In December, the Mets acquired Adrian Houser and Tyrone Taylor from the Brewers for an injured minor league pitcher. The Brewers were looking to cut salary and the Mets took advantage, bringing in two players for their Opening Day roster. At the time of the trade up thru today, the thought has been that Houser would be a starter while Taylor would be a reserve. My opinion is that they should be flipped, with Taylor claiming a spot in the every day lineup and Houser fighting for a spot in the bullpen.

Taylor finds himself behind Harrison Bader and Starling Marte. Bader has had trouble staying healthy, as well as trouble hitting RHP. Marte looked terrible last year and doesn’t appear much better in limited Grapefruit League at-bats. If this was a true meritocracy, Taylor would start. But he’s the least experienced of the trio – to say nothing of being the worst-paid of the bunch, too. But one thing we have to keep in mind is that baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. So, while Bader and Marte begin as the starters, we shouldn’t be shocked if Taylor ends up with the most playing time at the end of the year.

Houser is a solid back-end starter, not terribly different from a few years ago when the Mets imported Rich Hill because they needed a starter to give the club 4-5 IP each time out. Ideally, your starter gives you more innings than that. Houser is fine, so long as you don’t have someone better. And it’s my opinion that Jose Butto is better.

Butto has never been considered one of the Mets’ top prospects. He received kudos for having a top-notch changeup while he climbed the ladder in the minors but the pitch hasn’t been very effective for him in his brief time in the majors. In his 10-game MLB career to date, FanGraphs’ Pitch Values shows Butto’s change being a negative offering, with a value of (-5.6) runs above average.

But while his change hasn’t been as good as advertised, Butto has done well with his other pitches. He’s been slightly above average with both his curve and slider and his fastball has been 5.1 runs above average. The total package delivered a 3.64 ERA in 42 IP last year. In his seven games as a starter a season ago, Butto had a 3.16 ERA.

It’s been more of the same so far in Spring Training. Butto has appeared in four games, making two starts. In 10 IP, he has a 0.90 ERA. Perhaps the most encouraging thing is that after posting a 4.93 BB/9 in the majors last year, Butto has issued just two walks in Grapefruit League action. Obviously, it’s too soon to declare his walk problems solved. But you have to start someplace and this is a very strong beginning.

Thanks to Statcast, we can see Butto’s pitch usage this season. Here are his offerings in each outing:

Sinker – 14 + 4 + 15 +23 = 56
4-seam – 10 + 4 +5 + 10 = 29
Cutter – 7 + 1 + 7 + 10 = 25
Slider – 4 + 1 + 1 + 3 = 9
Change – 4 + 2 + 5 + 18 = 29

It’s clear that his sinker is his primary pitch. But it’s good to see that they have him go with whatever else is working on that day. And his last time out, his start against a Cardinals lineup that had all of its stars, we saw the change that drew raves in the minors. It had a 6.5 mph average differential from his sinker and a 7.8 mph differential from his 4-seamer. Butto’s change elicited 13 swings and six whiffs. The Cardinals put just three balls in play against the change, all of which were converted into outs.

If Butto could be as effective as he was last year when his changeup wasn’t good – imagine the type of results he could get if if was a weapon even just some of the time.

The plan seemed to be for all three of the healthy depth starters to being the year in Syracuse. But the injury to Kodai Senga opened up a spot in the rotation. Tylor Megill has always been the organization’s choice to get starts. He’s had a terrific Grapefruit League performance to date and takes the mound for another start later today.

Butto got more of a shot than fellow depth starter Joey Lucchesi, who made just one appearance in a major league game this year before being sent to the minors. But it seems like Butto will begin the year in Syracuse, too, despite his good performance in Florida, along with how well he pitched for the Mets in September last year.

Houser has impressed this Spring with 14 Ks in 12 IP. However, he also has a 5.25 ERA. But my preference for Butto goes beyond what’s happened this year in Florida. At the end of the day, Houser is a placeholder, someone to effectively hold down a spot, without really pushing you forward. In 97 starts in the majors, he has a 4.29 ERA in 478 IP. And that’s being propped up by his 2021 season. In the past two years he has a 4.52 ERA as a SP, with a 1.43 WHIP. That’s not awful, but it’s certainly not good. And that’s in 207 IP or a shade under 5 IP per start.

This will be Houser’s age-31 season. In other words, this is who he is as a pitcher. While it’s certainly a possibility for him to be better than that in 2024, odds are he’ll be giving you a 4.50 ERA, with more starts where he fails to complete five innings than ones where he reaches six innings.

Butto had three starts in September where he pitched at least six innings, with only one outing where he failed to complete five innings. And 2024 will be the age-26 season for Butto, meaning he’s entering his prime, unlike Houser who will be exiting his. Houser may give you a higher floor than Butto. But in a year where you’re allegedly competing for the playoffs and need a lot of things to go right, it seems like Butto’s potential ceiling is worth more than Houser’s floor.

No doubt some will say that who makes the Opening Day roster isn’t as important as who winds up with more playing time by the end of the year. But those games in April and May count, too, especially when one game could make the difference between the playoffs and sitting at home in October. It doesn’t make sense to me to not start the year with the best roster and the best lineup possible. It’s my opinion that Butto is a better bet than Houser at this point in time. And that will be true in April, as well as September.

