With pitchers Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard rising through the minor leagues and dominating along the way, the hype surrounding those at the top has blocked out some of the performances of lesser-known prospects, even with a fanbase as critical and attentive as the Mets’. Last week, Vinny took a look at some of the most underrated hitters in the Met system. Let’s take a look at some of the most underrated pitchers in the organization.
- Miller Diaz– After bouncing around the Mets’ Rookie Ball affiliates for parts of four seasons, Diaz is having a breakout season for Low-A Brooklyn. The hard-throwing righty has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s. He doesn’t have good enough control to stick as a starter, but he has the tools to be a very good relief pitcher down the road. This year, he has a 2.01 ERA in Brooklyn, striking out 11.8 batters per nine and walking 4.3 in 62.2 innings. His ERA and WHIP are both among the league leaders and Diaz’s 82 strikeouts leads all NYPL pitchers.
- Chris Flexen– Flexen has put up gaudy numbers for Kingsport this season. In his first full year, the 2012 14th-round pick has a 2.09 ERA in 11 starts, striking out 8.1 batters per nine and walking just 1.6. He has already tossed two complete game shutouts this season, and currently sits fourth in the Appalachian League in ERA. He has a decent low-90s fastball and secondary pitches, but his most impressive trait is his control, likely the reason the Mets took a flier on him in last year’s draft. Maybe this year’s dominance is a result of repeating Kingsport, but it’s certainly a promising sign when any young pitcher is competing for the ERA crown in his league while walking so few batters.
- Matthew Bowman– Bowman, a 2012 13th-round pick, has already made quite an impression in his year and a half of professional pitching. The soon-to-be Princeton graduate (he will finish his degree this fall) is armed with four average pitches, with a changeup that could be above average eventually, and superb control. He has consistently gotten hitters out at every level he’s pitched, going form Brooklyn, to Savannah, to St. Lucie in one calendar year. This season, he has a 3.05 ERA in 21 starts with 116 strikeouts (8.2 K/9) and 35 walks (2.5 BB/9) in 127 innings. He is undersized at 6’0″ and less than 170 pounds, which may eventually force him to move to the bullpen, but Bowman could become a suitable back-of-the-rotation pitcher or middle reliever and make his debut sooner rather than later.
- Akeel Morris– After blowing up last season with Kingsport, watching his ERA balloon to almost eight, Akeel Morris practically fell of the prospect map. A 10th-round pick out of the Virgin Islands in 2009, Morris had a solid first two seasons in professional ball, posting a combined 3.32 ERA between the Gulf Coast League and Kingsport, striking out over ten batters per nine innings. The big concern, however, was his control. In each season, he was walking well over six batters per nine, something that was going to catch up to him sooner or later. Although he brought his walk rate down to 5.2 in 2012, he fell apart, finishing with a 7.98 ERA in 38.1 innings. This season, Morris has flipped the script, putting up unbelievable numbers for Brooklyn mostly as a “piggybacker,” a long relief pitcher that comes in after a starter and is put on regular rest. Morris has brought his walks down further (4.6 BB/9), and has improved his already-incredible strikeout numbers. In 45 innings, he has 60 strikeouts (12.0 K/9), giving up only 29 hits (5.8 H/9) in the process.
- Steven Matz– Anytime you get a lefty throwing in the upper 90s, heads are going to turn. Matz, 22, was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft. It took quite a while for him to actually get on the mound, as Tommy John Surgery delayed his arrival, and when he did arrive, we only got a short glimpse of what he could be last year with Kingsport. Even in a short time with Kingsport, however, earning a spot on the Baseball America Hot Sheet before going down with injury. He finished te year with a 1.55 ERA in six starts. This year, he has come back fully healthy and has been fantastic for Savannah. In 21 starts, he has a 2.62 ERA with 121 strikeouts (10.2 K/9) and 38 walks (3.2 BB/9) in 106.1 innings. Although his numbers may be boosted by the pitcher-friendly Grayson Stadium, he still has a 3.38 ERA on the road. With his stuff, he’s a keeper. You may not hear much about Matz now, but if he keeps this up, he will shoot up top prospect lists very quickly.
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