2001 Mets' Minor League Pitcher of the Year

Take a look with the NYfansonly.com Mets' writers to see who the better minor league pitchers were in the 2001 season, grouping relievers and starters into one group. This list is not about who the better prospect is or who will be the better major leaguer. This list is based soley on what they did in the 2001 season. Each writer lists their top five and then expands on their selections (and other notes) below.

And the Winner Is... 

Jae Weong Seo.  Seo won in a landslide victory, compiling 22 points in our voting system using the following formula: 5 points for 1st place votes, 4 points for 2nd place votes, 3 points for 3rd place votes, 2 points for 4th place votes, and 1 point for 5th place votes.  Neal Musser came in a distant 2nd place with 12.5 points and Ross Peeples came in 3rd place with 9 points.  Five different players were selected by six different writers as the "2001 Mets' Minor League Pitcher of the Year" and 13 different players were selected for the Top Five, which only shows what kind of year the Mets' minor league pitchers had in 2001.

Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year


Patrick Teale

Peter Simon

Matt Young

Steve Usinger

Calvin Young

Chris Brewster


Jason Scobie

Jae Weong Seo

Ross Peeples

Dicky Gonzalez Jae Weong Seo Mark Corey


Jerrod Riggan

Billy Traber

Pete Walker

Neal Musser Neal Musser Pete Walker


Jae Weong Seo

Neal Musser

Jae Weong Seo

Jae Weong Seo Dicky Gonzalez Jae Weong Seo


Ross Peeples

Aaron Heilman

Mike Cox

Grant Roberts Billy Traber Ross Peeples


Neal Musser

Ross Peeples

Mark Corey

Billy Traber Jeremy Griffiths Traber & Musser

Patrick Teale
...While 2001 was a down year for the bats in the Mets' Minor League system, the pitching was outstanding!  This was a tough assignment for me as there were SO MANY great pitching performances this year that it was extremely difficult to limit it to a "Top Five".  Pitchers like Billy Traber, Bob Keppel, Jamie Cerda, Aaron Heilman, and Pete Walker all had tremendous years and should all make the list...but we had to choose five.  But before I get into my "Top Five", I must point out some of the other pitchers that were deserving. 

After going 6-5 with a 2.66 ERA (101.2 IP, 85 H, 23 BB, 79 SO) for the A-St. Lucie Mets, Billy Traber was promoted to AA-Binghamton.  For the B-Mets, Traber went 4-3 with a 4.43 ERA with 45 K's in 42.2 innings.  On the fast track to Shea, Traber was promoted all the way to AAA-Norfolk this season to get one start.  He lost in his AAA debut despite allowing just one run in seven innings.  Bob Keppel was solid for the A-Capital City Bombers in 2001.  Despite a losing record at 6-7, Keppel finished the season with a 3.11 ERA.  He walked just 25 battersin 124.1 innings, striking out 87.  The Mets first round pick this year, Aaron Heilman, will be up with the Mets before you know it!  And he proved it with a solid debut at high A-St. Lucie.   Heilman still hasn't notched his first professional win yet (he went 0-1 in seven starts), but he posted a 2.35 ERA with 39 K's in 38.1 innings.  Pete Walker was simply fantastic for the AAA-Norfolk Tides, recording a 13-4 record with a 2.99 ERA.  Even though our lists are not supposed to take "potential" or favor prospect status, I used this criteria for any tie-breakers.   Walker was incredible this year but is too old to be considered a prospect.   Like Traber, Jamie Cerda (reliever) skyrocketed through the Mets' farm system in 2001. Cerda started off at A-St. Lucie where he posted a 2-1 record with 6 saves and a scintillating .97 ERA!  He struck out 56 batters in 55.2 innings while only walking 12.  Cerda was also good at AA-Binghamton, notching one win and three saves with a 3.10 ERA.  He struck out 22 batters in 20.1 innings for the B-Mets.  Jamie was promoted to Norfolk and saw limited action.

Here's what our St. Lucie beat writer, Aaron Schuldiner, had to say about Cerda: Cerda appeared in 28 games for the Mets, compiling a 2-1 record and 6 saves, all while posting a microscopic 0.97 ERA and an miniscule 0.934 WHIP ratio. He fanned 56 batters over 55 2/3 innings and incredibly allowed just six earned runs all season. With runners in scoring position, Jaime Cerda buckled down to hold opposing batters to a .146 batting average. Cerda was rock solid out of the St. Lucie bullpen, and was the epitome of consistency. It costs me little consideration to cast my Pitcher of the Year vote for southpaw Jaime Cerda.

