The Mets 40-Man Roster Additions: Zack Wheeler, Darin Gorski and ….?

Yesterday was the deadline for teams to submit their reserve lists for the Major League Baseball Rule 5 draft. Players who are on the Mets’ 40-man roster are not eligible to be drafted. Any player who is not on the 40-man, who was signed at 19, who has been in the system for four drafts or a player who was 18 or younger who has been in the system for five drafts, is eligible to be selected.

So, adding players to the 40-man roster removes them from the player pool in the Rule 5. In the MLB phase of the draft, the selecting team must keep a player on their major league roster all year long (active for at least 90 days). In the minor league phase of the draft, there are no roster restrictions.

The Mets added four RHP: Zack Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Gonzaelez Germen and Greg Burke, one LHP: Darin Gorski and infielder Wilfredo Tovar.

Zack Wheeler
Put simply, Wheeler is the best prospect in the Mets minor league system. Wheeler, who turned 22 in May, has a big-time fastball that lives in the mid-upper 90s. His curveball and slider both could be plus pitches, while his changeup lags as his fourth offering. When his breaking balls are on, and in the strike zone, he can be untouchable. He finished ninth in the AA Eastern League in ERA (3.26), fourth in WHIP (1.16), fourth in opponents’ batting average (.225), second among starters in strikeout rate (9.08/9 innings pitched). Promoted to Buffalo in early August, he made six starts in AAA where he put together a solid 3.27 ERA, and fanned 31 batters in 33 innings, but walked 16. Just like their AA counterparts, AAA hitters had trouble squaring up Wheeler’s top shelf stuff (23 hits/.205 opponents’ batting average). However, his walks stand out strongly. When he throws more strikes, he will be ready for the big leagues, likely before July 1, 2013, but after May 20 or so, saving him from potential super-two status.

Hansel Robles
Robles is a surprising addition to the 40-man roster. He put up fantastic numbers (1.11 ERA, 8.17 K/9, 1.2 BB/9, 6.6 K/BB) for Short-season Brooklyn, while turning 22 in August, making him three months younger than Zack Wheeler while pitching three/four levels below him on the organizational ladder. I missed Robles in Coney Island this summer, but in September, Jeff Paternostro wrote the definitive piece on the short (5’11″) right-hander at Amazin Avenue here. I’ll sum up: working out of a low arm-slot, Robles can touch 94-95, although other starts, he will sit 91-92 and touch 93. His slider has more horizontal movement than vertical break (a common feature from low-slot pitchers) and his changeup has good arm speed and deception. Considering the fact that he’s likely to start in Savannah, burning a 40-man spot on Robles is surprising, but the Mets clearly felt that some team might take a chance on him based on his fastball and ability to throw strikes.

Gonzalez Germen
Germen, who turned 25 in September, began in advanced-A in 2012, moved to AA, where he made 19 starts, and then make a spot start in Buffalo. He’s a well-developed, toned 6’1″, 175 pounds, who generally sits 90-91 with his fastball, although he can run it up a little harder touching 93. He too works out of a low arm slot. His second-best pitch is his change-up, and at least when he was in Savannah a year ago, his slider was rudimentary. It’s a funny profile for a right-hander but based on his numbers in AA – 127 H, 97 K, and 33 BB in 119.2 IP (7.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9) I do not see a Major League starter. He’s just too hittable with nothing to keep Major League hitters off-balance. He could end up in the bullpen as early as the middle of 2013, however.

Greg Burke
The Mets signed Burke as a minor league free agent this winter. The Padres rescued the Duke product out of Indy ball in 2006. Most recently, he put up very nice nubmers for AA Bowie and AAA Norfolk in 2012 with a combined 50/15 K/BB ratio in 64.2 innings. He had Tommy John Surgery way back in college in 2002, and struggled to regain with his velocity during his subsequent collegiate campaign. Burke appeared in 48 games for the Padres in 2009, putting up a 92 ERA+ with 23 walks, 33 strikeouts and 48 hits allowed in 45.2 innings. At that time, he was a fastball/slider pitcher throwing his heater, which averaged 91 mph 66% of the time and his 83 mph slider 27%. He’ll get his shot in the Mets’ bullpen in 2013.

Darin Gorski
The Mets drafted the tall, lean (6’4″, 210) left-hander in the seventh round in 2009. He looked like nothing special in Savannah in 2010, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen, allowing 125 hits and 12 homers and a 4.58 ERA in 114 innings in the South Atlantic League. His velocity was upper 80s mostly, and while he had good feel and arm-speed on his changeup, he could not keep batters honest with the fastball, and was hurt on anything over the plate. He made a few mechanical tweaks, improved his slider, and added a few ticks on his heater to 89-91 in 2011 in St. Lucie, and voila, had success (2.08 ERA, 140 K/29 BB – 3.8 K/BB) earning the Mets minor league pitcher of the year. Promoted to AA Binghamton, Gorski, who just turned 25 this October, had a solid, but unspectacular year: 4.00 ERA, 118 K/50 BB – 2.4 K/BB and 20 homers allowed in 139.2 innings. His HR/9 doubled from 0.7 in advanced-A to 1.3 in AA, while his walk rate moved up from 1.9 to 3.2 and his K/rate slipped from 9.1 to 7.6. That kind of performance erosion is totally expected. Perhaps there’s a back-end starter in there, potentially as soon as mid-late 2013 after some triple-A seasoning.

Wilfredo Tovar
Wilfredo Tovar turned 21 in August, the same week as Wilmer Flores, his infield-mate in AA. Tovar is easily the top defensive shortstop in the organization. It’s not close. His glove should get him to the big leagues. The question is whether he’s going to hit enough to hold down an everyday role or whether his light bat will keep him as a utility infielder. In 57 games in AA, he hit .254/.308/.332 with 11 walks against 22 strikeouts. He makes contact and doesn’t strike out, but because he has well below average power, and pitchers do not fear challenging him, he must be extraordinarily selective to draw his walks. Anyway, he’ll play in the big leagues.

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