The Cy Young: Mets’ fans know R.A. is no flash in the pan one-season wonder. In his 3 seasons with the Mets, he has 574.1 IP with a 2.93 ERA a 1.14 WHIP and a 3.06:1 K/BB ratio. If you want to question whether or not he’ll be a perennial Cy Young Candidate, that’s fair – he’s not been THIS good before (the 1.01 WHIP, the 8.93 K/9), but the ERA and the walks have been pretty consistent and I think you can explain his progress from last year to this in a way that makes him a clear staff Ace.
The Up and Comer: After seeing his xFIP decline in each of his first 4 major league seasons, Jon Niese seems to have finally figured it out, though this year’s xFIP is 3.62 compared to an actual ERA of 3.55. He now has 535.2 major league innings, a 4.13 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP and has consistently been in the mid 7s in K/9 (career is 7.61). If he can avoid letting mistakes shake his concentration, we may see even better going forward.
The Future: Matt Harvey seems to be done with the minor leagues, having thrown 245.2 IP with a 3.48 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 9.82 K/9 between A+, AA and AAA. I’d be surprised if he can throw for a 3.04 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and 10.08 K/9 for a full season as he has in the majors so far, but for the first time since 1984, a Mets pitching prospect has reached the majors with a chance of becoming an Ace (for the Mets).
The Injury Risks: We’ll start with Nohan Santana. In his Mets’ career, Santana is 46-34 with a 3.176 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 7.62 K/9. All well and good, except that this covers 5 seasons, so to average just over 9 wins from your $25mil pitcher is not what you’d sign up for. Can the Mets keep him healthy next season? If you believe the no-hitter was the dividing point in his season, then logically all they need to do is be careful with him as they did in the first 11 starts of the season, when he put up a 2.38 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and had 68 K in 68 IP. The problem with that may be that Santana actually did have 3 pretty good starts in a row his last 3 starts in June, to the tune of 20 IP, a 0.90 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and 6.3 K/9. So if the no-no caused his downfall, how did he pitch so well in the month of June (2.77 ERA overall)? Still, it seems like none of his current ailments should prevent him from being ready to start the 2013 season in good condition. Just know that next year, he’s coming out after 100 pitches.
They say Dillon Gee shouldn’t have any further problems with his shoulder. I hope so because he surprised me this year. The scouting reports had him pegged as a 5th starter, but a 3.56 xFIP this season indicates much better than his 4.10 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. He brought his K/9 up to 7.99. Overall, he has 303.1 IP in the majors with a 4.06 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP and 6.76 K/9. If healthy, he should at least be a nice #4 with the potential to be a 12-15 game winner (on a team with a good bullpen).
If Harvey is the Future, what does that make Zack Wheeler? He has 322.2 minor league innings, a 3.48 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and 347 K. With Zack it’s all about the walks. In Buffalo, he has 16 of them in 33 innings. Even so, he only has a 1.18 WHIP and a 3.27 ERA. OK, maybe it’s not all about the walks.
Collin McHugh is a 6’2" 195 LB righty, an 18th round pick out of Berry College in 2009 (thanks Omar!). In his minor league career, he went 31-23 with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP and 523 K in 525.2 IP. Other than his first pro experience in 2007 and an inexplicably horrid 9 appearances in St. Lucie (6.31 ERA earned him a call-up to AA?) in 2011, he’s been very good. Since his call-up to Binghamton in the middle of last year, he’s gone 15-11 with a 2.90 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 235 K in 241.1 IP. His first two major league starts showed immense promise against putrid Colorado and major question marks against the tough Cards. Still, it seems he should be someone we can call on next year at some point.
Jeremy Hefner is a 6’4" 215 LB, 26-year-old righty, a former 10th round pick by the Padres out of Oral Roberts. His results have been up and down in the minors, from a 2.77 ERA this year in Buffalo and a 2.95 ERA in San Antonio (AA) in 2010 to a 4.98 ERA in Tucson in 2011 and a 4.12 ERA in the California League in ’09. I would hope we don’t need to use him next year, but he’s nice to have just in case.
Jennry Mejia is 6’0", 205 LBS and turns 23 in October. In his minor league career, he has 373.1 IP with a 2.89 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 326 K. Obviously the Tommy John surgery makes him a big question mark, as well as the distinct lack of power this year (29 K in 52.1 innings as a starter, only 10 in 21.1 innings as a reliever). Some guys take longer than others to recover from TJ, so hopefully next year we see a return to form for the youngster.