Other notable seasons in 2001: 

- Mark Corey, AAA-Norfolk Tides: 8-2, 10 saves, 1.47 ERA (36.2 IP, 24 H, 22 BB, 42 SO)
- Jason Roach, AA-Binghamton Mets: 8-7, 3.26 ERA (116 IP, 129 H, 28 BB, 70 SO)
- Dave Lohrman, A-St. Lucie Mets: 3-1, 1.67 ERA & 2 saves (37.2 IP, 18 H, 20 BB, 53 SO). For the AA-Binghamton Mets, Lohrman went 2-1 with 6 saves and a 2.10 ERA (25.2 IP, 20 H, 12 BB, 26 SO)
- Aaron Hee, A-Capital City Bombers: 6-4, 2.55 ERA & 2 saves (77.2 IP, 62 H, 43 BB, 95 SO)
- Luz Portobanco, A-Brooklyn Cyclones: 5-3, 2.04 ERA (70.2, 51 H, 29 BB, 52 SO)
- David Byard, A-Brooklyn Cyclones: 3-1, 1.46 ERA & 9 saves (37 IP, 21 H, 11 BB, 32 SO)
- Matthew Gahan, A-Brooklyn Cyclones: 4-1, 1.99 ERA & 4 saves (40.2 IP, 29 H, 21 BB, 75 SO)

I am choosing reliever Jason Scobie as my "Mets' Minor League Pitcher of the Year".  While there were many great seasons turned in by the Mets' minor league pitchers in 2001, the A-Brooklyn Cyclones were by far and away the best team staff among the six Mets' minor league teams.   And Jason Scobie was the hammer for the 'Clones.  Relievers are always overlooked when we talk about pitchers for some reason...but a good bullpen is just as important as a good rotation.  Scobie posted a 3-1 record and a miniscule .87 ERA in 18 appearances.  A sub-one ERA at ANY level is truly amazing (which is why leaving Jamie Cerda off the list was so difficult), even in the short-season NY Penn League.  He accumulated 7 saves as he and David Byard shared the closer's role.  

While Mets' fans may be depressed about Armando Benitez and the fact that he seemingly blows every save opportunity in a big game, Jerrod Riggan may bring some "relief".  Riggan had a solid season for the New York Mets (3-3, 3.55 ERA) in his first extended Major League action.   Remember, Riggan has never had one full season in the Majors.  While he was solid for the Mets in the second half of the season, he was spectacular for the AAA-Norfolk Tides prior to his call-up.  Riggan went 2-0 with 13 saves with a 1.95 ERA.  More importantly, Riggan was the epitome of control for the Tides in 2001, walking just four batters in 32.1 innings (32.1 IP, 26 H, 4 BB, 37 SO).   Even though Riggan threw pitches over the plate, hitters only mustered a .222 batting average against him.

Jae Weong Seo may be the Mets' minor league pitcher closest to being ready for the Majors.  Seo, in his first full season back from arm surgery, tormented AA-hitters after a brief start with the A-St. Lucie Mets (2-3, 3.55 ERA, 25.1 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 19 SO).  He went 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA for the AA-Binghamton Mets (60.1 IP, 44 H, 11 BB, 47 SO) that included a 26-inning scoreless streak in the middle of the season.  A late season call-up to the Norfolk Tides, Seo went 2-2 with a 3.42 ERA in 9 starts (47.1 IP, 53 H, 6 BB, 12 SO).   In 133 total innings in 2001, Seo walked a mere 23 batters.

Ross Peeples was the anchor of the Brooklyn Cyclones' pitching staff (which led the NY Penn League in ERA), going 9-3 with a 1.34 ERA.  In fact, his 1.34 ERA not only led the staff but led the entire NY Penn League.  In 80.1 innings, he allowed just 63 hits and walked 29 batters, striking out 67 batters.

Neal Musser, a site favorite, had a tremendous 2001.  He started out at A-Capital City (Bombers) before being promoted to high A-St. Lucie.  Musser went 7-4 with a 2.84 ERA for the Bombers, striking out 98 batters in 95 innings (95 IP, 86 H, 18 BB, 98 SO).  Neal had continued success for the St. Lucie Mets, going 3-4 with a 3.55 ERA in 9 starts (45.2 IP, 45 H, 19 BB, 40 SO).  He struggled a bit with his control after the promotion, walking one more batter in half the innings when compared to his Bomber numbers.

