Death. Taxes. The Mets needing left-handed pitching. Three guarantees in life.
Over the last several season the Mets consistently find themselves with limited left-handed options. On the 40-man roster right now the Mets have four bullpen options that are lefties: Jake Diekman, Joey Lucchesi, Brooks Raley and Josh Walker. First, this underscores how important the Jake Diekman signing is for the Mets. It also opens up opportunities for lefties in Mets camp to impress and push themselves up the depth chart. Enter prospect Nate Lavender.
Nate Lavender was selected in the 14th round in the 2021 draft by the New York Mets out of the University of Illinois. At the end of last season he still wasn’t listed on Mets top 30 prospect lists despite a fairly impressive three seasons with the Mets. Over 72 games, 108 2/3 innings, he had a 2.32 ERA, 1.178 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9 and a 13.7 K/9.
He split his time between Binghamton and Syracuse last season. In Binghamton he was 1.4 years younger than the average player and over 10 1/3 innings he posted a sparkling 1.74 ERA and 0.774 WHIP earning a promotion. He then pitched 44 innings in Syracuse with a 3.27 ERA and a 1.295 WHIP. His K/9 numbers in Syracuse matched his minor league career average at 13.7 K/9 and his walk numbers were just a tick worse at 4.7. What was concerning in Syracuse was the amount of homers he allowed. His career average has been 0.7 HR/9 and in Syracuse it was 1.4.
Mets Minors wrote this in-depth piece on Lavender after the Mets drafted him in 2021. Even a couple of years ago his strikeout numbers despite his low-90’s fastball were being noted.
This spring we’ll be looking to see if Lavender continues to miss bats and get strikeouts. The worry right now, as shown through his walk and homer numbers, is will hitters start to wait for a pitch they can hit, rather than being fooled. The depth chart is Lavender’s major advantage right now. One or two injuries shatter the Mets LHP depth. If Lavender has a strong spring and can pitch himself into the 40-man roster at some point this season, he’ll also have options, an appeal feature to a stretched-thin Mets team. Given the amount of time he spent in Syracuse and his age right now (24), there’s a good chance we’ll see Lavender with the major league club at some point this season.