When you look at David Peterson‘s Rollie season, there is plenty of reason to be excited for 2021. The 24 year old rookie posted a 123 ERA+ in nine starts and one relief appearance, and he finished the season very strong.
Over his final three starts, he was 2-1 with a 2.00 ERA while striking out 16 batters. Over that stretch, you understand why Marcus Stroman said Peterson “is going to be one of the best in the league for years to come.”
Despite all that, Peterson should begin the season playing for Triple-A Syracuse instead of looking to build off his impressive rookie campaign.
First and foremost is Peterson could benefit from additional time to develop. Remember, prior to pitching in this haywire 2020 season, he had never pitched above Double-A.
As a result, while we saw he had talent, we also saw he was still raw. When looking at his Baseball Savant page, you see some real issues with his performance.
Peterson had a very poor walk rate and low spin on most of his pitches. He also had low fastball velocity and didn’t generate many swings and misses.
Again, we saw glimpses of what Peterson could be like when he struck out 10 Braves over six innings. Of course, he also had 2+ walks in all but two appearances.
His 10.2 HR/FB% was below average. There should also be expectation for a significant regression from his .233 BABIP against. All told, he may be much closer to his 4.52 FIP than his 123 ERA+.
That 4.52 FIP is quite poor and is really indicative of a pitcher who should really be moving to the bullpen. However, that doesn’t really apply to Peterson who is still a developing pitcher with a lot of promise.
It’s better to let Peterson learn from 2020 and continue working to improve as a pitcher in the minors in 2021.
Aside from the need to permit Peterson to continue his development, there’s another and perhaps more important reason for him to start the season in the minors.
As an organization, the Mets are severely lacking in pitching depth at the upper levels of their organization. As a result, they’re going to have to manufacture starting pitching depth.
Arguably, we saw the first move in that direction when the Mets tendered Robert Gsellman a contract. Starting Peterson in the minors would be a second very strong move in that direction.
Right now, Gsellman and Franklyn Kilome is the extent of their MLB ready pitching depth. Given their performances last year, that’s not quality depth. They need to do better, but that’s extraordinarily difficult to do in free agency.
With Steven Matz, the Mets only need to sign two more mid-tier starters. The Mets can afford to do that now with Steve Cohen in charge.
If you have no faith in Matz, it’s understandable. However, if he falters, you can go to Peterson. If Peterson opens the season in the rotation and falters, the Mets are picking between Gsellman or Kilome which is a much steeper drop-off.
Fact is, whether it’s the ineffectiveness of one starter or an injury, the Mets are going to have to dip into the minors for a number of starts. If they’re reaching back for Peterson, they’re giving their team a good opportunity to win. If it’s another option, they’re just rolling the dice.
Ultimately, if you want to build depth to help fix what Brodie Van Wagenen destroyed, the Mets need to put themselves in a position to have Peterson start the year in the minors. It’ll help them over the course of the 162 game season, and it will also help Peterson be an even better pitcher when he is needed to start again.