This Mets prospect leads the Minors in ERA

July 18th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anthony DiComo’s Mets Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

As of Tuesday morning, 153 pitchers had thrown enough innings to qualify for the Minor League ERA title. 

Mets prospect Tyler Stuart? He’s leading the entire pack. 

Stuart, the team’s sixth-round selection in last year’s Draft, slimmed his ERA to 1.54 after delivering six strong innings Saturday night at Double-A Binghamton -- his first outing since a midseason promotion. Still unranked on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Mets prospect rankings, the 23-year-old righty has zipped up other lists and figures to become a staple of them going forward. 

Stuart has been that good for the Mets, producing a 1.55 ERA over 14 starts at Single-A St. Lucie before earning the call to Binghamton. Among qualified pitchers at one of Minor League Baseball’s four full-season affiliate levels, he is one of only three with a sub-2 ERA. He has struck out 89 batters in 81 2/3 innings. 

“Obviously, the job’s not finished,” Stuart said in a telephone interview. “We still have two months left in the season, so I’m just going to keep at it, keep grinding at it and keep the foot down. But overall, it’s a good feeling.” 

Far from a premium prospect when the Mets drafted him following his redshirt sophomore season at the University of Southern Mississippi, Stuart had undergone Tommy John surgery in 2021 and spent most of his college career as a reliever. He made three appearances upon signing last summer but had never had an extended chance to showcase himself as a starting pitcher.

When that opportunity arrived this April, Stuart grabbed it. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in every game he’s pitched so far. 

“Deep down, I always wanted to be a starter,” said Stuart, who features a five-pitch mix led by a fastball-slider combo. “That just kind of suited me better. I feel like I get better as the game goes on. I can reach that fourth, fifth, sixth inning -- just seeing the third time through the order, I feel like I get more locked in.” 

It helps that Stuart is 6-foot-9, a high school basketball player and a football wide receiver who chose baseball as his most viable long-term path. Stuart’s height gives him the benefit of extra extension, allowing his mid-90s fastball and sinker to jump on hitters. One scout compared him favorably to Tylor Megill, another hulking mound presence who shed his “potential reliever” tag as he neared the big leagues. 

Within a Mets system that still lacks impact pitching prospects at the upper levels, Stuart stands tall in more ways than one. Much like Mike Vasil, another mid-round Draft pick who figures to be the next Mets' pitching prospect to make his Major League debut, Stuart has worked himself into position to join New York as soon as next season. For a pitcher barely a year removed from college, that’s no small feat. 

“You try not to [think about it],” Stuart said. “Even getting into pro ball, it’s like, ‘Don’t make a big deal about it. It’s just a game of baseball. You’re still doing the same thing.’ … I don’t really think about what level I’m at, stuff like that. I just try to live in the moment.”