Sleeper Scout: Dillon Gee and Jon Niese
Despite having a laughing stock of an offense, the New York Mets could easily produce five quality starting pitchers for fantasy teams this season, even with the loss of Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
Dillon Gee, a 26-year-old, started 17 games last year and was in the middle of a breakout season when a blood clot was discovered in his shoulder, leading to season-ending surgery. However, Gee reported to Spring Training “100 Percent,” having experienced no setbacks, according to MetsBlog.com. Gee never was considered a top prospect in the Mets organization, but Baseball America awarded Gee the best changeup and best control of any pitcher in the Mets organization after the 2010 season, in which Gee debuted, to a 2.18 ERA but poor supporting stats.
However, in Gee’s first full season, 2011, he pitched 160.2 innings with a 4.43 ERA and a 6.39 K/9, which was almost two strikeouts per nine higher than his 2010 number. So, “meh,” right? True. But before going under the knife last season, Gee, in 109.2 innings, lowered his ERA, FIP, and xFIP. His K/9 rose again, this time past league average, to 7.96, and his BB/9 lowered from 3.98 to a very respectable 2.38. There’s that best control tool rearing its head. He also raised his ground ball rate to 50.3 percent, which ranked him 32nd out of pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched last season, and his fly ball rate fell to 29.6 percent, which was 38th best in the majors.
Gee will be 27 in April, so while not all that young he’s still got plenty of time to improve. His Mock Draft Central ADP is a cool 291, so he won’t cost you anything more than a late-round pick with a high possibility of good strikeout and WHIP numbers.
Gee’s teammate Jon Niese, also 26, has started at least 26 games each of the last three years, finally breaking through and delivering consistent production throughout 2012. Niese threw a career-high 190.1 innings last year, cutting his ERA by a full run from 4.4 to 3.4 and lowering his WHIP from 1.41 to 1.17. Niese only had one bad month last year, May, where he was plagued by the long ball (seven allowed), but he still was able to strike out 28 in only 29.2 innings.
Niese’s best season was helped by a low .272 average on balls in play, which should rise to at least .300 this season, considering his 2010 and ‘11 numbers were .324 and .333, respectively. But even if regression occurs, Niese still should continue putting up good numbers. He used his cutter more than ever last season, and that helped him while relying less on his fastball. While his strikeout rate remained stagnant, he lowered his walk rate and K/BB to career bests of 2.32 and 3.16, respectively.
Expect a bit of a rise in his ERA and WHIP, but where Niese is going in drafts, 149th overall according to MDC, he’s worth the investment. Others going around or after Niese include Ryan Vogelsong, Hiroki Kuroda, Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson, as well as many other players with age or injury concerns. Niese is young, durable and has every chance to improve again this season.