Probably the most technologically advanced of the NL East ballparks, despite being the second-oldest in the division (and it’s only a barely-bar mitzvah’d 14 years-old).  The stadium’s address is 755 Hank Aaron Drive, which is a nice touch. Nationals Stadium (Washington) – The retro-style ballparks are beginning to become as cookie-cutter as the cookie-cutter parks they replaced.  Nationals Stadium is probably the best example of this.  It’s nice, very nice even, but there’s really nothing that makes it stand out. Sun Life Stadium (Florida) – It’s a football stadium that happens to host baseball games.  Always has been.  I could go on, but the Marlins are moving to a new stadium next year, so there’s really no point.

Thank you to all who sent me questions.  Please keep them coming.  I’m sure there will be more opportunities to get to some of other emails I’ve received.  I’ll be getting summing up the NL East’s role in the MLB non-waiver trade deadline once the dust settles.

And of course, thanks for reading.

Shai Kushner is a Senior Writer for BaseballDigest.com.  Email Shai at: BaseballDigestShai@gmail.com.  Follow Shai on Twitter at: @BD_ShaiKushner.