Mets Starting Pitching Depth
The recent news that Chris Young would go back on the DL — and that his shoulder injury might be serious enough to warrant an extended absence — brought to light a glaring issue in the Mets’ organization: their starting pitching depth. Or more aptly, their lack of it.
Sandy Alderson was praised for signing “low-risk, high reward” pitchers coming off injury, such as Young, Chris Capuano, Boof Bonser, Taylor Buchholz, and Taylor Tankersley. Additionally, the front office was counting on Jennry Mejia to not only return healthy from shoulder surgery, but make steps forward as a starter in AAA. Finally, D.J. Carrasco was brought in as the “do it all” guy who would provide depth as a starter and reliever. Already, Bonser and Mejia are out for the year, Young’s health is in question, Carrasco has been demoted to AAA Buffalo (where he’s been mediocre), and Tankersely didn’t make the team (he’s also been unimpressive for Buffalo). Capuano has proven to be healthy, and has shown promising signs despite a 5.40 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.
We can debate whether Alderson’s offseason moves properly prepared the Mets pitching staff for a 162-game season, but that’s water under the bridge at this point. More important at this juncture is to see what the Mets have now and going forward, in the event that other starters have issues in the future.
Obviously, Dillon Gee fills in Young’s spot for now — and likely for the long-term. Gee has earned this opportunity based on past performance; he has yet to provide a reason he doesn’t belong in the big leagues. Of course, many young pitchers are effective the first time around, thanks to the element of mystery. I’m anxious to see how Gee adjusts once hitters see him again and the “book” on him is developed by scouts around the league. Additionally, the team has Pat Misch now on the roster, a.k.a., “Glavine Lite” or “Mr. September”. Misch has done fairly well as a fill-in in the past, and seems to be more effective as a starter than as a reliever.
Beyond Gee, however, there are a number of question marks. Let’s go through them one by one.
Carrasco was the Mets’ “big” free agent signing of the winter, and he was demoted to AAA before the end of April. He has made two starts for Buffalo and 3 appearances overall. In 9 innings, he has allowed 12 hits, 2 walks 8 runs (6 earned), and struck out 5. But it’s a small sample size.
In 5 AAA starts, Stinson has pitched 24 innings and allowed 26 hits and 15 walks, striking out 7, and has a 5.84 ERA. Stinson has been mentioned as “the most viable starting pitching prospect at Buffalo” by Adam Rubin.
Sweeney was signed out of an independent league; Rubin also mentioned Sweeney as a potential starting pitching replacement but I’m not seeing it, since he has made only 2 MLB starts in his career, and none since 2004. He was a starter in the minors and in Japan for a few years. He’s 36 years old. I’m guessing he was signed because Alderson is familiar with him, as Sweeney spent 2004-2006 in the Padres organization.
Owen was recently promoted from AA to AAA and has been so-so. He threw a no-hitter during winter league action in Puerto Rico a few months back.
Schwinden sort of reminds me of Gee, in that he is an under-the-radar guy who hasn’t been mentioned much by the experts but has quietly worked his way up the ladder by winning and throwing strikes. He had a rough time in Binghamton last year and started the season repeating AA but was given a quick promotion to Buffalo when Boof Bonser went down. So far, Schwinden is 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 5 starts, walking 9 and striking out 25 in 27 innings.
Brad Holt, Mark Cohoon, Robert Carson
These three prospects are pitching well for AA Binghamton, but I don’t see the Mets rushing them up the ladder to make a big-league start unless it is an emergency. If the Mets were in a pennant race, and one of these three was dominating AA, I could see a promotion. But my guess is they’ll allow these three youngsters to develop at their own pace, building confidence and consistency.
Harvey has been dominating the Florida State League, and my guess is he’ll be promoted sometime soon — but to another level of the minors. As with the three Bingo prospects, I don’t see the Mets messing with Harvey’s development — and I hope they don’t, unless, again, he is absolutely dominating AA hitters. Why? If you remember how Mike Pelfrey was handled when he was at a similar stage, you don’t need to ask.
I may have missed a few pitchers in the organization. For example, Casey Fossum is once again property of the Mets and making starts in AAA.