Scouting Mets Prospect #3: Jonathon Niese

The New York Mets selected Jonathon Niese in the 7th round of the 2005 draft out of high school. The left-hander made a significant jump this season having never pitched in Double-A before, but worked his way to the big leagues and is now on the cusp of earning a spot in the rotation.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jonathon Niese
DOB: October 27, 1986
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 215
Throws: Left
Bats: Left
Status: 7th Round Pick (2005) – Defiance HS (OH)

Following last winter's trade for Johan Santana that saw three of the system's top pitching prospects going the other way, the title of "top pitching prospect" fell squarely at the feet of Jonathon Niese. Such designation certainly came with its pressure especially for a left-hander who had yet to pitch above High-A ball prior to the 2008 season.

You would not know anything had changed considering his first month in Binghamton when he went 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA. Many pitchers tend to struggle adapting to the Eastern League after a year in the cozy environment St. Lucie provides, but Niese settled in quickly. He soon found adversity when he lost his first three decisions in May and saw his ERA climb to 4.19, but after feeling so comfortable in April, he recognized what changed.

"My mental aspect of the game, it kind of changed where I was more worried about the outcome than the task at hand," he said earlier this season. "I just lost focus and I never made the adjustment when I needed to. It's one of those things where if you're not 100 percent mentally ready for a game, you're not going to succeed at all.

Yet his talent would overcome as he rebounded in June and went on to dominate the Double-A level the rest of the way. He ended his stint in Binghamton with a 6-7 record and 3.04 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings pitched. His consistency buoyed the staff and provided the club with an ace. The drastic turn around is just one example of what impresses B-Mets manager Mako Oliveras.

"I had Niese for the first time [in 2007] and he didn't really know what to do," said Oliveras. "He thought he was a stud and had to find out the hard way that it takes time to become a dominant pitcher which he did once he settled down. What I saw in him was that he really understood what it takes to become a better pitcher and the results came together."

The biggest difference for Niese was that he made an effort to further mix his pitches. Previously, he would fall in love with his fastball and was repeatedly beat by it. Binghamton Ricky Bones stressed his secondary pitches after which Oliveras saw a significant difference in the left-hander's attitude on the mound.

"In the beginning of the year, if our team scored a run for him, he would go out there and walk the first hitter. But later, if our team scored a run he went out there with a plan to make sure no one else got on base," said Oliveras.

"In the beginning he was just aggressive and didn't really know when to back off or take it up a notch. It's a matter of knowing when to use his best pitches and be aggressive, but smart and aggressive. His demeanor on the mound is excellent. He is a gamer and he knows what he is after and that's something you can't teach," he added.

Niese moved on to Triple-A in late July and in seven starts and pitched his way into an eventual big league promotion. Perhaps what helped him more than anything was having pitching coordinator Rick Waits on site who was the interim pitching coach for the former New Orleans affiliate.

He was dominant in his first start as he held the opposition to one run on three hits and struck out seven over seven innings. He went on to win five of his six decisions and posted a 3.40 Era in 39 2/3 innings pitched. The reason for his success was simply pitching to his strengths which means incorporating his secondary more often—an approach started by Ricky Bones and reinforced by Waits.

"He's certainly got a plenty good enough fastball at 88-92 MPH, but I think he's really understood how good his curveball can be," said Waits.

"Also, I think the cut fastball he is using inside against righties and his changeup make his fastball and curveball even better. With him understanding that, it will open up all new avenues for him."

A new avenue opened up when he made his big league debut on September 2 at Milwaukee. He sandwiched a six-hit, eight-inning effort between two poor starts, but with his first crack at the show behind him, his coaches and coordinators are confident he has what it takes to be stronger upon his return.

"Niese is a guy who is going to learn from his experience. He struggled a bit at the beginning of the year but was dynamite in the second half of the year. I think will see more of that Niese again," said Oliveras.

"I think the main thing with Jon is that he's ready. He's ready to compete at the upper levels," said Waits. "Of course when he gets to Spring Training it will be a matter of making the club or not making the club, but I think what he has realized is that it's the combination of all his pitches together that make him such a good a pitcher."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

ERA

2008

New York

1-1

14.0

20

8

11

7.07

2008

New Orleans

5-1

39.2

34

14

32

3.40

2008

Binghamton

6-7

124.1

118

44

112

3.04

2007

St. Lucie

11-7

134.1

151

31

110

4.29

2006

St. Lucie

0-2

10.0

8

5

10

4.50

2006

Hagerstown

11-9

123.2

121

62

132

3.93

2005

GCL

1-0

24.2

23

10

24

3.65



Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup

Fastball: Niese primarily sticks with his 90-92 MPH four-seam fastball. He has very good command of it, but needs a little more confidence to throw it inside to right-handers. It does not have much swing and miss potential, but when mixed right among his secondary pitches, it can be an effective strikeout pitch when properly located. This past season he started to incorporate a cut fastball which has helped relax some of his hesitation to throw inside to right-handers as its riding action jams hitters who are looking out over the plate.

