JON NIESE, LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 27, 1986
Height: 6′ 3″
Drafted: 7th Round, 209th Overall, 2005 (Mets)
How Acquired: Trade (from Mets for Neil Walker)
High School: Defiance (OH) HS
Agent: Tom O’Connell
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Niese is a finesse lefty who was a solid, mid-rotation starter for the Mets from 2010-15. His fastball velocity has generally been about 90 mph, although it’s been a little lower in recent years. He also throws a curve and change, with the former being a plus pitch for much of his career but less so since 2013. He’s been helped over his career by pitching-friendly Citi Field, where he has an ERA of 3.63, compared to 4.22 on the road. His platoon split has been mild, as he’s allowed opposing right-handed hitters an OPS of .746 and left-handed hitters an OPS of .717. He’s a groundball pitcher, with a career groundball percentage of 50%. He’s had mild gopher ball problems in some years (2010, 2012, 2015) and not in others. Niese is a respectable hitter who managed to bat slightly over .200 in 2012-13. He has a career BB% of 8.7%, which is remarkable for a pitcher. The 2015 NL average for all hitters was 7.7%. The Pirates acquired Niese for Neil Walker.
Niese pitched well in his rookie league debut. A little surprisingly for a seventh round draft pick, Baseball America rated him the Mets’ 9th best prospect.
The Mets sent Niese to full season ball, where he pitched all year as a starter at age 19. He pitched well except for control problems. After the season, BA rated him the Mets’ 7th best prospect.
Niese struggled for much of the year in the pitching-dominated Florida State League, but finished strongly. He did make considerable progress with his control issues. BA rated him the team’s 8th best prospect after the season.
Niese had a good season, making 22 starts in AA and seven more in AAA before being called up in September. He made three widely spaced starts, throwing eight shutout innings in the second one and getting hammered in the other two. BA rated him the Mets’ third best prospect after the season.
The Mets sent Niese back to AAA for much of the year. He came up for two starts in May, then came back up for three more starting in late July. His season ended in early August due to a leg injury. He adapted much better to the majors, as the walk and K rates show.
Niese spent the season with the Mets, apart from one rehab start after he missed a couple weeks with a strained right hamstring. After a strong first half (6-3, 3.61) he faded in the second half (3-7, 4.81), with an especially bad September (1-3, 7.11). In the end, he gave up a few too many hits (.280 opponents’ average) and longballs (20).
Niese again had a good first half (8-7, 3.88) and weak second half (3-4, 5.67). He missed the season’s final month due to a muscle strain.
Niese had his best major league season, this time finishing strongly with a 3.01 second half ERA.
Niese fell off a little, possibly due to injury. He struggled through May and part of June, with a 5.08 ERA, then missed five weeks starting June 21 with a torn rotator cuff. After returning he posted an ERA of 3.00 the rest of the way.
Niese had his second best season, despite a velocity drop of about 1.5 mph on most of his pitches. He missed two weeks in July due to a shoulder strain and then missed his last start of the season due to an irregular heartbeat.
After his start on July 19, Niese had an ERA of 3.36, but he struggled after that. With Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz filling out a dominant rotation, the Mets moved Niese to the bullpen at the end of the season, although he still made 29 starts. His fastball velocity improved a little, from an average of 88.8 in 2014 to 89.2, but it remained below earlier levels. His K rate dropped to a career low as his percentage of swinging strikes dropped sharply. on the other hand, he had a career high groundball percentage of 54.5%.
Niese signed a contract extension covering 2012-16, with club options for 2017 and 2018. The options call for only modest increases, so they’ll benefit the Pirates if he pitches decently and let them opt out if he goes downhill. How well his acquisition works out for the Pirates may turn on whether he can recover some of his swing-and-miss ability after the drop in 2015. Even then, the Pirates are undoubtedly enthused about his groundball tendencies, which increased in 2015.
|2018: $11,000,000 team option ($500,000 buyout)
2017: $10,000,000 team option ($500,000 buyout)
|Signing Bonus: $175,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 9/2/2008
MLB FA Eligible: 2016 (if no options exercised)
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2008
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 6.107
|June 7, 2005: Drafted by the New York Mets in the 7th round, 95th overall pick; signed on July 1.
September 1, 2008: Contract purchased by the New York Mets.
December 9, 2015: Traded by the New York Mets to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Neil Walker.