When talking about Jon Niese… well that’s the thing. Niese isn’t often spoken about, particularly as a respected pitcher in the NL East, an esteem he deserves after his 2012 campaign.
Granted yesterday’s outing in which the young southpaw gave up four runs over 2 1/3 innings in Venezuela’s 14-10 routing of the Mets is not the Jonathon Niese that should be respected. That Niese is the Niese who hurled a one-hitter against the Padres in 2010, or the Niese who put up a 3.40 ERA this past year, or the Niese that went at least six innings in each of his last 20 starts of the season. That Niese deserves to be recognized as more than just a back-end starter.
He wasn’t seen as much throughout the minors, never ranking higher than sixth on the Mets top prospect list. In the spring of 2010, Niese had to compete with Fernando Nieve for the fifth rotation spot on the major league roster. He showed flashes of realizing his potential in ’10 and ’11, but couldn’t put together a stretch of quality starts.
Then came 2012, where the 26-year old Ohio native came into his own, not only lowering his ERA south of four for the first time in his career, but also compiled a WHIP of just 1.172, won 13 games and struck out over 150 batters. It was a year for Niese in which he rose from the doldrums of mediocrity into a budding core talent for the Mets who now enters his prime years. Niese was able to get the tough out and stay mentally in the game on a more regular basis this past year along with significant command improvements and control of his secondary pitches. Another contributing factor–believe it or not–was his nose job, which has since resulted in improved breathing (that one, you can blame on Beltran).
Sandy Alderson has only handed out two contract extensions in his tenure with the Mets so far; that of David Wright‘s and Jon Niese’s. Jose Reyes, R.A. Dickey, Carlos Beltran, Francisco Rodriguez and plenty more talents have come and gone under Alderson, however Niese has been elected as an important enough of an asset to retain for the long term.
We learned earlier today that the Mets could have given the Blue Jays Niese instead of R.A. Dickey in the blockbuster deal that landed the Amazin’s Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndegaard, but chose to keep him instead of the reigning NL Cy Young award winner.
The current regime clearly sees him as a core part of the future for this organization. So why is it when we talk about the future of the Mets pitching staff, the conversation ends after Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler? Niese is not only a centerpiece of the present, but it has been made so he will very much be a part of the future.
I spoke with our fearless leader, Joe D. about the premise of the lefty being more than just an average pitcher. Joe told me he believes Niese would be a number two pitcher on a bottom 15 team and a number three for a top 15 team. I however would give him the number two spot for a rotation capable as high as 90 wins.
I say that like this Mets team, there is much more than meets the eye with Niese. His secondary pitches are coming into fruition, his potential is slowly being reached. I believe Jonathon Niese,–born the day the Mets last won the World Series–will continue to build on his breakout year in 2012 and establish himself as a force to reckoned with in the National League.