Whether or not the New York Mets win the Trevor Bauer sweepstakes, the team still has at least one more rotation spot to fill. At this point in the offseason, it’s looking like this solution will come from in house. Last week, the current major league ready options were given their own analysis. For now, it’s time to examine what the team’s best pitching prospects have to offer.
The Mets currently have five starting pitching prospects on the 40-man roster: Franklyn Kilome, Thomas Szapucki, Sam McWilliams, Yennsy Diaz, and Sean Reid-Foley.
The first up are the longest tenured Mets in this group. Kilome, 25, was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies for Asdrubal Cabrera in 2018, and Szapucki, 24, is a homegrown talent who was drafted by the organization in 2015.
Of the two, Kilome is the only one with major league experience, making four relief appearances with the team last year. Though it didn’t go well (11.12 ERA), he was rushed out into a very rough situation. As the team’s no. 10 prospect, he owns a 3.55 ERA across 95 appearances (92 starts) in the minors. He’s yet to appear in AAA, however, making it likely he begins there in 2021. That said, a strong showing in Spring Training might change that. Whether or not he makes the big league roster as a starter or a reliever is another question entirely.
Szapucki is the lone lefty on this list and has the best shot at being a starter. Armed with an above average curveball and a high-90s fastball, he’s currently the team’s eighth ranked prospect. Like Kilome, he’s topped out in AA, albeit making just one start at that level. As a minor leaguer, he has a 2.42 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 39 games (33 starts). Constant injuries have so far stymied his progression up the minor league ladder, but most scouts agree he has the stuff to be a successful major league pitcher.
While it may be prudent to start Szapucki in AAA next year, the front office may feel he doesn’t have much left to prove. He may be raw, but the talent is definitely there. Depending if there is a minor league season this year and he performs well there, Szapucki might find himself making a mid-season start for the Mets.
The next two pitchers were both recently acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Steven Matz.
Reid-Foley, 25, is technically not a prospect anymore as he made his major league debut in 2018. Unfortunately for him, his time with the Blue Jays was limited. In just 21 big league appearances (13 starts) from 2018-20, he’s put up a 4.40 ERA, 5.20 FIP and 1.605 WHIP. His inability to limit the long ball and walks are the main contributors to his struggles. In just 65 innings, he gave up 11 homeruns and 42 walks. Even though he was once a vaunted starting pitching prospect, Reid-Foley has faired much better as a reliever. If he makes an appearance with the Mets this year, it’ll likely be out of the bullpen.
Moving on to Diaz, the 24-year-old is now the Mets 30th ranked prospect. Like Reid-Foley, he was once projected to be a starter, but may ultimately be better fit as a middle-reliever. He’s had a good, sometimes great, minor league career, compiling a 3.84 ERA in 96 games (84 starts). In 2019, he finished his first season in AA with a promising 3.74 ERA. That year, Diaz also made his lone big league appearance, giving up two earned runs in 0.2 innings of relief. Still, with a 98 mph fastball, Diaz might find a place yet as a solid reliever.
A Pricey Wild Card
McWilliams, 25, is the most intriguing of the bunch due to how he arrived to the Mets. Despite never pitching in the majors, the Mets signed him to a major league deal worth $750,000 last November . Making things even more confounding is that his stats in AAA in 2019 were awful (8.18 ERA). Overall, the team’s no. 22 prospect owns a decent but unspectacular 3.85 ERA in his minor league career.
So why the major league contract? The Mets clearly have high hopes for the 6-foot-7 pitcher to make the majors this year. This comes from spending 2020 in the Tampa Bay Rays pitching facility where he evolved into a completely new pitcher. The analytical experts in Tampa helped McWilliams determine that dropping his mid-90s two-seam fastball in favor of his four-seamer would transform him into a deadly strikeout pitcher. Though he only pitched in simulated games last year, the figures show that the transformation was a success. His four-seamer now reaches up to 98 mph and has above average whiff potential.
However, while McWilliams chances of making the opening day roster are strong, his lack of overall pitch variety may convince the Mets to use him as a reliever instead of a starter.
Featured Image Courtesy of USA Today
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