When you think of the state of the Mets farm system, you hear all about the bats that make up the top seven prospects on my top-20 list. There's no denying they need pitching in the system.
In the 2021 MLB Draft, they attempted to change that with their first three picks, and eight of their first 10, coming on the pitching side.
They took Vanderbilt righty Kumar Rocker first, and we know how that shook out, high school righty Calvin Ziegler second and right now for me their second-best pitching prospect in the system, Dom Hamel, in the third round out of Dallas Baptist.
The last year or so is where we have seen the Mets expand their analytics department to not just the big-league team, but minor league affiliates and importantly the MLB Draft. Hamel was a data-driven pick as he was described to me at the time as “a spin-rate monster."
Hamel has a four-pitch mix headed by a fastball that sits 93-94 mph and touches 96. That fastball plays up with about 20 inches of induced vertical break, which is an analytical translation for if you hear that a pitcher has a good “ride” on his fastball.
He has three secondary pitches, headlined by a slider with a spin rate that would rank among the top-25 or so in the major leagues right now and is a big swing-and-miss offering. His curveball is average right now, flashing above-average at times and his changeup lags behind the other two.
The 2022 season was a success for Hamel, as he pitched in both Low-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn and earned the organization’s Pitcher of the Year award.
In 119 innings he posted a 10-3 record with a 3.25 ERA, allowing only 83 hits (6.3 hits-per-nine) while walking 54 (4.1 BB/9) and striking out 145 (11.0 K/9). One thing that was impressive is his ERA at the higher level in Brooklyn (2.59) was over a full run better than his ERA in St. Lucie (3.84). He also didn't surrender a home run in Brooklyn.
In 2023 I would expect the 23, turning 24-year-old, to begin the season in Double-A Binghamton which is considered to be the level that is a separator between true big-league prospects and not. The Mets have done a fantastic job of building up starting pitching depth on the 40-man roster. Right now, they are about 10 deep in arms that could reasonably start big-league games this season.
However, when I am asked about starting pitching prospects that I could see starting a big-league game in 2023, the list isn’t very long, and José Butto tops it.
But, I always like to remind people of Tylor Megill. When Megill was starting in Double-A in 2021, I don’t think anyone had him on the radar as someone who would come up and start games. I can see the same possibility for Hamel, as well as 2021 eighth-rounder Mike Vasil, if the need got to that level.
Whether Hamel appears for the Mets in 2023 or not, I think he has to be considered one of their top pitching prospects that reasonably profiles as a future No. 4 starter. With a little more consistency and an improved command on his curveball and changeup, there's a chance for a little more.
One Mets person told me that Hamel has a feel for throwing strikes, but sometimes "his stuff just moves too much." If the command doesn’t get to the level it needs to, he has a floor of a multi-inning reliever in the mold of the way the Mets utilized Seth Lugo.