FanPost

Prospects in Extremis: What if the Mets Only Used Homegrown Players?

These days one of the best parts of being a Mets fan is watching a farm system that's full of promise. It's much more fun to dream about prospects ceilings than to dwell on Johan Santana's health, Frank Francisco's blown saves or Jay Bay's deferred dollars.

Some of us are so focused on the farm that a subset of Mets fans philosophy can almost be summed up as: Prospects = good, free agents = evil and trade targets = only if we don't have to give up good prospects.

I said "almost" so please don't take that literally. Anyway, I got curious about how good/bad our farm system has been over the recent past.

What would the current Mets look like if we'd had a 15 year ban on signing free agents or making trades? What if we only used 100% homegrown players? Of course it's not possible, or even desirable - imagine how boring off-seasons would be. But could such a Mets team compete?

I scanned ESPN's currently published 40 man rosters for the other 29 teams looking for guys who started their career in the Mets system and put them together with homegrown players in the org who've seen mlb time or might soon.

For this exercise my definition of a "Homegrown Met" is a guy we drafted & signed or signed as an International Free Agent. After all, if we never made a trade we wouldn't be able to acquire the Wheelers, d'Arnauds & Syndergaards of the world. And if we never signed a free agent, we wouldn't have had the Beltrans or Dickeys that we traded for those prospects either.

Of course, there's no way to really know who would be in the org if we'd practiced this philosophy over the past 15 years. Two big issues are:

  • We can't turn back the clock to establish which player we would have drafted with the picks sacrificed after signing free agents. We sacrificed first round picks in 1999, 2006 & 2009 - possibly 2nd rounders elsewhere.
  • I do include supplemental and compensatory pick guys like David Wright & Ike Davis. Under the "no trade/no FA" regime we wouldn't have acquired Mike Hampton or Tom Glavine whose departures gave us the draft picks used to acquire Wright ‘n Ike. Other notable 1st round supplemental/compensatory picks were Michael Fulmer & Kevin Plawecki.

To some degree keeping Wright ‘n Ike offsets the picks we lost - maybe they outweigh them - we'll never know. So if you're willing to suspend disbelief and assume they're roughly a wash, read on to see what our Homegrown Alternate 2012 team might have looked like. Hopefully I haven't missed guys or gotten their original affiliation wrong but I'm confident you'll correct me if I have.

I'll start with my projected starting 9 - 8 positions with a platoon at catcher. I chose Tejada over Murphy at 2nd base.

Position Players

Bat/Pos

Salary2012/13

Stats

fWAR

1. Jose Reyes

SH SS

$10m/$10m

716PA 109RC 40sb 11HR

4.5

2. Carlos Gomez

RH RF

$2m/$4.3m

452PA 105 RC 19HR

3.5

3. David Wright

RH 3B

$15m/$11m

670PA 21HR 140RC

7.8

4. Ike Davis

LH 1B

$507k/$3.125m

584PA 32HR 110RC

1.6

5. Nelson Cruz

RH LF

$6.25m/$10.5m

585PA 24HR 105RC

1.3

6. Angel Pagan

SH CF

$4.85m/$7m

659PA 113RC 8HR 29SB

4.8

7. Ruben Tejada

RH 2B

$500k/$500k

501PA 92RC

2.1

8a. Jesus Flores R

RH C

$815k/$500k

296PA 6HR 50RC

0.0

8b. Josh Thole L

LH C

$500k/$1.25m

354PA 1HR 60RC

0.1

Quite a different OF than the "real" 2012 Mets. One that totaled 9.6 WAR last season though only hit 51 HRs. The lineup adds speedsters Reyes, Pagan & Gomez who increase our overall athleticism and with two being switch hitters decreases our vulnerability to matchup relievers. I've got Nelson Cruz in left but he's a career +3.7 RFer so defense should be above average across the board save for behind the dish and 3B if DW has a bad year.

Offensively the entire OF is an upgrade from what we actually fielded in 2012 and since I just slid Tejada 90 feet to the right I essentially swapped Reyes bat for Dan Murphy - an upgrade - plus we have Murph as a super-sub off the bench. Catcher is a black hole without much immediate help on the way since under this philosophy we don't have d'Arnaud.

On to pitching:

Starting Pitchers

Team

Salary2012/13

Stats

fWAR

A.J. Burnett

Pirates

$16.5m/$16.5m

202.1ip 3.4fip 57%GB 8/2.76 k/bb

3.4

Jon Niese

Mets

$800k/$3m

190.1ip 3.8fip

2.4

Matt Harvey

Mets

$500k/$500k

59.1ip 3.49fip

1.1

Dillon Gee

Mets

$500k/$500k

109.2ip 3.54fip

1.5

Mike Pelfrey

Twins

$5.7m/$4m

19.2ip 3.35fip

0.6

Burnett over Santana would have been a big improvement. Aside from the distribution of innings, there's not a huge difference from where we began 2012. But the Homegrown Opening Day starting five delivers only 581.1ip compared to the 975 our actual starters threw last season. Of course, no club only uses five starters. Last season a full 210 innings came from 6th or lower starting pitchers. This club needs 393 ip from those types. Of course, if Pelfrey were a) to stay healthy and b) be effective enough to remain in the rotation that 393 innings would drop dramatically.

