The New York Mets are five games under .500. One day after appearing to be sellers at the trade deadline — sending Lucas Duda to the Tampa Bay Rays — they flip the switch and ship off two prospects for a closer.
While it seems like a peculiar move, it makes sense.. at least a little bit. The Mets get A.J. Ramos from the Miami Marlins. Ramos has been an effective closer, but more importantly is under control through the 2018 season.
Who did they give up?
MERANDY GONZALEZ, RHP
I wrote about Gonzalez earlier this year when he began the season with four-straight shutout appearances. The 21-year-old signee out of the Dominican Republic took a few years to climb out of the depths of Rookie ball, but seemed to be putting it together this year.
John Sickels had Gonzalez ranked the 12th-best prospect in the Mets system entering 2017. Here’s what he said:
Age 21, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; posted 2.87 ERA in 69 innings in NY-P with 71/27 K/BB, 62 hits; fastball 92-95 with peaks at 97; curveball fickle but a plus pitch at its best; change-up needs more work but has shown signs of becoming average; command varies between shaky and strong but his stuff was good enough for him to thrive in the NY-P despite inconsistency; the Mets have a good track record helping similar pitchers develop. ETA late 2019.
It’s peculiar for a Mets team that struggles with the health of their starting rotation to give up on this breakout star. That said, Gonzalez is a far way off from contributing in the big leagues. Still his numbers were quite impressive thus far in 2017.
I like his delivery. It’s pretty simple, and he repeats it well, despite a little bit of extra whip in his arm when he unleashes the heat.
He dominated the South Atlantic League right out of the gates. Those four shutout starts set the pace. Gonzalez went 8-1 in 11 starts with a 1.55 ERA (3.08 FIP) and an impressive 0.90 WHIP. He struck out 65 and walked just 13 over 69.2 innings. He was equally impressive in the Florida State league, posting a 2.23 ERA and 1.13 WHIP while striking out 24 and walking just eight in 36.1 innings. Most importantly his ground ball rate came back to the norm (not unusual in the lighter-hitting FSL) at 42 percent while his fly ball rate was 38 percent. This is much better than the uncharacteristic 40-to-42 percent ground ball-to-fly ball percentages he posted in the SAL.
The fastball still hits 97 and his curveball is much improved. With an added slider and changeup that are merely average, Gonzalez may never be a power-pitching strikeout king, but he has shown enough to merit him a reliable pitcher who limits walks.
RICARDO CESPEDES, CF
Cespedes had a roller-coaster adventure in 2017. The 19 year old began the year in the SAL rocking the ball, picking up five hits in his first 12 at bats until injury struck. After a six-week stint on the disabled list, Cespedes was in short-season Brooklyn on a rehab assignment at the time of the trade. He was slashing .225/.262/.263 with one home run, striking out 16 times and walking four.
Born in New York, Cespedes was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Mets before the 2013 season. He’s got decent size, standing at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, and all reports indicate he plays a solid centerfield. The lack of power makes one wonder how he’d profile in the corners, as that’s where he could likely wind up.
Cespedes is all prospect right now. He has a lot of raw tools, but possesses skills across the board. He has never been one to draw a walk — he walked 3.7 percent of the time in his 2016 Appalachian League debut — yet was able to finish sixth in batting average, hitting .322. He is almost always all ground ball, near 60 percent of the time this year, so with average speed one hopes to see him learn to get more loft in the ball. Looking at his spray charts, the lefty seems to be a very-much pull hitter.
The tools are there. It seems entirely too early to pass judgement on what Cespedes could be — especially in an injury-riddled debut to full-season ball — but the Marlins definitely got a nice piece in which to work.