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.

D.J. Carrasco
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.

Josh Stinson

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.

Brian Sweeney
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.

Dylan Owen
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.

Chris Schwinden

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.

Matt Harvey

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.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Joe May 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm
    Parnell had some starts.

    As to Pat Misch, “more effective as a starter than as a reliever” … well, okay. I guess if you mean bringing him in for an out or two. Might be faint praise — his starts left a lot to be desired. But, for this team, the bar isn’t really high.

    We are talking garbage heap types here, but any number of teams don’t really have much of a fifth starter, so for a bad team not to have many back-ups, well, big deal. Heck, give each a few shots. Before you know it, it will be trade time, and one of the toss-ins might be a Maine or you know who type who can fill in short term.

    • FrankTaveras May 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm
      Just one problem: the Mets’ rotation is made up of #5 starters. A team sending a #5 starter to the mound every day is likely to finish, um, 5th.
      • Joe May 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm
        That’s pretty tough grading. I see a few #3s at least. Toss that with a bad bench and other flaws, you get basement dwelling.
  2. Jay May 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm
    I agree with your suggestion that many of the names you’ve mentioned (at least those that I would consider at all exciting) should be allowed to stay in the minor leagues and develop on a more traditional schedule.

    What I wonder is are there what I guess I would call “AAAA pitchers” currently in other organizations scattered around AAA that the Mets could acquire in trade without giving up anyone that would be a damaging loss to the system? Somebody who might be 8th or 9th on another team’s depth chart but could be a short term plug in for the Mets?

    Not that this is very palatable but perhaps it allows the Mets to keep pitchers in their system who they feel should still be in the minor leagues out of the majors for now.

  3. ron May 9, 2011 at 2:49 pm
    Lets go ahead and trade Reyes to the Reds for some of their good young pitchers..Reds have an abundance of arms and need a ss and lead off man… might as well get something for Reyes while we can
  4. CatchDog May 10, 2011 at 8:09 am
    No team in baseball spent less in the offseason than the Mets. Sandy gambled with some low risk-high reward guys as mentioned above, which IMO it was the best option at this time. Don’t expect the new front office to work miracles in the first 6 months. It will take time to clean up the mess of 5 plus years of Omar and Jeff.

    Did anyone think that Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon would have been better options? We have to be patient this season and hope that our young talent continues to develop, we move the right pieces for prospects and that the injury bug that has killed the team begins to subside.

  5. Anthony May 10, 2011 at 9:04 am
    Unbelievable – Meija, Bonser, and Young now out for the year with Santana out for most, if not all, of the year.

    And Dickey is looking (so far, in a small sample size) like a one year wonder.

    Gee better be for real because the rotation needs help.