Over the weekend the New York Yankees added Jon Niese to their minor league camp after signing the former New York Mets product to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. The left-hander can start or he can relieve and will look to latch on in either spot in the Yankees starting rotation in 2017 so now is a good a time as any to meet him, don’t you say? This is Meet a Prospect: The Jon Niese Edition.
Jonathan Joseph Niese was born on October 27, 1986 to Jeffrey and Annette Niese in Lima, Ohio on the same day that the New York Mets won their second, and last to date, World Series. It only seemed like fate that Niese went on to later spend time with those same New York Mets as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates in his MLB career before recently joining the Yankees on his minor league deal.
Niese attended Defiance High School in Defiance, Ohio where he was brought up where he played soccer all four years as well as baseball. While at Defiance High the left-hander was teammates with former Los Angeles Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley before being drafted in the 2005 MLB First Year Players Draft by the New York Mets in the seventh round.
Niese began his professional career with the Gulf Coast League Mets that same year before getting all the way to Triple-A by the 2008 season pitching seven innings allowing just one run for the Zephyrs. Niese impressed so much in that start that he was promoted to the Major Leagues in September of 2008 and he even made his MLB debut on September, 2 against the Milwaukee Brewers. Niese promptly gave up a home run to the first batter that he faced, Rickie Weeks, becoming the first pitcher in Mets history to achieve the feat. Niese bounced back and forth between the minor leagues and the Major Leagues in 2009 before his first full season as a major league starter came during the 2010 season.
Niese finished his first campaign as a starter with a 9-10 record with a 4.20 ERA in 173.2 innings pitched. Niese’s best start came on June 10 against the San Diego Padres when he threw a complete game one-hit shutout in a Mets victory. Niese remained in the Mets rotation for the 2011 season where he finished with another unimpressive 11-11 record with a 4.40 ERA in just 157.1 innings pitched. Niese saw his season come to an end prematurely when a rib cage muscle ended his season on August 23rd. That was enough for the Mets though as they signed Niese to a five-year deal worth $25.5 million on April 4th of 2012. Niese would finish the season with his best performance to date posting a 13-9 record with a 3.40 ERA including his first season where he did not completely fall apart and break down once the calendar turned to September.
Niese was named the New York Mets Opening Day starter for the 2013 season after Johan Santana suffered an injury but Santana wasn’t the only Mets lefty to miss some time due to injury that season. Niese missed several starts in 2013 due to a rotator cuff injury and the 2014 season didn’t start out much better for him either. Niese began the 2014 season on the disabled list due to elbow inflammation in his pitching elbow. Niese would return from the injury only to last a whole 66 innings before being forced back on the disabled list later on in the season. Niese did finish the season with 30 starts and a 3.40 ERA but the injury bug had hit him multiple times that season leaving many inside the organization to wonder if this was a sign of what’s to come.
Niese has a relatively uneventful, although it was healthy after making adjustments to his pitching motion during spring training in order to take some of the strain off his pitching elbow, season in 2015 but that did not stop the Mets from trading him to the Pittsburgh Pirates on December 9th for Neil Walker. Niese spent time in the Pirates rotation until the All Star Break when the Pirates placed Niese in their bullpen. Niese was not long for the Pirates though as the team then traded him back to the Mets on August 1st in exchange for Antonio Bastardo. Niese lasted a whole one start before being placed back on the disabled list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
The Mets declined their option on the contract after the 2016 season paying him a $500,000 buyout and thus granting him free agency. Niese spent the winter looking for a guaranteed job and even told the New York Daily News that he was shocked he could not find a MLB guaranteed deal this offseason before he signed the minor league deal with the Yankees. It doesn’t matter how he got here or what happened before though, especially on a minor league deal, as long as he makes the most of the opportunity while he is here. So here’s our best wishes and hopes going out to Niese, I hope you make the team if you can truly help the team compete in 2017 and beyond.
Welcome to the organization and, more importantly, welcome to the family.