New York Mets: 7 Minor Leaguers Most Likely to Contribute in September

Jared Steckler@JaySteckContributor IISeptember 1, 2012

New York Mets: 7 Minor Leaguers Most Likely to Contribute in September

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    Despite an exciting and surprisingly promising first half of baseball, the New York Mets have fallen out of the playoff race and are 10 games behind in pace for the final National League wild-card spot. 

    The team's all-too-characteristically second-half swoon notwithstanding, 2012 was always considered to be part of a Sandy Alderson-led, franchise rebuilding phase, looking to slowly shed some presently constraining contracts, while methodically building a core of productive players from within the organization. 

    2012 was no lost season Mets fans—rather, it was a very deliberately placed step in the right direction towards the year-in and year-out consistent success that has mostly escaped the franchise since its last World Series title in 1986.

    With active major league rosters set to expand to 40 on September 1, Mets fans are sure to witness an influx of several current minor leaguers hoping to contribute throughout the last month of the regular season.  The expansion of rosters provides teams—both contenders and cellar-dwellers alike—the opportunity to showcase their minor league products, while, simultaneously, evaluating the role that these players may conceivably have in the team’s future plans.

    In other words, it should provide Mets fans with something to be excited for, other than the team’s fight for third-place—or to stay out of the basement of the NL East for those most classically-pessimistic fans—in the division.

    With help from the research and expertise of various baseball analysts, I have compiled a list of the seven Mets minor leaguers who are most likely to be on the receiving end of substantial playing time in baseball’s somewhat experimental final month of the regular season.  

    It is important to note that this is not necessarily a prospect list but is instead a compilation of seven men currently playing for a Mets minor league affiliate—regardless of major league experience—who are poised and ready to make an impact at the franchise’s highest level this September. 

    For this reason, players already on the active major league roster, like rookie pitching phenom Matt Harvey or the recently recalled outfielder, Lucas Duda, are ineligible for the list.

Jenrry Mejia (RHP: 22 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 9 GS, 86.2 IP, 3.22 ERA, .251 BAA, 29 BB/50 SO


    Alongside the heavy fastball of rookie Matt Harvey and the tantalizing “stuff” possessed by AAA farmhand Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia makes up the final piece of the seemingly infinitely talented cogs that are hoped to help make up the Mets young, three-headed, pitching staff of the future.

    The only question is whether that future role will be in the starting rotation or whether it will be coming out of the bullpen.

    Just one year removed from season-ending Tommy John surgery, Mejia— who features an arsenal that includes a mid 90s fastball, a very capable sinking changeup and a relatively underdeveloped curveball—is undoubtedly regaining his arm strength. 

    Evident by long minor league stints back and forth between the AAA bullpen and starting rotation, the seemingly indecisive nature of the Mets brass is only likely to be rectified if Mejia continues to develop his secondary pitches, while, above all else, alleviating the control issues that have plagued him.  The young right-hander has issued 29 walks compared to an uninspiring 50 strikeouts.


    Predicted September Role

    Pending a likely September call-up, Jenrry Mejia is most likely to contribute out of the bullpen for the Mets. 

    Mejia’s minor league numbers can be a little misleading due to some stark SP/RP splits.  Although his statistics indicate that he has struggled mightily in the relief pitcher role (21.1 IP, 5.48 ERA, .303 BAA, 9BB/10SO), his numbers as a Buffalo starting pitcher prove to be much more promising (46.1 IP, 1.94 ERA, .220 BAA, 15BB/24SO).

    Mets officials—including general manager Sandy Alderson—continue to hold out hope that Mejia will, one day, help anchor the team’s pitching staff. 

    With just two major league ready pitches, and in spite of the splits, the organization’s constant tinkering with Mejia’s pitching role suggests that the bullpen is to be Mejia’s best shot at success at the major league level today—if for no other reason than the present lack of room in the starting rotation.

Collin McHugh (RHP: 25 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 25 GS, 148.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, .222 BAA, 46 BB/ 135 SO


    Collin McHugh may not boast the same level of talent as some of the more highly touted  Mets farmhands, and a productive baseball career is certainly far from a guarantee, but the 25-year-old righty is no slouch.  McHugh provided a glimmer of hope—if not a historically good spectacle— by hurling seven scoreless, two-hit, nine strikeout (one walk), very effective innings of baseball. 

    According to Mike Kerwick, McHugh is now one of just three pitchers (Masato Yoshii and Dick Rusteck) who have thrown seven scoreless innings in their Mets debuts.


    Predicted September Role

    McHugh was sent back down following his gem but has since joined the team’s taxi-squad and is currently penciled in for his second start on Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals

    In an attempt to limit innings across the entire rotation, the Mets have tentatively moved to a six-man starting rotation.  This all but guarantees a good look at what exactly the Mets have in a number of the team’s farmhands. 

    Certainly, McHugh has earned himself another look.  Results permitting, fans can count on the 18th-round Georgia native to get at least a few more turns through the starting rotation.

Jeurys Familia (RHP: 22 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 27 GS, 130.0 IP, 4.78 ERA, .267 BAA, 72 BB/ 119 SO


    Jeurys Familia is considered to have truly electric stuff—nobody doubts that the guy can flat out throw a baseball.  But can he pitch?  

    The young starter has become somewhat of an enigma to baseball officials who love his upper-90s heater and his athletic 6’3”, 195 pound frame, but the results still leave much to be desired. 

    Along with control issues, underdeveloped secondary offerings have stalled the pitchers’ ascent to the majors and have led to a 2012 season that could be considered a step backwards for the confounding young righty.  However, at just 22 years old, Familia’s window for improvement is far from closed.


