Now that the starters are out of the way, we take a look at which bullpen arms are likely to break camp with the New York Mets.Twenty-nine pitchers were invited by the New York Mets front office to attend spring training in 2017. 19 of them are currently on the Mets 40-man roster while 10 are non-roster invitees. Depending on how manager Terry Collins wants to construct his roster, the group of 29 is competing for one of only 12 or 13 opening day pitching roster spots.
ESNY has broken down each of the pitchers invited to camp this year and determined which 13 we think Terry Collins should choose to break camp with the big league club.
Part II in the series will focus on the seven relievers that ESNY believes should break camp with the Mets. Part one dealt with the multiple aces, the starting pitchers.
The backend of the Mets bullpen is pretty locked as both the closer and set up roles are filled by incumbents. There are, however, several roles leading up to the eighth inning still up for grabs. We’ll examine all the Mets options here starting with the closer:
Despite what you may think of him as a human being, Jeurys Familia is a pretty good relief pitcher. An offseason domestic violence charge may ultimately result in MLB suspending the Mets closer to start the season. However, when he is allowed to pitch again he’ll be expected by Mets brass to be the top performer that he was in 2016.
Familia led all of MLB in saves in 2016 with 51 and he is second only to Mark Melancon over a two year span with 94 total saves in over 155.2 innings pitched. Familia is 6-foot-4 righty sinker ball pitcher with a K/9 near 10. That means he’s either striking guys out or getting them to pound the ball in to the dirt. What more can you ask for from your closer.
Familia is easily one of the best in the world at his craft. If the Mets can navigate the public relations nightmare he brings with him to the mound he should continue to provide them with elite production at the backend of their bullpen in 2017.
The Set-Up Man
Addison Reed saved 101 games for the White Sox and Diamondbacks from 2012-14. In 2015, he imploded. For whatever reason, Reed was more hittable in the first half of 2015 than he had been at any level of his professional baseball career. His ERA and WHIP went up and his K/9 went down. He was so bad that the D’Backs sent him down to Triple A, a move rarely used on five year veterans.
The D’Backs loss was the Mets gain as New York was able to acquire Reed in August of 2015 for a pair of minor leaguers. He has been sensational since arriving. Reed pitched in the third most games of any pitcher in baseball in 2016, logging 77.2 IP in 80 appearances. His 40 holds led the league by ten, Neftali Feliz of Pittsburgh had 30.
Reed was 4-2 record with a 1.97 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and 91 strikeouts in 2016. He will start the season as the Mets closer as Jeurys Familia is facing a possible suspension. If Reed could provide the Mets with a solid month as closer, I can see a scenario where the Mets deal Familia and give the role to Reed full time. Absent that type of move, Reed should be able to approach his 2016 numbers again in 2017. If he does the Mets will have one of the best set-up man/closer combinations in all of baseball.
Jerry Blevins signed a one year extension with the Mets in February of 2017 to be the main left handed reliever in the bullpen. Blevins had a very good year for the Mets in 2016. In 42 innings pitched over 73 games, Blevins struck out 52 with a 2.79 ERA.
A look inside those numbers paint an even rosier picture for the Mets. Blevins inherited 55 runners, the second most in the league, in 2016. Of those 55 he only allowed eight of them to score. That’s a strand rate of 85.5 percent, the third best rate in the majors for pitchers who inherited at least 50 runners.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for a southpaw reliever, Blevins was lights out against left handed batters in 2016 as evidenced by his 12.1 K/9 rate in those situations.
Besides one outlier year in 2015 with the Nationals, Blevins has been a very effective lefty reliever. If utilized in this role in 2017 the Mets can expect similar results. If he’s asked to do more it’s a lot more difficult to assume success.
The Innings Eaters
Middle relievers are perhaps the most underappreciated of all baseball players. Despite living in anonymity middle relievers play a vital role on professional baseball teams. They’re asked mostly to get tough outs in close games and bridge the gap between starters and end game relievers.
Hansel Robles and Fernando Salas are the two best middle relievers that the Mets have in camp right now. Both pitchers are right handed but that’s where their similarities end. Robles is a 26-year-old international free agent signing out of the Dominican Republic with two years of experience pitching in middle relief for the Mets. Salas is a seven year veteran of three teams. He was acquired by the Mets in a midseason trade with the Angels. Salas has pitched in every bullpen role, and had his best season as a closer for the Cardinal back in 2011.
Robles and Salas combined to pitch 151.1 innings in 2016. That’s more innings than any pitcher on the staff not named Syndergaard threw for the year. They also combined for 149 strikeouts and a 3.69 ERA.
Robles and Salas are not the best two middle relievers in the game but they are respectable and both are capable of being even better in 2017.
Erik Goeddel was chosen by the Mets in round 24 of the 2010 amateur draft by then GM Jim Duquette. Since then he’s worked his way through the farms to make it to the Show. In 2016 the right handed reliever got a call up in mid-June and never went back down.
Goeddel started better than he finished but overall he pitched in 36 games, won two and lost two, and struck out a batter per inning. If Goeddel can cut down on the free passes, he issued 14 in just under 36 innings pitched, he can be a serviceable middle reliever for terry Collins and valuable part of the Mets bullpen in 2017.
The Wild Card
The Mets brought in veteran left hander Tom Gorzelanny as a non-roster invitee to spring training on a show-me contract in early February, 2017.
10 years ago in 2007 Gorzelanny was a 14-game winner for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since then he’s shuffled between the bullpen and rotation for five different clubs, never quite regaining the form that made him the Pirates ace early in his career. He hasn’t pitched over 40 innings in a season since 2013 and when he has pitched the results have not been great.
This offseason Gorzelanny starting using a new sidearm delivery. It’s been a game changer for the 34 year-old vet. Last season he held lefties to a .163 batting average between the majors and minors.
Gorzelanny is versatile and can fill a number of roles in the Mets bullpen. He can back-up Blevins as a left specialist, he can eat up innings as the mop-up guy in blow-outs or even pitch in some pressure middle relief situations. If Gorzelanny can show Terry Collins he still has something left in the tank this spring he should make the team.
Assuming the Jeurys Familia drama works itself out and does not affect his role on the team or his perfromance, the backend of the bullpen should be exceptional in 2016.
Addison Reed, as fill in closer and then eight-inning man, is the most invaluable cog in Terry Collins’ bullpen. Jerry Blevins has proven he can handle the role of lefty specialist and even get out a few righties here and there if needed.
There are a few strong middle relievers in the group that should eat up innings and be reliable options throughout the year. The final two spots are rolls of the dice, but you can’t have everything. If Goeddel and Gorzelanny work out, great. If not, there are a few young arms down on the farm that should be able to fill in later in the season.
All in all this is a very strong bullpen which should be considered one of the teams biggest strengths heading in to the 2017 season.