The start of the baseball season is less than a month away. Every weekday until opening day, we'll be counting down, from No. 20 to No. 1, the most important Mets players for the upcoming 2010 slate. Today, No. 6, starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey.
Mike Pelfrey began the off-season as the Mets' No. 2 starter, but he wasn't supposed to stay there. There were several options for Mets general manager Omar Minaya to drop him down. Joel Pineiro. Randy Wolf. Jon Garland. Sure, those guys aren't No. 2 starters on any of the teams they ultimately signed with, but they would have bumped Pelfrey down. But none of them signed. No starting pitchers signed at all. So here Pelfrey is, still at No. 2. There aren't many teams where he'd be the No. 2 starter. This is one.
Pelfrey is a fastball pitcher in the most extreme sense: Almost everything he throws, particularly early in the count, is a fastball of the four-seam or two-seam variety, though this off-season he has tossed in a split-finger pitch to with an improving slider and sinker. Of the five Mets starters not named Johan Santana, he has the highest ceiling: He's only 26 years old and doesn't have a lot of wear and tear on his arm.
In a perfect situation, he'd be a great No. 4 starter who could break out and surprise you. Instead, the Mets are forced to rely on him. He has the best chance to come through for them. But he probably shouldn't be asked to, not yet.