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Should Mets Push Wheeler, Harvey and Familia?

By Mike Silva ~ February 17th, 2012. Filed under: Mets Minors.

Could there be a benefit to the Mets pushing their young pitchers? I am not suggesting eschewing any innings targets, but pushing them to compete at a higher level before they are ready.

Wally Backman talked about some the young pitchers with WGR 550 in Buffalo.

“I don’t know if they (Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia) start the season here (Buffalo), I hope that they do, but that ultimately isn’t my decision,” Backman said.

If the Mets are out of the pennant race come mid-season, would it make sense to push Harvey and Familia up to the big league level? In 1998, the Marlins’ had 23-year old Jesus Sanchez and 21-year old Ryan Dempster as part of their rotation. The Giants called up Matt Cain at the age of 20 to make 7 starts in 2005. They have been equally aggressive with Madison Bumgarner. Upon acquiring 20-year old Scott Kazmir from the Mets, the Rays threw him in the rotation for 7 starts to end the 2004 season.

Most of those youngsters struggled, which was fine considering those teams were not pennant contenders. In the most optimistic view the Mets are the third best team in the NL East. If you are worried about attendance, what will draw more loyal denizens to Citi Field: a Miguel Batista start or Harvey and/or Familia? If last place is inevitable, why not use the meaningless games as productive as possible. Who knows, maybe Zack Wheeler pulls a “Kazmir” and ascents from High-A to the majors in a calendar year.

Each player can handle being pushed differently. Ruben Tejada has constantly been pushed, and it seems to have accelerated his development to the point where you are comfortable starting him at shortstop at the tender age of 22. I have to think the experience of struggling in 2010 had an impact on the marked improvements in 2011.

Backman seems confident in at least Harvey and Familia being able to handle Triple-A to start the season. Considering he spent a large part of last season around them, it would make sense. I think mental makeup is equally as important, if not more, when it comes to putting kids in situations where they will experience early failure. Remember, not everyone storms on the scene ala Doc Gooden circa 1984. Kazmir, for example, averaged nearly 6 walks per/9 and had an ERA well over 5.00 in those first eight weeks in the big leagues. Who better to know whether these kids can handle being pushed than Backman? One of his strengths has been player development; that’s why I hope Wheeler, if ready, gets to spend some time with Backman this year. I trust his judgment more than anyone in the organization, including the big league pitching coach.

You learn more about these young players when they fail. Baseball, especially, is a game that requires players to handle a large amount of failure. These kids are the foundation in which the next generation of Mets success is being built upon. They know they possess physical gifts, but could they handle the pressure that will come with the promise of being the next New York stars? That might be the deciding factor.

Maybe pushing them a bit this year will go a long way to making the big league transition easier in the years to come.

If Backman says they can handle it, I would be inclined to listen.

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2 Responses to Should Mets Push Wheeler, Harvey and Familia?

  1. Dave

    A few starts in Sept. maybe, but I would love to see the Mets follow the way the Rays have been running their farm. One year min. at each level, and you only move up when you prove you have mastered that level of play.

  2. Tommy2cat

    Harvey appears to be best candidate to push, should he settle in at AAA and hit his stride by July. But no need to go crazy. Let’s stretch an assumption and say Santana is restored to 4/5ths of the ace he was…

    Santana, Dickey, Pelfrey, Niese & Gee. It’s not a bad rotation, especially if Big Pelf pitches more like he did in 2010. I don’t think Niese’s early call-up hurt him, either. Query whether an early call-up unnecessarily triggers the player’s rights under the CBA. Is an early call-up worth sacrificing some long-term control?

    No matter what, I think our team will surprise alot of baseball people. I think in 2013 we’re more likely to have a mass infusion of young pitching, and it won’t all be roses. So with all due respect to the studs on the farm, no need to unduly rush them.

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