Over the next two months we’ll be looking at Case Studies of players who spent time in the Mets Minor League System. For October, we’ll be focused on pitchers and then next month we’ll look at some hitters.

The purpose of these studies is to delve into the differences between pitching in each level of the minors and to find a correlation in player development. Since these case studies take place over a number of years we aren’t exclusively comparing apples to apples but we will do our best.

Case Studies Pitching:

Jacob deGrom
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 1 5.19 26.0 7.6 2.4 1.58 2.93
A 6 2.51 89.2 7.8 1.4 1.01 1.22
A+ 4 2.41 33.2 8.3 2.1 0.96 1.02
AA 2 4.80 60.0 6.6 3.5 1.48 1.19
AAA 8 3.87 114.0 7.2 2.68 1.19 1.44
Justin Dunn
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 1 1.50 30 10.5 3.0 1.17 1.22
A SKIPPED
A+ 7 4.61 141 8.0 4.1 1.48 0.93
AA 2 4.22 89.2 10.5 3.8 1.36 1.18
AAA SKIPPED
Michael Fulmer
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 0 10.13 5.1 16.9 6.8 2.44 2.50
A 7 2.74 108.1 8.4 3.2 1.20 0.84
A+ 8 3.88 129.1 8.0 3.4 1.43 1.03
AA 6 1.88 86 8.7 2.4 1.12 1.38
AAA 1 4.11 15.1 11.8 2.9 1.37 1.25
Harol Gonzalez
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 7 2.01 85.0 9.3 1.9 1.01 1.58
A 9 3.56 126.1 6.5 2.7 1.27 1.05
A+ 1 2.87 84.2 7.2 2.3 1.11 1.06
AA 6 4.88 149.1 7.8 1.9 1.35 0.99
AAA 6 2.62 137.2 7.3 2.4 1.08 0.98
Anthony Kay
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie SKIPPED
A 4 4.54 69.1 10.1 2.9 1.37 1.16
A+ 1 3.88 53.1 7.6 4.6 1.46 0.83
AA 7 1.49 66.1 9.5 3.1 0.92 0.56
AAA 3 4.41 67.1 8.7 4.4 1.59 0.62
Collin McHugh
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 0 4.17 41.0 9.0 3.5 1.54 2.15
A 7 3.33 132.1 8.8 2.6 1.34 2.19
A+ 1 6.31 35.2 9.9 3.5 1.71 1.63
AA 13 2.69 167.0 8.9 2.6 1.14 1.04
AAA 2 3.42 73.2 8.6 3.5 1.21 1.32
Rafael Montero
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 5 2.15 71.0 8.3 1.6 0.96 0.78
A 6 2.52 711 6.8 1.0 0.97 0.57
A+ 5 2.13 50.2 10.0 2.0 0.91 0.78
AA 7 2.43 66.2 9.7 1.4 0.92 0.78
AAA 5 3.05 88.2 7.9 2.5 1.24 0.72
Corey Oswalt
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 4 6.89 48.1 5.8 1.5 1.47 0.99
A 11 3.36 128.2 6.9 1.5 1.35 1.28
A+ 4 4.12 67.2 9.0 2.4 1.34 2.07
AA 12 2.28 134.1 8.0 2.7 1.18 1.21
AAA
Noah Syndergaard
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 4 1.78 45.1 8.5 2.9 1.08 1.49
A 8 2.63 112.2 10.5 2.9 1.08 2.15
A+ 3 3.11 63.2 9.1 2.3 1.21 1.19
AA 6 3.00 54 11.5 2.0 1.07 1.02
AAA 12 4.09 162.2 9.9 2.8 1.38 1.28
Thomas Szapucki
Level W/SV ERA IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP GO/AO
Rookie 2 0.62 29.0 14.6 2.8 0.86 1.16
A 1 2.49 50.2 9.42 3.6 1.15 0.84
A+ 1 3.25 36.0 10.5 3.8 1.33 1.37
AA 0 0.00 4.0 9.0 2.3 1.22 0.93
AAA NOT REACHED

The first thing this exercise made apparent to me was the reason that fans of this blog ridiculed me for putting such faith in deGrom being better than Montero. There were outings that made me believe in deGrom and I’d seen his stuff live but, on paper, Montero was clearly the better prospect. I guess this was at least one case where the gut proved a better guide than the brain.

Ignoring things like, losing out on players we traded foolishly. Dunn) and McHugh rank highly on that count. What can we glean from looking at the evolution of a player?

Lesson 1: Rookie League Stats are Meaningless

Often, you don’t have enough innings pitched to learn very much, but when you do you often see aberrant numbers that are caused by the league’s dispersant player pools. A good example is Oswalt. While he never becomes a star as he progresses through the minors or when he reaches the majors, he was pretty awful in the rookie leagues and you would wonder how a player with those numbers would reach the majors at all.

The rookie leagues (GCL and APP for high school players and NYP for college ones) are a level where the most important thing that a player does is simply to pitch and become familiar with the professional ballplayer life. On occasion, you see very high K/9 rates which are caused by young hitters who haven’t been coached into patience. You also see inflated ERA numbers as pitchers are still experimenting with the arsenal that their coaches will look to develop.

