Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hoping For a Niese Debut

I know, corny title, but I didn't have time to work up a better pun.

I am very excited for the debut of Jon Niese tonight. I have been a big fan of his for a while, and I am glad to see that he is being thrust into the spotlight. I believe he is ready for it and, in fact, believe he might actually end up being our third best starter this season.

We took a very in depth look at Jon Niese in January, and determined that he wasn't getting the credit he deserved as a prospect. And he still isn't.

We're talking here about a guy who posted a 3.04 ERA in Double-A at the age of 21 and then followed it up with an ERA of 3.40 in Triple-A. Then last year before he tore his hamstring, he was able to make minced-meat of Triple-A by posting a 3.82 ERA and then held his own in the majors at the tender age of 22. Why he hasn't received any hype is beyond me. Is it because he doesn't throw hard? Is it because his stats have been good but never spectacular?

The fact of the matter is this: He has progressed through the minors without a hitch, and has performed well at each level despite being a little young at each stop. He has three pitches which he can throw for strikes at any time. He has an intelligent approach to the game.

In fact, tonight during an interview, he acknowledged that, even though he did not throw it at all in the spring, the curveball was his best pitch. He spent the entirety of March working on making his cutter, which has always been good, into a pitch which is great. Whether that was a mandate from Mets brass or a decision from Niese himself we do not know, but it gives us even more reason to believe that he can take a step forward this year.

As far as I can tell, there are no warning signs around the kid. His peripheral statistics all supported his minor league ERA numbers[1]. His "stuff" meets the eye test and grades out well according to the metrics. He's lefthanded and intelligent. He was healthy in the spring and his injury was not arm related.

I see no reason to believe that Niese is incapable of posting an ERA around 4.00 this season. Provided he stays healthy and that he has a rotation spot, and every indication is that the Mets believe in him, he could be one of the truly bright stars of the upcoming season. He has only 39.2 major league innings, so unless he is disqualified by service time, Jon Niese is a serious contender for 2010 Rookie of the Year honors.

I'm brutally honest when it comes to my Hometown Nine[2], but I'm high on Niese. I'm excited to see what he can do this year, and I fully expect him to get into the double-digits in wins[3]


[1] His BABIP's at each level he spent significant time ranged between .321 and .346. His strikeout and walk numbers were all strong - in fact, his K-BB ratio at Triple-A last season was a robust 3.15.

[2] For instance, I never had a lot of faith in Maine.
And for what it's worth (and I HATE to say this) but Maine was probably just not that good to begin with... I certainly hope that Maine can take a step forward this year by staying healthy and regaining his old strikeout numbers. But no one should expect him to be the John Maine of 2006 again. The John Maine we saw in 2007 was very valuable, and I'd love for him to be able to bounce back to that. But to call him a "thrower" isn't accurate. He pitches just fine - he just is what he is.

[3] Pitching in spacious Citifield, he ought to even be a good fantasy option once Beltran returns.


Anonymous said...

Just a suggestion -- relax with constantly citing past posts you wrote. It's kind of annoying.

Brian Mangan said...

@ Anonymous: Thank you for reading and thank you for the feedback. In fact, in the next couple weeks I'm going to try and conduct a reader survey and see exactly what it is that people want to see more/less of.

Sorry if citing to past posts annoys you, but I'm not going to stop doing it. We have a lot of good content here that is worthy to link to. Maybe I won't excerpt from the articles as much in the future. On the flip side, however, I like to provide a lot of evidence and authority for the things that I write.