Top Ten Starting Pitchers

The Mets farm system took a jolt in the Johan Santana deal when four of the organization's top arms were dealt to the Twins in exchange for the ace. Now, Inside Pitch Magazine takes a look at the crowd behind the departed hurlers as the field has blown wide open with plenty of opportunities for this list of pitchers to seize.

1. Jonathon Niese: The left-hander led his St. Lucie squad in wins, games started and strikeouts while finishing second in innings pitched. Now sitting atop the list of starting pitchers in the system, the Mets hope Niese will really come into his own this upcoming season where he will face the test of Double-A. His repertoire and overall game have come a long way over the past two seasons with the improvements of his changeup and his general control, but it will be interesting to see how his game reacts to being slated at the system's top pitcher. There is no real need for him to succumb to any pressure, but the once a debated piece to the Johan Santana deal can now cement his future with the Mets with another strong season.

2. Bobby Parnell: Parnell, like Niese, saw his name briefly tossed around in the Santana proceedings but staying with the Mets was probably the best move for his career as he will still retain a shot at being a starter in this system. He boasts a terrific one-two punch with his diving two-seam fastball and devastating slider, but the maturation of his changeup will be paramount this spring as he straddles Double-A and his first promotion to Triple-A. It is in the development of his changeup that could determine his future role [an eventual move to the bullpen cannot be overruled], but for the time being Parnell will continue to stay in the rotation.

3. Nathan Vineyard: This position is the most hotly contested following a locked-in top two, but given the large amount of deserved excitement swirling around the Mets' supplemental first round pick from last year, he fills this slot. Despite the 0-3 record and 5.27 ERA, he came out of high school comfortably throwing four pitches, especially his circle-changeup which is a terrific weapon for a pitcher his age to have. There is a distinct possibility he makes the jump from the Gulf Coast League to the South Atlantic League, but with 27.1 professional innings under his belt last summer, the debate on how hard the Mets want to push his arm could be a determining factor in where he pitches. However, because of the current need to accelerate starting pitchers to the higher levels of the system, Vineyard could find himself as an anchor in the Savannah rotation.

4. Nick Carr: With Brooklyn last summer, Carr attained much better control of his mid-90s fastball while vastly improving his slider/curveball combination. He cut down on his walks per nine innings and raised strikeout per inning ratio, both signs of his increased command of the strike zone. He figures to be a member of what will surely be a crowded St. Lucie pitching staff in 2008, and while his big fastball and effective breaking pitches leaves him open as a candidate for the bullpen, he should get earn a slot in the middle of the rotation.

5. Scott Moviel: The 6-foot-11 right-hander may be the most intriguing project in the organization. Coming right out of high school, Moviel entered the system with two good fastballs while leaning heavily on his curveball as he learned to throw a changeup. Given his height, extension is a focal point for coaches and coordinators who want to take advantage of Moviel's existing ability to keep the ball down in the zone despite his height. The expansion of his repertoire and his ability to use his height as a weapon will surely keep Moviel in starting rotations throughout his career. Additionally, like Vineyard, it is likely he will fill a spot in the Savannah rotation this coming spring.

6. Tobi Stoner: Among all the names that consistently pop up in discussions about starting pitchers in the organization, Stoner's is one that may be more overlooked than any. During his second season in 2007, he threw 82.2 of his 140 innings pitched in St. Lucie as his very deep repertoire came into its own.— a repertoire which is perhaps the deepest and most effective following the departure of Kevin Mulvey. Lapses in concentration have affected Stoner's consistency on the mound, but he will nonetheless continue to move closer to the big leagues because of the command he displays with all five of his pitches.

7. Eric Niesen: Speaking of unheralded, despite being highly ranked by Mets' personnel, the first-year southpaw flew entirely under the radar for the majority of his rookie season. He displays good velocity [92-93 MPH on his fastball] and backs it up with a collection of secondary pitches which, although requiring work, should develop quickly as the Mets will plug him right into the St. Lucie staff this spring. During his collegiate ball at Wake Forest, Niesen was moved into the bullpen, but upon being drafted last spring, the Mets made a concerted effort to reinstall him into the rotation. He ran into trouble due to a high walk total with Brooklyn [25 BB in 30 innings], but believes it was a matter of confidence with his pitches and not effectiveness.

