What If Another Starting Pitcher Gets Injured…

Mets ace Johan Santana went down in September last season with a torn rotator cuff. Stud prospect Jenrry Mejia tore his MCL last week. And most recently, Chris Young fell victim to a torn anterior capsule in his right pitching shoulder. For the time being, the Mets still have five viable starting pitchers in Mike Pelfrey, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Chris Capuano, and now Dillon Gee. However, with the majority of Mets pitching prospects well below Triple-A, who would the Mets call on if–God forbid–another one of their starting pitchers got injured?

Considering most the the Mets Triple-A “depth” consists of banished veterans like Casey Fossum, Pat Misch, and D.J. Carrasco, as well as underwhelming youngsters like Josh Stinson and Dylan Owen, the Mets really don’t have much “almost Major League caliber” pitching waiting in the wings. That is, except Chris Schwinden.

Chris Schwinden was originally drafted by the New York Mets in the 22nd round of 2008 June Amateur Draft. Schwinden dominated in his first professional season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, winning four games with a 2.01 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 5.83 K/BB in 62.6 innings. Off the bat, the right-handed pitcher established himself as someone who could get a strikeout (10.1 K/9), but more importantly, as a pitcher with pinpoint control (1.7 BB/9).

Schwinden’s command continued beyond the Cyclones. Between 2009 and 2010, the righty owned a 3.85 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 4.38 K/BB in as high as Double-A. This season, the former 22nd rounder finally got a taste of Triple-A. In twenty-seven innings for Buffalo, Schwinden has won two games with a 2.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 2.78 K/BB. With Dillon Gee now a fixture in the bigs, Schwinden has become Triple-A Buffalo’s default “ace.”

Even though the right-handed starter owns a career 3.32 ERA 1.22 WHIP, and 4.51 K/BB in the minors, the one worrisome attribute is that he has been a tad too hittable. The pitcher owns a respectable 9.3 hits/9 in his career, but has seen that rate jump as high as 11.3 hits/9 in Double-A last season. Schwinden keeps men off the bases with his low walk total, but it borders on unacceptable to allow that many hits to minor league hitters.

Regardless, it’s hard to ignore Schwinden’s great start to Triple-A this season–especially with the Mets lack of depth in Buffalo. With the righty’s success so far in 2011, he is not only the next in line for Major League starts, but is also the team’s last lifeline for respectable replacement innings.

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