January 03, 2007

Humber preview

Mike Steffanos at Mike's Mets, is writing about the rotation hopefuls of next year and how he thinks each will fair. Today he looks a t Phillip Humber:

When spring training got under way in 2006, Humber wasn't cleared to throw yet and 2005 first round pick Mike Pelfrey drew the attention in camp. It was well into the summer before Humber took the mound again, but he was so impressive in St. Lucie that the Mets promoted him to Binghamton. With the return of his low 90s velocity and his very good complementary pitches, Humber put himself back on the prospect map. He pitched 2 innings in relief for the Mets in September, and another couple of innings in the Arizona Fall League before some minor stiffness caused the Mets to shut him down for the year. Still, it was an amazing comeback from surgery for the young right-hander.

It's Humber's curveball and changeup that separate him from Pelfrey, who is still searching for the complementary pitches to that electric fastball. Stuff-wise, Humber is ready for the majors right now, and possesses the excellent mental makeup to succeed at that level. In spring training he'll be a full twenty months along from his Tommy John, so he could be expected to be fully recovered from the surgery. Still, with about 80 innings under his belt in 2006 the Mets would quite understandably want to go slowly with this kid. A likely scenario would see him start the year in AAA New Orleans and be one of the first call-ups.

Still, with a wide-open battle for rotation slots and the stuff and poise Humber brings to the table, I wouldn't want to bet my bankroll that he wouldn't steal one of those jobs right out of camp. I do think he will see some early minor league time, but barring health issues, he will be a sure bet to make a contribution at Shea in 2007. I could see him making 12-15 major league starts, or possibly coming out of the bullpen.

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