    Predicted September Role

    Despite 72 walks in just 130 innings, Familia has the good fortune to already occupy a spot on the Mets 40-man roster.  That alone is sufficient reason to see what the erratic righty has to offer and greatly increases the likelihood that we, in some capacity, will see his talent on display come September.

    Familia has certainly shown glimpses of high potential over the course of the minor league season, but consistency has escaped him en route to posting a 4.98 ERA in 24 starts for Buffalo.  According to manager Terry Collins, Familia is likely to play a role akin to his young pitching counterpart, Jenrry Mejia.  

    This means that Mets fans are likely to see the majority of Familia’s exposure to major league hitters while coming out of the bullpen, though a spot start or two is not out of the question.

Jordany Valdespin (2B/OF: 24 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 35 G, .324/.417/.742, 5 HR, 8 SB


    Meet Jordany Valdespin—a confident (bordering on brazen) young player with the undeniable athleticism to slot in almost anywhere on the field but who is without the current ability to play anywhere exceptionally well. 

    Luckily for Jordany, second base and outfield—the two positions where Valdespin has appeared most comfortable—are by no means locked up or even thought to be areas of strength by any stretch of the imagination in Citi Field.  

    Given the Mets' lack of circumstantially pertaining positional depth, the formula for playing time is simple.  If Valdespin can hit, you can bet that the Mets will find somewhere to play him in the field in order to provide the prospect with some sorely needed experience.


    Predicted September Role

    Though he may not provide much of an upgrade by way of defensive ability over the less-athletically gifted Daniel Murphy, if Valdespin can provide adequate defense at second base (his bat should be enough to match any production), the team is likely to forget about the struggling bats who currently occupy the position. 

    Murphy’s inconsistency and lack of pop have opened the door for a competition at second base, and if Valdespin can prove to be a competent asset, it may even be his position to win next spring.

    At the very least, between Jason Bay, Andres Torres and Lucas Dada, the Mets outfielders’ failure to meet expectations have been well chronicled and should pave the way to more playing time for Valdespin.

    Valdespin has already had multiple stints with the major league club when he provided an excellent spark off the bench.  His five pinch-hit home runs this year have surpassed the all-time Mets record in the category and make him an easy choice for an active roster spot in September.

Zach Lutz (INF: 26 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 76 G, .408/.506/.914, 11 HR, 18 2B


    Would you believe me if I told you that the Mets actually have a right-handed corner infielder with pop?  Hailing from Reading, PA, Zach Lutz is that man.  The only problem is that nobody knows where to play him.  The only position in which he plays adequately, third base, is currently manned by perennial all-star David Wright, but boy could the Mets use a righty with some power.

    Lacking any true position in the field, Lutz has accumulated just eight major league at-bats, but at age 26, Lutz has little left to prove in the minors.  His .396/.509/.906 triple slash line accumulated over the parts of three seasons in AAA speaks for itself, however, defensive problems and an inability to stay healthy have kept the big righty from a promotion to the parent-club.  But did I mention that when he does play, he hits?


    Predicted September Role

    At this point in his development, Lutz is likely entering his prime years of production.  For a team struggling for wins and looking to put out a better product in 2013, now is as good a time as ever to give the finally-healthy Lutz his opportunity.

    It would be nice to hope that he can play some outfield, but that seems unlikely at the moment.  Odds are that he will get the occasional start spelling both Wright and, more specifically, first basement Ike Davis, given the right pitching matchup. 

    Manager Terry Collins should also be excited to have a new, powerful right-handed toy to use off of the bench in pinch-hitting situations.

Chris Schwinden (RHP: 25 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 23 GS, 123.0 IP, 3.59 ERA, .267 BAA, 35 BB/ 96 SO

    While he may not be the sexiest of pitching options, righty Chris Schwinden projects as a spot starter and serviceable long man out of the bullpen.

    The 25-year-old has accrued a rather unsightly 6.98 ERA in seven big league starts, but his minor league numbers provide a much more insightful sample size in which he has started 23 games to the tune of a 3.59 ERA accompanied by a respectable 35BB/96SO.


    Predicted September Role

    Rotational uncertainty centering around inning limits and injuries across the starting staff will enable Schwinden the opportunity to prove himself a capable pitcher and the bullpen’s long-man with an occasional spot start. 

    At his age, this may Schwinden’s best chance of factoring into the team's plans in 2013 and beyond.

Elvin Ramirez (RHP: 24 Years Old)

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    Current Team - Buffalo Bisons (AAA)

    2012 Minor League Statistics: 40 G, 54.1 IP, 1.99 ERA, .173 BAA, 28 BB/ 56 SO


    You can chalk Elvin Ramirez up as another failed 2012 bullpen experiment, or you can point to his impressive 1.99 ERA and unhittable .173 BAA in 54.1 AAA innings as reason to expect him to be a vital piece of the team’s bullpen for years to come.  

    The fact of the matter is that, at 24, Ramirez posted a dreadful 7.30 ERA in 11 major league relief appearances this season.  Again, the sample size falls short when it comes to judging a young arm— especially that of a relief pitcher—but you would like to see him demonstrate at least some ability to get major league hitters out, which he clearly failed to do.


    Predicted September Role

    Fifty-six strikeouts in 54.1 innings compared with only 28 walks should undoubtedly present some intrigue, as well as validate any hopes for future success.

    There is no reason to suspect that the promising young righty will not be given his fair shot in the major league bullpen this September. 

    I would not go nearly as far as to say that this is his last shot, but the Mets will expect results that better mirror the ability he has demonstrated in holding AAA hitters to a .173 batting average—impressive at any level— this time around.