With the way the New York Mets bullpen looks right now, some of their young relievers will get a chance to audition for an MLB role in 2019.
Despite not being in contention for the postseason, the New York Mets still have things to play for in 2018. Some players will be auditioning for roles next year depending upon who is the general manager and maybe a new manager is in place as well. One area of the team that will look different next season is the bullpen.
With Jeurys Familia now with the Oakland Athletics and Robert Gsellman being the closer for now, other pitchers will look to fill out different roles and try to gain the trust of the manager in high-leverage situations.
Now, if the Mets want to contend next year, they will have to sign a premier closer. Some names that should be available include Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Craig Kimbrel among others. With Jerry Blevins also being a free agent, that will open up two spots in the ‘pen.
If the Mets decide to deal one of their top pitchers, it could mean a prominent role for Seth Lugo in the 2019 bullpen. While he has struggled out of the gate in the second half (.305 batting average), the right-hander has been one of those pitchers the organization can depend on in either role.
Wins should still be important, but it can’t come at the cost of seeing what some of these young relievers can do on the roster. Sandy Alderson acquired some of these relievers this time last year as possible help to the big league bullpen.
One example of that, in particular, is right-hander Drew Smith. Smith was acquired last from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Lucas Duda trade. The 24-year-old only has two strikeouts in five appearances. However, he has done a good job getting groundball outs and that can be a key thing when entering a game in a jam and the team needs to get a double play.
Another name that has the chance to stand out is 25-year-old right-hander Tyler Bashlor. Bashlor got the call-up from Double-A Binghamton in June, but he still has a good opportunity to make an impression on the front office. He has a fastball that averages out at 96 miles-per-hour (FanGraphs). However, he has allowed seven runs in 11.2 innings this year.
Finally, keep an eye on Gerson Bautista. If he is not called up this month, you would think he would be in Flushing when the rosters expand on September 1. Bautista, who was acquired in the Addison Reed deal in July 2017 from Boston, has a great fastball that can reach triple digits on the radar gun.
With Triple-A Las Vegas, Bautista has had his fair share of struggles (5.14 ERA, .320 batting average against in 21 games). With that being said, he has pitched better as of late as he has struck out 13 batters and walked only two over his last seven appearances.
If the New York Mets want to contend in what should be a competitive NL East in 2019, then the bullpen is something they are going to have to address this winter. While one should expect them to add pieces to the ‘pen via free agency or trades, some of these younger pitchers can earn themselves key Major League roles in 2019 with the way they pitch down the stretch.