Last year, the New York Mets had collected what appeared to be a stable full of young, hard-throwing pitching prospects, all of whom were either in the major leagues already or projected to be one or two years away. One year later, all of those pitching prospects have hit bumps in the road, suffered major injuries or simply haven’t developed the way the Mets thought they would by this time.
First and foremost, last year’s phenom Matt Harvey has missed the entire season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The surgery was successful, his UCL is apparently stronger than ever and his throwing sessions are going fine. But as much as Harvey wants to return this year, it typically takes a year to rehab from the procedure. The Mets would be wise to play it safe with their young ace and stick to doctor’s orders.
Zack Wheeler, considered by many to be as good as Harvey, has experienced growing pains this season. The right-hander, who was acquired for Carlos Beltran in 2011, has shown flashes of brilliance, like when he three-hit the Miami Marlins, and flashes of futility, like when he gave up six runs on 48 pitches in his very next start. Wheeler is tall and lanky, and his mechanics have been inconsistent. He’s only 23, and there’s no reason to be bearish on him yet. His fastball has held steady in the 94-96 MPH range, but he needs to find consistency with one or two of his secondary pitches, like his curveball or 88-90 MPH slider.
Rafael Montero took a huge step backward this year. The 23 year-old right-hander had a reputation for pinpoint control, but he’s failed to live up to his billing in 2014. During his four-start stint in the major leagues, Montero averaged five walks per nine innings. At Triple-A, he’s averaged 4.3 walks per nine innings. Montero doesn’t throw as hard as the other Mets prospects, so control is key. A low-90s fastball is so ordinary today.
Noah Syndergaard seemed like the best prospect of them all until this year. Many fans criticized the Mets for holding him back this year, thinking they should have jumped him to the majors in April rather than wait for his super-two deadline. As it turned out, Syndergaard made the decision easy for New York. He still has a 98 MPH fastball and a plus curveball, but he doesn’t seem to trust his stuff. Syndergaard falls behind hitters and doesn’t throw his curve enough. Once he learns a little more about pitching he’ll be just fine, but his progress is slower than many predicted.
The only prospect who has had a modicum of success this year has been Jacob deGrom. He has a 3.62 ERA this year for the big club and has generally done a nice job, despite a 4.2 BB/9 walk rate.
There is no reason to panic about the future of these young arms, but they haven’t been able to help the Mets at the major league level in 2014. A lot of the hope for this season was predicated on their progress and maturity, but it hasn’t worked out so far.