Lesson 2: Inconsistent Ballparks Make Some Levels Harder to Judge

If you look at Syndergaard when he reaches AAA and compare him to Gonzalez you have to note that they did not play in the same league or stadium within the minor leagues. Pitchers who came up while the Mets were trapped in Las Vegas and the PCL saw inflated numbers that may have made them look better or worse.

In this case, the numbers that shine through are the K/9 and BB/9 rates which hold up at upper levels as the pitchers are still facing the same quality of hitting but may be dealing with positive or negative stadium factors.

Lesson 3: Don’t Put Stock in the ERA

Is a pitcher’s ERA important? Indubitably but, you cannot form an opinion on ERA alone. Even superior statistics like WHIP can fail you. How do you look at a player like Kay, Szapucki or Fulmer and tell if they are going to succeed? You need to follow them game by game. Whole cloth stat blocks will not tell you the full story as a single bad outing can make a player’s season look grim when they might be pitching pretty well.

If you need to look at stats at the end of the year, try to stick to WHIP, K/9 and the number of innings pitched per game played. These will paint a slightly clearer picture.

Lesson 4: Expect Trends

With the exclusion of deGrom (Whose minor league stats don’t support his major league brilliance) or Fulmer (who seemed to struggle with the FSL), a pitcher’s K/9 tends to drop as they develop and their BB/9 will rise. This has more to do with the hitters they are facing than themselves. As batters become more patient, pitchers have less success getting players to chase pitches out of the zone and more working deep into counts.

Lesson 5: Prove Your Worth by AA

I think this exercise mostly showed me that the pitchers who really made it as pros showed their merits by the time they reached AA. With the inconsistencies between the INT and PCL and the way teams stash veteran backups in AAA it seems that AA is the level where a prospect really proves they have what it takes.

7 comments on “Mets Minors: The difference between the upper and lower levels for pitchers

  • Brian Joura

    There’s a lot of good stuff in here.

    While I recognize that there are a bunch of players in here – I’m curious as to why the focus was seemingly on guys who reached the majors but didn’t include Conlon, Flexen, Matz, Peterson and Wheeler.

    Also, how about guys who racked up spots high on prospect lists based on what they did in the lower levels but who never made it? I’m thinking of pitchers like Church, Crismatt, Molina and Tapia

    • David Groveman

      Pulling the stats, especially when a player played two years at the same level proved very time consuming. I hoped by pulling 10 I’d get a reasonable cross section of data.

    • Metsense

      Who is Harol Gonzalez? He had good stats in Binghamton and Syracuse in 2019. Brian rank him #24 but with a caveat. MLB doesn’t rank him with the Mets. Where do you rank him? How should Lesson #3 be applicable to him? Is he a major leaguer?
      Oswalt is another player that should be a major leaguer but hasn’t adjusted to the step. In your opinion, Why? Thanks for sharing.

      • David Groveman

        Hey Metsense,

        I’ve been covering Harol Gonzalez in my recaps for years. He’s a steady workhorse pitcher who goes out and pitches “well enough” to allow the team to win. He profiles as a #5 pitcher or worse based on his “stuff” but his results are steady and solid. It’s one of those things where the team see’s him more closely than I can and perhaps knows he just doesn’t have MLB stuff.

  • TJ

    This just reminds me that the bewildering DFA of Montero was a really really bad move. I can’t recall the exact 40 man crunch issue, but it looked to be Brodie’s first move. It should have been his last. I recall Frank Viola saying that Montero had uncanny command. Yes, he seemed intimidated when he got to the bigs, unable to throw secondary pitches for strikes and always nibbling, but that is not uncommon.

    This and the TDA release just make me nuts. Trades will be won and lost and are always a gamble, but simply releasing controllable guys that can sustain extended big league careers, and even excel, this just kills a franchise.

    • Name

      Sorry if i sound mean but this is just so outrageous and it’s wrong wrong wrong wrong and wrong. Did i mention wrong?

      When Montero was granted FA, he had not pitched in a year and was a complete head case during the rehab process. He was out of options and due for a raise in his first year of arbitration. And you’re saying that the Mets should have tendered him on the contract and automatically penciled him into the 2019 pitching staff? Or did you want to tender him a contract only to waste that money by releasing him in spring training?

  • TexasGusCC

    TJ, don’t forget TDA was also signed and released by the Dodgers after one whole at-bat, LOL. My thinking is that the Rays unlocked something about his approach and he learned something that made him successful. He was with the Mets for so many years and no progress. However, the Mets cut him for no reason once they tendered the contract.

    As for the pitchers, one bit of disturbing news is that Szapucki has not regained his velocity. Seems he’s in the high 80’s and low 90’s not quite the mid to upper 90’s he had before.

    I agree with Brian that there are other pitchers that can be used too, but David is right in that there is alot of information to process; and we don’t really have the qualifications to make the assessment of what pitchers should be working on in each level. Some organizations don’t allow you to throw sliders until AA. Some organizations don’t let you throw more than a certain number of innings in order to piggy-back you with another starter. Many variables apply in reading these stats.

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