Leading the way in Buffalo is the 1-2 punch of Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia. Harvey, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound righty, is the No. 2 prospect in the Mets chain and was their No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. Last season, his first as a pro, saw Harvey rack up 13 wins and a 156 strikeouts, good enough to lead all Mets minor leaguers in both categories. It was that track record that inspired new Buffalo Bisons manager Wally Backman to strongly recommend that Harvey and Familia both start the season in Buffalo. In fact, that was one of the first things Backman told the Buffalo media when he was introduced as the new manager in November of 2011.
“Wally told me the whole time I had a good chance of going with him,” Harvey said of starting the season in Triple A. “As soon as they told me, I was extremely honored and happy. I’m just glad to get the season started.”
Harvey threw back-to-back two-inning outings for the Mets during spring training and did not give up a run. All seemed well for Harvey until he was rocked for five runs in one inning by the Washington Nationals during a March 25 game. Overall, Harvey had a strong spring and was a deserving choice to take the ball for the Bisons in their Opening Day game at Pawtucket on April 5. But Harvey took the loss in his Triple A debut, giving up four earned runs on six hits and four walks in 4.1 innings of work in a 4-2 loss. Backman said one of Harvey’s strengths is his ability to learn from his mistakes, and how Harvey takes in and applies advice as soon as possible.
“He’s like a sponge,” Backman said of Harvey’s desire to learn.
Familia, a righty, is the Mets No. 4 prospect, and a 6-foot-4, 230 pound bull. The Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2009, Familia’s fastball has been clocked at 99 mph and a breaking ball in the mid-80s. Finding consistency in his command is Familia’s chief goal this season. Also on the horizon for the Bisons is the return of No. 6 prospect, right hander Jenrry Mejia. Mejia, who went 1-2 with a 2.86 earned run average in five starts with Buffalo in 2011, is on the mend from Tommy John Surgery which shut him down in May of last year. Mejia’s estimated time of arrival in Buffalo is some time in May or June.
No. 1 prospect Zach Wheeler, who was acquired in the Carlos Beltran deal, is expected to land in a Bison uniform sometime this season. Some experts feel Wheeler may even make it to Queens by 2013.
In the fourth, and possibly last year of their agreement with the Mets, the Bisons haven’t exactly been setting the International League on fire. A fact that has many long time Bisons fans wondering if the Herd will be taking its business elsewhere with a new parent club next season. The Bisons are a combined 193-237 since joining forces with the Mets in 2009, with just one winning season (76-68 in 2010) and no playoff appearances.