The sheer number of right-handed pitchers in a system means that ordering this group helps give structure to an overall system’s ranking. However, this year, for the Mets, this is much less true than in years past, at least at the top. I have only three right-handed pitchers in the team’s overall Top 10 and five in the Top 20. The right-handers flex their muscle in the back half of my Top 41, taking over 50% of the spots between 21 and 41 at last count.
The relative weakness of the right-handed pitchers in the organization is balanced by a strong big league rotation and upper level options (Hi, Thor). Likely lurking at triple-A to start 2015 will be Noah Syndergaard, who is an elite prospect and Rafael Montero, who could probably be a back-end starter now if the team needed big league innings.
The overarching theme: starters are much more valuable than relievers. The best relievers in the big leagues were minor league starters.
- Noah Syndergaard
- Rafael Montero
In his minor league career, before 2014, he’d been something of a command specialist. However, his walk rate jumped in triple-A in 2014 to 10.1% from 6.9% in 2013, and then again in the big leagues.
He still has the attributes that helped him to the big leagues: an averagish fastball, a short slider, and a firm fly-ball inducing changeup. The problem for Montero is that while he could keep minor league hitters at bay pitching heavily off his fastball, big leaguers put the pitch over the all five times.
There’s no star-level potential here, but Montero could fit into the back-end of a rotation, Dillon Gee style if the Mets need innings. Frankly, the perfect role for Montero might be as a long-reliever/swingman type as it’s hard to see him regularly getting through a big league lineup three times with his current stuff and teams often prize a little more velocity out of their short relievers. MLB teams don’t really carry this guy anymore though.
- Marcos Molina
I saw a guy easily slinging the his fastball up to the plate at 91-93 mph and touching 94. He showed an amusing variety of offspeed pitches from a slider that was 81-85 and a mid-80s changeup that didn’t move much, considering its firmness and a slower curveball at 79. He was clearly trying to use all of his pitches, particularly the changeup. If he was interested only in getting hitters out, he would have thrown nothing but fastballs and sliders. At times his location on his fastball was unfair, low and away on the black, for example.
His delivery deserves note. He releases the ball out of a low arm slot. Guys can make this work in the big leagues, think of say, Tyson Ross. However, extreme platoon splits could be a problem for Molina as he moves up the ladder. He also does not appear to use his legs very much at all. In theory, this will put more stress on his shoulder.
Molina was absolutely dominant in the New York-Penn League and will pitch on a full-season staff in 2015. Barring a poor spring training, I would be very tempted to start him out in St. Lucie rather than Savannah, where he will cruise to excellent numbers.
- Gabriel Ynoa
The major concern here statistically is that his strikeout rate cratered from 26% in the Florida State League to 17% in 66.1 innings in the Eastern League. The bet is that Ynoa will pitch in the big leagues, but he must continue to improve his breaking ball to profile as a viable big league starter.
- Robert Gsellman
A hamstring injury kept him out of action for almost a month between the middle of April and the middle of May in 2014. The Mets also shut him down for almost two weeks in August to manage his innings and keep him fresh for the playoffs. Before his shutdown, in his previous four starts from July 18 through August 9 he put together this line: 26.2 IP, 21 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 25 K with a 0.67 ERA, a 24% strikeout rate and a 4% walk rate.
He had similar results to Gant and Whalen in the Savannah rotation, but he moves in front of them based on potential and physique. He’s a good few inches taller than Whalen and built more powerfully than Gant. This helps him maintain ease in his motion and should give him better command. Also, the potential of his curve is tantalizing.
He might well be a back-end starter with a fastball a tick below average, and an average changeup and curve.
Likely Relievers with Set up Potential
- Cory Mazzoni
Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola told the Mostly Mets Podcast that he views Mazzoni’s future as most likely in the bullpen and we agree. He throws strikes with a fastball at 90-92, although he can reach back for more, with a splitter and a slider. He’s never made it through a season healthy as a starter.
- Michael Fulmer
His 2013 was marred by a knee injury, and his first half of 2014 was not particularly impressive. However, he was better in the second half for St. Lucie (2.75 ERA, 24% K-rate, 7.5% walk rate) and earned a start at the end of the year in double-A.
Even if he starts 2015 in the double-A rotation, the bet here with this ranking is that his eventual home is in a big league bullpen where he can let it fly for a few batters a time in the seventh and eighth innings.
- Domingo Tapia
- Hansel Robles
Back-end starters, maybe (Draft pedigree)
Things start to get really murky at his point in the rankings. With just a little squinting, it’s possible to see any of the next four guys in in the back of a big league rotation.
- Casey Meisner
His last five starts for the Cyclones: 30.2 IP, 28 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 32 K. That’s a 1.47 ERA, a 3% walk rate and 27% strikeout rate.
Why no higher: no full season experience or plus pitch
Why no lower: Draft position. Projectability.
The Mets’ third round pick in 2011 will get his first shot at a full-season league in 2015.
- John Michael Gant
Why no higher: see fastball
Why no lower: has command and will work at double-A.
- Andrew Church
At 6’2” and a little soft, I did not see much projection left in his body to add velocity.
Why no higher: I didn’t see the stuff to justify it.
Why no lower: Still a second round pick. Lets see if he’s better in full-season ball.
- Josh Prevost
The Mets’ 5th round pick in 2014 out of Seton Hall earned 3rd team All-America honors from Baseball America.
Why no higher: stuff doesn’t warrant it
Why no lower: He should get a shot on the rotation in Savannah and then St. Lucie at which point his projection will be much clearer.
More Potential Relievers – Replacement level variety
Here we return to an important point: starters are much more valuable than relievers.
- Akeel Morris
The Mets rewarded Morris with a spot on the team’s 40-man roster in November.
Why no higher: he’s an a-ball reliever. His breaking ball is rudimentary. He walked over 10% of opposing a-ball hitters. Most big league relievers continue to start through a-ball and at higher levels.
Why no lower: he does throw hard.
- Erik Goeddel
Why no higher: Results
Why no lower: Hey, he’s offered the Mets a few big league innings. He’s there. He’s basically what Akeel Morris might be unless he continues to improve.
- Matt Bowman
Why no higher: Below average fastball as a starter, and no plus secondary big league pitch
Why no lower: He got guys out in double-A and triple-A and I’m a sucker for smart pitchers (see Princeton Economics degree).
- Luis Mateo
Why no higher: injury, reduced diminished repetoire post-rehab, makeup concerns
Why no lower: a memory of what he showed in 2012 and 2013
Who knows, TJ/2014 Draftee Edition
- Chris Flexen
On the negative side: everything else.
- Gabriel Llanes
- Erik Manoah
- Robert Whalen
A hand infection kept him out of action for the better part of two months with the Gnats and limited to 10 starts total and 62.2 innings.
Plopped in the Arizona Fall League, he walked 10 and fanned 15 in 18.1 innings on his way to a 6.87 ERA against some of the minors’ best hitters.
He will head to St. Lucie rotation to begin the 2015 season.
- Corey Oswalt
- Luis Cessa
Fastball only Goofs
All of these guys throw hard – up to 94 or higher, in the cases of Bashlor and Buchmann. However none have the secondary stuff to be starters. I would bet on one or two of these guys becoming effective relievers at least at double-A.
- Matt Koch
- Kevin McGowan
- Miller Diaz
- Tyler Bashlor
- Connor Buchmann