Historically, the New York Mets franchise has been known for a few things. The apple in CF, their not so fantastic win-loss record, those blue and orange jersies and pitching. Through the years pitchers such as Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman and Dwight Gooden have donned Mets uniforms.Â But more recently while the rhetoric from our general managers (Phillips, Duquette and now Minaya) has continued to bang the drum regarding the team being built on “pitching and defense”, the pitchers coming through the system have left a lot to be desired.
The last pitcher to come through the Mets system and make the all-star team for the Mets is Bobby Jones back in 1997. Not to take anything away from Bobby, as he was our best pitcher for a stretch of a few years but it is kind of depressing that the Mets have been so poor cultivating pitching.
Here is normally where people say “well if Wilpon wasn’t so cheap the Mets could go over slot!!” and trust me, I hate the fact that they don’t go over-slot as much as the next guy but these excuse is a total cop-op. The Minnesota Twins currently have Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn and Brian Duensing all currently on their 2009 staff, the Dodgers have Kershaw, Billingsley, Broxton, the Phillies have Hamels, Happ, Myers… ok you get the picture.
The Mets inability to produce homegrown pitching hurts them two-fold. First, they obviously don’t have good young (and cheap) pitchers to put along side high paid pitchers like Santana and Oliver Perez to keep the payroll within reason without sacrificing other areas. Second, the rest of the teams in baseball value pitching just as the Mets do so while a prospect may not be great, a guy like Glen Perkins or Brian Duensing likely has more trade value than a Daniel Murphy/Nick Evans.
The most perplexing thing about this unability to produce pitching is the far reaching scope it has reached. Again, 12 years and 3 Gm’s since 1997 (our last homegrown all-star pitcher). The Mets have had 1st round busts since then… Goetz, Humber, Heilman (as starter), and now potentially Pelfrey. The Mets have had injuries to top prospects (Paul Wilson, Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen) The Mets have had international signings (Deolis Guerra),Â and the Mets have had late round picks come in and pitch well at lower levels (Evan MacLane, Dylan Owen etc) only to flame out.
Some of the recent blame has to fall to Omar Minaya. The 2007 draft the Mets took 7 pitchers out of their first 9 picks and only 2 seasons later only Scott Moviel, Brant Rustich and Eric Niesen appear to have any chance at MLB success with first pick Eddie Kunz looking more and more like a bust and Nathan Vineyard retired. The 2006 draft doesn’t look much better with Mulvey being a middling 5th starter prospect now with Arizona, Joe Smith a run of the mill reliever, John Holdzkom a knuckle-headed kid who is always hurt and Steven Holmes and Scott Schafer no longer with the team (that would be 5 out of our first 6 picks for this of you at home). The Mets proceeded to sign only 3 pitchers out of their first 11 picks (the latter 2 being 10th round soft-tosser Darin Gorski and 13th rounder HS lefty Zach Dotson)
Put down the bottle of whiskey, things could be improving. Jenrry Mejia probably has the highest upside of any Mets pitcher in recent memory and Brad Holt (AA struggles aside) has the upside of a better John Maine. The Mets have a few other interesting arms in the system with Rustich, Niesen, Moviel, newly signed Juan Urbina and the “Big 4″ in Savannah (Allen, Familia, Carson, Beaulac) but Omar Minaya and the Mets ABSOLUTELY need to put an emphasis on drafting pitching in next years draft with the Mets picking high in every round it is a necessity to come out of the draft with 3-4 arms we can look forward to.