Peter Simon
...Jae Weong Seo - Coming into the 2001 season, most Met fans had forgotten, at least temporarily about Jae Seo, who had vanished into obscurity after two years of arm troubles. He came back with a bang, tossing 133 innings at St. Lucie, Binghamton, and Norfolk, compiling a 2.77 ERA for the season. At Binghamton, his longest stint, he had a 1.94 ERA. Never a dominator, he showed what he needed to show: his control was as sharp as ever, as he walked only 23 the whole season.

Billy Traber - Another Met farmhand with questionable health coming into the season, Traber showed no ill signs in 2001. He was able to pitch 151 innings, and pitched quite well, compiling a 3.09 ERA. He pitched 101 and 2/3 innings at St. Lucie, with a 2.66 ERA and allowing only 85 hits and 23 walks. Binghamton proved more troublesome (4.43 ERA), but he actually increased his strikeout rate after getting there. Traber showed excellent control for the season-walking 36-and gave up only 6 homers.

Neal Musser - Yep, another 2000 injury case who blossomed in 2001. What doctor did the Mets take these kids to? Musser, limited to just 65 innings of rookie ball over 1999 and 2000 combined, was able to toss 140 2/3 between Capital City and St. Lucie. The lefty had a blistering start to the year, with a 2.84 ERA with CC, striking out 98 and walking only 18 in 95 innings, earning himself a mid-season promotion (which he'd mentioned as a specific goal in our interview with him in Spring Training). He continued to pitch well at St. Lucie (3.55 ERA, 40 strikeouts, 19 walks in 45 2/3 innings).

Aaron Heilman - Some draft experts felt the Mets stole Heilman with the 18th pick, and so far Heilman is proving them right. He was only able to make 7 starts after he signed, but they were very impressive. He had a 2.35 ERA, gave up only 26 hits in 38 and 1/3 innings, and struck out 39. Like all the other pitchers on this list, he kept the ball in the park-in fact, he didn't allow a homer in those 7 starts. Expect him to be fully ready for the majors by the beginning of 2003.

Ross Peeples - It's tough to leave Dicky Gonzalez off after another fine year, but Peeples was consistently dominant at Brooklyn. Flourishing under the tutelage of Bobby Ojeda-who just happened to have been a left-handed changeup pitcher-Peeples had an ERA of 1.34, allowing only 63 hits in 80 1/3 innings, striking out 67, and allowing only one homer. Backed by the Brooklyn offense, he won 9 games, which in short-season ball is sort of like winning 20 games in the majors.

Matt Young
...2001 draftee Ross Peeples was amazing in his first year of professional
baseball. Peeples posted a 9-3 record, the best in the New York Penn Leauge, to go along with a 1.34 ERA, the best in the New York Penn League. Through 80 innings Peeples had 67 punchouts along with 1 complete game-shutout. On a side note, through Peeples' 80 innings of work, he surrendered only one home run. Peeples, a lefty, is only 21 years old, and is definitely a player to watch.

Among the many young, pitching prospects, Pete Walker is one of the older and most overlooked pitchers on the AAA-Norfolk staff; if anyone deserved to be called up, it was him. Walker posted a team best 13-4 record, while sustaining a 2.99 ERA through 168 innings. Walker's 13 wins tied him for first in the AAA-International League with Brandon Duckworth. His 2.99 ERA was the best among all pitchers with more than 110 innings under their belt in the International League. Walker fanned a team high 106 batters and walked only 46.

Jae Wong Seo has long been a highly touted pitching prospect. Seo spent part of the season at AA-Binghamton before moving to AAA-Norfolk. He posted a combined record of 7-3, while keeping his ERA at a tiny 2.68. Not a huge strikeout pitcher, Seo was able to strikeout 72 through 107 innings.

At 5'11", Mike Cox is the smallest pitcher on the Brooklyn Cyclone staff. In spite of his height, Cox finished the season with a 6-1 record through 52 innings. Cox, a lefty kept his ERA to a miniscule 2.91 and through his few 52 innings, struck out 73.

With Oscar Henriquez sold to Japan, and Jerrod Riggan in and out of the Majors, the Tides needed a closer. Mark Corey stepped up and delivered. Through 28 games, Corey held a 8-2 record and recorded 10 saves. In his 36 innings, Corey had a 1.47 ERA and fanned 42.

