I want to begin this conversation by establishing two reference points. Last week Peter Gammons tweeted a quote from that preeminently quotable source, the unnamed GM: “Putting all your hopes in young minor league pitching is like putting all your savings in dot.com stocks.”
The other reference point is the acronym in our headline, made famous by the tough-minded folks at Baseball Prospectus: “There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect.” Essentially, BP analysts have looked at the historic volatility and fragility of young pitching and cautioned: “Don’t count your chickens.”
Both strike cautionary notes that speak to assumptions about the rosy future. Yet here the Mets organization stands today with a disproportion of its young talent in pitching — so that the entire system looks lopsided. Outside of Travis d’Arnaud, Wilmer Flores, and Matt den Dekker, the Mets don’t have any top prospect position players who have succeeded above High-A Ball.
I’ve heard DePodesta speak about this since he was hired and he is clear that it is not that the team believes these guys are all going to be the next big thing. In fact, very much otherwise, which led to the stockpiling. Strength in numbers. And the good news is you can begin to see the benefit to that. Meija is fading as a prospect, and to a lesser extent Familia. But Harvey is up and looks like the real deal, and Wheeler is right there. That sounds good, and it is, and is about right for a team in year three of a rebuild. But where are the hitters?
I’m scared that these guys seem incapable of making a trade that could backfire. I’ll call this “Zambrano syndrome.” A good reason to stockpile pitchers is to trade them. I mentioned it at the time, but if Michael Fulmer could have landed Denard Span (and he was traded for a very similar prospect), the Mets better be right about Fulmer. Span is an above-average major league center fielder with a great contract. If we won’t make these types of moves with pitching prospects, I don’t know how we ever contend by 2014.
You have mentioned that you believe that is all part of “the plan,” as Alderson is waiting for these guys to increase in value. I want to be on record as 100% against that plan. These prospects go up and down all the time in value, many times they end up exposed at higher levels. Many other times they break down. Jenrry Meija had a higher market value the day Alderson took over as GM than today. Familia was rated higher one year ago than he is today. And sure, Wheeler is up, way up, in value. But as you can see, this isn’t like waiting out some fixed rate CD to maturity, this is a commodities market. The goal is not to stand around and never do anything “wrong.” The goal is to get enough talent together at the same time, at the major league level. Until Alderson proves to me that he can make the types of trades to help accomplish this, I am concerned, very concerned.
To date, I think Alderson has failed to address the lopsidedness of the organization. He’s executed part of the plan very well, and deserves credit for it, but most of that execution has been, as you implied, “Sit on your hands and wait this out.” So here we are, in a place where we’ll still need our GM to make a couple of bold moves if he hopes to jettison the team to the highest reaches of competitiveness.
One other point, about allowing prospects to mature. We disagree, somewhat. Because I think the answer is a combination of the two approaches. Let’s take Fulmer and Syndergaard for example. Today, they are worth X amount on the market. They have value, but it’s not yet outstanding, IMO. If both blow up, true, we’ll be at a net gain of zero. But if one of those guys continues on his current path, I think he could have X++ value within six months — and become the centerpiece in a trade that nets a substantial player. Admittedly, it’s a gamble. But I’m holding on to that stock for now. I mean, come on, Mike. Don’t you wish you kept some of that Apple stock you owned years and years ago?
Sure, and I wish I didn’t have to end up using all of this Lehman Brothers stock as wallpaper too. There is a reason I’m still working. As for the Mets, some selling would be nice, we have done nothing but buy and hold for three years.
I like a diversified portfolio.
Mack’s Mets has reported that Michael Fulmer is flying to New York for knee surgery to repair torn meniscus.