"Hey kids, we may be one of the laughing stocks of baseball, but it's OK because both of you are going to turn around the franchise!"
That is essentially the message that the Mets' organization is sending to Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler entering the 2013 season.
In the first half, it seemed like they could benefit from being in the major leagues at a young age. At this point, it seems like promoting Wheeler before the Mets upgrade several other aspects of the offense could be useless or, even worse, detrimental to his confidence.
Give credit to Harvey, the 23-year-old rookie, who was able to mitigate the distractions surrounding the team and simply take the mound and perform.
Many rookies would feel pressured to be the savior at a time when the offense is inept and the bullpen is an enigma at best.
Harvey finished his rookie season with a misleading 3-5 record due to the lack of run support. He compiled tremendous numbers for a player two years removed from college baseball--a 2.73 ERA with a 1.15 WHIP, .200 BAA and 10.67 K/9.
He displayed a great deal of composure for a young pitcher, in addition to a deadly fastball-slider combination that made the National League look clueless against him at times.
Going forward, however, how will he deal with the pressure of being the focal point of this franchise?
The Mets have very few major-league-ready prospects which does not bode well considering their poor financial state and thin crop of talent at the big league level.
Even if he is able to develop into one of the elite starters in this league, will it be enough? Or, will Zack Wheeler need to enter the league and dominate in the same way?
Wheeler had a strong but not outstanding showing in Triple-A. He has a phenomenal arsenal of pitches, but ultimately he will need to display an off-the-charts make up in order to avoid succumbing to the pressure of New York.
In terms of historical perspective, this would not be the first time the franchise has pinned its hopes upon a group of young pitchers. The results have been mixed, to put it lightly.
Obviously, it worked masterfully for both of their World Series titles--with the focus on Tom Seaver leading the staff in '69 and Dwight Gooden in '86--but it backfired in the 1990s.
A trio of pitchers; Paul Wilson, Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher were expected to develop into dominating pitchers at the major league level. They all experienced tremendous success during the 1995 minor league seasons.
They all shouldered heavy workloads in Triple-A, which was most likely the leading reason arm injuries hampered their developments and "Generation K" never materialized.
Given their minor league success and monitored workload, I would be very surprised if either pitcher experienced significant arm injuries.
While Mets fans should be excited at the prospect of Harvey and Wheeler anchoring the rotation for years to come, it's not fair to expect such inexperienced arms to carry this franchise.
The front office should be surrounding them with quality players but, right now, the Mets are thin on impact players.
Will they be effective pitchers in this league? Absolutely, but their presence in itself is not enough to overcome the team's deficiencies.
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