For two of the New York Mets top pitching prospects, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler, the plan is clear: develop into top-of-the-rotation starters, and front a rotation that leads the Mets back to the playoffs. However, for the Mets other two top pitching prospects, Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia, the plan is less clear.
Mejia was once a high-caliber prospect equal to the level that Wheeler is now, but after being forced to work out of the big-league bullpen in 2010 and needing Tommy John surgery after just five starts in AAA in 2011, his development has been stunted. As a result, he is not yet a finished product, but he is at a stage where the Mets need to have a plan in place for his role going forward, and they don’t have one because he hasn’t been able to pitch enough over the past two seasons.
Mejia has been jerked around too much by the Mets with regards to the level he’s pitching at, and whether he’s pitching as a starter or reliever. But, the time has come for the Mets to come up with a plan for him.
As for Familia, he was a starter throughout his minor league career, but worked mostly out of the bullpen during his September call up with the Mets last year. This spring, he is working as a reliever in hopes of making the Mets opening day roster in that role, but with the influx of veteran relievers the Mets have signed, who appear to have a leg up on Familia with regards to making the team, Familia will have to out-perform several veteran players in order to start the season in the big leagues, an outcome that appears unlikely at the moment, which leaves his future role in question.
So, what are the Mets to do with Mejia and Familia? Well, Mejia needs more time to develop, and he should be given the chance to prove he can be a starter. Although Mejia appears to be the first in line for a promotion if anyone in the Mets rotation suffers an injury, the Mets should hold out on promoting Mejia for at least a month or two.
Instead, he should stay in the Mets AAA rotation until it’s obvious that he’s ready for a big league promotion. If Mejia struggles as a starter, or the Mets have a dire need in the bullpen late in the year, then, and only then, should Mejia be moved into a relief role.
For Familia, although he is young enough to continue his development as a starter, his future is certainly in the bullpen. His fastball and his breaking ball are both swing-and-miss pitches, and even though his changeup lags behind, those two pitches are enough to excel in a bullpen role.
It also matters that the Mets are already starting to fill out their rotation of the future with Harvey, Wheeler, Jon Niese, and others, and so there is a need to balance out the pitching staff with young relievers like Familia, especially relievers with the talent of Familia.
Thus, Familia will be best utilized going forward in the bullpen, where he can be an impact pitcher, and so, if he does not make the big league roster out of spring training, Familia should be used out of the AAA bullpen in order to adjust to what his role in the majors will ultimately be.