As Spring Training 2.0 is set to kick off on July 1st, it’s going to take an extended period of time before starting pitchers will be comfortable enough to pitch well into outings in the regular season.
Middle relief pitchers are going to be more important than ever this year. In a 60 game season, every game counts; pitchers must be ready to be thrown into a game at any time.
For the New York Mets, their bullpen looks as strong as it has in years while the rotation is being led by back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. The remaining four starters of the rotation are where the questions arise.
Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha will fill out the rest of the Mets regular rotation. Stroman had his issues at times with New York in 2019, Matz is incredibly inconsistent, and Porcello and Wacha are coming to a new team after individual seasons where they both struggled.
The Mets 2017 first-round draft pick, David Peterson, could provide much needed insurance the team is going to need in 2020.
Peterson has risen up quickly through the Mets minor league system. After three years at the University of Oregon, he ended his collegiate career strongly by pitching to a 2.51 ERA in 100.1ip.
In the Arizona Fall League to finish off 2019, Peterson made four starts, only allowing five earned runs; he struck out 13 in as many innings.
In Spring Training this season, Peterson made three appearances: against the Nationals, Astros, and Cardinals. In those appearances, Peterson experienced an uptick in his fastball, consistently sitting at 93-94mph. He performed well, allowing just one run on five hits in six innings; he walked three and struck out six.
Peterson, who hasn’t thrown a pitch in Triple-A yet, is in the Mets 60-man player pool for once Spring Training 2.0 begins. The Mets should plan on having him on a track to come into games immediately following starting pitchers in the early season.
Peterson should be on the Mets 2020 Opening Day roster.
If older starters such as Porcello and Wacha only throw three-to-four innings in their first few starts, Peterson could slide in perfectly right after to follow.
Teams will have to be creative with the way they go about their pitching staff, the Mets are certainly one of those teams. Other players the Mets could slide into this role are Walker Lockett (8.34 ERA in 22.2ip), Corey Oswalt (nine runs in 6.2ip), or Robert Gsellman (4.66 ERA in 63.2ip while also dealing with injuries).
With Major League rosters being 30 players the first two weeks, the Mets shouldn’t mess around and should add Peterson from the jump. Having him as insurance for the shortened start of the season will be huge for a ballclub that has one of the toughest schedules in the league. Every game counts.
Who else could be given a shot?
2018 7th round pick Kevin Smith is an incredibly quick riser for the Mets who could also be a huge plus for the Mets this season.
After being selected out of the University of Georgia, Smith started off incredibly strong in 2018 with the Brooklyn Cyclones as he posted a 0.76 ERA in 23.2ip (only allowed two earned runs). In 2019, between both Class A Advanced and Double-A, Smith posted a 3.15 ERA in 23 starts; he struck out 130 in 117ip.
Smith could potentially thrive in a middle relief role. In 35 appearances in the minors, nine of them have come out of the bullpen after he only started 26 of his 55 collegiate outings.
The 2019 Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year could join Peterson in making an immediate impact for the ballclub.