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Mets young pitchers are reason for optimism

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Most Major League general managers operate under the belief that a team can never have too much pitching.

Which is good news for the Mets, who are stockpiling enough young pitchers to carry them for years to come.

With more than a month to go in the 2012 season, the Mets' 2013 rotation already seems set. R.A. Dickey should anchor the staff, with Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Johan Santana and Dillon Gee falling in line behind him.

Of those five pitchers, it is Harvey whose potential most excites the Mets for the long-term future. A top prospect ever since the Mets drafted him seventh overall in 2010, Harvey did nothing but succeed at each of his minor league stops, blowing through the farm system in less than two years. Still, when the Mets finally called up Harvey late last month, there was some concern that the college right-hander was too raw for the big leagues.

All he has done since that time is post a 2.75 ERA in six starts with 43 strikeouts and 15 walks in 36 innings. His strikeout total is the highest ever for a Mets rookie in his first six starts with the team -- Nolan Ryan, Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver included. In a franchise known for its pitching, Harvey is setting records.

So it is certainly promising for the Mets that Harvey isn't even the most-hyped pitcher in his own organization. Heading into the year, scouts were almost universally more enthralled with right-hander Zack Wheeler, who is a year younger than Harvey and will not appear in the Majors this season.

After dominating Double-A Binghamton with 117 strikeouts in 116 innings as a 21-year-old, Wheeler joined Triple-A Buffalo in early August and scuffled at first, before firing seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts in his last start Sunday. Wheeler could be ready to join the Mets early next season.

Give the Mets credit for developing pitchers. In addition to Harvey and Wheeler, an unheralded 18th-round pick named Collin McHugh electrified Citi Field last week, striking out nine over seven scoreless innings to submit an even more impressive debut -- at least from a statistical standpoint -- than that of Harvey. That the Mets sent him back to Triple-A the very next day spoke to their starting pitching depth.

"I've seen every stop that the Mets have to offer," McHugh said of his winding, five-year road through the minors. "They do a good job of developing. It doesn't really matter if you're a first-rounder or a 35th-rounder, they take a lot of pride in you as an organizational piece."

Because of that development system, the rich are getting richer. Though the Mets have disappointed again this season, flirting with last place in late August, their starting pitching has been a consistent bright spot. Their 3.79 starters' ERA ranks seventh in the Majors, and could improve in future years thanks to Harvey, Wheeler, McHugh and others.

The Mets are so pitching rich as an organization that even if Jenrry Mejia and Jeurys Familia, two other high-profile right-handers, wind up in the bullpen, the team could boast a formidable rotation for years to come.

Then again, all that pitching depth may have come at a cost. The Mets have struggled to develop Major League position players, and possess few viable position player talents -- and arguably zero star-level talents -- at the upper levels of their system.

Until more dangerous hitters arrive by way of the draft, trades or free agency, the Mets will have to rely on their pitching to carry them back to winning baseball.

But if the recent debuts of Harvey and McHugh are any indication, that may not be a problem.
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