8. Dylan Owen: The Brooklyn right-hander and former 20th round selection surprised many last summer by leading the NY-Penn League in wins [nine] and earned run average [1.49]. Though he does not throw with such high velocity on his fastball [90-92 MPH], he makes up for it with a strong curveball/slider combination, the latter which he can spot on all four corners of the plate. Nonetheless, even without a mid-90s fastball, Owen will not shy away from attacking hitters and uses his bulldog mentality to his advantage which was indicative by his 12 walks in 72.1 innings pitched last season. There are hesitations as to how he will survive at higher levels with his velocity, but judgment should be reserved until he has a chance to prove himself.

9. Phillips Orta: The 21-year-old right-hander is coming on strong in the organization thanks to an explosive fastball and a big curveball. He gets lots of effective movement on his fastball as he is able to have it rise in the zone, but can throw it with good tailing action as well. He comes back with a snapping curveball that spins tightly and drops quickly. Lastly, if he can really get a feel for his changeup this season, he will be even tougher to hit as he improves his arm action on the off-speed pitch. His stock is on the rise, but until that changeup evolves he will remain a few steps back.

10. Eric Brown: Like Owen, Brown is not a hard-thrower and relies more on his breaking pitches and changeup. Yet, it was the changeup that brought much of his success last season, specifically in August when he went 4-1 with a 2.61 ERA in five starts when his repertoire was at its most effective. An eventual move to the bullpen has popped up in his long term projection, but for the time being, Brown will continue to receive his shots at starting as he heads to Binghamton this spring. There are question marks as to how his high-80s to low-90s fastball velocity will hold up in the Eastern League, but if his breaking pitches and changeup further progress from last season's work, he should be able to hold up successfully against tougher lineups.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\n1. Jonathon Niese: The left-hander led his St. Lucie squad in wins, games started and strikeouts while finishing second in innings pitched. Now sitting atop the list of starting pitchers in the system, the Mets hope Niese will really come into his own this upcoming season where he will face the test of Double-A. His repertoire and overall game have come a long way over the past two seasons with the improvements of his changeup and his general control, but it will be interesting to see how his game reacts to being slated at the system's top pitcher. There is no real need for him to succumb to any pressure, but the once a debated piece to the Johan Santana deal can now cement his future with the Mets with another strong season.
\r\n
\r\n2. Bobby Parnell: Parnell, like Niese, saw his name briefly tossed around in the Santana proceedings but staying with the Mets was probably the best move for his career as he will still retain a shot at being a starter in this system. He boasts a terrific one-two punch with his diving two-seam fastball and devastating slider, but the maturation of his changeup will be paramount this spring as he straddles Double-A and his first promotion to Triple-A. It is in the development of his changeup that could determine his future role [an eventual move to the bullpen cannot be overruled], but for the time being Parnell will continue to stay in the rotation.
\r\n
\r\n3. Nathan Vineyard: This position is the most hotly contested following a locked-in top two, but given the large amount of deserved excitement swirling around the Mets' supplemental first round pick from last year, he fills this slot. Despite the 0-3 record and 5.27 ERA, he came out of high school comfortably throwing four pitches, especially his circle-changeup which is a terrific weapon for a pitcher his age to have. There is a distinct possibility he makes the jump from the Gulf Coast League to the South Atlantic League, but with 27.1 professional innings under his belt last summer, the debate on how hard the Mets want to push his arm could be a determining factor in where he pitches. However, because of the current need to accelerate starting pitchers to the higher levels of the system, Vineyard could find himself as an anchor in the Savannah rotation.
\r\n