Other Pitches: Niese's best pitch is his plus curveball of which he has two variations. He throws a slower, more looping curveball with good 12-to-6 break that alters hitters' eye levels and can buckle knees when they sit fastball. The other is a much sharper curveball with good snap that he likes to use down in the zone as his out-pitch. He is still working on its command, but it is established to the point where it will act as a strikeout pitch in the big leagues. He finishes off his repertoire with a sound changeup that he throws in the mid to high-70s. He has the arm speed and tempo down, but he needs to throw it more and as he throws it more, he should gain further confidence with it.

Pitching: When younger, Niese attempted to throw darts by every hitter but as he has matured, he has become a more complete pitcher. He gives up his share of walks when he fails to use his complete repertoire, so he needs to further improve his pitch patterns and fight against overusing his fastball. He has the depth and command to beat hitters on both sides of the plate. Niese projects a quiet composure on the mound, but is a stern competitor and is at his best when he stays ahead of hitters by using his fastball on the corners to set up his other pitches. Some scouts question his mechanics and it is vital he stay on top of his pitches or else they flatten out and stay up in the zone.

Projection: Niese is still young and his changeup needs refinement, but it is evident he is not a future ace. At his strongest, he could hold down the second spot in the rotation yet as his career develops, he will likely fall back as a number three starter and be a reliable member of the staff for many years.

ETA: N/A. As noted, Niese made his big league debut in September and should be right in the mix during Spring Training to open the season as the Mets' fifth starter. A flat showing in camp, or free agent signings, could lead him to open the year in Triple-A, but he will be given every opportunity to earn a rotation spot outright.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Jonathon Niese
\r\nDOB: October 27, 1986
\r\nHeight: 6'4\"
\r\nWeight: 215
\r\nThrows: Left
\r\nBats: Left
\r\nStatus: 7th Round Pick (2005) – Defiance HS (OH)
\r\n
\r\nFollowing last winter's trade for Johan Santana that saw three of the system's top pitching prospects going the other way, the title of \"top pitching prospect\" fell squarely at the feet of Jonathon Niese. Such designation certainly came with its pressure especially for a left-hander who had yet to pitch above High-A ball prior to the 2008 season.
\r\n
\r\nYou would not know anything had changed considering his first month in Binghamton when he went 2-2 with a 1.82 ERA. Many pitchers tend to struggle adapting to the Eastern League after a year in the cozy environment St. Lucie provides, but Niese settled in quickly. He soon found adversity when he lost his first three decisions in May and saw his ERA climb to 4.19, but after feeling so comfortable in April, he recognized what changed.
\r\n
\r\n\"My mental aspect of the game, it kind of changed where I was more worried about the outcome than the task at hand,\" he said earlier this season. \"I just lost focus and I never made the adjustment when I needed to. It's one of those things where if you're not 100 percent mentally ready for a game, you're not going to succeed at all.
\r\n
\r\nYet his talent would overcome as he rebounded in June and went on to dominate the Double-A level the rest of the way. He ended his stint in Binghamton with a 6-7 record and 3.04 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 124 1/3 innings pitched. His consistency buoyed the staff and provided the club with an ace. The drastic turn around is just one example of what impresses B-Mets manager Mako Oliveras.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had Niese for the first time [in 2007] and he didn't really know what to do,\" said Oliveras. \"He thought he was a stud and had to find out the hard way that it takes time to become a dominant pitcher which he did once he settled down. What I saw in him was that he really understood what it takes to become a better pitcher and the results came together.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe biggest difference for Niese was that he made an effort to further mix his pitches. Previously, he would fall in love with his fastball and was repeatedly beat by it. Binghamton Ricky Bones stressed his secondary pitches after which Oliveras saw a significant difference in the left-hander's attitude on the mound.
\r\n
\r\n\"In the beginning of the year, if our team scored a run for him, he would go out there and walk the first hitter. But later, if our team scored a run he went out there with a plan to make sure no one else got on base,\" said Oliveras.
\r\n\r\n\r\n
\r\n\"In the beginning he was just aggressive and didn't really know when to back off or take it up a notch. It's a matter of knowing when to use his best pitches and be aggressive, but smart and aggressive. His demeanor on the mound is excellent. He is a gamer and he knows what he is after and that's something you can't teach,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\nNiese moved on to Triple-A in late July and in seven starts and pitched his way into an eventual big league promotion. Perhaps what helped him more than anything was having pitching coordinator Rick Waits on site who was the interim pitching coach for the former New Orleans affiliate.
\r\n
\r\nHe was dominant in his first start as he held the opposition to one run on three hits and struck out seven over seven innings. He went on to win five of his six decisions and posted a 3.40 Era in 39 2/3 innings pitched. The reason for his success was simply pitching to his strengths which means incorporating his secondary more often—an approach started by Ricky Bones and reinforced by Waits.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's certainly got a plenty good enough fastball at 88-92 MPH, but I think he's really understood how good his curveball can be,\" said Waits.
\r\n
\r\n\"Also, I think the cut fastball he is using inside against righties and his changeup make his fastball and curveball even better. With him understanding that, it will open up all new avenues for him.\"
\r\n
\r\nA new avenue opened up when he made his big league debut on September 2 at Milwaukee. He sandwiched a six-hit, eight-inning effort between two poor starts, but with his first crack at the show behind him, his coaches and coordinators are confident he has what it takes to be stronger upon his return.
\r\n
\r\n\"Niese is a guy who is going to learn from his experience. He struggled a bit at the beginning of the year but was dynamite in the second half of the year. I think will see more of that Niese again,\" said Oliveras.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think the main thing with Jon is that he's ready. He's ready to compete at the upper levels,\" said Waits. \"Of course when he gets to Spring Training it will be a matter of making the club or not making the club, but I think what he has realized is that it's the combination of all his pitches together that make him such a good a pitcher.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\r\n

