Our last positional analysis is the strength of the team… starting pitching.
The Mets will open up 2016 with four front end starters… Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz.
My guess, right now, is Jonathan Niese will remain a Mets starter until Zack Wheeler comes back to the rotation in the end of June. Wheeler will become the fifth starter that can throw a ball 94mph+ and, barring injury, this is how your rotation should remain until Harvey leaves via free agency (and he will) in 2019.
My second guess is Niese will then fall in line as the first lefty out of the pen. The renegotiated contract the Mets gave him could turn out to be the best of both worlds for both sides.
And that leaves us Rafael Montero, who should be ready to set up to a full time rotation role for the third time in his career. Due to injuries, Montero didn’t pitch much in 2015 (12-games, five with the Mets), but he was only 24-years old and still is considered highly projectable. Reports are that he is now 100% and I expect him to either start the 2016 season in Las Vegas (as the emergency sixth starter for the Mets) or will be used in a trade package to improve the team at another position.
The problem is, past Montero, the quality of starter pitching prospects has close to have disappeared after cleaning out the system at the last all-star break to build a playoff team.
In my opinion…
The best out there, and maybe the only currently additional projectable major league starter someday, would be Chris Flexen. Flexen is one of those high risk-high reward Alderson and Company high school starters that had a killer 2013 (at 18-years old) for Kingsport (11-starts, 8-1, 2.09, 0.94, 69.0-IP, 62-K).
I expected so much from this kid in Savannah in 2014 ( was sitting behind the plate on his first three home starts) and it just didn’t happen. Eventually, after 13-starts (4.88), he had TJS and bone chips removed and was shut down for the remainder of the season.
2015 was basically a rehab year for Flexen, who finished the season back in Savannah (6-games, 5-starts, 4-0, 1.87, 1.04, 33.2-IP, 33-K). He still was only 20-years old.
I project him to move on to St. Lucie on opening day and he could easily become the next Mets minor league pitcher that is dealt away for help in the 25-man roster.
Past that, I simply don’t currently project any other pitcher making it as a starter in the majors someday. The good news is the Mets probably won’t need one for quite a while.
Seth Lugo, Robert Gsellman (AA: 16-starts, 3.51, 1.25, 92.1-IP, only 49-K), Rainy Lara (AA: 19-starts, 3.44, 1.20, 110.0-IP, 82-K), Tyler Pill (AAA: 18-G, 17-starts, 7.45), and Gabriel Ynoa (AA: 25-G, 24-starts, 3.90, 1.23, 152.1-IP, only 82-K) should all be fighting with Montero for a rotation spot in Las Vegas, though one might wind up being held up in Binghamton to join the projected Kevin McGowan (St. Lucie: 24-G, 23-starts, 4.50), Michael Gibbons (St. Lucie: 3-starts, 3.50), Logan Taylor (St. Lucie: 24-G, 22-starts, 3.69), and, the wild card, knuckler Mickey Jannis (St. Lucie: 8-G, 7-starts, 2.98). Jannis was a reclamation project that changed into a knuckler and went 6-2, 1.18 in 16 games for Long Island in the Atlantic League during the first part of last season.
The next wave of possible prospects that should join Flexen in St. Lucie are Corey Oswalt (Sav: 23-starts, 11-5, 3.36), Martires Arias (Sav: 20-starts, 2.43, 1.10) 111.0-IP, 110-K), Scarlyn Reyes (Sav: 16-starts, 3.40), and Ricky Knapp (Sav: 21-G, 16-starts, 2.60). In addition, Casey Delgado (17-G, 16-starts, 3.17) will try and sneak his way into the Lucy rotation.
Lastly, any one of eight possible ex-rookie league pitchers could make their way to Columbia for opening day. They are Nabil Crismatt (K-Port: 12-G, 8-starts, 6-1, 2.90, 1.03, 62.0-IP, 63-K), Josh Prevost (Sav: 12-G, 12-starts, 3.75), Matt Blackham (Brooklyn: 6-starts, 3.82), Tyler Badamo (Brooklyn: 14-starts, 3.10), Kevin Canelon (Brooklyn: 14-G, 13-starts, 4.09), Andrew Church (Brooklyn: 9-G, 8-starts, 5.18), Gaby Almonte (Brooklyn: 14-starts, 3.68), and A.J. Pinera (Brooklyn: 16-G, 11-starts, 2.44). Church, the ex-2nd round 2013 draft pick, has been particularly disappointing and needs a breakout year in 2016.
Summary – I could spend many more paragraphs on the pitchers in the minor league Mets system, but that isn’t necessary this year. The fact is that the major league Mets currently have the most depth and talent in baseball at this position. Zack Wheeler your future SP5? Are you kidding me?
Tom Brennan and I will keep you up to date throughout the season on anyone that breaks loose from the pack here, but, trust me, your only problem here would be the possibility of future injuries.
Mark Helet-Fangraphs http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/prospect-positional-review-outfielders/ on Michael Conforto –
The Mets’ first round draft pick from 2014, Conforto immediately jumped on the fast track when he joined pro ball and found himself playing in the World Series in 2015 He actually tapped into his power better in the Majors than he had in the minors and his overall game was impressive — especially given his lack of experience as a pro. The emergence of Conforto makes the Michael Cuddyer signing look so, so bad — and his presence is why I didn’t expect the rookie to see enough playing time to be relevant in ’15.
Mack – This is why you don’t piss away your first round pick on a qualified offer. Successful teams are built by successful first round picks that should never be lost to deals like the one the Mets made for Cuddyer.
Baring injuries, the Mets don’t have to wonder about left field for a very long time. Hopefully, in a few years we will be able to say the same thing about first base and Dominic Smith. And let’s not forget what round Matt Harvey went in.
Lastly, with the possibility that Daniel Murphy signs elsewhere, the Mets actually will have an opportunity to draft two of the top 40 players in the draft. Make them both stud college juniors, put them on the same track Conforto was put on, and you could have two more on the 25-man by the 2017 playoffs.
Keep your first round picks. It will pay off for you in the long run.