New York Mets lack of minor league pitching depth is alarming
By Staff Writer
The New York Mets farm system is short on pitching talent in large part because of recent trades. How should they go forward with a lack of depth in the minor leagues?
Coming off the heels of the New York Mets surprising move to add Marcus Stroman to their rotation for minor league pitching prospects Simeon Woods Richardson and Anthony Kay this weekend, a quick look at the Mets minor league farm system now shows an alarming lack of quality pitching depth that can be called upon to come up and help the team in future years to come.
Since the offseason prior to the start of 2019, the Mets and first-year general manager Brodie Van Wagenen have attempted to make moves and trades that were supposed to bolster the team’s chances to win now. Unfortunately, it has come at the expense of sending away some solid young minor league pitching prospects who look to be in position to have bright futures ahead as rotational starters.
One such trade where this was evident was in the Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz trade acquisition which saw the Amazins sending back 5-tool outfield prospect Jarred Kelenic and first-round pitching prospect Justin Dunn to the Mariners for the aging infielder and the electric closer. Reports out the Mariners minor league farm system indicate that Justin Dunn is doing just fine down there and projects to be as good a pitcher as Marcus Stroman has been the last few years.
Can someone say whoops?
This more recent move to bring the Long Island native Marcus Stroman back to his hometown of New York is costing the Mets two of their top 10 overall minor league prospects in Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson.
As seen in video footage here of Woods Richardson, the 18-year-old already features a 95 mph fastball that he can use to pound both sides of the strike zone at will. He compliments this pitch was a devastatingly deceptive 78 mph changeup that is hard to pick up and that he can regularly throw over the strike zone. His curveball is also coming along nicely at Single-A ball according to scouts, showing a lot of 11 to 5 movement. And keep in mind he is doing all of this as a teenager.
Anthony Kay is a southpaw minor league pitcher out of Uconn who, after taking some time off to recover from Tommy John surgery in 2017, quickly proved his worth as a solid minor league starter rising up quickly through the Single-A and the Double-A Mets farm system with stellar numbers.
Kay features a fastball that sits between 92-95 MPH and has now developed a curveball with good side to side movement as his secondary pitch to keep hitters off-balance. Despite struggling a bit at the Triple-A level recently, many see Anthony Kay as a projected #4 or #5 starter at the majors should he be able to harness command of his location more consistently.
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In a nutshell, the Mets have given up three possible rotational pieces that can fill in as number 3, 4 or 5 starters for several years to come with these recent player swaps. Keep in mind, they did this all at a time where they were already depleted in minor league pitching talent to begin with.
Going forward, the Mets only have two prospects that have shown decent raw ability as far as pitching goes in their top 10 prospect rankings. But both are still only 18 years old and have a ways to go before they can be considered big-league ready.
The Metropolitans also have a 23-year-old former first-round pitching prospect out of Oregon University, in David Peterson, who has struggled a bit with a high ERA and mediocre stuff at the Double-A level. Peterson’s fastball sits between 90 -92 MPH but doesn’t show as much movement as scouts would like to see at this point.
Many see his upside as a high-end #4 type of starter having a similar career to big-league pitcher Wade Miley. While having a Wade Miley type of pitcher isn’t necessarily bad to have somewhere at the bottom of your rotation, it’s still nothing exciting to write home about.
Why all this is so troubling is the fact that the Mets and their upper management have spent so much time emphasizing how bright and competitive their future can be both in the short-term and in the long term. But outside of the young and talented core four starters they have up already in deGrom, Syndergaard, Matz, and Wheeler no one special is on the horizon to carry on that legacy.
And now we are at a point where rumors are swirling about that either Wheeler, Syndergaard or both Wheeler and Syndergaard are about to be shipped out. This makes the Mets’ chances of being competitive in 2020 and 2021 even slimmer.
Yes, the Mets will have Marcus Stroman, ace Jacob deGrom and a decent and more durable Steven Matz as anchors for their 2020 starting rotation. But what about after that? With Syndergaard, Wheeler, Vargas, and closer Edwin Diaz all reportedly on the move to be shipped out by the July 31st deadline, how are the Amazins expected to replenish both their farm system and next year’s roster in time to actually be contenders for the postseason?
Everyone knows that even MLB teams with talented and deep Major League rosters still have to rely on September call-ups from their farm systems to push them and get them over that finish line. And right now the Mets don’t have many options from their minors (at least pitching wise) to choose from to even get them past June.
It’s even more troublesome to think that 75% of the lackluster bullpen arms pitching for the 2019 Mets aren’t going to be on this roster come 2020 and beyond. Somehow general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and owner Jeff Wilpon are going to have to come up with a way to fill those positions as well as their starting pitching rotation holes for the next few years.
One way I can see the Mets going about doing this is standing pat and deciding not to trade Noah Syndergaard before this upcoming trade deadline. This would give them a very formidable and cost-controlled starting rotation and would only leave the bullpen as a major problem to correct for 2020 and beyond.
However, this still would leave the farm system depleted of promising young pitching prospects for our bullpen or starting rotation as well as depriving us of any young outfield talent to bring up for at least the next few seasons.
A bolder and dynamic strategy would be to simultaneously bolster the bullpen and minor league roster by trading off big names like Noah Syndergaard, Dominic Smith, Zack Wheeler, Brandon Nimmo, Jason Vargas, and Edwin Diaz in hopes of bringing back promising young pitching and outfield depth for the next two to three years.
Keep in mind, the Mets still have Jed Lowrie under contract for 2020 and should (all fingers crossed) be able to bring him back healthy to play SS, 2B or 3B for next season as a potential stop-gap for either Ronnie Mauricio or Andres Gimenez to finally be called up.
Personally, I think having that incredible depth up the middle of their infield with Hechaverria, Lowrie, Rosario, Mauricio, Giminez or Cano allows the Mets to package one of either two of their top shortstop prospects to bring back a few solid relief pitchers or a young prospect that has the ability to become a starter by 2021 via a trade.
This is something for the Mets management to also ponder when looking for trade moves to make by this July 31st deadline in efforts to re-stock their minor league teams or their starting rotation.
In addition to getting creative and trying to bring back the best haul for packaged deal trades, Brodie Van Wagenen will also have to do a bang-up job in bringing back quality upside players via free agency.
If the Mets are to trade their big-name starters and young positional players to solely stock up on minor league talent and few major league bullpen arms for next season, Van Wagenen is going to have to look hard this offseason to find those one or two free agent players to sign and fill the center field and top-end rotational starter voids he will create.
Big free agent names like Gerrit Cole, Nick Castellanos or Marcell Ozuna have to become priorities for Van Wagenen to pursue this offseason. If those players prove to be too costly, he will have to look towards more short-term value in signing guys like Rich Hill, Adam Jones, Alex Wood or Yasiel Puig to one or two-year contracts. No matter how they attack free agency, the Mets and their management cannot mess that up.
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Unfortunately, this is the only way for the Mets to both keep next year’s competitive hopes pertinent while simultaneously keeping their future and our fans’ hopes bright.