But since for this exercise we're playing the 2012 season again, we need a lot more innings from hurlers on what will become the Vegas Shuttle. Here's what the likely pool did at the big league level in 2012:

Call-Up SP's

2012 Club

Est Sal 12/13

Innings

fWAR

Jeurys Familia RH

Mets

$500k ea.

12.1ip

0

Jenry Mejia RH

Mets

$500k ea.

16ip

-0.1

Colin McHugh RH

Mets

$500k ea.

21.1ip

-0.3

Chris Schwinden RH

Mets

$500k ea.

8.2ip

-0.4

Phil Humber RH

Astros

$500k ea.

102ip 4.84fip

-0.2

Yusmierio Petit RH

Giants

$500k ea.

4.2ip

0

The first move would have been to get Matt Harvey up as soon as Pelfrey got injured meaning an extra 90 or so innings of Matt. Would an earlier call up have netted him a Rookie of the Year nod or slowed his development arc? We'll never know.

Since we still need a ton more innings we'd then probably use all of Phil Humber's 102 big league innings from 2012 if not asked him to toss more. We got 58.33 innings from the quartet of Familia, Mejia, McHugh & Schwinden but we're still 233 innings short with Yusi Petit around while Scott Kazmir watches from the DL. Figure Yusi + the kiddie quartet eat the remaining 145 innings.

Just for yucks I'm going to assume a slightly slower development from Harvey that doubles his WAR to 2.2, add Humber's -0.2 and triple the -0.8 to -2.4 from the kiddie quartet. So we net out at -1.5 WAR in order to make up for unaccounted starting pitcher innings.

How about the black hole that was the real 2012 Mets bullpen? It gets a pretty big makeover:

Bullpen

2012 Club

Est Sal 12/13

Innings

fWAR

Bobby Parnell R

Mets

$504k/$1.7m

68.2ip 3.15fip

1.0

Octavio Dotel R

Tigers

$3m/$3.5m

56ip 9.6/1.9 k/bb

1.5

Matt Lindstrom R

White Sox

$3.6m/$2.8m

47ip, 3.79xfip, 7.7/2.7 k/bb

0.7

Heath Bell R

D-backs

$6m/$9m

63ip 4.02fip 8.3/4.1bb/k

0.4

Hisanori Takahashi L

Pirates

$4.2m/$500k

50ip 3.79fip 9.3/2.5bb/k

0.2

Joe Smith R

Indians

$1.75m/$3.15m

67ip 3.50fip

0.7

This bullpen is expensive but performed much better than the real Mets pen in 2012. Takahashi as a lefty specialist allows Josh Edgin to be just a phone call away - though some might prefer him over Lindstrom or Bell. Bell or Parnell would likely close. The biggest weakness is theree's no long man. Thanks to acerimusdux for finding Tak, Joe Smith & Cleto for me. I had initially seen pen depth as weak but his catches give up a lot better depth.

To some degree, this pen presents the same challenge our "alternate" rotation would - turning to youngsters to eat a lot of innings. We leaned on the bullpen for 459 innings last season. The above six man pen covers 351ip leaving us 108 short that will have to filled by other guys like:

Call Up Relievers

Player

2012 Club

Est. Salary

2012 mlb innings

fWAR

Josh Edgin L

Mets

$500,000

26.2ip 3.82fip 10+k

-0.2

Robert Carson L

Mets

$500,000

13.1ip

-0.2

Elvin Ramirez R

Mets

$500,000

21.1

-0.1

Maikel Cleto R

Cardinals

$500,000

9ip 15k/13h

-0.2

Jack Egbert R

Mets

$500,000

0.2

0

Familia & Mejia are missing because we needed them to cover starting pitcher innings - maybe 1 would have doubled his SP load and the other would have ben available for the pen. The above relievers combined for 71 mlb innings last season so we'll spread the extra 37 among them and as a result we'll also take their -0.7 WAR and convert it to -1.0.

It's possible we would have turned to other young arms as well. Some might have swum nicely others might have drowned. But clearly, given the difficulty of keeping starting pitchers off the DL, the club has not done a good enough job of grooming enough healthy starting pitching over the past 15 years to provide much of a margin for error. The good news is that moving forward we've got some exciting young arms in the pipeline but remember that this definition of "homegrown" means we don't get Wheeler or Syndergaard because they arrived via trade. The future would rest on the shoulders of Mejia and Familia being forced to start until the next wave of Tapia, Fulmer et. al. develops - or not.

Finally, the bench.

Bench

Position

Est. Salary

MLB 2012

WAR

Daniel Murphy L

1B 2B 3B

$513k/$2.9m

612PA 6HR 101RC

1.8

Mike Carp L

1B LF

$500k ea.

