New York Mets: Dillon Gee and the Mets' Top 10 Young Pitching Prospects

Bryan Kalbrosky@@BryanKalbroskyCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2011

New York Mets: Dillon Gee and the Mets' Top 10 Young Pitching Prospects

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    The New York Mets currently have a history with pitching that requires persistent focus on building for the future, but it hasn’t always been that way. What was once a storied franchise that produced young guns like Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Dwight Gooden, the new New York Mets have not had the same recent luck.

    Now, with one eye on Johan Santana’s fateful upcoming return and one eye on the success of All-Star snub Dillon Gee, the spotlight shines on the Mets pitching staff. If Johan Santana does not work out in his return following his third straight injury-plagued season, the matured Mets fan is left to wonder what young arms could be available to replace him.

    The fact of the matter is that very few come back from the operation that Santana had—rotator cuff surgery—at the age that he had it—32 years old. It might be significantly cheaper and more rewarding to look for a replacement of a player within our own system that could come in a similar fashion to the way that Dillon Gee was able to this season—guns out, effective and efficient.

    With the new front office diligently working to produce a more sophisticated Mets team for the future, the baseball minds—specifically Paul DePodesta—are targeting sensational young arms that could prove to be a genuine threat to the balance of power in the league in the coming years.

    In typical Bleacher Report fashion, I’ve assembled a list of the 10 most likely young arms to come in and prove to be a legitimate force of pitching talent in the major leagues for the New York Mets. 

10. Cory Mazzoni

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    One way for the New York Mets to revamp their pitching staff is to build directly from the draft. Mazzoni, a hard-throwing right-handed pitcher from North Carolina State, was the second-round pick of the New York Mets and doubled as the highest-drafted signed pitcher.

    Mazzoni is not very big—he stands at 6’1” and weighs less than 200 pounds—but despite his size, he can absolutely bring the heat. In college, his fastball was consistently in the mid-to-low-90s, and has reached a premium velocity clocked at 97 mph.

    Mazzoni is also known for his steady control. Athletically built and often referred to as a “bulldog," Mazzoni is the type of the pitcher to go right after the batter simply by throwing strike after strike. Although an obvious worry is that at the major league level this kind of player would be torched, it’s actually very good news to learn that a pitcher is as accurate as Mazzoni is because that’s one of the hardest tools for a pitcher to learn.

    If he is able to develop an effective strikeout pitch (word is that his curveball has been improving), his labor-intensive style of play matched with a simple windup could eventually lead to the same type of success that Dillon Gee has had this season. Mazonni is only 21 years old, and he just won his first game for the Brooklyn Cyclones. While Mazzoni is still a few years away, there is potential for his success.

9. Armando Rodriguez

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    Has it been long enough for a Mets fan to recover and look past the first name of this pitcher without thinking of the flame-throwing closer known for punching water coolers and blowing World Series save opportunities named Armando Benitez?

    Rodriguez is an interesting pitcher for the Mets to have their eyes on, because while he has done relatively poorly on most scouting reports he has also reeled in some very impressive statistics. Sometimes referred to as the best-kept secret in the Mets organization, last year Rodriguez’s 152 strikeouts led his Savannah squad. Generally, his other numbers (1.10 WHIP, 3.08 ERA) weren’t exactly shabby either.

    Rodriguez, who is now 23 years old, is 6’3”, weighs 250 pounds and comes from the Dominican Republic. He has broad shoulders and a strong build. On the mound, he generally works quickly and rarely gets rattled. He’s working on improving his slider, which has already paid off as one of his strikeout pitches.

    Rodriguez seems like a talented pitcher, but without getting too much more velocity on his fastball at the age of 23, his future is questionable.  

8. Bradley Holt

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    Brad Holt is a very difficult player to evaluate. Holt, who is 6’4” and weighs 200 pounds, has the name of a ballplayer and was the first-round pick in the 2008 MLB draft. After not being on the radar as a sophomore at University of North Carolina Wilmington, he improved his fastball velocity and went 11-1 with a 3.18 ERA in his final season.

    In his first season with the Brooklyn Cyclones, he broke the minor league team franchise record with 96 strikeouts (including 14 in one six-inning performance). His fastball now reaches 93-95 mph, and he has been clocked at 97 mph after reaching back. He has good command for the pitch, and has developed a deep endurance that ensures his fastball maintain the same velocity late in the game. Holt is described as having the ideal built for a pitching prospect, and has been compared to Randy Johnson.

    At this point, however, Holt is 24 years old and pitching for the Binghamton AA team. He hasn’t had a winning record since getting the call-up to AA ball in 2009, and his ERA has been very high. He has been unable to develop an efficient secondary pitcher, and many worry whether or not Bradley Holt only smells like success because he looks (and sounds) like a professional player.

