When judging minor league prospects you have to take a bunch of factors into consideration, including, age, pedigree, production, tools, health, level and reception to coaching. Coming into 2010 the Mets had two pitchers who were at somewhat opposite ends of the prospect spectrum: Dillon Gee and Jeurys Familia.
In 2009, the 23-year-old Gee was in Triple-A, was starting to pitch well and was on the cusp of a promotion to the majors when he was shut down for a labrum injury. But he avoided surgery and since he was not a hard thrower to begin with, Gee had a good shot to come back at full effectiveness.
Meanwhile, the 19-year-old Familia went 10-6 with a 2.69 ERA for Low-A Savannah. He lit up the radar guns but did not get as many strikeouts as you might expect, as he notched 109 Ks in 134 IP. But he got a bunch of ground balls – 48.8 percent – adding to the buzz surrounding him
Most analysts considered Familia the better long-range prospect and had him on their Top 10 lists. I went the other direction in mine and gave Gee the 10th spot on my list and ranked Familia as an honorable mention. So, with the minor league season almost over, how does that ranking look?
Gee is 13-7 with a 4.69 ERA at Triple-A while Familia is 6-8 with a 5.28 ERA at Hi-A St. Lucie. But if we look at more numbers, we see that things are not quite so rosy for Gee and that Familia has things in his profile that should excite Mets fans.
Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo has been wonderful for Gee. He has an 8-2 record with a 3.81 ERA in his home park. Additionally, he has 94 Ks and 15 BB in 87.1 IP at Dunn Tire Park. On the road, Gee is 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA. And while Gee’s K/BB ratio at home is better than 6.0 on the road it is under 3.0, as he has 67 Ks and 25 BB in 70 IP.
The home performance for Gee is not a BABIP fluke, as he has a .325 mark at home compared to a .330 mark on the road. It is not a HR issue, as he has allowed 11 in Dunn Tire Park and 9 in road games. For whatever reason, Gee has been more effective at home. This may or may not be significant but a road ERA of 5.79 does not scream out major league starter.
Overall, the biggest positives for Gee are that he was able to stay healthy and pitch a full season and that he was able to maintain a K/9 of 8.60 for the season. While he may not profile as one of the club’s five starters on Opening Day, he does offer rotation depth –someone who could be an injury replacement and make a few spot starts – and might even be an effective middle reliever.
Meanwhile, Familia seems to be improving as the season progresses. In his last five games, he is 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA. In that span he has 9 BB and 46 Ks in 31.2 IP. The walk ratio is especially significant as for the year Familia has a 5.46 BB/9. He already has the strikeouts (9.42 K/9) and he has allowed just 6 HR in 113.2 IP this season. Consistently throwing strikes will go a long way towards improving Familia’s prospect status.
This season, Familia pitched in the Futures Game, which consists of some of the top prospects in the minors. He threw 97 during his outing but 7 of his 12 pitches were balls. That outing was a microcosm of his season prior to his recent hot streak. And looking at Familia going forward, the big question is if the control of the last five games is a legitimate improvement or merely a statistical fluke.
Coming into the year, Familia’s advantages were his age, stuff, health and to a lesser degree production. Gee was much, much closer to the majors and while his stuff was not overpowering he showed solid production. In ranking Gee higher, I was influenced by how close he was to the majors and his consistent ability to maintain good K/BB and K/IP numbers throughout the minors.
Familia was too far away for me to consider him the better prospect. The minors are littered with young guys with great arms who never reach the majors for a variety of reasons. I wanted to see success from Familia at a higher level first.
The last five starts for Familia have definitely been encouraging. Now, I want to see him continue that improvement somewhere in Winter Ball. After all, even Oliver Perez has gone stretches where he doesn’t walk the ball park. Can Familia do it in Winter Ball, too?
As for Gee, I expect to see him working out of the bullpen in the majors in September. It’s possible that is the transition to his new professional role. If your 10th-best prospect makes it as a middle reliever, that is pretty good production. Especially if he was a 21st-round draft pick, like Gee was in 2007.