The Mets have lots of pitching prospect depth, right? Nope. Outside of Noah Syndergaard, who really is the team’s top prospect, the team’s depth for 2014 is already in the big leagues. Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom are helping out in the rotation. Jenrry Mejia has found a home at the back of the Mets bullpen.
However, beyond Syndergaard, the next set of guys who project as potential members of a big league rotation (LHP Steven Matz and RHP Gabriel Ynoa) are in advanced Single-A. They are both three levels, and at least a full calendar year, from the big leagues.
Syndergaard, of course, is dealing with his own setback now. The crown jewel of the Mets’ farm system, the 21-year-old was placed on the disabled list with a flexor-pronatoor strain. An MRI came back clean, but he will be shut down for at least a few weeks. That will slow the timetable for his MLB debute down until late-July or early August. A similar diagnosis in fellow hard-throwing pitchers. including Steven Strasburg and Josh Johnson, led to Tommy John surgery.
Meanwhile, Dillon Gee, who was only supposed to miss two starts, is now out indefinitely and is beginning his rehab program over in St. Lucie. In theory, when Gee returns, the Mets will have six starters. Add a healthy Syndergaard to Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Montero and deGrom and the Mets would have seven starters. In 2015, Matt Harvey and Jeremy Hefner will be recovered from their Tommy John surgeries, and barring trades, the Mets would have up to nine healthy starting pitching candidates.
As for immediate depth beyond them? Not much.
This is a rotation in flux following the promotions of Montero and deGrom and the injury to Syndergaard.
Logan Verrett, the Mets’ third round pick out of Baylor in 2011, is an extreme strikethrower with a below average fastball, but a nice slider. He just does not miss enough bats to be a big league starter. In 61 2/3 innings in Triple-A this year, he’s fanned 43 (15.5 percent) and walked nine (3.2 percent) on his way to a 4.96 ERA. When he’s in the zone, he gives up lots of loud contact, as the PCL is hitting .331/.350/.446 against him this year with a .377 BABIP. He ran a 4.25 ERA in Double-A last year, but struck out 22.5 percent of hitters and walked 5.3 percent. He has a chance to be the first Sandy Alderson draftee to reach the majors, but big league hitters would hit him hard.
The 36-year-old Giancarlo Alvarado slipped into the Las Vegas rotation after the Mets promoted Montero and deGrom. The Mets originally signed Alvarado to a minor-league deal last June. In parts of six seasons, he’s run a fine 3.81 ERA in 481 2/3 innings Triple-A, largely in the PCL with a 20.4 percent strikeout rate and a 9.7 percent walk rate. After a pair of competant starts, he was ripped for six runs, thanks to nine hits, three hit batsmen and two walks, in his last start. Overall, he’s fanned 19 (16 percent) and walked 16 (14 percent) in 23 1/3 innings in Vegas this year. The well-traveled Alvarado has pitched professionally in Mexico, China, Japan, Taiwain and for the Puerto Rican national team.
Dana Eveland is a living, breathing example of the replacement concept. He’s pitched in the big leagues for seven teams in eight years between 2005 and 2012 working to a combined total of -1.0 bWAR. The Mets signed Eveland, who worked in Korea in 2013, in February to a minor-league deal without an invite to spring training.
The Mets signed Joel Carreno last November, in a move that was praised here and elsewhere, to provide options in the bullpen. He made his first 11 appearances for the 51s out of the bullpen before making a spot start on May 12 and another on May 24. He has almost been spectacularly ordinary in Triple-A: 4.50 ERA, 20.8 percent strikeout rate, 10.8 percent walk rate and 30 hits allowed in 28 innings. The Mets could probably throw Carreno, who hasn’t been primarily a starter in the minor leagues since 2011, in a big league bullpen, and he would pitch at a comfortably below-average level.
Greg Peavey was transferred to Double-A Binghamton on Wednesday after making his two Triple-A starts. In 8 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 12 runs on 15 hits, with a 7/7 K/BB ratio. Peavey made 39 relief appearances with Las Vegas in 2013, so in his two years with the 51s, he’s run a 6.59 ERA in 71 innings with a 48/35 K/BB ratio.
None of the pre-season Top 41 prospects are in the Double-A rotation. This is unusual.
All six of these pitchers work off a below average big league fastball. And forget the big leagues for a moment, all but one have been below average pitchers in double-A this season.
Matt Bowman, Tyler Pill and Hansel Robles have all struck out batters at a slightly above league average rate, but they’ve been hit hard when they are in the zone.
One of these things is not like the others though: Darin Gorski. Gorski, the only lefty of the group, taking his third hack at Double-A has certainly conquered the level. He flopped hard in Triple-A last year (13.2 IP, 17 H, 11 R, 9 BB, 7 K). His Triple-A tenure ended with a shoulder injury. The Mets outrighted Gorski off the team’s 40-man roster at the start of the 2013 season, which means that baseball’s other 29 teams also passed on offering him a roster spot. His best pitch is a changeup which has helped him put up better numbers against righties than lefties each of the last two years. However, he struggles at times when the pitch does not have enough separation off his soft fastball. He was recently promoted to Triple-A.
The prospect names get more fun as we move to Single-A and down, but players that far away are not relevant to helping out in 2014.
This comes against a backdrop in which Terry Collins has asked his starting pitchers to extend themselves in their last turn through the rotation in which every starter, other than Niese, matched or set a new season high for pitches. The pitch counts from the Mets starters in the last spin through the rotation: deGrom – 122, Montero – 113, Wheeler – 118, Niese – 104, Colon – 121. Collins must be extremely careful not to burn out his starters, or risk another series of Daisuke Matsuzaka spot starts or dipping into this collection of pitchers.