- Full name Jonathon Joseph Niese
- Born 10/27/1986 in Lima, OH
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: L / Throws: L
- School Defiance
- Debut 09/02/2008
Drafted in the 7th round (209th overall) by the New York Mets in 2005 (signed for $175,000).
View Draft ReportLHP Jon Niese allowed just one earned run in 78 innings this spring at Defiance High, which also produced Dodgers first-rounder Chad Billingsley two years ago. Ohio's first back-to-back winner of state player of the year awards, Niese won't go nearly as high because his stuff has been inconsistent, but he could sneak into the fifth round for a club that saw him on one of his better days. He's a projectable (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) lefty who already has a high-80s fastball. His splitter, curveball and slider all have potential. If he doesn't turn pro, he'll attend Cincinnati.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Niese went 0-6, 7.36 in his first nine starts at Buffalo to open the season, then went on a 5-0, 0.72 tear to earn a big league callup. He tore a tendon in his right hamstring doing a split while receiving a throw at first base on Aug. 5, and then ripped it off the bone on a warmup pitch. He dropped to the ground in agony and required season-ending surgery. Niese's signature pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball, though he sometimes has difficulty getting it called for strikes. He can run his fastball into the low 90s, and he uses its natural cutting and sinking action to battle righthanders. He also has a solid changeup and he consistently throws strikes. Niese gets into trouble when he struggles with his fastball command. When that happens, he can't overpower hitters with sheer velocity and they sit on his curveball. Because he relies on his lower half with his drop-and-drive delivery, Niese will need to trust in the integrity of his surgically-repaired hamstring. When Niese visited the clubhouse at Citi Field in late September, he already had shed crutches and a brace, a sign that his hamstring should be 100 percent by spring training. He's a favorite to win the last spot in the New York's rotation for 2010, and he projects as an eventual No. 3 or 4 starter.
Born the day the Mets won their last World Series, Niese comes from the same Defiance (Ohio) High program as Chad Billingsley. Summoned to the big leagues ahead of schedule last September, he struggled in two of his three outings but tossed eight scoreless innings against the Braves in his second start. Niese's signature pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball. He also throws an 88-93 mph fastball with natural cutting action that allows him to combat righthanders, as does his solid changeup. He generally has good control, though like many young pitchers, he nibbled too much in his first taste of the majors. His mechanics create deception that's imperative for a pitcher with solid but not outstanding stuff. After he battled weight issues early in his pro career, improved eating habits have allowed him to shed 21 pounds. Niese needs to do a better job of throwing his curveball for strikes. His delivery, which features a pronounced arch in his back, may hinder his command. Given the team's history of awarding a young pitcher a rotation spot--including Mike Pelfrey, Brian Bannister and Tyler Yates in recent years-- it's entirely possible that Niese will break camp with the Mets. He's the early favorite to be New York's No. 5 starter in 2009, and he profiles as a possible No. 3 starter down the line.
Ohio's first-ever back-to-back state high school player of the year--he attended the same high school as Dodgers righthander Chad Billingsley-- Niese signed with New York after a recruiting call from Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. After getting hit hard early in the season, Niese went 4-1, 2.18 with 42 strikeouts in 45 innings over his final eight starts, including six innings of one-hit ball in the high Class A Florida State League playoffs. Niese uses a fastball that sits at 91-92 mph early in games, then attacks hitters with an improved curveball that has become a plus pitch as he has learned to locate it. He's figured out how to throw his changeup with the same arm speed he uses for his fastball, and it has similar sink and tailing action. While he has improved his conditioning, Niese remains inconsistent in terms of maintaining his velocity. He's still learning to pitch inside with his fastball and remain aggressive with his changeup. His competitiveness can work against him at times. After his strong finish, Niese is ready to hit Double-A as a 21-year-old. He's still probably two years away from making an impact in New York's rotation.
A product of the same Defiance (Ohio) High program that spawned Chad Billingsley, Niese was Ohio's first ever back-to-back state high school player of the year. He was deemed a tough sign coming out of high school, but a recruiting call from Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter convinced Niese to sign for $175,000, the equivalent of early fifth-round money. Niese is at his best when he has command of his three-pitch mix. He has a lively fastball that sits at 87-90 mph. His big, looping 68-70 mph curveball is a strikeout pitch when it's on. He's willing to throw his 77-79 mph straight changeup to both lefthanders and righthanders. The Mets love his competitive fire. Though both his curveball and changeup have potential, Niese rarely has a feel for both of them on the same night. His curve could use more consistent rotation and he needs better command of both pitches. He can get overcompetitve and try to strike everyone out, which works against him. He'll have to get stronger after wearing down as his first full season progressed, resulting in some ugly late-season starts. Despite some inconsistency, Niese showed promise in 2006. He'll return to high Class A, where he made two late starts, and projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Niese is a product of the same Defiance (Ohio) High program that also yielded Dodgers 2003 first-rounder Chad Billingsley. Ohio's first-ever back-to-back state high school player of the year, Niese also pitched for the U.S. national team and was considered a tough sign because of his commitment to the University of Cincinnati. Hall of Famer Gary Carter, now New York's Gulf Coast League manager, was so impressed with a tape he saw of Niese pitching in high school that he called him and urged him to sign. Carter's sales pitch worked, as the Mets drafted him in the seventh round and were able to land him for $175,000, the equivalent of early fifth-round money. Niese, born the same day the Mets last won the World Series in 1986, is projectable due to his lanky frame. He offered a glimpse of his future last summer, when he pitched in the low 90s more often than he had as an amateur and touched 94 mph. His secondary stuff requires a lot of refinement, but he showed some feel for his changeup, which is currently ahead of his curveball. The Mets are optimistic about his future and will move him to low Class A this year.
Minor League Top Prospects
Niese's season of highs and lows came to a painful end in the big leagues. He tweaked a tendon in his right hamstring while stretching to cover first base in early August, then completely tore it off the bone on a warmup pitch, requiring season-ending surgery. His season got off to an inauspicious start as well, as he went 0-4, 7.96 in the first two months at Buffalo, but he recovered to dominate the IL for two months and pitch well for the Mets. "What impressed me was that he kept working hard, never got down and never got discouraged," Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell said. "Then for a stretch, he was lights out." Niese's best pitch is a big-breaking curveball. He mixes it with a low-90s fastball that he can cut or sink, and a solid changeup that makes his fastball even more effective. Once he gained consistent command, he had little trouble with Triple-A or big league hitters.
Niese finished the season trying to plug a hole in the Mets rotation, and he turned in eight scoreless innings against the Braves in his second start. Scouts project him as fourth or fifth starter in the short run, and as a No. 3 or 4 starter as he gains savvy and experience. He made significant progress with the consistent quality of his overall stuff this season, pitching inside well with an 88-92 mph fastball that has cutting action. He commanded the pitch well, allowing him to handle righthanders. His best pitch remains his curveball, which comes at a 12-to-6 break from his straight-over-the-top delivery. Some scouts were concerned with his delivery, as he lands with an open front shoulder and leans back in pronounced fashion toward third base. The delivery hinders Niese's control, though he has developed a slider that acts like a cutter to gives him another pitch he can throw for strikes. "It's a funky delivery," an AL scout said, "but it's deceptive and helps him."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Curveball in the New York Mets in 2010
- Rated Best Curveball in the New York Mets in 2009