When an organization is struggling at the major league level, those following the team often look towards the minor leagues for talent, the future and hope. Although it is early in the season, there is a group of pitchers in the Mets minor league affiliates who have impressed. These young guns offer a glimmer of a optimism in what so far has been an underwhelming season.
Of course Met fans have heard this before. Just over a decade and a half ago, Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson and Bill Pulsipher formed Generation K, a triumvirate of young pitchers who were supposed to be the future of the Mets pitching staff. Unfortunately, a combination if injuries and ineffectiveness caused all three to be dealt away, with only Izzy having success at the major league level, albeit as a reliever instead of a starter. So with that, I don’t promise that any of the pitchers listed below will become a superstar or won’t suffer any setbacks, and I acknowledge that the sample size is small, but based on their early performances in 2011, there is reason to believe that someone from this group will have success in the majors.
Jenrry Mejia: We start with Mejia, who already has some big league experience (three starts and an unfortunate stint in the bullpen which may have hindered his development) at the age of 21 and will probably be back in the majors at some point in 2011. In 18.1 innings at triple A Buffalo this season, Mejia has allowed just ten hits and two earned runs, both of which he allowed in his third start, while striking out 17. He can throw his fastball a few different ways (four-seam, two-seam and cut) in addition to a changeup and biting curveball. All of his pitches feature great movement, but his problem is control. So far, Mejia has walked nine batters in his three starts, or about 4.4 per nine innings-a number he has to reduce. If he can get better command of his pitches, Mejia has the stuff to be a front of the rotation starter.
Brad Holt: Holt, 24 years of age, really struggled in 2010 at both double A and single A, posting a combined 8.34 ERA, 2.000 WHIP and 7.5 BB/9 in 95 innings. He began this season at Binghamton and has impressed in his first three starts, allowing just nine hits and one earned run while fanning 14 batters in 18 innings. Perhaps most importantly, Holt has only walked five batters, in addition to possessing a ground out to air out ratio of 1.47. Holt, in all likelihood, will need a full year of minor league service before getting a shot at the majors, but it is encouraging that he’s been successful and pitched with control so far.
Mark Cohoon: Lefty Mark Cohoon came out of nowhere last year to win the Mets 2010 Organizational Pitcher of the Year Award and has backed up that honor with a blistering start to 2011. In 19 innings at Binghamton, he’s yielded one unearned run on 16 hits and only three walks while punching out 20, 11 of which came in his last outing. He’s been getting a lot of ground balls (a 2.40 ground out to air out ratio so far) and sports a career minor league K/BB of 3.18. If the southpaw can maintain his great control, he should get a crack at the rotation next season.
Jeurys Familia: Like Mejia, Familia is young-only 21 years old, but he possesses raw talent in the form of his mid to upper 90s heater. Perhaps not surprisingly, he struggled with his control last season, walking 5.5 batters per nine innings, although he did also strike out 10.2/9. This season, Familia has walked only four batters in 18.2 innings at high-A St. Lucie, while only allowing six hits and one earned run while striking out 17. If he continues this success, the righty could be promoted to double A later in the season.
Matt Harvey: Finally, there is the Mets’ first round pick from 2010, 22 year old Matt Harvey. He has formed quite the one-two punch with Familia at St. Lucie, giving up zero earned runs on ten hits and six walks in 16 innings while striking out 20. Like Familia, Harvey could be on his way to Binghamton later this season.
For more information about the Mets minor league affiliates and players, visit Toby Hyde’s Mets Minor League Blog