Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses of New York Mets' Top 6 Pitching Prospects

Nathan TesslerCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2013

Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses of New York Mets' Top 6 Pitching Prospects

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    If there is one theme of the New York Mets’ current rebuilding process, it is building up a plethora of pitching prospects.

    Many of these highly touted power pitchers could reach the majors within the coming months or years. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are already showing off their ace potential for the Mets, despite Wheeler’s growing pains as he adjusts to the majors.

    Mets fans should get to know these names, as they play a key role in the future of this franchise.

    Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the top six pitching prospects for the Mets.

Zack Wheeler

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    Strengths

    • Tall, athletic body
    • Mid-90s fastball with movement
    • Improved command of curveball and slider

    Weaknesses

    • Violent delivery
    • Control issues at times
    • Trouble making in-game adjustments

    Analysis

    Every Mets fan knows the name Zack Wheeler by now.

    Wheeler, who has struggled since his recent call-up to the majors, is an ace in the making.

    Wheeler can pump his fastball to the mid-90s with ease. He has struggled in the majors due to his inability to control that fastball, which he normally commands very well. Wheeler is learning quickly that he must keep that fastball down, as hitters will crush high fastballs no matter how hard he throws them.

    Nonetheless, the sky is the limit with Wheeler.

    Many pitchers develop bad habits coming out of hitter-friendly Las Vegas, where the Mets recently moved their Triple-A team, so fans should not worry too much about Wheeler’s poor major league start. But Wheeler does have a very violent and jerky delivery, so it is tough for him to make adjustments, especially during a game.

    Once Wheeler corrects those bad habits, he and Matt Harvey will be a dominant and powerful 1-2 combo in the Mets’ rotation for years to come. He has developed from a hard thrower into a complete pitcher.

Noah Syndergaard

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    Strengths

    • Smooth delivery that utilizes tall frame
    • Mid-90s fastball
    • Superb control

     

    Weaknesses 

    • Inconsistent but improving curveball
    • Changeup needs work
    • Slows down arm speed on off-speed pitches

     

    Analysis

    Noah Syndergaard, who was a big piece of the package trade for R.A. Dickey, has the potential to be the third ace in the Mets’ rotation.

    Syndergaard has a dominant sinking fastball that gets just as many grounders as strikeouts. He has a plus curveball, but the pitch has also looked very poor at times. That pitch should become a superb and consistent strikeout pitch by the time Syndergaard reaches the majors.

    However, the key pitch that will make Syndergaard either a middle-of-the-rotation arm or a budding ace is his changeup.

    If Syndergaard’s changeup can develop into a third strikeout pitch, he could become even more unhittable. If not, Syndergaard will still be a quality starter but not as good as he could be.

    Syndergaard also has a smooth delivery to the plate, which is rare for someone as tall as him (6’6”). He throws very overhand, and the downward path of the ball to the plate makes his mid-90s fastball even harder for hitters to pick up.

    Currently, Syndergaard is dominating in his recent promotion to Double-A. In two starts, he has an unbelievable 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 16/3 K/BB ratio in 11.0 innings. The 20-year-old should continue his quick rise through the minors and contribute fairly soon for the Mets. 

Rafael Montero

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    Strengths

    • Mid-90s fastball and plus slider
    • Extremely low walk rate
    • Great mound presence

     

    Weaknesses

    • Small frame (6’0”, 170 lbs); however, no durability concerns
    • Slightly poor command at times

     

    Analysis

    Rafael Montero’s career has been extremely unusual.

    Whereas most international prospects sign with major league teams when they are 16 or 17, Montero did not even begin playing organized baseball until he was 17 and did not sign with the Mets until 2011, when he was 20. Montero was notably one of the first player transactions of general manager Sandy Alderson’s regime.

    Furthermore, Montero, the 2012 Sterling Organizational Pitcher of the Year, has also flown through the Mets’ farm system. 

    After beginning his career in rookie ball and the Dominican Summer League in 2011 (where he posted a ridiculous 0.39 WHIP in four starts), Montero has taken less than two seasons to move all the way up to Triple-A.

    Montero has three quality pitches in his fastball, slider and curveball, with an ability to throw all three for strikes. It is no coincidence that Montero’s career WHIP is an absurd 0.99, as he has impeccable command and control.

    Based on Montero’s fast rise through the minors, he should be a force for the Mets in no time at all.

Jeurys Familia

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    Strengths

    • Mid-to-high 90s fastball
    • Big body with great durability
    • Plus potential with changeup and slider

     

    Weaknesses 

    • Awkward delivery
    • Terrible command at times
    • Poor K/BB rate

     

    Analysis

    Coming into 2012 spring training, Jeurys Familia and a guy named Matt Harvey were being hyped as the potential future aces for the Mets.

