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Matthew Bowman Could’ve Helped

After last season, you would want to believe that the Mets wouldn’t want to underestimate their own pitching prospects and expose them to the Rule 5 draft. 

The Mets got very, very lucky with Logan Verrett. Everyone underestimated him. Perhaps it was a result of a low 90’s fastball. Perhaps it was because he relies on control, changing your eye level, and working both sides of the plate rather than blowing a 100 MPH fastball by you like Noah Syndergaard

In any event, the Orioles decided he was worthy of a Rule 5 pick but not worthy of making their Opening Day roster. The Rangers scooped him up and decided after six games he couldn’t help them. He was returned to the Mets. He pitched well out of the bullpen and in spot starts. This year he’s made two spot starts and hasn’t allowed a run in 12 innings.  The Mets needed him more than they ever knew.  Fortunately for the Mets, the Orioles and Rangers never realized what they had in Verrett. The Mets got very lucky.

This year the Mets may not be so lucky with Matt Bowman

Bowman was taken by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. Partially due to Jordan Walden opening the year on the DL, Bowman made the Opening Day roster. So far this year, Bowman has appeared on five games pitching 6.2 innings. He has a 1.35 ERA and a 0.900 WHIP. He’s predominantly throwing a 93 MPH sinker. He mixes in the occasional slider (88 MPH) and splitter (82 MPH). It’s a short sample size, but Bowman looks good out of the bullpen. There’s no reason to believe the Cardinals will let him go. 

The head scratching part was there was no excuse for why the Mets let Bowman become a Cardinal. The Mets had roster space. They could’ve protected Bowman.  To make matters worse, they lost what appears to be a good bullpen piece. How did this happen?

In answering, this question it is important to note teams typically keep a roster spot open so they can make a pick in the Rule 5 draft in the event there’s a player out there who can help them. It’s how the Mets acquired Sean Gilmartin last year, and he became a valuable part of the bullpen. So in reality, the question was who should the Mets have left off the roster in place of Bowman.

The Mets did subsequently lose Kirk Nieuwenhuis on waivers. The Mets traded Darrell Ceciliani for cash. Carlos Torres and Ruben Tejada were initially offered contracts only to subsequently be released. The Mets also could’ve realized what they had and did the unconventional and just put Bowman on the roster barring them from making a Rule 5 draft pick. The Mets didn’t. Instead, they exposed Bowman in the draft in the oft chance they could’ve found someone of his caliber in the Rule 5 draft. How did this happen?  

Simply put, like Verrett, Bowman didn’t have lights-out stuff. He is a four pitch pitcher that was projected to be, at best, a back of the rotation starter or bullpen arm. He really regressed his first full year in AAA. In 2014, he was 3-2 with a 3.47 ERA and a 1.294 WHIP in six starts and one relief appearance. In 2015, he made 26 starts and two relief appearances. Bowman would finish the year 7-16 with a 5.53 ERA and a 1.679 WHIP.  Entering the 2015 season, he was seen as a back of the rotation starter or a bullpen arm. His 2015 season reasonably cast doubt on those projections. At age 25, it appeared like the former 13th round draft pick’s development had stalled. 

It didn’t, and it shouldn’t be surprising as Bowman has looked for ways to improve. He has tried to emulate Tim Lincecum‘s delivery. While in college, he studied Sabermetrics, and he has sought to use it to find ways to improve. Basically, there’s no rock this former 13th round pick will leave unturned to he better. He’s built himself into a major league pitcher. 

However, Bowman is pitching for the Cardinals, and the Mets have nothing to show for it. Worse yet, the Mets could’ve used him. With Jacob deGrom‘s lat injury (and problems with his son), Verrett was thrust into the starting rotation.  Rafael Montero was recalled to help in the bullpen, but Collins has been loathe to use him. 

Perhaps Collins would’ve trusted Bowman and allowed him to pitch. Unfortunately, we will never know. The Mets will not get lucky with a Rule 5 pick returning to the organization.  Bowman is a Cardinal likely never to return. 

Editor’s Note: this article was first published on metsminors.net

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