Prospect Watch: Today’s Actual Starters for the Mets, Yankees

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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The New York Mets and also Yankees play each other today at 7:10pm ET. Both clubs feature a right-hander making his major-league debut. What follows is a brief report on both of them.

Jake deGrom, RHP, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 26   Top-15: 7th   Top-100: N/A
Line: 38.1 IP, 6.8 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.72 FIP at Triple-A

Summary
Despite his age, deGrom has demonstrated promise, if also a lack of true swing-and-miss secondary pitches.

Notes
For the second straight game, the New York Mets feature a starting pitcher making his major-league debut. On Wednesday, that was right-hander Rafael Montero taking the rotation spot previously occupied by Jenrry Mejia, now a part (Mejia) of the bullpen. Thursday, other right-hander Jake deGrom replaces Dillon Gee, the latter having been placed on the disabled list with a lat injury.

There was more optimism regarding deGrom this preseason than one might customarily expect for a pitcher entering his age-26 season having never recorded a major-league inning. Marc Hulet, for example, ranked him seventh among Mets prospects; Baseball America, tenth; Keith Law, just outside the top 10. One reason for that is probably on account of how his career was delayed by Tommy John surgery and the subsequent rehabilitation. Another reason is, is deGrom features a fastball that sits at 92-94 mph according to multiple sources and over which he has demonstrated command. The average fastball velocity among qualified major-league starts this season, by comparison, is just 91.1 mph.

As for deGrom’s secondary pitches, neither appears to receive the ravest of reviews — which probably accounts for the modest strikeout rates deGrom has produced as a minor leaguer. That said, neither pitch has been entirely discarded, either.

Here’s an example of the slider from this spring, at 85 mph to strike out Scott Hairston:

deGrom SL Hairston SS K

And from that same game, deGrom’s changeup at 83 mph to Nate McLouth:

deGrom CH McLouth Foul

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Chase Whitley, RHP, New York Yankees (Profile)
Level: MLB  Age: 25   Top-15: N/A   Top-100: N/A
Line: 26.1 IP, 10.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.0 HR/9, 1.75 FIP at Triple-A

Summary
Despite his relative anonymity, Whitley has produced among the best defense-independent figures among Triple-A starters — and also features an achingly beautiful changeup.

Notes
Whitley received almost no attention as prospect this offseason. He was omitted from Hulet’s organizational top-15 list for the Yankees, for example, and omitted even harder (on account of how it’s twice as long) from Baseball America’s list for that same club. There are a number of indications, however, that he could have real success.

First, one finds that Whitley — at 25, a year younger than deGrom — has recorded not only better strikeout and walk rates than that Mets prospect, but also better than almost every other starter at Triple-A.

By way of illustration, here are the top-10 Triple-A pitchers by kwERA, an ERA estimator popularized by Tom Tango and based on strikeout and walk rates (min. 25 IP):

# Name Team Age IP K% BB% kwERA
1 Mike Fiers Brewers 29 45.1 37.0% 3.5% 1.38
2 Marcus Stroman Blue Jays 23 26.2 33.3% 6.5% 2.18
3 Chase Whitley Yankees 25 26.1 30.8% 6.7% 2.52
4 Tsuyoshi Wada Cubs 33 44.1 27.9% 5.5% 2.71
5 Cody Martin Braves 24 43.0 28.0% 6.9% 2.86
6 Carlos Pimentel Cubs 24 32.2 28.7% 8.1% 2.93
7 Liam Hendriks Blue Jays 25 41.2 21.2% 1.3% 3.02
8 Trevor May Twins 24 35.0 29.1% 9.2% 3.02
9 Kyle Lobstein Tigers 24 38.1 25.0% 6.0% 3.11
10 Dana Eveland Mets 30 29.0 24.8% 6.2% 3.17

Furthermore, of note with regard to Whitley: in addition to having produced the aforementioned impressive numbers, he also appears to feature an entirely competent fastball and — perhaps most importantly for his prospective success as a starting pitcher — what manager Joe Girardi has referred to as a “plus changeup.”

Here’s footage of said changeup from this spring to Victor Martinez:

Whitley CH VMart

And that same changeup, but slower and more slow:

Whitley CH VMart Slow



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Hurtlockertwo
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Hurtlockertwo

“and also features an achingly beautiful changeup.” Dude, you need to get out more.

Jon L.
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Jon L.

Yeah, dude. Who invited a baseball writer to our frat party?

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