After a very bad 2018, Mets fifth starter Jason Vargas is not helping his case to remain in the starting rotation. In his most recent start, against the Braves on Saturday night, he lasted only ⅓ of an inning and gave up four earned runs. The New York Post reported that Vargas’ next start has been pushed back by a day, and the writers speculated that it could be his last chance to continue on the starting staff.
We all know some of the names that have been bandied about as potential replacements for Vargas, including pricey free agent Dallas Keuchel and Mets farmhand Corey Oswalt. But perhaps there is another pitcher at Syracuse that could bear consideration as a fifth starter for the Mets.
That would be lanky 6’4” right-hander Drew Gagnon, a third round draft selection of the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2011. Gagnon was signed by the Mets in December of 2017 as a minor league free agent. He spent most of 2018 at Las Vegas, where he pitched 157 innings, He did have a 4.57 ERA in the hitter-friendly PCL, but he also did strike out batters at a slightly over one K per inning rate. Gagnon did have a forgettable brief cup of coffee with the big club in 2018 where he made five appearances, including one start, and he pitched to 5.25 ERA in the majors.
This year, the 28 year old has made two starts for the Syracuse Mets, and has looked good. He has a 0.84 ERA in the two outings, and a WHIP of 1.03. He has 10.2 IP, but the minor league season starts later than the majors, and management likely wanted the starters stretched out a bit before pitching real deep into games, resulting in Gagnon going a little over five innings in both of his starts. His last performance was a 3-1 victory over Pawtucket on Friday with Gagnon earning the win.
Gagnon averages around 92 MPH for his for his fastball, so he is no fireballer. His two main pitches are his fastball and his slider, and he has pretty good control. He has issued two BB this year, a bit better than his overall walk rate for his career in the minors.
Looking over his professional career since he signed in 2011, he appears not to have missed any significant playing time, so he shows a level of durability, always a consideration with the Mets. He may have the potential to be the kind of innings-eating pitchers that MLB clubs like to have at the back of the rotation.
Gagnon has never been an elite prospect, but there is at least a chance he could hold down the fifth starter spot in a big league rotation. If nothing else with his hot start at Syracuse, he deserves at least the chance to audition for the spot at the back of the rotation, if Vargas continues to struggle.