Scouting Mets' Prospect #36: Blake Eager

The New York Mets drafted Blake Eager out of Metro State College in the 30th round of the 2004 draft. After signing with the Mets in June, Eager was assigned to the Gulf Coast League to make his professional debut. Ranking #36 among the Mets' Top 50 prospects, here's a scouting report on Eager.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Blake Eager
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: May 19, 1982
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

Eager played at Eastern Arizona Junior College before transferring to Metro State College of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference prior to the start of the 2003 college season. In his first year at Metro State, Eager went 6-3 with a solid 4.76 ERA in ten starts for the Roadrunners, earning 2nd Team All-RMAC honors. He followed his good junior year with a solid, albeit slightly worse, senior year. Eager went 8-4 with a 5.33 ERA in 12 starts in 2004. He was among the league leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio (almost 4 to 1), striking out 68 batters in 76 innings pitched. Some people might look at his college totals as less than impressive. Keep in mind that Eager was pitching in the thin air of Denver. The entire Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference was a league filled with offensive numbers akin to the type of production found at Coors Field. The average ERA in the RMAC was 6.43 in 2004 and the median team batting average stood at a lofty .338. So while at first glance Eager's college numbers don't look too good, he was way above the league average.

After signing with the Mets, Eager was assigned to the GCL Mets of the rookie Gulf Coast League. Eager pitched very well in his professional debut, going 4-3 in 13 appearances with a solid 3.93 ERA. He made six relief appearances in the GCL and even got in two relief appearances for the Brooklyn Cyclones later in the year. Not only did Eager have to make the jump from college to pro, but he also had to make the mental jump and pitching transition from the hitter friendly RMAC to the normal ballparks of the professional ranks.

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2004

Brooklyn

0-0

3.1

0

0

4

0.00

2004

Gulf Coast

4-3

52.2

57

17

43

3.93


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Eager has an MLB fastball that averages around 91 MPH and tops off around 93 MPH. He has excellent command of his fastball and uses it to set up his breaking stuff.

Other Pitches. Eager throws a knuckle-curveball that sits in the 74-78 MPH range. He also throws a very good changeup that is clocked between 75-77 MPH regularly and compliments his repertoire with a developing slider that averages 80-82 MPH. He has excellent command of his changeup and curveball and is working hard on throwing his slider more consistently for strikes.

Pitching. Eager has three plus pitches with his fastball, curveball, and changeup. He has the ability to throw any of those three pitches consistently for strikes. Once he's mastered the command of his slider Eager has the opportunity to have one heck of a repertoire. He sets up his breaking pitches very well with his fastball and is a very balanced pitcher. He was more of a ground ball pitcher in college (for the aforementioned reasons) but that may change in the pros.

Projection. It's a little too early to tell, but despite being a late round draft selection some scouts believe he has frontline pitching ability. He has the control and the repertoire to be a very good starting pitching prospect for the Mets. After pitching in a Coors-like atmosphere in college, Eager could gain a ton of confidence as he rises through the minor leagues and learn to trust his stuff more. If he can make that leap mentally, Eager could be a diamond in the rough. Until he learns to trust his stuff more, he projects more as a backend starting pitcher, possibly a #4 or #5 starter. But keep an eye on his progression as he could develop into a special pitcher for the Mets.

ETA. 2007? Just as with his projection, setting an ETA at this time is not easy. We're going to have to see how his season goes in 2005 before we can give a more accurate timetable. Eager has the talent to force the Mets to make room for him in the Hagerstown rotation by allowing a couple of pitchers to skip a level next season. If Eager is in Hagerstown next season, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to see Eager make his debut with the Mets by some time in 2007.

Starting Pitchers

2004 Team

Aaron Heilman

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Bob Keppel

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Neal Musser AA - Binghamton Mets
Brian Bannister AA - Binghamton Mets
Yusmeiro Petit AA - Binghamton Mets
Miguel Pinanago A - St. Lucie Mets
Kevin Deaton A - St. Lucie Mets
Matthew Lindstrom A - Capital City Bombers
Vincent Cordova A - Capital City Bombers
Greg Ramirez A - Capital City Bombers
Evan MacLane A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Scott Hyde A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Michael Devaney A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Joseph Williams A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Mike Swindell A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Gaby Hernandez R - GCL Mets


Comments

The Mets have some good pitching prospects and the system's depth is only going to get better with the additions of Alay Soler, Matt Durkin, and Philip Humber. Considering they have not pitched a professional inning in the Mets system as of yet, we'll focus on the pitchers that have. Among the Mets' pitching prospects, Yusmeiro Petit and Gaby Hernandez seem to have the highest ceilings simply because of their age and talent. However, the Mets do have a number of other good pitching prospects that still have time on their side to make their mark. The following starting pitchers are currently in our Tier One group...the top starting pitching prospects in the Mets system.