Jeurys Familia is 6’4", 230 LBS and also turns 23 in October. In 567.2 IP in the minors, he has a 3.85 ERA, a 1.36 WHIP and 544 K. His career BB/9 is 3.95, but he’s had two seasons (’10 and ’12) where he averaged 5.12 combined. The other stops he’s averaged 2.96 BB/9 (with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP in those seasons). So if he can figure out what not to do, he looks like a potential star. That is, as they say, a big "if".
Down on the Farm: in the lower minors we have a number of potentially exciting kids:
23-year old righty Cory Mazzoni (3.72 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 157.1 IP between ’11 and ’12)
22-year old righty Tyler Pill (2.43 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in 122 IP between ’11 and ’12)
19-year old rightly Michael Fulmer (3.10 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 111 K in 113.2 IP almost all in ’12)
22-year old rightly Rafael Montero (2.29 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 176 K in 192.1 IP and just 32 walks between ’11 and ’12)
24-year old righty Jake DeGroem (2.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 118 K in 137.1 IP) between ’10 and ’12, has improved as he’s moved up. Old for St. Lucie though.
Then there’s Brooklyn:
Gabriel Ynoa is a 19-year old righty (6’2" 158 LBS – that’s what it says on the website) with a 2.23 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and 64 K in 76.2 IP
Luis Mateo is a 22-year old righty (6’3" 185 LBS) with a 2.45 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and 85 K in 73.1 IP
Hansel Robles is a 22-year old righty (5’11 185 LBS) with a 1.11 ERA, a 0.78 WHP and 66 K in 72.2 IP
Rainy Lara is a 21-year old righty (6’4" 180 LBS) with a 2.91 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP and 77 K in 68 IP
By my count, we have two "sure things" for 2013 in Dickey and Niese, we have two injury risks in Santana and Gee and then we have 6 kids who are major league ready or close to it with varying degrees of upside in Harvey, Wheeler, McHugh, Hefner, Mejia and Familia. That’s up to 10 guys and it’s not counting Chris Young and Mike Pelfrey (nice knowing you guys). Then we have 9 other kids of varying upside potential between St. Lucie and Brooklyn.
Now, acknowledging the old maxims that There’s No Such Thing as a Pitching Prospect and You Can Never Have Too Much Pitching, do we have enough to trade to get some outfield help? I say yes! 19 guys are enough (not counting bullpen guys like Armando Rodriguez, Jack Leathersich and Adam Kolerek), I think, to go get some help.
So who can we target in a trade?
Ideally, I'd like to package Santana and Flores for Justin Upton and figure out the cash. The problem is Santana is damaged goods so as unlikely as this was before, I don't think there's any way it happens now.
The Indians are said to be willing to shop Shin-Soo Choo (.279/.368/.451 with 15 HR and 17 steals) as he heads into the final year of his contract next year. He is 30 with a line of .288/.380/.468 and has averaged 17 HR and 18 steals over the past 3 seasons. McHugh and Montero? He is a 30-year old with an expiring contract. I would be reluctant to sign him to longer than a 2-3 year extension.
The Dodgers signed a Cuban named Yasiel Puig to a huge contract and now seem to have nowhere for him to play with Kemp, Ethier and Crawford. He’s 6’3" 215 LBS and hit .330 with 17 HR and 47 RBI in 327 at bats in whatever league Cuba plays in. In 23 games this year in rookie ball and High-A, he hit .354/.442/.634 with 5 HR, 15 RBI and 8 steals in 82 at bats. He’s supposed to be 21 years old, but I guess you’ll have to cut him open and count the rings to find out for sure. I think DeGroem, Flores and Bay for Puig (he’s got a 7-year $42mil contract) seems pretty fair. LA needs a 3B and we need an OF and they seem to be bleeding cash, so they shouldn’t mind taking Bay’s salary for one year. For the Mets, they get an athletic stud OF for a guy they don’t have a position for and save $9mil on the payroll this year.
The Red Sox are said to be willing to shop Jacoby Ellsbury (last year hit .321/.376/.551 with 32 HR and 39 steals, career he’s .297/.349/.443). His career OPS is 100 points higher in Fenway than on the road though (.846 vs .744), so I'd be leary of trading for him.
If we could end up with Bourjos, Choo and Puig (who'd head to AA to start the year) and save $9mil, we could theoretically re-invest that $9mil on a free agent OF like Melky Cabrera or BJ Upton.
So with that, our rotation would be Dickey, Santana, Niese, Harvey and Gee with Wheeler, Familia and Hefner in case of emergency. Our infield would return intact and our OF would be Choo, Bourjos and Melky. The bullpen is another story for another time.