    One of those pitchers panned out.

    Familia has shown that ace potential at times, but he has also been maddeningly inconsistent.

    For example, Familia was moved up to High-A in 2010, where he had a whopping 137 strikeouts and 74 walks in 121.0 innings, including an embarrassing 1.58 WHIP. But Familia began 2011 in High-A with a 0.80 WHIP and 36/8 K/BB ratio in 36.1 innings before moving up the farm system.

    But, as with most pitchers with such electric and raw stuff, Familia needs a great deal of work on his control and mechanics. 

    If Familia can greatly lower that walk rate, as well as develop a third pitch (likely changeup) to complement his fastball and slider, he has a lot of potential in the Mets’ rotation. If not, Familia will likely end up in the Mets bullpen, where he already has a bit of experience.

    Regardless of where Familia ends up, do not give up on him yet. He has a very high ceiling for the Mets in either the rotation or the bullpen. Considering he already has a plus fastball and slider, Familia will likely end up as a late-inning reliever.

Luis Mateo

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    Strengths

    • Mid-90s fastball
    • Already has best slider in farm system
    • Great mound presence

     

    Weaknesses

    • Already 23 years old without experience in full-season league
    • Does not possess strong third pitch
    • Minor control concerns at times

     

    Analysis

    Luis Mateo’s professional career got off to an extremely rocky start.

    First, the San Francisco Giants voided his $625,000 contract in 2008 when they found bone chips in his elbow. Then, in November that year, Mateo’s $300,000 deal with the San Diego Padres fell through when MLB’s background investigation revealed that Mateo shaved two years off of his age.

    Finally, the Mets signed Mateo for a steal at just $150,000, where he promptly dominated the 2011 Dominican Summer League. 

    Last year, Mateo dominated the Low-A New York-Penn League. In 12 starts, Mateo was 4-5 with a superb 2.45 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and a dominant 85/9 K/BB ratio in 73.1 innings.

    Mateo possesses two great pitches in his mid-90s fastball and arguably the best slider in the Mets’ farm system. Despite minimal experience, Mateo has already shown the confidence, command and presence of a legitimate pitching prospect.

    Mateo’s next-best pitch is a decent but inconsistent changeup. If Mateo can develop a consistent third off-speed pitch, he projects as a quality starter in the coming years.

    It is worth noting that Mateo has struggled a bit since missing almost two months sitting out with an elbow strain. Mets fans should hope that the injury will not affect Mateo’s long-term growth.

Michael Fulmer

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    Strengths

    • Big, strong body
    • Mid-90s fastball (notice a trend yet?)
    • Plus slider

     

    Weaknesses 

    • Slightly inconsistent and violent delivery
    • Extremely raw prospect
    • Must develop quality third pitch

     

    Analysis

    The Mets drafted Michael Fulmer in the supplemental first round in 2011 for the price of nothing.

    The Mets received the compensation draft pick when the New York Yankees signed Pedro Feliciano to a two-year, $10 million contract before the 2011 season. Feliciano did not throw a single pitch for the Yankees, as he spent two years rehabbing a shoulder injury. And to rub salt in the wound, Feliciano is back in the Mets’ minor league system this season.

    As for Fulmer, there are two ways of viewing his current projection and output. 

    At 6’3” and 200 pounds, Fulmer is a big body with a plus fastball and slider, as well as enough command and control to project as a No. 3 starter, assuming he develops a good third pitch.

    However, there are some who believe Fulmer has the making of another potential ace for the Mets.

    In 2012, Fulmer dominated in High-A at the age of 19, when most professional pitchers are in rookie ball or Class-A at best. Fulmer finished that season at 7-6 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and a 101/38 K/BB ratio in 108.1 innings. Fulmer ranked fourth in the league in ERA and third in BAA at .227.

    He recently finished just his second start of the season in a rookie league rehab assignment, but Fulmer does seem fully recovered from a torn meniscus that kept him out until now. And considering he has 13 strikeouts and just one walk in 12.0 innings, Fulmer seems just as commanding as he has ever been.

    One could look at Fulmer’s slightly poor mechanics, inconsistent command and poor third pitch and see a good but not great prospect.

    On the other hand, one could look at Fulmer’s dominant stats in High-A at just 19 years old and see a power pitcher with ace potential.

    Only time will tell how successful Fulmer’s career is, but Mets fans are undoubtedly hoping to see the Fulmer that turns into another powerful ace for this club.

     

    Stats and/or info via milb.com, mlb.com

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