    AA Binghamton Manager Wally Backman is concerned that the issue with Holt is more serious. Backman worries that, rather than losing his stuff, with his loss of confidence came a loss of focus and he has trouble paying attention for a long period of time. That is how he came to show a 2-5 record at AA this year. 

7. Juan Urbina

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    The son of former player Ugueth Urbina, Juan Urbina is very much a definitive product of the Omar Minaya era. Urbina signed with the New York Mets when he was 17 years old, and was one of the most coveted international players of 2010.

    At 6’2” and 170 pounds, Baseball Prospectus lists Urbina as a top-10 Latin talent. The lefty is known for maturity both on and off of the field, and has major league blood in his system, being the son of former All-Star Ugeuth Urbina. Baseball-Intellect calls him the sixth-best prospect in the entire Mets organization, and one scout called him the best Venezuelan pitcher he’d ever seen. Baseball America ranks him ahead of some already proven players, but also are incredibly big fans of what he can bring to the table.

    Urbina is lean and athletic, can hit 91 mph with his fastball, and has very good command. His changeup is a good setup pitch, and lots of scouts admire his clean mechanics because they feel as if it will minimize his risk of injury. The Mets may or may not rush him up in the system, but I think that he is the sort of pearl that could handle it either way.

    Ugueth Urbina, now in prison for a 14-year sentence in Venezuela for attempted murder, had reached out to Francisco Rodriguez to help guide his young son. The New York Times reports that, on most days, Rodriguez picks up Urbina and brings him back to this house where he cooks for him, they play video games and they talk about American culture and baseball. This type of guidance could help him at the big league level.

6. Jeurys Familia

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    If Armando Rodriguez has been called a poor man’s Jeurys Familia in one scouting report, what does that make Jeurys Familia? With that kind of name, there’s an instant attraction to the young pitcher.

    Familia, who led the St. Lucie Mets with 137 strikeouts in 2010 (K per nine of 10.2), was called up to play AA ball for Binghamton this May. Earlier this season, his line (1.49 ERA, 36 K’s, 0.798 WHIP) in six games for St. Lucie certainly made the pitcher out to be a young sensation.

    While once a victim of terrible control issues, his velocity has been climbing and now can reach up to 96-97 mph. He’d fumbled here and there, perhaps throwing off the perceptive development curve, but most of it was due to his learning of a changeup. Familia also throws an above-average slider, sported a 50 percent groundball rate in 2011, and is working on his command.

    As his numbers improve, so does the general word on his scouting report and the development has been a treat for those fortunate enough to watch him. Lots of officials like Familia, and think that he could skyrocket on the 2012 prospects board. Just recently, Mets Geek called him the third-best upside arm behind Mejia and Holt.

    Familia is 6’3”, a heavy 185 pounds, comes from the Dominican Republic and is slowly growing into his body. He’s aggressive on the mound, and looks to be a breakout pitcher. DePodesta feels that it would be best not to rush him through the system, and would ideally like him to log 100 innings above Single-A to instead focus on long-term development.

    The word for Familia is projected at September to mid-2012 arrival at the earliest. Familia is the kind of player that I really like, and I think that he has the tools and the drive to develop into a top talent, even if it as at the sleeper level to begin with. 

5. Dillon Gee

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    And then there was Dillon Gee.

    Recently, Gee developed a ton of hype around him and even made a deep push to the All-Star game. Though woefully ending up a snub, Gee still is turning a lot of heads and rode a 7-0 start of the season, which eventually turned into 8-1 by July. While Gee has struggled as of late, the word on the 25-year-old from Texas is still good.

    What’s not to love about Dillon Gee for Mets fans? With Santana out, the need to worry is diminished when you look at the work he has been able to put in this year. His 2.86 ERA was one of the best starts in franchise history. Finally, with Gee, there was some buzz around the New York Mets pitching!

    He has pinpoint control, is a smart player on the mound, and is a fascinating pitcher to watch because he does nothing else exceptionally well. Gee works with a very impressive changeup, called the best in the organization by BaseballAmerica, and at one point this season, the 21st-round pick had an opposition batting average of only .208.

    While his future may project as a No. 4 starter, that is still a very generous report for someone who had come from nowhere. Gee has taken the opportunity that he had been given and made the most of it, and now has a spot locked in the Mets rotation for as long as he wants to keep it there due to the lack of depth in the Mets starting bullpen. Only time will tell if he’s playing above his head, but one can only assume that this is his actual talent level.  

4. Bobby Parnell

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    “Bobby Parnell” is a name that sounds familiar if you’re a Mets fan because he’s been on the roster for some time now. Parnell has held down a position as the Mets setup man this season, and looks to offer the job as a replacement to Francisco Rodriguez once his contract is out or if he is traded this season.

    Parnell is 6’4”, weighs 200 pounds and comes from North Carolina as well. He was drafted in the ninth round of the 2005 amateur MLB draft, and has been long projected to be the future star for the New York Mets. After being named to the minor league All-Star team for his third team, Parnell was first called up to play for the Mets in September of 2008.