1) Aaron Heilman - Heilman struggled out of the gate in 2004 but was perhaps the hottest pitcher in the entire Mets' system the second half of the year. All Heilman needs is a chance. Give the guy 30 starts and see what he can do. But that day may never come with the Mets as he appears to be in New York's doghouse. It's a shame too. He's a better pitcher than people think.

2) Bob Keppel - Like Heilman, Keppel struggled mightily to begin the 2004 campaign but finished the year strong. Keppel's always had the repertoire and pitching ability to become a Major League starter. The question has been his strikeout rate. Still only 22 years old and seems forgotten.

3) Neal Musser - With the trade of Scott Kazmir, Musser becomes the Mets' best left-handed starting pitching prospect. A top prospect a couple of years ago, Musser was beset with injuries and had a bounce back year in 2004. Musser is still only 24 years old and should not be forgotten.

4) Brian Bannister - His stats do not accurately portray how good a pitcher he is. Bannister has four plus pitches in his repertoire and has the chance to be a front-line starter someday. Remember, Bannister has only been pitching for 4 seasons...two in college, two in the pros. So as good as he is, he is still learning which is a scary thought.

5) Yusmeiro Petit - The Mets #1 pitching prospect the minute the Mets traded Kazmir. Forget about the pundits and all their talk about lack of "stuff". Petit knows how to pitch at such a young age (19). Drawing comparisons to Greg Maddux, Petit has the ability to change speeds on his fastball and is very deceptive on the mound. Bottom line is he's been baffling hitters from the word go.

6) Miguel Pinango - Pinango was cruising through the Mets system until an injury in St. Lucie ended his season in 2004 after just three starts. Pinango's command is superb. Only Petit's command is perhaps better and even that's not a lock. Still only 21 years old (he'll be 22 by the start of next season), Pinango is still a very good pitching prospect for the Mets.

7) Kevin Deaton - Growing up as an offensive lineman, Deaton is an imposing figure on the mound. Like Pinango, Deaton's rise through the system hit a speed bump in 2004 when he was plagued by injury (tendonitis). His fastball tops off at 94 MPH with solid movement and is still only 23 years old.

8) Matthew Lindstrom - Nobody throws as hard as Lindstrom does in the Mets' organization...nobody! Lindstrom is a fascinating talent that is getting a chance to showcase his stuff in the Arizona Fall League this year. With a fastball that regularly sits in the 94-96 MPH range, he can top it off at 100 MPH at times. Used primarily as a starter up to this point, his future seems to be in the bullpen...possibly as a closer.

9) Vincent Cordova - Cordova has the talent to be a very good pitching prospect for the Mets. Drafted out of college in 2003, Cordova needs to prove he can get hitters out at the higher level. Like Pinango and Petit, Cordova's success is predicated on his control. He's a Tier One prospect for now but time is not on his side.

10) Greg Ramirez - Used as both a starter and a relieve in his short career thus far, Ramirez is like Cordova. He has the talent and the stuff to be a Tier One pitching prospect for the Mets, but like Cordova, he's going to have to prove it at the higher levels to remain in this group. It's unclear how he will be used in the future.

11) Evan MacLane - MacLane gives the Mets' pitching in their farm system they seriously lack: quality left-handed pitching among their starting pitching prospects. MacLane was dominating South Atlantic League hitters in 2004 before being sent to Brooklyn where he had the same success. MacLane should be challenged in 2005 and will most likely be part of the St. Lucie staff. Like Ramirez, Cordova, Petit, and Pinango, MacLane is all about the control. He has great command of his pitches.

12) Scott Hyde - Hyde was not scheduled to pitch in live games this past season after being drafted but still managed to showcase some good pitching in his stint with the Cyclones. Hyde has the chance to be the "sleeper" among the Mets' 2004 draft picks.

13) Michael Devaney - Among the NY-Penn League leaders in ERA, Devaney is very solid. As is the case with most of the Cyclones' rotation, he'll have to duplicate the same success at the higher levels to remain in the Tier One level of starting pitching prospects.

14) Joseph Williams - Like Devaney, it's hard to dispute the success Williams had in Brooklyn this past season. The fact that he's a lefty aids his chances to be challenged quickly in the Mets' farm system.

15) Mike Swindell - Another college arm that was drafted in 2004 that will have to quickly prove he can become a solid starting pitching prospect for the Mets.

16) Gaby Hernandez - The Mets' third round pick in 2004, right now, Hernandez appears to be second behind Petit with the highest upside among the starting pitching prospects. It's too early to tell, but Hernandez has the talent to duplicate Petit's fast track through the minors.

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