\r\n Year

\r\n

\r\n Team

\r\n

\r\n W-L

\r\n

\r\n IP

\r\n

\r\n Hits

\r\n

\r\n BB

\r\n

K

\r\n

\r\n ERA

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n New York

\r\n

\r\n 1-1

\r\n

\r\n 14.0

\r\n

\r\n 20

\r\n

\r\n 8

\r\n

\r\n 11

\r\n

\r\n 7.07

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n New Orleans

\r\n

\r\n 5-1

\r\n

\r\n 39.2

\r\n

\r\n 34

\r\n

\r\n 14

\r\n

\r\n 32

\r\n

\r\n 3.40

\r\n

\r\n 2008

\r\n

\r\n Binghamton

\r\n

\r\n 6-7

\r\n

\r\n 124.1

\r\n

\r\n 118

\r\n

\r\n 44

\r\n

\r\n 112

\r\n

\r\n 3.04

\r\n

\r\n 2007

\r\n

\r\n St. Lucie

\r\n

\r\n 11-7

\r\n

\r\n 134.1

\r\n

\r\n 151

\r\n

\r\n 31

\r\n

\r\n 110

\r\n

\r\n 4.29

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n St. Lucie

\r\n

\r\n 0-2

\r\n

\r\n 10.0

\r\n

\r\n 8

\r\n

\r\n 5

\r\n

\r\n 10

\r\n

\r\n 4.50

\r\n

\r\n 2006

\r\n

\r\n Hagerstown

\r\n

\r\n 11-9

\r\n

\r\n 123.2

\r\n

\r\n 121

\r\n

\r\n 62

\r\n

\r\n 132

\r\n

\r\n 3.93

\r\n

\r\n 2005

\r\n

\r\n GCL

\r\n

\r\n 1-0

\r\n

\r\n 24.2

\r\n

\r\n 23

\r\n

\r\n 10

\r\n

\r\n 24

\r\n

\r\n 3.65


\r\n
\r\nRepertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup
\r\n
\r\nFastball: Niese primarily sticks with his 90-92 MPH four-seam fastball. He has very good command of it, but needs a little more confidence to throw it inside to right-handers. It does not have much swing and miss potential, but when mixed right among his secondary pitches, it can be an effective strikeout pitch when properly located. This past season he started to incorporate a cut fastball which has helped relax some of his hesitation to throw inside to right-handers as its riding action jams hitters who are looking out over the plate.
\r\n
\r\nOther Pitches: Niese's best pitch is his plus curveball of which he has two variations. He throws a slower, more looping curveball with good 12-to-6 break that alters hitters' eye levels and can buckle knees when they sit fastball. The other is a much sharper curveball with good snap that he likes to use down in the zone as his out-pitch. He is still working on its command, but it is established to the point where it will act as a strikeout pitch in the big leagues. He finishes off his repertoire with a sound changeup that he throws in the mid to high-70s. He has the arm speed and tempo down, but he needs to throw it more and as he throws it more, he should gain further confidence with it.
\r\n
\r\nPitching: When younger, Niese attempted to throw darts by every hitter but as he has matured, he has become a more complete pitcher. He gives up his share of walks when he fails to use his complete repertoire, so he needs to further improve his pitch patterns and fight against overusing his fastball. He has the depth and command to beat hitters on both sides of the plate. Niese projects a quiet composure on the mound, but is a stern competitor and is at his best when he stays ahead of hitters by using his fastball on the corners to set up his other pitches. Some scouts question his mechanics and it is vital he stay on top of his pitches or else they flatten out and stay up in the zone.
\r\n
\r\nProjection: Niese is still young and his changeup needs refinement, but it is evident he is not a future ace. At his strongest, he could hold down the second spot in the rotation yet as his career develops, he will likely fall back as a number three starter and be a reliable member of the staff for many years.
\r\n
\r\nETA: N/A. As noted, Niese made his big league debut in September and should be right in the mix during Spring Training to open the season as the Mets' fifth starter. A flat showing in camp, or free agent signings, could lead him to open the year in Triple-A, but he will be given every opportunity to earn a rotation spot outright.
\r\n
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