Adam Rubin’s blog, Surfing the Mets, ran the Mets’ announcement of non-roster invitees the other day. As usual, it’s a mix of prospects who are being rewarded for their performance in the previous season and re-treads looking for a chance to make a pay-day. Jenrry Mejia, Ike Davis, Eric Niesen, Francisco Pena, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Ruben Tejada will all get to attend the camp in recognition of the progress they made last year. I’m a bit surprised that Roy Merritt, Dillon Gee and Reese Havens didn’t get the call, but it’s not a bad group.
Carlos Muniz, Jolbert Cabrera, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston,and Luis Hernandez comprise the other groups, re-treads who have lost a little luster but are still looking to crack a major league roster. Let’s look at them more closely:
Carlos Muniz: Muniz was drafted by the Mets in the 13th round of the 2003 Amateur Draft. He debuted with Brooklyn in 2003 and spent the next three seasons at the Rookie, short-season A, and advanced A levels until a meteoric rise in 2007. Muniz started the season in AA Binghamton and appeared in three games for the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs before getting the call to the big club in September, making his major league debut on September 25th (he got another shot on September 29th).
Muniz began 2008 in New York and made three appearances before being sent down. He split the rest of the season between New Orleans and New York, appearing in 15 major league and 33 AAA games. His star dimmed as he registered a 78 ERA+ and 1.329 WHIP in New York, and his 2009 was a washout. He appeared in only 12 games before being sidelined with a season-ending injury. 2010 is probably Muniz’ last shot with the Mets. I don’t see any scenario where he starts the season with the Mets, but a good showing at Port St. Lucie could earn him the closer job at AAA Buffalo and make him one of the first call-ups. It’s definitely a make or break year for Mr. Muniz.
Jolbert Cabrera: Cabrera debuted with Cleveland on April 12, 1998. He’s 37 now, the veteran of 1,274 minor and 609 major league games. During that time he’s done everything but pitch and catch and he has a career ERA+ of 76. In a perfect world, he’d land a bench job in Buffalo and never be heard from again. I have a feeling that he’ll earn a starting role in Buffalo and be one of the Mets’ first call-ups in the event of injury. He’s a vast improvement over Angel Berroa and in that respect I’m glad he’s here, but the Mets are screwed if he winds up getting a lot of playing time.
Travis Blackley: Blackley hails from Australia and got his start in the Mariners organization, where he was once considered a top prospect. Baseball America ranked him third among Mariners prospects in 2004 and sixth going into 2005, but he wound up missing the entire season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He returned in 2006 but by 2007 the Mariners were ready to move on and he was traded to San Francisco for Jason Ellison. The Giants gave him another shot to start in the majors but he didn’t really capitalize on it. He’s bounced around a bit since then, getting claimed by Philadelphia in the 2008 Rule 5 draft (where John Sickels still had him ranked as the eighth-best prospect) and signing with Arizona in 2009.
I googled around a bit and came up with two scouting reports: Delaware Online (2007) and the Sporting News (2004). Not too much to go on, but it would appear that the shoulder injury sapped Blackley of some velocity. Where he used to top out in the low 90’s, the Delaware Online report had him topping out the high 80’s. Sounds to me like he’s approaching “crafty lefty” territory. That being said, I think this is exactly the type of player the Mets should target in the days leading up to Spring Training. Still just 27, Blackley still has some potential. Even if he fails to win a spot in the major league bullpen, he could become a valuable asset to the Bisons. He’s well worth taking a chance on.
Oh yeah, his wife is a former Playboy Cyber Girl*. So he’s got that going for him.
*I went back-and-forth debating whether to include a link to the pictures before ultimately deciding that it’s not the direction I want to take here. But they are out there.
Bobby Livingston: Like Blackley, Livingston is a lefty that got his start in the Mariners organization. He’s bounced around since with stints in the Cincinnati, Baltimore and Cleveland organizations. He started 10 games for Cincinnati in 2007 (four of which were quality starts) and, according to Wikipedia, set the record for most hits in a game by a pitcher with four*. His ERA+ was below average that season, but his SO/BB and BB/9 ratios were above average (for that season) and his career BB/9 rate in the minors is a respectable 1.9 and he’s only 27, so there’s still some upside here. Like the Blackley invitation, it’s another quality gamble on a former prospect.
*Which, you know, is totally NOT true. Mel Stottlemyre had five hits for the Yankees in a game in 1964. Livingston doesn’t even have sole possession of the Reds’ record: he shares it with Don Newcombe (1959) and Danny Jackson (1988).
But my opinion of Livingston totally changed when I read this scouting report: Bobby just “wins”. In fact, “he’s a big-time winner” who’s “won everywhere he’s been.” He’s also “as tough as nails with the savvy of a 10-year veteran”. Why didn’t the Mets trade for him four years ago? Well, his 83-86 mph fastball is probably a big reason. Still, all that being said, Livingston isn’t a bad gamble for New York or Buffalo.
Luis Hernandez: I figured I’d start off with the positive: Luis is still only 25. Annnd…that’s about it. Hernandez appeared in 103 games for Baltimore and Kansas City over the past three years and his OPS+ has steadily declined each year, dropping from 73 to 47 to an astounding 28 in 2009 (seriously, what were the Royals thinking?). His minor league stats are equally dismal: a career .617 OPS, 55% career base-stealing percentage, and not one season with more walks than strikeouts. Hernandez could be Ozzie Smith with the glove and be a waste of a roster spot. I feel this speaks to the organization’s lack of depth at the middle-infield positions. I guess it can’t hurt to bring the guy in for a tryout (especially because he’s only 25), but the moment he sees the field in Flushing in 2010 is the moment when we can officially begin planning for 2011.
The odds are long that any one of this group of five makes the roster out of Spring Training, but hopefully this background information can give you a little perspective over the next six weeks.