David Peterson Should Open 2023 Season In Rotation
Right now, the New York Mets are rumored to be listening to offers for Carlos Carrasco. This makes sense because the Mets should listen to offers on all of their players and make deals if it improves the team. That should go without saying.
There is also the matter of clearing up payroll to permit the Mets to address their bullpen, outfield depth, and find a better solution than Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf at DH. Mostly, the Mets would be better served by having David Peterson in the rotation.
Peterson, 27, was the Mets 2017 first round pick (20th overall) out of the University of Oregon. At his age, this is exactly the time you would be expecting his career to take off, but frankly, to date, it has not gotten started. There are several reasons why that has happened.
After a promising 2020 rookie year in the pandemic shortened season, he predictably struggled in 2021 before succumbing to a shoulder injury. This would have the Mets under Steve Cohen bypass him as they looked to build an elite rotation designed to win the World Series. Despite that, Peterson would be needed, and he would have his moments.
Overall, as a starter, Peterson was 6-5 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.341 WHIP, 4.1 BB/9, and a 10.9 K/9. He would also average 4.2 innings per start. The caveat there was in two September starts, he threw four innings total over two horrific starts. This came at a time the Mets were working to move him to the bullpen for the postseason. Without those two starts, he averaged 5+ innings per start.
No, these aren’t earth shattering numbers, and yes, the walks/control were an issue. However, there are some caveats with these numbers. He was bounced back-and-forth from the rotation and bullpen AND between the majors and Triple-A. That takes its toll on a player. Notably, Peterson did perform better in the majors than in Triple-A.
Another factor is Peterson did not get to really work with Jeremy Hefner the way the rest of the Mets pitching staff did. Notably, we did see Hefner help hone pitchers mechanics and work on their control. This was most notable with the work Hefner did with Edwin Díaz to get him to repeat his landing spot on the mound. As a result, we not only saw the best we’ve seen from the closer, but we also saw Díaz go from a 4.9 BB/9 in 2020 to a 2.6 last season.
Arguably, if Peterson is going to take that next step, he is going to need Major League coaching, be surrounded by pitchers like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander for a full season, and really, he is going to need a chance.
Looking at the data, he is worth that chance. Per Baseball Savant, Peterson generates excellent extension, and he has a very good whiff%. That is shown with Peterson striking out 27.8% of the batters he faced last season, which is excellent. Part of the reason for that is despite lower fastball velocity and spin (which should be expected with a sinker) is Peterson’s excellent slider numbers.
Highest single-season slider whiff% by a lefty pitcher in the Statcast era (min. 250 sliders swung at):
Andrew Miller: 54.7% ('15)
Amir Garrett: 53.7% ('19)
Patrick Corbin: 53.1% ('18)
Corbin: 51.4% ('19)
Robbie Ray: 49.5% ('17)
Corbin: 49% ('16)
DAVID PETERSON: 47.9% ('22) pic.twitter.com/vSAd5nAdLQ
— Mathew Brownstein (@MBrownstein89) December 1, 2022
It is genuinely a strikeout pitch. Batters whiffed 47.9% of the time against the pitch. In and of itself, it is worth investing in that pitch to see what more the Mets could be getting out of Peterson. That slider is a hidden gem on this Mets staff, and they need to see it in the majors instead of Triple-A.
Put another way, Peterson still has a lot of upside. In many ways, he is still raw and needs more coaching and opportunities. For an older Mets rotation, they actually need Peterson’s upside. They need the younger starter who can surprise and have a good year. Somehow, some way, the Mets just need to get Peterson into the rotation and watch him take that next step because that next step could help the Mets win the World Series.