    Now with a spot in the Mets bullpen, his fastball consistently reaches in the high-90s, and has been known to hit 100 mph. On August 18th, 2010, one of Parnell’s fastballs hit 102.5 mph, setting the record for the fastest pitch ever thrown in the MLB (which then became known for the shortest-lived record, because it was beaten by Ardolis Chapman two weeks later).

    For Parnell, however, the future looks bright. A couple of weeks ago on June 29th, when the Mets played the Tigers, Parnell hit 100 mph, 101 mph, 103 mph, 103 mph, 102 mph and 102 mph. Some say that Parnell reminds them of Heath Bell, and one concern is that he lacks a solid second pitch but reports say he is currently successfully adding one to his repertoire.

    With the progress that Parnell has made, his future as a closer (or as a starter down the road) in this league looks to be solid.

3. Jonathon Niese

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    I like Jonathon Niese, and it’s not just because he comes from Defiance, OH—even though he actually comes from Defiance, OH.

    Before becoming a pro, Niese was voted the Gatorade High School Player of the Year two years in a row. Niese, like Parnell, was drafted in the 2005 MLB amateur draft. The seventh-round pick is 6’4” and weighs 215 pounds. He first made his debut for the Mets in 2008.

    Niese was named the fifth-best prospect for the Mets in 2009 by FanGraphs. His early success was cut short due to a gnarly injury in which he fell down while on the pitcher's mound after straining his right hamstring following a warm-up pitch. Watching him collapse like a horse, and then fight back to the success that he’s had this year, has been very impressive.

    Last season, however, was when Niese first flashed his signs of brilliance. On June 10th, Niese threw a one-hit shutout and was only the second Mets pitcher to ever face just 28 batters. Catcher Rod Barajas was quoted after the game as saying, “I can’t tell you how impressive and how good this guy can be.”

    Last season, Niese was named to the 2010 BaseballAmerica Rookie All-Star team, which also featured names like Buster Posey, Ike Davis, Starlin Castro and Jason Heyward. While people had no reason to expect big things from Niese, he seems like the type of player that will succeed in Citi Field. He led all rookies in strikeouts last season with 148 K’s, he has a successful strikeout pitch with his curveball, generates a ton of groundballs with a 51.8 percent minor league career rate and has a K/9 of 8.2.

    Niese does nothing exceptionally well, but does everything better than most other options. We’ll be seeing lots of Niese in the future for the Mets, and he has even drawn comparisons to Tom Glavine.    

2. Matt Harvey

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    Last night, the Mets sent 2010 first-round selection and seventh overall pick Matt Harvery to the Futures Game. Matt Harvey is yet another player from the University of North Carolina, and is currently 21 years old.

    The 6’4”, 210-pound right-handed pitcher was 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA this season for St. Lucie before getting called up to AA. His 92 strikeouts and 10.2 SO/9 were leading the team before he was called up. He has a mean repertoire that includes a fastball in the upper-90s, a wicked curveball, a sinker, a slider and is developing a changeup.

    Harvey’s desire to dominate has been compared to Roy Halladay, and the New York Post reports that he once threw 157 pitches in a game in college to defeat Clemson. The last pitch was clocked at 96 mph. His arm was not sore the next day.

    Harvey is beyond gifted. BaseballAmerica calls him the fourth-best prospect for the New York Mets, and there is a lot of promise behind this young arm. Two days ago, he was named the 30th-best prospect in the game. No other Mets player cracked the top 50. 

1. Jennry Mejia

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    Jennry Mejia is the clear-cut top prospect for the New York Mets. Mejia had looked beyond solid in his first appearances (44 K’s in 50 innings for St. Lucie, 47 K’s in 44 IP for the AA Binghamton team). Mejia was signed as an international free agent when he was 16 years old.

    His fastball has impressive movement, he has a good curveball and a decent changeup. Baseball Prospectus calls his talents rare, rates him as the Mets' only five-star talent and calls his 93-95 mph fastball that can touch 98 mph big league-ready.

    At 19 years old, he was already dominating the Double-A hitters that came his way, and this is an interesting analysis of his pitch f/x. Mejia ranked 23rd on ESPN Keith Law’s Top 100 prospects, ahead of Zach Britton, and said that if the Mets take it slow with Mejia, he prospects as an ace talent.

    Following successful recovery from surgery for an injury, Mejia will likely miss the rest of this season due to Tommy John surgery. Frankly, it’s good that he’s taking the time to recover. He is the most highly regarded talent for the Mets, and every dream is for him to turn out to be the next Dwight Gooden. Things may not work out that way, but for Mets fans, they can only hope that this sensation is everything that he is cracked up to be.

    Until then, Mets fans will hope to see Mejia as their next ace pitcher out of the bullpen.