Yesterday I advocated for the Mets to give their young pitchers a shot, rather than going out and finding the 2014 version of Chris Capuano, Chris Young or Shaun Marcum. But how realistic is it that Sandy Alderson and friends will allow their youngsters a chance to prove themselves?
Judging by their actions in late 2013 – when they went out and got Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Harang – the answer has to be a resounding, not very likely at all. But what is Alderson so scared of in giving his youngsters a chance in the beginning of the season? You should be ready to take a shot whenever the right moment occurs.
First, let’s look at what the “high dollar” reclamation projects of Capuano, Marcum and Young provided the Mets. In 2011, they provided 210 IP. In 2012 that number was 115 and this past year it was 78.1 IP. All told, they got 403.1 IP with 198 ER for a 4.42 ERA. That’s serviceable pitching, either low-end SP#4 or high-end SP#5. But their fragile nature and the uninspiring results make it less desirable if you have reasonable alternatives.
The Mets have made it clear that they prefer their minor league pitchers to have thrown at least 150 innings at the upper levels of the minors before they will even consider them for major league duty. So how close are various Mets pitchers to this threshold and how many innings did pitchers that Alderson promote to the majors throw in the upper minors?
Let’s tackle the second question first. Since Alderson came aboard, the Mets have had six players make their first start in the majors for the club. Here’s how much experience those guys had in the upper levels of the minors:
|Year||Pitcher||Upper Minors IP|
Not only did none of the six have fewer than 150 combined innings at Double and Triple-A, only one of them was under 200 IP. The average of the group is 242.2 IP, with Hefner bringing up that total considerably. If we remove the highest and lowest, the average is 227.1 IP.
So, in reality Alderson & company prefer their starters to have over 200 IP in the upper minors before considering them for a promotion. So, how many innings have the four pitchers mentioned yesterday as possibilities for the 2014 rotation logged in the upper minors? Here’s how they rank:
232.0 – Darin Gorski
155.1 – Rafael Montero
135.2 – Jacob deGrom
54.0 – Noah Syndergaard
You hear people lament that the only reason Syndergaard will not start the year in the majors is that the Mets don’t want to lose an extra year of control or have him qualify for Super Two status. But given how few innings he’s pitched at Double-A, this does not appear to be a valid criticism. While some may view this as a type of circular reasoning – of course they keep their guys in the upper minors longer – they don’t want them to be Super Two candidates! – it does not appear to me to be “slow playing” things at all.
Judging strictly by what Alderson has done the past three years, the only one of these four who would be ready for time in the majors come Opening Day would be Gorski. Montero would likely reach 200 IP somewhere in early June, while deGrom would hit that mark around three weeks later.
Syndergaard would not reach 200 IP until the very end of the year, where he would likely run into his own innings limit. However, he’s the most likely one of the bunch to be on the Harvey path and require fewer than 200 IP before he reaches the majors.
If you recall, Harvey threw 135.2 innings in 2011 and he threw 110 more in the minors in 2012 before his promotion to the majors in late July. Once in the majors, he added 59.1 IP before the Mets shut him down for the season. So, Harvey’s workload went from 135.2 IP in 2011 to 169.1 combined innings in 2012, an increase of 33.2 innings.
Meanwhile, Syndergaard had 13.1 IP in 2010, 59 in 2011, 103.2 in 2012 and 117.2 this past season. After the Blue Jays upped his work load 44.2 innings in 2012, the Mets kept his increase to just 14 innings this past year. The combined 58.2 inning increase from 2011 to 2013 is right in line with the 30 innings or so per year increase the Mets like their farmhands to experience.
It’s likely the Mets will keep Syndergaard right around 150 IP total in 2014. If they keep him on the Harvey path, he could throw 110 in the minors and still have 30+ innings in the majors this season. That would give him 164 IP in the upper minors, nearly identical to what Harvey did.
Alderson could very easily keep to his normal usage pattern and still find time in the majors for Gorski, Montero and deGrom in 2014. While Syndergaard would require an accelerated path in order to pitch in Queens in 2014, he’s considered the best of the bunch and is set up to duplicate what Harvey did two years earlier.
There’s no reason to invest any money in a starting pitcher this offseason. Assuming no complications from Jenrry Mejia’s surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, the Mets have five starters ready for Opening Day. Even if Mejia has a setback, Gorski has surpassed the established rate of innings pitched in the high minors to take his place. Montero and deGrom will reach that established rate before the All-Star break.
Additionally, Alderson has done better with bringing guys in to pitch in the minors (Hefner, Carlos Torres) than he has with “high dollar” reclamation projects. The GM should spend the offseason looking for the next guy he can stash in Triple-A, rather than playing the market for guys who were good two-to-five years ago but now carry injury risks.