Commentary

Don't expect help from farm system

Mets shouldn't call on prospects Harvey, Familia, Wheeler or Mejia anytime soon

Updated: May 2, 2012, 9:36 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

HOUSTON -- The New York Mets rightfully trumpeted the wild April success of their minor league system.

Overall, the organization's four full-season minor league affiliates produced a 60-36 record during the month. The .625 winning percentage ranked first in baseball. Mets farmhands also collectively posted the lowest ERA (2.89), opponent batting average against (.234) and on-base percentage (.307) of the 30 organizations.

So call up ballyhooed prospect Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler now, right?

No way.

The minor league renaissance -- or at least rejuvenation -- largely is immaterial with regards to handling Mike Pelfrey's vacated rotation spot. At least in the short term.

There is no disputing that rookie Chris Schwinden has flunked consecutive auditions.

Schwinden lasted only four innings in each of his two appearances on the Mets' 2-4 road trip, each time surrendering a pair of homers. The latter effort came Wednesday when a pair of Chris Johnson homers against Schwinden fueled the Houston Astros to sweep the Mets with an 8-1 win in the series finale.

Quite naturally, clamor for one of the quartet of right-handed pitching prospects -- Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Wheeler or Jenrry Mejia -- to be called up likely will ensue in coming days. Yet that would be the exact wrong move at this point. And it is not a move that it appears Mets officials are even entertaining.

For now, the Mets may take their lumps with an undistinguished fifth starter, whether that is waiver-claim Jeremy Hefner, 41-year-old Miguel Batista, D.J. Carrasco or another turn by Schwinden -- which might be the least likely of those four options.

Yet any of those scenarios is preferable to rushing a bona fide prospect to the big leagues.

Will there be lumps in Pelfrey's vacated spot until Chris Young is fully ready to return from May 16, 2011, surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his right shoulder? Very possibly.

But there is no sense to deviate from the development plan and compromise the next wave of talent.

Manager Terry Collins, in fact, has point-blank said Harvey and Familia will spend the majority of the season in Triple-A.

Wheeler, the prospect acquired for Carlos Beltran last July who has the most upside of the bunch, cannot even be a remote consideration now. He has all of four Double-A starts under his belt. And along with a 1.75 Eastern League ERA, he also has walked 14 and hit four batters in 25 2/3 innings. And that's facing hitters with not as fine of an eye as major league hitters.

Meija, meanwhile, is still in the final stages of recovering from Tommy John surgery that was performed the same day as Young's shoulder procedure last May.

So what's wrong with Harvey and Familia?

Absolutely nothing is wrong with them. But a prospect being ready for the majors is not about having the most electric fastball or best curveball. It's about being able to consistently hit the catcher's target with multiple pitches.

If a pitcher cannot throw a certain pitch for strikes, or he tips a pitch or cannot hold runners, major league hitters will exploit it.

Are Harvey's seven scoreless innings last week against Lehigh Valley, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate, enough to warrant him starting against the actual Phillies the next time Pelfrey's turn comes up, Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park? That's hard to fathom.

Harvey, by the way, walked 11 over the four preceding games before his lights-out Lehigh Valley outing. Familia, meanwhile, has 22 walks in 21 2/3 innings with Triple-A Buffalo this season.

"We're not going to push Familia or Harvey," Collins said only last week. "They're going to spend, I'm sure, the majority of the year in Triple-A.

"One of the things I thought [general manager] Sandy [Alderson] did that I thought really helped was bringing Chris Young back. I think C.Y. will probably be ready middle of May, end of May. And if that's the case, we've got ourselves a pretty good pitcher coming up."

Why the conservatism with Harvey and Familia?

"You've got to pitch consistent," Collins said. "I've spent too many years in Triple-A with good pitchers to know that numbers aren't always the true indicator of whether they can pitch here. So Matt Harvey, the one thing he's got to show us is that he can throw all of his pitches for strikes, regardless of what the results may be. With his arm and his stuff, if he can pound the strike zone with all of his pitches, he's going to be effective."

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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