When the Mets selected Mike Pelfrey with their ninth overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, they were hoping the former Wichita State pitcher would soon become an ace at the top of their rotation for years to come. Fast forward to eight years later, he’s now a member of the Minnesota Twins. How did that happen? Let’s take a look.
The relationship between New York and Pelfrey got off to a somewhat rocky start because he chose Scott Boras as his agent. It took six months of negotiating before the two sides agreed on a deal. It was a four year contract that included $5.3 million in guaranteed salary, along with a $3.5 million signing bonus. Since it took so long for the Mets to sign their top draft pick, he didn’t start his professional career until the 2006 season with the St. Lucie Mets in High-A. The 36th best prospect, according to Baseball America, started the year by going 2-1 with a 1.64 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, two walks, and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings pitched.
Since he was clearly overpowering the opposition in the Florida State League, New York moved up him to Double-A Binghamton, where he continued to perform up to expectation. In 66.1 innings pitched (12 starts) he went 4-2 with a 2.71 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 26 walks, and 77 strikeouts. He made his MLB debut in July 2006 as a 22-year-old, and got plenty of run support in a 17-3 victory. He was actually the first rookie pitcher in MLB history to have someone on his team hit a grand slam in each of his first two starts (according to Elias Sports Bureau). Pelfrey went 2-1 with a 5.48 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 12 walks, and 13 strikeouts in 21.1 innings pitched for New York before being optioned back to Triple-A New Orleans in August 2006. He finished the year how he started, and between three minor league levels he compiled a 7-3 record, 2.43 ERA, and 1.18 WHIP in 96.1 innings pitched.
According to Baseball America, Pelfrey’s solid ’06 season led to his stock rising prior to 2007 getting started, as he was crowned the 20th best prospect in baseball. The tall right-hander pitched well enough in Port St. Lucie to earn a rotation spot out of spring training. However, the magic would soon wear off, as he started the year 0-5 with a 6.53 ERA. That led to him getting sent back to Triple-A to work out his problems, and he would make occasional starts for New York in the big leagues the rest of the season.
He appeared in 15 games (13 starts) for the Mets in the bigs, going 3-8 with a 5.57 ERA. He performed better in Triple-A, but not by much; Big Pelf went 3-6 in 74 innings pitched (14 starts), putting together a 4.01 ERA and 1.35 WHIP during that time.
Once the 2008 season rolled around, Pelfrey earned the number five spot in the rotation, and put together a solid year for the Amazins. He went 13-11 with a 3.72 ERA in 200.2 innings pitched. However, that would start the one good year, one bad year trend for Pelfrey. He followed his solid ’08 campaign with a 5.03 ERA and 1.51 WHIP in 2009. Since 2010 was an even year, he had the best season of his career, going 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 65 walks, and 105 strikeouts in 204 innings pitched. It was this season that the Mets were hoping was the start of something special for the hurler. That wasn’t the case.
The good-year, bad-year trend continued in 2011, as he struggled to a 7-13 record and 4.74 ERA in 193.2 innings pitched.
I was actually looking forward to Pelfrey taking the mound in 2012; if history continued to repeat itself, we were going to watch him have a fantastic season. However, the 7.62 ERA in 26 spring training innings prior to the season starting had fans calling for his release. That didn’t happen, and he began the season in the starting rotation. Once the regular season began, it seemed as though a flip switched for him, then the injury bug bit him. He needed Tommy John surgery after just three starts, effectively ending his season, and Mets career.
New York non-tendered him last winter and did kick around the idea of re-signing him, but Pelfrey and Boras were determined to find a major league deal where he could continue being a starting pitcher, not a reliever. He eventually found a match with the Minnesota Twins. They overpaid to get him (one-year/$4 million), and he’s been disappointing so far this season.
Pelfrey’s Mets career isn’t anything to brag about; he went 50-54 with a 4.36 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, and 506 strikeouts in 896.1 innings pitched. It was a far cry from the ace the organization was hoping for, but he did have some good moments for the team that drafted him. I wish Mike the best in the rest of his career, and hope he’s able to settle in with one team soon.