And you can say the same thing about Taylor.

13 comments on “Jose Butto should be in the rotation over Adrian Houser

  • Footballhead

    Well Brian. I know one should look at ST with a jaundiced eye, but the results so far has me reevaluating my start-of-ST positions.

    I was bullish on Manaea, Lucchesi, and Houser, and quite bearish…if not disdainful, on Severino. Severino has been a very pleasant surprise….so far. I actually had thought that Lucchesi would out pitch him this year. Now? Not so much. In fact, I doubt if he’ll make the team at the end of ST.

    Butto? Yeah; I agree with your evaluation that he….instead of Houser, should be in the rotation. Too bad $$$ is such a deciding factor on who stays, or who goes.

    • Brian Joura

      I would love it if Severino could deliver his ST results during the regular season! It’s certainly better for him to excel in Florida than repeat his terrible results from the 2023 regular season.

      FWIW, last year in ST, Severino had 15 IP with a 9.00 ERA with 6 BB, 23 Ks and 6 HR

    • Metstabolism

      No need to doubt where Lucchesi goes. Its already been reported that he will start the season in AAA while he continues to build back arm strength. They determined it was down, and that is the reason he was held back in ST. Even after a few weeks of work, his fastball was still sitting at 88-89 MPH the other day, which is 4-5 MPH slower than last year.

  • Metsense

    The Mets will have Bader and Marte starting and Houser in the rotation. I don’t agree with them. Bader, who hits LHP, should be share a platoon in CF with Taylor. Taylor has almost even splits. Marte’s position is more problematic if he doesn’t respond to be an average player. 250 PA would be fair but what are the alternatives? I guess hope is a strategy.
    Butto should be in the rotation instead for Houser. Houser doesn’t have any options left. He could be a multiple inning reliever. There are two openings in the bullpen. Fijinami has an option. Reid-Foley. Tonkin, Ramirez, Bickford and Houser don’t. Tonkin and Houser are my choices . The Mets might choose Tonkin and Ramirez instead and option Butto.

  • Woodrow

    ST stats don’t mean much. ST wins don’t count.

    • Brian Joura

      So, talk regular season wins, as I assume they matter and they count.

      Who do you think will drive the team towards more regular season wins? I hope it’s clear from the article that my opinion is that Butto, with the MLB results he’s had so far without getting anything from his best pitch in the minors, is a better bet than Houser. My opinion is that Butto will do better than a sub-5 IP per start and do better than a 4.50 ERA. Is your opinion that Houser will be better than that? Is your opinion that Butto will be worse than that.

      Give me some substance.

  • NYM6986

    I believe Butto earns the spot both off his strong spring and the way he ended last year. Thought there was some talk of some kind of strain or something which is why Lucchesi got sent down, but he’s another who will be quite ready to leave Syracuse and come back. And Met fans surely must know the value of games in April and May because we usually step on a landline when the calendar turns to June, so we better be on our game from the opening bell. And despite the meaningless stats from spring training, I like our pitching more than I had expected and I wished more of our players were hitting. They shouldn’t wait for the bell to ring to get going.

    • Brian Joura

      I wish I shared your optimism with regards to Butto in the rotation when the team goes north. Houser’s going to get first crack, whether he deserves it or not.

      As for offense, they just needed to play split squad games. Both Mets teams combined for 15 runs on Sunday.

      • Metstabolism

        Let’s get down to reality here: of course Houser gets first crack. Butto has an option remaining Houser does not. That is how baseball works, and it has always worked that way. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez talk about this almost every spring. Gary asks if options are a big issue, and whether players are aware of it. Keith always responds with a resounding, definitive, “Oh, yes!”, adding that as a player, you cannot wait to be out of options because you know that if there is any competition at all, as long as you have options, you’ll be the one to get sent down.

        • Brian Joura

          I’m far, far less interested here in what the Mets are going to do, compared to what they should do.

          If we’re supposed to take them at face value, that they’re going to compete for a playoff spot, which pitcher gets them closer to reaching that goal?

          Unlike, say, adding Snell or Montgomery, this move doesn’t cost the Mets anything. It’s totally within their existing roster to do.

          If you want to push the conversation forward, respond with which pitcher would be better for the team to give 30 starts. Any other response is missing the point.

  • T.J.

    Good to see Jose pitching well. Given this staff, at some point I think he’ll get a shot. He kind of reminds me of Dillon Gee, not the repertoire, but the lack of respect. He is in the running for this season’s Rodney Dangerfield award, although I still see Joey L. as the leader for that prestigious hardware.

  • TexasGusCC

    I felt the same, but now think they are the same: .500 pitchers with one day being good and the next time getting lit up. Houser was brought in here to be a placeholder. Butto was brought in to provide innings; both have value. Butto is a change up, slider pitcher, Houser is a fastball, change up pitcher. Their peripherals are the same.

  • Woodrow

    Bottom line,neither is a starter
    for a playoff team. Guys who might be decent long relievers for a season or two.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 100 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here