As the Mets try to figure out what’s wrong with Matt Harvey, the club has decided to let him keep pitching. He’ll make his next start Monday. And the club has said that he’s been a part of this decision-making process, talking his way to the mound. It’s not unfounded to let a player help direct a team’s choices but it also points to another issue for the Mets: If Harvey had to be skipped, or sent to the DL, or just need a prolonged refresher, who would the Mets use instead?
There aren’t many great options. This is where the 2016 Mets differ from last year’s team. Last season, their farm system was a boon for the major league team and among the best in baseball. This year, thanks to graduations and trades, it’s depleted at the top. At times like these, with Harvey and even Lucas Duda’s injury, they can’t just pull high-end talent up to the majors anymore.
This obviously isn’t a negative on the whole. Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz–two arms the Mets turned to when they needed to and wanted to last season–are now excelling for the big league club. Michael Conforto jumped straight from Double-A in July to help spark the offense; now he is the No. 3 hitter. Prospects are supposed to become major league talent and the Mets have found success that way.
It’s just that now that when the Mets need help, where can they look internally? It’s not hard to think that if there were legitimate options to put into the rotation, they might be more open to letting Harvey breathe for a bit. Logan Verrett has been good to this point–a 3.89 ERA in seven career starts–but his pedigree is underwhelming. Rafael Montero has repeatedly struggled in major league tryouts.
The options in the minors are limited too. The only non-Matz pitching prospect in the Mets’ top-10 prospect this spring, according to Baseball Prospectus, is Robert Gsellman and he’s at Double-A and just off the disabled list.
At Triple-A, Gabriel Ynoa, the Mets’ No. 13 prospect according to MLB.com, leads the pack. And while he’s got a 2.50 ERA, 28 strikeouts in 57 ⅔ innings are hardly reaffirming. Seth Lugo has struggled–and his peripherals aren’t great–while Montero and Sean Gilmartin have had their turns in the majors already.
The same goes with their attempts to replace Duda. There is no impact bat near major league ready, with Dominic Smith still just 20 and in Double-A. It’s the gift and curse of the Mets being flush with all that young talent last season. The Mets’ system, on the whole, ranks 21st in baseball and this assessment from BP sums it up well:
“The Mets dropped the furthest, going from a top-five system to a bottom-ten one. Graduating Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard will do that though. In addition, trades have thinned out the pitching depth some, and the pre-Conforto first round picks (Nimmo, Cecchini, Smith) have had some developmental hiccups. The most interesting names spent 2015 in short-season ball, and Luis Carpio is already slated to miss the 2016 season with a labrum tear. Steven Matz is currently propping up the system, but two top-30 picks should help Sandy Alderson and company reload.”
A pitcher like Michael Fulmer, who has already touched the majors with the Tigers, could surely be useful right now, either to help or for trade deadline help, but surely the Mets have no regrets about dealing him for Yoenis Cespedes last July.
Instead, the Mets must work out their own issues for now. Internal reinforcements are harder to find. What came so easily and often for the Mets last season–calling up an instant star to reinforce their World Series team–doesn’t seem to be an option now.
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