On Tuesday, the Mets received some potentially bad news with Mike Pelfrey possibly having a UCL tear which could ultimately result in Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Given this potentiality, it is time to consider the Mets rotation replacement options.
For now, the Mets will call up Chris Schwinden up this weekend to replace Pelfrey. Until 2010 the 25-year old was considered an organizational player and had in fact been moved to the bullpen until an injury occurred and Schwinden moved to the Binghamton rotation and impressed. The righty is oft-compared to current Mets’ starter Dillon Gee as a four-pitch hurler without really a single plus pitch, but has good command of what is available. In Triple-A last year, Schiwnden produced a very solid 8.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 and was able to produce similar peripheral numbers over 4 starts at the MLB level too. The early goings of 2012 have not been as kind as his K/9 is under 6 and BB/9 at 3.7, but it is overall a tiny sample 22 inning sample size. The former 22nd round pick looks like a back-end of the rotation starter and will serve as a place holder until more talented personnel arrives, but he does have enough skill to surprise and may be worth a look in NL only formats.
Speaking of more talented personnel, Matt Harvey is in Triple-A and was fairly impressive this spring, but has had some struggles recently. Over 4 starts, the former first round pick’s ERA was over 6 and his BB/9 at 5.2. On the plus side, he is still striking out a batter per inning and getting a fair amount of groundballs. Harvey struggled upon initially playing at Binghamton too, so this is not at the moment something to be concerned about long-term, especially once again considering the sample size, but on the other hand if you were hoping for Harvey to ascend to the Majors quickly and make a quick and positive impact, think again. First the power-righty will need to improve his command and adjust at Triple-A before any call-up is forthcoming.
Unfortunately for the Mets the same can be said of Jeurys Familia who has a 1.5 K/BB and 5.30 ERA thus far. Fortunately, the 22-year old has an 11.2 K/9 thus far. Both Harvey and Familia are very hard throwers, but control and consistency remain issues. Both also need to improve their changeups if they want to be MLB starters in the long run. I prefer Harvey’s chances as a starter given two already plus MLB pitches, an average curve, and change that is approaching average, but it is possible that both could simply end up late inning relievers.
With both Harvey and Famila struggling, who can the Mets turn to if Schwinden fails? On the journeyman front are Jeremy Hefner and Garrett Olson. Left-hander Olson was once a top pitching prospect in the Oriole system. A former 2005 first round pick, Olson is now with his fourth organization. When drafted, the 28-year old was well regarded for his pitchability, command, and a fairly deep repertoire. Well something funny happened on the way to the Show. Olson has been unable translate minor league strikeout success to the Majors and more shockingly, his ability to throw strikes falls apart in the Majors. It doesn’t help that Olson is a fly-ball pitcher to boot. So far the former Cal Poly Mustang has an 8+ K/9 and a 4+ BB/9. The Mets will purchase his contract if in a bind, but could also pass over him, content to let him fill minor league innings.
Hefner was actually selected by the Mets back in 2005 in the 46th round. He declined. In the end the Padres made him a fifth round pick in 2007. The righty has an average fastball, an average to plus change, and fringy breaking stuff. The Mets actually gave the 26-year old a one-day call-up on Monday as an extra arm, so it is possible that he is first in line after Schwinden for a rotation tryout though like Schwinden, Hefner profiles best as a fifth starter or organizational player.
On a more positive note, Zack Wheeler has dominanted at Binghamton with a 12.6 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in his first 15 innings. Despite upper end of the rotation caliber stuff, one has to figure the Mets will keep him at Binghamton for at least a half season before giving him a trial in Triple-A. A late-season call-up, however, seems like a good possibility.
Wheeler is not the only one pitching well for Binghamton and in fact, Wheeler’s 2.40 ERA is the second highest amongst their five starters. This group includes Mark Cohoon. The left-hander had 18 starts for Triple-A Buffalo last year and was lit up to a 6.11 ERA. A second chance at that level may be forthcoming, but his control and command are not what they were in the lower minors when he was producing sub 2.0 BB/9 at multiple levels. A crafty lefty, Cohoon needs to have pinpoint command to be successful given how fringy his overall stuff actually is.
Of the rest of the group, only Darin Gorski is really considered a prospect at the moment. The 6’ 4” lefty is coming off a very successful A+ ball campaign where he posted a 9.1 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9. The 24-year old has an average fastball, but commands it very well and has a plus change and solid slider. So far so good at Binghamton with a strikeout rate still above 9.0. Gorskis' success, however, depends on his command, a 3.9 BB/9 will need improvement. Given the former 7th round pick’s age, he could easily be on a faster track to the Majors than Wheeler and might be an option for the Mets as soon as this year. Still, like with Schwinden and Hefner, think back end of the rotation at best.
The Mets have a lot of upside near the top of their system, but right now it looks like the lower-tier guys will continue to get shots until the the top prospects show some signs of life.