\r\n4. Nick Carr: With Brooklyn last summer, Carr attained much better control of his mid-90s fastball while vastly improving his slider/curveball combination. He cut down on his walks per nine innings and raised strikeout per inning ratio, both signs of his increased command of the strike zone. He figures to be a member of what will surely be a crowded St. Lucie pitching staff in 2008, and while his big fastball and effective breaking pitches leaves him open as a candidate for the bullpen, he should get earn a slot in the middle of the rotation.
\r\n
\r\n5. Scott Moviel: The 6-foot-11 right-hander may be the most intriguing project in the organization. Coming right out of high school, Moviel entered the system with two good fastballs while leaning heavily on his curveball as he learned to throw a changeup. Given his height, extension is a focal point for coaches and coordinators who want to take advantage of Moviel's existing ability to keep the ball down in the zone despite his height. The expansion of his repertoire and his ability to use his height as a weapon will surely keep Moviel in starting rotations throughout his career. Additionally, like Vineyard, it is likely he will fill a spot in the Savannah rotation this coming spring.
\r\n
\r\n6. Tobi Stoner: Among all the names that consistently pop up in discussions about starting pitchers in the organization, Stoner's is one that may be more overlooked than any. During his second season in 2007, he threw 82.2 of his 140 innings pitched in St. Lucie as his very deep repertoire came into its own.— a repertoire which is perhaps the deepest and most effective following the departure of Kevin Mulvey. Lapses in concentration have affected Stoner's consistency on the mound, but he will nonetheless continue to move closer to the big leagues because of the command he displays with all five of his pitches.
\r\n
\r\n7. Eric Niesen: Speaking of unheralded, despite being highly ranked by Mets' personnel, the first-year southpaw flew entirely under the radar for the majority of his rookie season. He displays good velocity [92-93 MPH on his fastball] and backs it up with a collection of secondary pitches which, although requiring work, should develop quickly as the Mets will plug him right into the St. Lucie staff this spring. During his collegiate ball at Wake Forest, Niesen was moved into the bullpen, but upon being drafted last spring, the Mets made a concerted effort to reinstall him into the rotation. He ran into trouble due to a high walk total with Brooklyn [25 BB in 30 innings], but believes it was a matter of confidence with his pitches and not effectiveness.
\r\n
\r\n8. Dylan Owen: The Brooklyn right-hander and former 20th round selection surprised many last summer by leading the NY-Penn League in wins [nine] and earned run average [1.49]. Though he does not throw with such high velocity on his fastball [90-92 MPH], he makes up for it with a strong curveball/slider combination, the latter which he can spot on all four corners of the plate. Nonetheless, even without a mid-90s fastball, Owen will not shy away from attacking hitters and uses his bulldog mentality to his advantage which was indicative by his 12 walks in 72.1 innings pitched last season. There are hesitations as to how he will survive at higher levels with his velocity, but judgment should be reserved until he has a chance to prove himself.
\r\n
\r\n9. Phillips Orta: The 21-year-old right-hander is coming on strong in the organization thanks to an explosive fastball and a big curveball. He gets lots of effective movement on his fastball as he is able to have it rise in the zone, but can throw it with good tailing action as well. He comes back with a snapping curveball that spins tightly and drops quickly. Lastly, if he can really get a feel for his changeup this season, he will be even tougher to hit as he improves his arm action on the off-speed pitch. His stock is on the rise, but until that changeup evolves he will remain a few steps back.
\r\n
\r\n10. Eric Brown: Like Owen, Brown is not a hard-thrower and relies more on his breaking pitches and changeup. Yet, it was the changeup that brought much of his success last season, specifically in August when he went 4-1 with a 2.61 ERA in five starts when his repertoire was at its most effective. An eventual move to the bullpen has popped up in his long term projection, but for the time being, Brown will continue to receive his shots at starting as he heads to Binghamton this spring. There are question marks as to how his high-80s to low-90s fastball velocity will hold up in the Eastern League, but if his breaking pitches and changeup further progress from last season's work, he should be able to hold up successfully against tougher lineups.
\r\n
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