Steve Usinger
...Comments: Gonzalez helped tremendously on the big club and had the best stint of relief pitching (6 1/3 innings) of any Mets' pitcher in 16 years. He should be a dominant force on the team next season working both in middle relief, and as a spot starter.

Seo, if healthy could emerge as a top setup man for Armando Benitez. He has the tools, but had not been blessed with good health. Roberts converted to relieving and seems to more comfortable in that role.

Calvin Young
...Jae Weong Seo compiled a combined 9-6 record with an ERA of 2.77 at 3 stops - St. Lucie, Binghamton and Norfolk - in 2001. In a 133 innings, Seo struck out 91 and walked only 23 hitters. This was an excellent season for Seo who had pitched fewer than 50 innings in his previous 3 seasons following elbow pain and the eventually Tommy John surgery. Seo has not fully recovered his velocity of 92-93 mph, but featured a much-improved curve ball and change up. Seo missed a start in the Norfolk post season because he retaliated to protect his teammates. Seo is likely to be ready for work out of the bullpen, but needs to build up arm strength before he will be ready to start.

Neal Musser made the South Atlantic League All-Star team and pitched well after advancing to the Florida State League. At Columbia, Neal had 7-4 record with a stellar 2.84 ERA. He had 98 strike outs in and 18 walks in 95 innings. At St. Lucie, Neal had a 3-4 record with a solid 3.55 ERA. He struck out 40 hitters while walking only 19 in about 46 innings. This was Musser's best season after being plagued by physical problems his first 2 seasons in the Mets' organization. He has a solid 4-pitch repetoire featuring a 90-94 mph fastball with sinking action and a good change up. However, with improved command and control, his curve ball could develop into his best pitch.

Dicky Gonzalez pitched very effectively for Norfolk although he spent much of 2001 pitching for the big club. He compiled a 6-5 record with a 3.09 ERA in 17 appearances (16 starts). He struck out 70 hitters while walking only 20. He has a solid repetoire, but his strength is his control and mental toughness.

William Traber.

Jeremy Griffiths had a strong finish in which he lowered his ERA by nearly a full run.

Chris Brewster
...Pitching was definitely the strongest point of the Mets' system in 2001. As tough as it was to find 5 hitters whose numbers warrant inclusion on a list, it was just as tough to cut the list of pitchers.

And pointing out that strength is the fact that arguably the 2 top prospects - Pat Strange and Nick Manness - didn't make the list.

Actually, the top 2 pitchers are rarely if ever mentioned among the system's best, but both stood out at the highest levels.

Reliever Mark Corey put up huge numbers splitting time between AAA Norfolk and AA Binghamton. His season totals: a 9-4 record, 1.63 ERA and 27 saves. And in 71 2/3 innings, he gave up just 47 hits while striking out 92.

The organization's biggest winner was one of its most unsung. Righty starter Pete Walker was 13-4 with a 2.99 ERA for Norfolk, giving up 145 hits and just 46 walks in 168 1/3 innings while striking out 106.

After missing major chunks of 2 seasons, Jae Seo bounced back big in 2001. The Korean righty was 9-6 in 20 starts between Norfolk, Binghamton and Class A St. Lucie with a 2.77 ERA in 133 innings. Seo was especially dominating in Binghamton, winning 5 of 6 decisions with a 1.94 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings while allowing only 44 hits and 11 walks.

The rest of the list tilts to the left, as the last 3 are all young left-handed starters, led by Brooklyn starter Ross Peeples. A 2000 draft pick, Peeples led the New York-Penn League with a 1.34 ERA and went 9-3, tying teammate Harold Eckert for the league lead in wins. In 80 innings, Peeples gave up 12 earned runs and only 1 home run, striking out 67 and walking 29.

Because their stats were nearly identical, the final spot is shared by lefties Billy Traber and Neal Musser. Traber, the Mets' top pick in 2000, pitched at all 3 levels in 2001, finishing with a 10-9 record and 3.09 ERA, striking out 124 in 151 1/3 innings. After dominating at St. Lucie (6-5, 2.66 for a dismal team), Traber went 4-3 in 8 starts for Binghamton, then moved up to start one game for Norfolk, a 1-0 loss in which he allowed 5 hits in 7 innings. Musser, pitching for Class A St. Lucie and Capital City, finished 10-6 with a 3.07 ERA and 138 strikeouts in 140 2/3 innings. Musser, the first selection in the 2000 draft, was especially effective when moving to Capital City, where he was 7-4 in 17 starts, with 98 whiffs in 95 innings and a 2.84 ERA.

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