With Justin Dunn off to Seattle and Franklyn Kilome spending the year on the sidelines there isn’t the usual pool of Met pitching talent we are used to seeing in the minors. The returning arms of Thomas Szapucki and Jordan Humphreys will see if they can make up for lost time as highly ranked draftees, like David Peterson, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson try to make their own marks.
So, Who is Your Top Pitching Prospect?
The Case for Thomas Szapucki – Can a pitcher who has never pitched a full season and never pitched above Low-A be a top pitching prospect at the Age of 22? It might seem far-fetched but we need to try to remember the reason that Szapucki roared into relevance in 2016. Drafted in the 5th round, the lefty who was mostly known for exceptional spin showed a big uptick in velocity to go with it. This led to Ace-like results in Kingsport and Brooklyn before the injury bug came in.
2017 saw Szapucki attempt to stave off surgery with 29.0 innings in Columbia before he finally submitted to the dread Tommy John. Whether he should or shouldn’t have tried to avoid the surgery is not a topic that is easy to discuss without speaking to the pitcher and getting his reasoning but it leaves the promising pitcher two years older with a lot to prove.
The Case for David Peterson – The Mets’ top pick in the 2017 draft, Peterson profiles as a mid-rotation lefty with some decent upside and he got off to a decent start. The cautious Met front office barely let him pitch in 2017 and started his major league career in the safe confines of Columbia. There, he performed as expected. He managed a 1.82 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP and 57 Ks over 59.1 innings pitched.
Then he was promoted to Port St. Lucie and he looked less sharp. The strikeouts slowed down, the walks piled up and then… in July, the wheels came off. Peterson’s 4 games netted him an 8.05 ERA with a 1.89 WHIP and made a few people lose a lot of faith.
Thankfully, the Mets gave him some rest and August saw his numbers return to a very serviceable 2.93 ERA with a 1.12 WHIP and 28 strikeouts in 27.2 innings. If that August is a sign of turning a corner then there is plenty of reason to hope that Peterson might soon be ready for Binghamton (which is where the Mets may assign him either way).
The Case for Simeon Woods Richardson – I talked about Woods Richardson in my piece on 3/25 as one of the best young players in the Met system. The second round pick showed up in Met uniform and, much like Szapucki, exceeded the expectations that scouts had assigned him. His brief glimpse of the minors isn’t enough to hang one’s hat on but it seems that the Mets might not have reached too much in where they selected him.
The Case for Jordan Humphreys – Am I suggesting that an 18th round pick who spent all of 2018 on the shelf could be the Mets best pitching prospect? That’s for you to decide. What I will point out is that he has more innings under his belt (as well as at higher levels) and a better strikeout rate than David Peterson. Crazier things have happened and it will be interesting to see his results in 2019.
The Case for Anthony Kay – A first round pick from the 2016 draft suffers from being a college player who lost time. Now Kay is 24 and first played in the minors in 2018. The Mets will need to be more aggressive with his timetable and are almost sure to promote him to Binghamton, despite his struggles in Port St. Lucie. Kay’s Advanced A numbers are misleading because at first glance they appear to be better than Peterson’s until you look at the consistently worse WHIP between the two levels he played in.
The Best of the Rest
Tony Dibrell – Pitching in relief back in 2017 there wasn’t much focus on the Mets 4th round pick but in 2018 the Mets allowed him to become a starter for the Columbia Fireflies and people took notice. His biggest asset is his strikeout numbers. Dibrell notched 147 strikeouts over the course of 131 innings but the 54 walks are not as low as people would like. He should be on the Port St. Lucie roster once the teams are official for the 2019 season and it’ll be interesting to see if those big time strikeout numbers can continue.
Jaison Vilera – The Venezuelan born righty has come on steadily through the Met system notching 56.2 innings in the DSL in 2016 before becoming a starter for the GCL Mets in 2017 and Brooklyn in 2018. What’s to love about Vilera? His WHIP is a thing of beauty. His highest mark being a 1.02 in 2016. How does he do it? Well, he keeps opposing batters hitting below .200 against him. Do that as he moves forward and people will take notice.
Junior Santos – At 17 this enormously tall (6’8”) pitching prospect had remarkably low strikeout numbers for a player who can pour on the velocity. What I like from Santos is that his power build and velocity come with exceptional control. He averages less than 1 walk per start and only 1.08 over 9 innings. He’ll still be 17 for most of 2019 and is pretty darn far away from a major league impact but could muscle his way into the top pitching prospect discussion before too long.