I am inordinately excited every late-winter when my John Sickels prospect book arrives in the mail. It’s an event at our house, in the sense that my wife makes fun of me for getting excited about the book, then falls asleep while I stay up through the night reading it. Eat your heart out, single ladies!
Anyhow, the guy knows prospects, so this entire piece is worth a read: he reconsiders his ratings coming into the 2012 season, in light of what we now know from 2012.
A couple of major takeaways here, one great, one not great.
He points out that both Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have made tremendous strides in 2012. Considering that they are, by far, the two best prospects in the Mets’ system, and high-end pitching prospects, this is enormously positive for the long-term outlook of the team. Consider the alternative: Manny Banuelos, the corresponding prospect in the Yankee system, struggled with injuries all year, and is now out for the season. Their second-best pitching prospect coming into 2012, Dellin Betances, actually got demoted. So it didn’t have to go this way, and that’s fantastic.
When considering the 2013 rotation, the Mets are likelier to be reliant on Harvey/Wheeler than they should be, with Harvey having just three starts under his belt and Wheeler just promoted to Triple-A. Returning in 2013 will be R.A. Dickey, Johan Santana, Dillon Gee and Jonathon Niese. Obviously, Santana is an unknown, having pitched poorly for six weeks, then hitting the disabled list. We’ll have a better sense of Santana a month from now. Gee is a great unknown, with there being a good chance repetitive motion caused first a minor league shoulder injury, then the blood clot that ended his 2012 season.
Dickey and Niese are the two best bets, but Niese has much to prove in August/September, after fading badly in the previous two seasons at that point in the year. Dickey will be 38; young for a knuckleball pitcher, but not young generally.
With Chris Young likely to sign elsewhere for guaranteed money, that means if all four stay healthy, Wheeler is insurance, Harvey the fifth starter. Anyone can’t go, both are in the rotation unless the Mets spend on another starting pitcher.
But remember: Sandy Alderson has indicated that his budget is likely to stay around the same level in 2013 as 2012. Someone ought to get him on the record about what that number will be. And with returning salaries and raises, that means the Mets will have next to nothing to spend on free agents.
That’s the bad news: few of the other players on Sickels’ list are likely to help the Mets in 2013. 2014/2015 is a different story. But next year, they have massive bullpen and outfield needs. They likely won’t have money to spend. And you can’t conjure up ballplayers out of thin air.
A scenario a year from now with the Mets playing meaningless games, but allowing us to see Wheeler and Harvey regularly, is far from the end of the world. But it’s sure hard to see how they contend next season, either.