As most of us New York Mets fans have had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing in recent years, injuries to our starting rotation has caused us to look for more in depth solutions to keep our starting rotation competitive here in 2022. Last year being one of the few exceptions, this season has already seen two-fifths of the starting rotation go down with some sort of physical ailment and is causing a little bit of concern from the fan base. With second year starter Tylor Megill already doing an admirable job filling in for Cy Young ace Jacob deGrom, the Mets may have to rely on their other young farm system developed pitcher, David Peterson, to fill in a possible long absence from their all star starter Taijuan Walker.
David Peterson was drafted by the Mets back in the 2017 MLB draft as the 20th overall selection in the first round. The 6'6" south paw features a smooth delivery and an imposing mound presence with his large stature every time he takes the hill. He debuted with the Mets back in a shortened 2020 season starting in late July and pulled off a string of four consecutive quality starts to begin his MLB pitching career. There was certainly a lot of promise and potential for the former University of Oregon hurler heading into 2021.
David Peterson has a chance to earn a spot on this Mets rotation for 2023 and beyond if he can prove himself worthy this season.
But 2021 proved to be not as fruitful for Peterson. He was given a chance to start 15 games for the Mets and couldn't even make it out of the fourth inning in 5 of those outings. He allowed his fair share of hard hits and walks, giving up 29 walks and allowing 64 hits in just under 67 innings, last season. David ended up with a sub standard ERA of 5.54 and eventually landed on the IL with a fractured right foot, ending his season.
The main reason for David's struggles last year came from the fact that he didn't have proper and consistent command of his fastball nor of his slider. Since Peterson doesn't throw an overpowering fastball in the high 90's like many other young pitchers do, he has to more rely on that pitch to change a batter's eye levels and to get a batter to chase a fastball they think will hit the outside corners of the plate. But a majority of the time in 2021, David's fastballs were missing the outside parts of the plate by a wide margin. Thus, when he would try to compensate or attempt to fool batters with his breaking pitches, hitters weren't thrown off as much and either took his sliders way off the plate for balls or smacked the ones that didn't break enough for base hits.
In order for Peterson to be effective, he has to harness command of his 91 to 94 mph fastball and hit the home plate corners for strikes with them consistently. Only then can he set up his sharp biting slider and his late breaking curve ball. If hitters don't think he can throw his fastball in for a strike, they will just sit back and just tee off on his breaking pitches during favorable counts or take whatever he throws to them for an inevitable walk.
I personally, feel that injuries to his oblique and then later on to his right foot may have been what caused Peterson to struggle with his mechanics and thus his command in 2021. If one can't properly get the full torque they need to throw off of their wind up or put proper weight off their back foot during their delivery, one could see how difficult it would be for a pitcher to maintain any sort of consistent command of the strike zone. I believe this is what ailed and led to David's troubles last year along with his ever growing lack of confidence due to his bad command.
But this off season I believe that the southpaw from Colorado has had plenty of time heal up his past injuries and that should allow him attain better control of his pitches. He's already looked more aggressive attacking hitters with his fast ball during Spring Training and is throwing that pitch in for strikes on both sides of the plate. In just the Mets fifth game this season, Peterson came in and threw four encouraging shut out innings against the Phillies in relief, striking out three and walking two.
With Taijuan Walker suffering from some sort of shoulder injury and being placed on the IL already, there is no doubt in my mind that Peterson will step in and have his fair share of starts to be made this year. If he can maintain command of his pitches, mix them up, stay aggressive on opposing batters and maintain his confidence level, there is no reason David cannot make 18 to 20 starts at minimum in 2022. There may be even more opportunity to make starts even if Taijuan Walker comes back from his ailment right away, as Carlos Carassco and Max Scherzer are also both susceptible to possible IL stints during a long 162 game season. This would give Peterson more starts to showcase what he can really do on a consistent basis.
Bullpen wise, the Mets are also struggling with naming or holding down one main left handed reliver. Should none of their potential candidates be able to get the job done on a consistent basis and their whole rotation miraculously come back healthy for the reminder of this season, Peterson may be able to win a job as the Mets main lefty reliever. That could add a good 40 to 45 appearances and innings to his resume this year as well.
But for now, more than likely, Peterson will probably come in and make starts for pitchers needing either rest or time on the IL due to injury. I project for David Peterson to make about 20 starts, have a WHIP around 1.25 and an ERA around 4.20. I also expect him to average roughly 10.2 K's per 9 IP and 4.5 BB's per 9 IP in those starts in 2022.
The Mets, more importantly, have arbitration eligible control over Peterson from 2023 to 2025. It is vital for them going forward to see what they actually have in the south paw as either a starter or a reliever, as they may need to fill three starting pitching rotation spots come as early as 2023. If Peterson shows he can improve and pitch just as good as he did back in 2020, you can pencil him in as a solid number four or number five starter for the next three seasons in this Mets rotation. But only time and his willingness to succeed will let us know for certain if this will be the case.