2009 Binghamton Mets Preview

Lucas Duda will be a valuable run producer

Double-A can ultimately make or break many prospects standing within an organization. That pattern is no different for the 2009 installment of the Binghamton Mets who feature a number of prospects looking to solidify their position and show they can handle the upper levels of the farm. There is a mix of old and new as the B-Mets kick off their 2009 season tonight versus the Trenton Thunder.

2009 Roster:: [2009 Inside Pitch Magazine Prospect Guide rankings in parenthesis]

RHP Nick Abel [2008 SAV/SLU/BNG – 4-3, 5.17 ERA, 47.0 IP, 33 G]
LHP Edgar Alfonzo [2008 SLU/BNG – 2-2, 4.15 ERA, 56,1 IP, 47 G]
LHP Michael Antonini (17) [2008 TOTAL – 9-7, 2.77 ERA, 162.2 IP, 28 GS]
LHP Adam Bostick [2008 AAA – 2-2, 6.04 ERA, 44.2 IP, 11 G, 10 GS]
RHP Eric Brown (47) [2008 BNG – 6-9, 5.05 ERA, 123.0 IP, 30 G, 17 GS]
RHP Ryan Coultas [2008 SLU – 1-5, 4.17 ERA, 69 IP, 47 G]
RHP Julio De La Cruz [2008 A/AA – 0-1, 3.94 ERA, 32.0 IP, 19 G, 2 GS]
RHP John Madden [2008 A/AAA – 2-3, 3.86 ERA, 74.2 IP, 54 G]
RHP Tim McNab [2008 AAA – 3-3, 5.55 ERA, 73.0 IP, 50 G, 1 GS]
LHP Roy Merritt [2008 BRO/SLU – 3-0, 2.16 ERA, 50.0 IP, 31 G]
RHP Fernando Nieve [2008 AAA – 0-1, 8.44 ERA, 10.2 IP, 11 G]
RHP Dylan Owen (25) [2008 SLU/BNG – 13-7, 3.66 ERA, 150.0 IP, 27 GS]
RHP Jose Sanchez [2008 BNG - 13-7, 3.83 ERA, 152.2 IP, 29 G, 26 GS]

C Mike Nickeas [2008 BNG/NO – .210, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 214 AB, 71 G]
C Salvador Paniagua [2008 TOTAL – .242, 10 HR, 27 RBI, 178 AB, 62 G]
C Josh Thole (30) [2008 SLU – .300, 5 HR, 5 RBI, 347 AB, 111 G]

3B Matt Bouchard(13)[2008 BRO/SAV – .230, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 274 AB, 75 G]
3B Shawn Bowman (19)[2008 TOTAL – .290, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 210 AB, 55 G]
1B Lucas Duda (28) [2008 SLU – .263, 11 HR, 66 RBI, 483 AB, 133 G]
INF Emmanuel Garcia [2008 BNG – .243, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 367 AB, 104 G]
3B Mark Kiger [2008 AA – .223, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 376 AB, 109 G]
SS Ruben Tejada (14) [2008 SLU – .229, 2 HR, 37 RBI, 497 AB, 131 G]

OF Frank Diaz [2008 AA/AAA – .270, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 281 AB, 81 G]
OF Carl Loadenthal [2008 AA/AAA – .261, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 306 AB, 94 G]
OF Josh Petersen [2008 SLU/BNG/NO – .271, 3 HR, 34 RBI, 291 AB, 95 G]
OF Caleb Stewart [2008 BNG/NO – .270, 14 HR, 66 RBI, 471 AB, 132 G]
OF D.J. Wabick [2008 SLU – .289, 7 HR, 59 RBI, 454 AB, 125 G]

Notes: After producing a number of big league contributors last season, this year's B-Mets squad is chock full of prospects looking for an identity. Entering the season, no one on the roster is on the verge of making it to New York in 2009 but that will not deny the club from creating a number of interesting storylines.

The biggest question mark focuses on the lineup which is short on run producers with an outfield featuring two minor league free agents [Diaz and Loadenthal], but who lack a track record of production. Last season's B-Mets made headway in the Eastern League's standings, but questions about the everyday order means the pitching staff will have to shoulder the load.

The man overseeing the staff is pitching coach Hector Berrios who joins the B-Mets staff after spending the last three seasons in Brooklyn where he worked with Antonini, Owen, Merritt, Brown and others.

On the Rise: Josh Thole is a name many will be focusing on as he planted himself on the radar with a breakthrough season with St. Lucie in 2008. It is the first time he has the reigns of the pitching staff as the everyday catcher. Known for a good eye and plate discipline, scouts are waiting to see how he improves his work behind the plate.

Pitching: The B-Mets closed the 2008 season with a formidable pitching staff loaded with highly ranked prospects, but return this year with a mix of prospects, veterans and free-agent signings. The bullpen is a patchwork of system veterans like Tim McNab, Nick Abel and Edgar Alfonzo, free agent signings in Fernando Nieve, Julio De La Cruz and system risers Ryan Coultas and Roy Merritt.

Jose Sanchez returns to Binghamton for the third straight season and looks to continue the momentum he created last season when he won a career-high 13 games and posted a career-best 3.83 ERA. He has made at least 24 starts each of the last four seasons and is the steady hand this rotation needs.

Michael Antonini is the leading southpaw who is gaining traction around scouting and big league circles because of his ability to throw strikes and work the corners. He rocketed up the ranks last season and is becoming the left-handed starter this system needs behind former B-Met Jon Niese.

Dylan Owen made three uninspiring starts at the end of the 2008 season but is back to show he can repeat the success he achieved in Brooklyn and St. Lucie. Owen has a track record of adjusting to the next level but fastball command, which he lacked with Binghamton last season, will be pivotal to his success in 2009.

Position Players: The biggest questions surrounding this lineup is who will produce the runs needed to stay competitive in a very tough league. Eyes will be on first baseman Lucas Duda who figures to hit in the heart of this order. His on-base averages took a hit last season in St. Lucie, but he will be looked upon to hit for power and knock in runs.

Shawn Bowman returns to Double-A where he spent the second half of the 2008 season. Bowman begins the season on Opening Day for the first time in years and looks poised to make an impact. Bowman too should hit somewhere in the middle of the order, providing a good compliment of contact and extra-base skills around Duda and power-hitting outfielder Caleb Stewart.

Matt Bouchard exceeded outside expectations when he earned a spot on the Binghamton roster after an injury plagued sophomore season in 2008. Bouchard's big league glove could earn him the everyday job at second base, but at the very least provides manager Mako Oliveras with a utility man he can put at shortstop [Bouchard's natural position] or third base and know he will get no drop-off or, in the case of shortstop, an upgrade.

On the Spot: Ruben Tejada is the youngster that truly stands out. At 19 years old, the starting shortstop will be one of the youngest players in the entire Eastern League. A fast mover who the organization has continually challenged, he has so far totaled only 738 career at-bats with 241 of those coming in rookie ball.

Under the Radar: Ryan Coultas' transition from light-hitting utility infielder to hard-throwing reliever is an uncommon story. Coultas' last trip to Binghamton in 2007 saw him hit .182 with eight RBI in 21 games before the organization recommended the switch. Now he returns with a low to mid-90s fastball and secondary pitches that keep hitters off balance.

Outlook: Last season, the B-Mets picked themselves up out last place in the Eastern League season to finish 73-69 and 11 games back of first place. Their division is no picnic as it features the heavily favored affiliates of the Yankees and Red Sox, making their challenge even tougher. In a hitter's league, the B-Mets will really need their pitching to exceed expectations to try and knock off one of the EL North Division powers.

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