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State of the System 2020: Starting Pitching

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The Mets minor league starting pitching depth has been depleted at the upper levels of the system, but there are several exciting prospects at the lower levels of the system.

Matthew Allan
Matthew Allan
Steve Sypa

After a number of trades in which the Mets sent starting pitching prospects to other teams for mid-season help for the major league squad, the organizations starting pitching depth is completely depleted at the upper levels of the system. This has effected the big league pitching staff at times, as the organization has often had to scramble to find quality pitching to make emergency starts in the event of an injury to one of the team’s primary starters. While the team has little starting pitching depth at the highest levels of it’s organization, the team has made bringing high-end starting pitching talent into the organization a priority in the last two drafts, giving them more than a few exciting pitching prospects in the pipeline.

The Syracuse Mets gave ten or more starts to 8 different pitchers, all of whom have big league service time to their names. Corey Oswalt, Drew Gagnon, Chris Flexen, Chris Mazza, and Walker Lockett all pitched significant innings for Syracuse, and all generally struggled with the big league team in stints in 2019. As of 2020, Corey Oswalt is the only one left in the organization. Gagnon and Flexen are both currently pitching in the Korean Baseball Association, Chris Mazza caught on with the Red Sox following the 2019 season and has thrown 20 innings for their big league team this year, and Lockett posted a 5.63 ERA in 8.0 innings for the Mets before being designated for assignment and catching on with the Mariners during 2020. The Syracuse Mets also gave more than ten starts to Casey Coleman, Ervin Santana, and Zach Lee, who all were veterans on minor league contracts and are all no longer in the organization.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies had a pair of relatively highly left-handed pitching prospects make more than ten starts for them in 2019. David Peterson led the team in games started, posting a 4.19 ERA and 3.19 FIP with 122 strikeouts and 37 walks in 116.0 innings pitched across 24 starts. Peterson’s performance, and the team’s general lack of major league ready starting pitching depth in general, thrust him into the Mets starting rotation in 2020. Peterson has thrown 31.2 innings for the Mets at the big league level this season, and has put up a 4.26 ERA and 4.71 FIP with 6.82 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.83 walks per nine innings for them. The Rumble Ponies also got 10 starts from Anthony Kay, who broke out with them in 2019 and appeared in the Futures Game before being packaged with Simeon Woods-Richardson in the trade that netted Marcus Stroman for the Mets. Knuckleballer and Binghamton baseball legend Mickey Jannis led the team in innings with 119.0 innings pitched, and Harol Gonzalez posted a 3.14 ERA in 97.1 innings before being promoted to Triple-A. Tommy Wilson contributed 69.0 innings of 4.96 ERA ball as well. Thomas Szapucki ended the season with Binghamton, and pitched generally well there, striking out four and walking one in four scoreless innings of work to end his season.

The St. Lucie Mets had five starters log more than ten starts. Luc Rennie led the team in innings with 108.0, and tied for the team lead with Kyle Wilson for most starts made with 20. Kevin Smith had something of a breakout year for St. Lucie, posting a 3.05 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 85.2 innings pitched before being promoted to Binghamton. Smith was recently traded to the Orioles for reliever Miguel Castro. Tony Dibrell thrived for St. Lucie, posting a 2.39 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 90 inning pitched before struggling after being promoted to the Eastern League. Dedniel Nunez also managed to work his way onto prospect rankings with his performance for St. Lucie in 2019, striking out 61 batters in 57.2 innings pitched. The Columbia Fireflies also gave the lion’s share of their starter’s innings to organizational players in 2019. Jose Butto, Christian James, Willy Taveras, and Colin Holderman all made more than ten starts for the Fireflies, with varying degrees of success. The Fireflies got 78.2 innings out of Simeon Woods-Richardson, before he was promoted to St. Lucie and subsequently traded to the Blue Jays for Marcus Stroman. Daison Acosta made 11 starts for the Fireflies after spending time with the Cyclones to start the season, and pitched reasonably well, posting a 3.78 ERA in 52.1 innings pitched after the promotion.

While the Mets generally lack depth at the full season levels, they have a number of interesting prospects at the short season levels and below. The Cyclones got seven or more starts from five pitchers. Matt Cleveland, Garrison Bryant, and Frank Valentino are all organizational players, and made the bulk of the starts for Brooklyn’s championship squad in 2019. Nate Jones was assigned to the Cyclones after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 draft, and contributed significant innings for the Cyclones during their playoff run. Among the hardest throwers in the Mets organization last season, Michel Otanez generally pitched pretty well for the Cyclones, putting up a 2.97 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. The Kingsport Mets also had one of the organization’s harder throwers on their staff, with Junior Santos leading the team with 14 starts and posting a 5.09 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 40.2 innings. Standing 6’8”, Santos is generally considered one of the best pitching prospects in the organization, ranking 14th our 2020 pre-season list.

Perhaps the most exciting pitchers in the organization are the team’s recent draftees. The Mets drafted Mathew Allan in the third round of last season’s draft, and it immediately became clear that he was among the best pitching prospects in the organization. They assigned him to the GCL where he generally dominated his peers, and promoted him to the Brooklyn Cyclones to help during their playoff push. Allan continued to perform very well after the promotion, contributing three scoreless innings of relief during the decisive game of the NYPL Championship series. The Mets also drafted Joshua Wolf in the second round of the 2019 draft, and assigned him to the GCL Mets as well. Wolf is a tall right-hander with a solid low to mid 90s fastball and a pretty good curve to complement it. Wolf is extremely tall and skinny at present, and there is reason to believe that he will grow into more velocity as he fills out more. Allan and Wolf are currently the Mets third and eleventh best prospects in the organization. The Mets also added a potentially impactful arm in the 2020 draft as well. The Mets selected J.T. Ginn in the second round of the 2020 draft and signed him to an over slot contract. Ginn was a first round selection by the Dodgers in 2018, but did not sign, electing to play for Mississippi State instead. He pitched well there, and was a consensus first round pick for 2020 before he underwent Tommy John surgery early in the 2020 season. If Ginn returns with his pre-injury arsenal, the Mets may have added a first round talent with the potential to move quickly through their system.

The Mets generally lack pitching depth at the upper levels of the system, but hopefully have a few prospects that will be able to replenish it in the years to come.