Chris Flexen and Eric Hanhold Among Five Relievers Mets Should Consider Calling Up
For most the season, the Mets have been cycling through relievers trying to find the right fit for the last spot in the bullpen. Their inability to find the right fit has cost them a few games in what has been a very critical stretch of the season.
Chris Mazza couldn’t hold down a lead in San Francisco. Tyler Bashlor put a winnable game out of reach in Pittsburgh. That’s just two recent games, and there are countless others. As a result of different relievers failing, the Mets continue to cycle through them trying to find the right fit. Part of this process is the Mets having traded away Wilmer Font and releasing Hector Santiago. The team has also designated five different relievers for assignment. Still, there are some interesting options available.
Chris Flexen has made the transition to the bullpen this year after having struggled as a starter. In his brief five game stint as a pure reliever in the Mets bullpen, Flexen allowed two runs on four hits in 6.1 innings pitched. After one poor outing against the Braves, he was sent back down to Triple-A.
Since being sent down to Syracuse, Flexen has had a 6.94 ERA in 11 appearances, but six of those appearances were scoreless. Perhaps more important that the results is Flexen’s control. The pitcher who has always had issues with control threw 68 percent of his pitches for strikes resulting in his striking out struck out 12 (9.2 K/9) with just one walk in 11.2 inning pitched. If Flexen is able to sustain this level of control, he could be a real improvement in the bullpen.
Looking deeper at the 40 man roster, Eric Hanhold has had a 1.47 ERA since June 20. Over that stretch, he is 2-0 with two saves, and he is holding opposing batters to a .203/.282/.313 batting line. This recent run led to his being promoted again to Triple-A Syracuse. His second stint in Syracuse is going better than his first with him allowing just one earned over 4.0 innings.
In terms of his stuff, Matt Eddy of Baseball America said Hanhold “has a potent power fastball-slider mix that could play in a high-leverage role.” For Hanhold, he doesn’t need to be that yet. Rather, the Mets just need another reliable arm, and he certainly has the stuff to fulfill that role.
Like Flexen and Hanhold, Brooks Pounders has had success for the Mets at the Major League level. In his seven appearances for the Mets in June, he was 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and a 6.1 K/9. Looking deeper into those appearances, Pounders had six scoreless appearances.
His lone blow-up was his June 24 appearance against the Phillies. Notably, four of the five runs he allowed was in his second inning of work. Part of the focus on that appearance should include his rebounding three days later against the same Phillies team with a scoreless appearance. Looking at that, you could make the argument he should be recalled now. The argument against that is his struggles in Syracuse once he was sent down. In 10 appearances since his demotion, he has a 7.82 ERA allowing batters to hit .310/.410/.528 off of him.
Looking beyond the 40 man roster, there are some choices, but each of those options has their own limitations. The Mets are also further hampered by the fact Ryley Gilliam is on the injured list since July 12.
Perhaps the top option from players not on the 40 man roster is Paul Sewald. Sewald was on the 40 man roster earlier this year, and he pitched well in his four appearances in the Majors this year. In his 38 appearances for Syracuse, Sewald is 3-3 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.437 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9. Overall, in terms of Sewald, he is not the most exciting of choices. However, it should be noted he has shown a knack at the Major League level to be a good long man who can both eat up innings and keep the Mets in games. Given the other Mets relievers failures on that front, Sewald’s ability should not be discounted.
The other reliever not on the 40 man roster who stands out is Steve Villines. This year, Villines has dominated Double-A with a 1.11 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he has struggled in Triple-A Syracuse with a 6.75 ERA, 1.938 WHIP, and a 1.50 K/BB in 13 appearances.
Two things to keep in mind with Villines. First, the sidewinder has fared well against right-handed batters limiting them to a .245/.286/.309 batting line. However, he has struggled against left-handed batters with them hitting .253/.371/.437 batting line. With those splits, you could see the Mets benefiting from pairing him with Luis Avilan much like the 2006 Mets did with Chad Bradford and Pedro Feliciano.
The one caution the Mets should have with Villines is his walk rate has increased and strikeout rate has decreased as he has progressed to each level of the minors. With the aforementioned 1.50 K/BB in Syracuse, it should give the Mets pause before promoting him to the Majors in the middle of a chase for the Wild Card.
Overall, it would appear the Mets best options at the moment are Flexen or Hanhold. That is at least the case while Jacob Rhame is on the Injured List. In the end, it may just be the case the Mets need to actually pick a reliever and let them work closely with Mickey Callaway, Phil Regan, and Ricky Bones to figure things out at the Major League level to permit them an opportunity improve and contribute at the Major League level.