By Mike Steffanos
Today's Mets news features a lot on first round pick Mike Pelfrey and an intriguing look at young relief prospect Henry Owens, about whom we've been hearing more and more. Yesterday we read about 2004's top pick Phil Humber, who is beginning his comeback from Tommy John surgery and trying to reestablish himself on the prospect radar.
It calls to mind the eternal baseball debate on the value of pitching prospects. So much can go wrong from the time that they are drafted until the hypothetical time that they are accepting their Cy Young award. Many never make it. Some are like Kris Benson, once the top pick in the entire draft, now a frustratingly middling major league pitcher. Some see their careers sidetracked by injuries (Paul Wilson), some maybe weren't that good in the first place (Geoff Goetz), some just take a while to get it going (Aaron Heilman).
As hard as it is to develop a position prospect, it's just that much harder to develop a pitcher. Look at Phil Humber, who impressed in camp last spring, then struggled in A ball, seemed to get it together, then blew out his elbow. He probably won't be pitching for real this season until mid-June or later.
Now we're reading great things about Pelfrey, who experts see as having the potential to develop into a top of the rotation starter. Why should we get excited about this kid, when so much can go wrong between what he is and what he could be? You have to hold onto a draft pick for a year once you sign him, so figure by next season there will be pressure to trade Pelfrey for someone who can help now.
The problem with this thinking, though, is that it's getting harder to obtain even mediocre starters, much less top of the line guys. Thanks to revenue sharing, teams like the Twins are able to keep a Santana, and we're even hearing that those whacky Moneyball folks in Oakland might try to keep Barry Zito for themselves. Even if they don't, expect to see the Mets competing against the Yankees, Dodgers and others for the southpaw. Whether by trade or by free agent signing, you pay through the nose for pitching these days, and this is trending ever more in that direction.
There are only so many guys with high-ceiling potential, and the Mets were lucky enough to get a hold of one. I hope they hold onto him, as most successful Mets teams are built around good young pitching. More than that, though, I hope they finally get it together at the minor-league level, because the only way to consistently beat the odds and develop pitching is to have more than one or two guys with true potential in your system.
Daily News: Mike Pelfrey Impresses
John Harper reports that first round pick Mike Pelfrey wowed everyone on the first day of workouts. Harper describes Pelfrey's initial workout in a Mets uniform:
It was an impressive sight, so impressive that Willie Randolph invoked the name of Randy Johnson when speaking about Pelfrey, and GM Omar Minaya wouldn't rule out the possibility that the 22-year-old righthander could be pitching at Shea at some point this season.
Skeptical? Spring training hyperbole, you say? Fair enough.
It was only one simple, 25-pitch session in which Pelfrey was lined up with nine other pitchers on the back-field bullpen mounds. Still, your eyes were drawn to Pelfrey, largely because he had such a physical presence, tall and thick at 6-7, 230 pounds, and yet even at that size he threw so smoothly, with impeccable mechanics.
Everyone is raving about this kid already, and there is some thought that he might be ready to come up at some point late this season. More than likely the Mets will be more patient with him -- they've been very conservative with pitching talent since the "Generation K" debacle in the '90s.
New York Post: A power arm for the 'pen
After a winter that Omar Minaya felt compelled to trading away starting pitching depth for bullpen power arms, Kevin Kernan writes about an intriguing young flamethrower in the Mets own system. Henry Owens, who the Mets added to their 40-man roster this winter, has an explosive upper-90s fastball that is now complemented by a slider. Kernan quotes GM Omar Minaya on the 26-year-old, 6' 3", 230-pound prospect:
He threw well in Puerto Rico [winter league] and the thing about him is that he has really developed a second pitch, a slider, and he's got deception with a power arm. I'm not afraid to bring guys up; if you can throw strikes and you can have deception, that's a great advantage.
Owens, along with the power, has a deceptive delivery that makes it difficult to pick the ball up when he releases it. He's also described by Joe Hietpas, his minor-league catcher, as someone that's not afraid of a big spot:
Henry likes the ball when the game is on the line, that's the intangible thing. That's a mentality you can't teach.
Sounds like he's one to keep an eye on for the future.
New York Post: Pedro's Toe
Mark Hale updates us on how things are going with the most famous foot in the Bug Apple.
New York Times: Yusaku Iriki
Ben Shpigel gives us a look at the latest Japanese import, trying to make the Mets as a spot starter/long reliever.