Without fail, the New York Mets have curbed our enthusiasm for prospects getting called up. It's just not expected at this point. They held back all of the kids in 2022. They've taken similar actions in 2023.
It's in September when rosters expand and some of those deserving minor leaguers can get the call they've been waiting for. Rosters no longer expand to the ridiculous 40 like they used to. However, the addition of two roster spots paves the way for a pitcher like Nate Lavender.
His name may sound more like the mascot for a detergent than a ball player. If someone said Snuggle the Bear had a real name and it was Nate Lavender, I'd believe it. Introduced to a wider audience this past spring, he has made a strong case to showcase his stuff for the big league club in September. More so than playing out the final stretch of the season, Lavender should be considered a serious contender for next year’s bullpen mix.
NY Mets prospect Nate Lavender is the next youngin’ to expect to appear from out of the bullpen
In 33 Triple-A innings this year, Lavender the lefty is 3-3 with a 3.27 ERA. This came after posting a 1.74 ERA in 10.1 frames down in Double-A and a 2022 campaign at three different levels where he combined for a 1.70 ERA in 47.2 innings of work.
The guy is rising fast and preventing runs at a superior level out of the bullpen down in the minors. He has never finished his stint with any team with an ERA higher than 2.48, an achievement possibly about to fall this year even with a respectable number with Syracuse.
Lavender has some great stuff, fanning 13.9 batters per 9 combined at Syracuse and Binghamton this year. He has been consistent in this department with the downside of walking a lot, too. At 4.6 walks per 9 in his professional career, there is an obvious weakness for him to work on and an explanation as to why the Mets might end up holding him back.
Lavender isn’t quite Rule 5 Draft eligible. That doesn’t occur until after the 2024 season. This could be one reason to hold him back now while leaving the 40-man roster open for others to get locked to the organization.
This 14th round pick from the 2021 draft has catapulted through the system and is now one level below the majors. This season has introduced us to other Mets relievers such as Grant Hartwig and Josh Walker with some good but also bad moments. Lavender should be right there beside them competing for a roster spot in the spring. At the very least, he’s going to join the bullpen shuttle back and from the minors all year.