189PA 5HR 88RC

0.1

Ty Wigginton R

1B 3B LF

$4.5m/$2.5m

360PA 11HR 87RC

-0.7

Fernando Martinez L

LF RF

$500k ea.

130PA 6HR 107RC

0.7

Kirk Nieuwenhuis L

CF LF RF

$500k ea.

314PA 92RC

0.9

If the event Reyes was DL'd then Tejada would slide over to SS and Murphy would fill in at 2B. There's a whole other pool of guys who could fill some of these slots and would have been brought up from time to time. I don't want to go into too much detail but I chose a Wiggy over a Valdespin because he's the only RH pinch hitter on days that Flores starts. Here are other guys just a slot machine away - I'll just give 5 to round out the roster at 40:

Bench Call-Ups

Position

Est. Salary

MLB 2012

WAR

Lucas Duda L

LF

$500,000

459PA 101RC 15HR

-1.1

Jordany Valdespin L

MI/OF

$500,000

202PA 6HR 94RC

0.2

Zach Lutz R

1B/3B

$500,000

11PA

Wilmer Flores R

1B/2B/3B

$500,000

0

Believe it or not, we've filled out our 40-man but still have some useful pieces for depth. I'm limiting this list to young guys who are currently on the Mets 40-man, a couple of older guys either bouncing around the minors, trying for comebacks, prepping to retire or have moved to Japan. Without further ado - the rest of the guys who conceivably could help a big league club this season.

Zack Wheeler

Darin Gorski

Cesar Puello

Juan Lagares

Wilfredo Tovar

Reese Havens

Endy Chavez

J Isringhausen

Guillermo Mota

Scott Kazmir

Drew Butera (C)

Aaron Heilman

LMillz

So how might this team have done? We'll never know but we can peek at fWAR to get at least a relative measure compared to the real 2012 club.

I did some more tweaking in order to get us to the right number of PAs & IP for a normal season. I cut about 40% of "bench PAs" and correspondingly their WAR contribution because the starting position players were all healthy and got a lot of PAs last season. The pitching tweaks were outlined above.

Here's an estimated WAR round up of how our Homegrown Alternate 2012 club could have WAR'd:

Grouping

Actual WAR

Adjusted WAR

Salary 2012/2013

Position players 7 + 2 platooned catchers

25.7

25.7

$40.422m/$48.175m

First Five Starting Pitchers

9.0

10.1

$24m/$24.5m

Call Up Starting Pitchers

-1.0

-2.6

$3m/$3m

Relievers on 25-man

4.5

4.5

$19.054m/$20.65m

Call Up Relievers

-0.7

-1.0

$2.5m/$2.5m

Bench on 25-man

2.8

1.7

$6.513m/$6.9m

Call Up Bench

-0.9

0

$2m/$2m

Cumulative

39.4

38.4

$97.5m/$107.725m

Real 2012 Mets

31.3

So by WAR, we'd have had an Homegrown Alternate 2012 club that theoretically could have managed about 7 more wins over the real 2012 Mets. As one poster noted recently, that's not far from a single standard deviation. It's also interesting to note that the payroll for these guys would have been similar to the real Mets.

As nice as five extra wins would have been, the Homegrown Alternate Mets would be facing some real challenges.

  • The catcher situation leaves a lot to be desired with no immediate help in sight. Remember, we don't have d'Arnaud because we don't make trades. Nate W pointed out Drew Butera is a servicable 3rd catcher that I missed who's gotten 122+ PAs each of the past 3 seasons.
  • Starting pitching is too reliant on Mejia/Familia to become effective starters because without Wheeler/Synergaard, the next wave is pretty far away.
  • I like the position players a lot - except for catchers of course.
  • The bullpen is much improved thanks to the discovery of Takahashi & Joe Smith by acerimusdux.
  • The bench lacks proven right handed hitters, though Wilmer could help fill that weakness.
  • I've come up with about 45-49 big leaguers on actual 40-man rosters depending how you count old guys. There's a comment/link below that shows our count is better than most. Based on the fWAR (which of course has its limits) projection, the talent those players provide is probably less than average when squeezed onto a roster for a 162 game season. So you could argue, the last fifteen years of Mets drafts have yielded roughly average talent. It would be interesting to do this same exercise in about five years.
  • If Ike reaches his ceiling and one of Fulmer or Plawecki become above average starters then this roster might well be better than one where we had gotten all our lost draft picks but lost our supplemental & compensatories.

Again, I'm in no way suggesting we should adopt anything approaching a no trade/FA strategy - I really wanted to get a sense for how our homegrown Mets have turned out. It was a fun stroll down Prospects Past Memory Lane for me - here's hoping the real Mets of 2014 would kick the crap out of their Homegrown brethren.

Hat tip to acerimusdux for finding Cleto, Takahashi & Joe Smith as well as T Agee for adding Guillermo Mota & Endy Chavez to the list. And to Nate W for finding Drew Butera.

Note: All RC is wRC+, fip is xfip

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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