With spring training upon us and so much discussion about the major league roster, it's easy to forget that the majority of players who've descended on St. Lucie are minor leaguers. There has been much discussion about the glut of starting pitching the Mets have at the major league level--eight legitimate starters if you include Noah Syndergaard--but the abundance of starting pitching is not limited to the major league level. Inspired by an email to the podcast a few weeks back, I thought it would be fun to project the starting rotations for all of the full-season minor league affiliates.
Triple-A Las Vegas
This is the most straightforward affiliate to project, with three absolute locks and two others who are almost certainly going to be in the rotation. The locks are Syndergaard, Rafael Montero, and Steven Matz, who hasn't pitched yet at this level but has nothing left to prove in Double-A. The other two starters are Matthew Bowman and Cory Mazzoni, both of whom made starts for Vegas in 2014. Bowman is a good bet to lead the rotation in games started this season given the quality of the arms ahead of him who are more likely to pitch in the majors this season. Mazzoni is the wildcard of this staff because most analysts project him to end up in the bullpen. I doubt the Mets will fast track that move, so expect Mazzoni to begin the season as a starter.
My initial thought was that this is where things would get complicated but after reviewing all of the available arms, I just don't see anyone bumping the following five starters from the rotation. Tyler Pill and Rainy Lara spent all of all or most of their 2014 seasons in the Binghamton rotation and I see no reason that will change in 2015. Neither pitcher distinguished themselves as deserving a promotion and both are fortunate there aren't other starters more deserving, particularly Lara, whose projection is not as a major league starter. The other rotation spots will in all likelihood be occupied by Gabriel Ynoa, Michael Fulmer, and Luis Cessa. It may be a disappointment for Ynoa to return to Binghamton but there isn't room in Vegas and, frankly, he has some things he needs to work on that are best done in a non-desert environment.
High-A St. Lucie
This is the level where I had more arms than I knew what to do with. Here's a list of all the arms I expect to vie for starts in St. Lucie: Domingo Tapia, Matthew Koch, Kevin McGowan, John Gant, Robert Gsellman, Rob Whalen, Miller Diaz, and Logan Taylor. That's eight guys for six rotation spots which means I expect a couple of spots to piggyback for at least the first half. It's quite the glut but I believe this is the right level for all of these pitchers. There are two wildcards in this group. The first is Tapia, who has already spent the past two seasons at this level. He would have been moved to the bullpen by now if he didn't possess the highest potential fastball in the system. I think they'll give him one more stint here to see if they can get something to click because I just don't see them quitting on him as a starter yet and I don't think they're going to throw him to wolves in Double-A. The second wildcard is Koch, who was the Mets' third-round pick in the 2012 draft. He was a reliever in college the year the Mets drafted him and it would not surprise me if they transitioned him back there to free up some space and also maximize what Koch has to offer.
The Low-A rotation is always a difficult one to predict because you're dealing with young pitchers and it's not always clear who the organization thinks is ready to handle a full season assignment. None of the arms from the 2014 Kingsport rotation stand out as obvious candidates the way Whalen and Chris Flexen did the year before, though it wouldn't surprise me if James Duff or Persio Reyes made the leap. The most likely scenario is that all of the intriguing Brooklyn Cyclone arms from last year will be promoted, the most obvious of which are Casey Meisner and Marcos Molina. I expect Corey Oswalt, Scarlyn Reyes, Josh Prevost, Brad Wieck, and Ricky Knapp to round out the remaining spots in the rotation with Reyes, Prevost, and Wieck as likely piggyback candidates. Molina is an interesting case because all reports indicate he could probably make the leap straight to High-A. This front office's track record indicates they will take the conservative approach with Molina.
What about me?
Alex Panteliodis has made 55 starts between Savannah and St. Lucie over the past three seasons. He hasn't done much to separate himself and, at age 24, I expect he'll transition into the bullpen or act as a spot starter.
If the front office doesn't transition Darin Gorski into a LOOGY, I expect he will spend most of his season filling any rotation spots that open up in Vegas or Binghamton, particularly if they go with a six man rotation in double-A.
Chris Flexen should have a rotation spot somewhere once he is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. I'm sure that with promotions and/or injures there will be a spot available.
Luis Mateo was shut down after just 10.1 innings last year as he attempted to come back from Tommy John surgery. If healthy he appears destined for the bullpen.
Blake Taylor, the former second-round pick the Mets acquired in the Ike Davis trade, is just 19 years-old and is almost certainly headed to Brooklyn.
It's a reflection on the drafting of this front office that there are so many competent arms vying for rotation spots, particularly in the lower levels of full-season. They've drafted a lot of strike throwing college starters, though none has yet emerged as a standout prospect. Likewise, none of their high-school draft picks have yet to emerge--we'll see if Meisner can change that trend this year. The bulk of their success has come via the international market, where starters such as Montero, Ynoa, and Molina have established themselves as legitimate starting pitching prospects. It will be interesting to see who can emerge this season and keep the starting pitching pipeline going after Syndergaard and (potentially) Matz graduate this year. So here's a guess at what the rotations will look like when the season begins:
|Matthew Bowman||Luis Cessa||John Gant||Casey Meisner|
|Steven Matz||Michael Fulmer||Robert Gsellman||Marcos Molina|
|Cory Mazzoni||Rainy Lara||Kevin McGowan||Ricky Knapp|
|Rafael Montero||Tyler Pill||Domingo Tapia||Corey Oswalt|
|Noah Syndergaard||Gabriel Ynoa||Matt Koch/Logan Taylor||Josh Prevost|
|Miller Diaz/Robert Whalen||Scarlyn Reyes/Brad Wieck|
What do you think?