Aaron Loup

Projecting Mets 2021 Opening Day Bullpen

The New York Mets bullpen has been through for a loop with the injury to Seth Lugo to start the season. Things have grown increasingly complicated by diminished velocity of Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances. With all that said, the bullpen has talent, and there are many spots accounted for already.

Guaranteed – Miguel Castro, Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Aaron Loup, Trevor May

Obviously, Diaz is going to be the closer coming off of a strong 2020 season. May is going to figure into the equation as a late inning reliever, and Loup was brought on to be the LOOGY. That’s the easy part.

Castro is out of options, and it is very likely he would be picked up off waivers if the Mets tried to send him down. Fortunately, that does not seem to be an issue with Castro having a great Spring striking out four in 4.0 scoreless and hitless innings.

After him, with Familia seemingly getting his elite level stuff back, he is a lock to make the bullpen. If nothing else, he can pitch the middle innings while the Mets hope Jeremy Hefner gets him back to his dominant form.

Bubble – Dellin Betances, Robert Gsellman, Drew Smith, Daniel Zamora

The 13 pitcher roster rule has been suspended for the 2021 season, but that may be a good general construct. Considering a five man rotation with the aforementioned five guaranteed spots, that leaves three remaining spots.

Given his salary and history of building up his velocity in-season, it is likely Betances makes the Opening Day roster. That leaves two spots available in the bullpen. Given the performances this Spring, that is going to be a difficult decision.

Gsellman has been a mainstay in the bullpen over the last few seasons and based on seniority he gets the call. Notably with him, the Mets did have the option to stretch him out as a starter, but they opted not to do that this spring with Gsellman only throwing 4.0 innings over three appearances.

Smith was the one reliever from the 2017 trade deadline debacle who has proven he could pitch in the majors. So far, he looks good, and the Mets are going to have to go out of their way to try to keep a pitcher with three scoreless appearances with no walks and three strikeouts off of the roster.

Finally, there is Zamora who probably presents the Mets best option to carry two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen. He has been a little wild with two walks over 3.2 innings, but he has also struck out three batters. That is typical for Zamora over the last few years.

Fifth Starter Competition – Joey Lucchesi, David Peterson, Jordan Yamamoto

The injury to Carlos Carrasco certainly changed the complexity of the fifth starter battle. With his injury, that opened up two spots instead of one. Given the nature of the injury, the Mets could feel more comfortable putting Peterson in the Opening Day rotation as the fear of having to send him down at one point isn’t as strong.

If Peterson were to make the rotation, the Mets could put one or both of Lucchesi or Yamamoto in the bullpen. Both pitchers have been great this Spring, and they have both more than made the case they deserve to be on the Opening Day roster in some way, shape, or form.

Outside Looking In – Jerry Blevins, Tommy Hunter, Arodys Vizcaino

Blevins probably has a much better chance than this given his curveball looking great. However, he has only appeared in two games walking two and striking out three. While this arguably puts him ahead of Zamora, especially with his track record, adding Blevins would require the Mets to make a roster move.

With respect to Hunter and Vizcaino, they may well both prove to have an impact on the Mets in 2021. That said, neither quite seem ready to pitch Opening Day at the moment. That goes double for Vizcaino who has only made one apperance so far.

Wild Card – Mike Montgomery, Corey Oswalt

With Carrasco suffering an injury, the Mets are said to begin stretching out Montgomery. That would seemingly be an indication they are looking for him to begin the season in Syracuse instead of Flushing. Still, it is hard to overlook his ability to be another lefty in the bullpen and a pitcher who can give you multiple innings. That said, Lucceshi could offer that himself.

Oswalt has had a very good Spring Training with Luis Rojas being very impressed. His velocity is way up, and he has looked quite strong. In fact, we probably shouldn’t completely rule him out in the fifth stater competition. If it is about competition, Oswalt has a strong case to make the Opening Day roster. That said, the fact it’ll require a 40 man move serves as a significant impediment.

Opening Day Bullpen

Joining the aforementioned group of Castro, Diaz, Familia, Loup, and May will very likely include Betances giving the Mets two more spots to figure out. With Lucchesi and Yamamoto now poised to start the season in the rotation, it would seem the final two spots can go to pitchers who are strictly relievers and not converted starters.

At the moment, it looks like one of those two spots should go to Smith. It’s possible the last spot goes to Gsellman due to his ability to give the Mets an extra inning here or there, but it would seem his spot is about as tenuous as Betances’ is right now. Overall, there are two weeks to go and a lot can happen. It will be very interesting to see where things go from here.

Mets Probably Don’t Need Another Reliever

Like it always seems to be, the New York Mets entered the offseason with the need to rebuild their bullpen. As the Mets entered Spring Training without Seth Lugo, there seemed to be a renewed emphasis on the need to add more relievers to the bullpen. However, when you break it down, the Mets may not need to actually add another arm.

Typically speaking, we will see the Mets carry a 12 man pitching staff which means seven relievers. Right off the bat, the Mets are set at closer with Edwin Diaz. He will certainly be joined in the bullpen by recent signees Trevor May and Aaron Loup. That trio right there takes care of the Mets closer, the eighth inning, and their LOOGY.

That leaves them having to figure out the other four relievers in the bullpen. Based upon the moves of Brodie Van Wagenen, three of those spots are occupied by Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia. This trio could very well become the core of what might be an excellent bullpen.

As previously detailed, Betances induced very weak contact last season, and he would miss a lot of bats. Looking at Baseball Savant, there was also a lot of promise with Jeurys Familia‘s season as he also induced a lot of weak contact, and he had terrific velocity. What really hampered each of their seasons was a mixture of walks and plain old bad defense.

Betances had a 1.56 GB/FB last year, but despite the weak contact, he yielded a .353 BABIP. Familia didn’t have the same issues with ground balls turning into outs as Betances, but he did see a career worst walk rate come back to bite him. Keep in mind, in only two of the 10 appearances where he didn’t walk a batter did the opposition score off of him.

Both relievers will be helped by the improved infield defense we should see with Francisco Lindor at short. Also, while we may see J.D. Davis start at third, in all likelihood, he should be removed late in games for Luis Guillorme thereby making the Mets defense elite for these groundball pitchers who induce weak contact.

Keep in mind, while Betances and Familia have typically had higher walk numbers, neither had really posted numbers that poor in their careers. Part of that could easily be explained by them trying to regain their prior form in a disjointed offseason. Really, both pitchers needed to hone a number of things, and the pandemic really cost them the opportunity to work with Jeremy Hefner like they needed.

Given a normal offseason and Spring Training, it is reasonable to assume both could be reasonably relied upon to at least easily handle the middle innings. Perhaps, they could eventually be reasonably be able to be relied upon for the seventh and eighth. In fact, we should be able to see them close a game or two here and there.

In terms of Castro, no one throws it harder. Really, that makes him a bit of a wild card not too dissimilar to what Hansel Robles used to be for the Mets. If you can harness him, you have an elite reliever. If you don’t you have an interesting mop up reliever. Either which way, he is out of options, and he is going to get every chance for the Mets to be the team to finally unlock his abilities.

When you add Lugo to these relievers, this bullpen could be the envy of every team in the majors. The question for the Mets is what to do in his absence. In terms of that, the Mets have plenty of options.

Joey Lucchesi profiles as a potential elite reliever. We have seen Robert Gsellman be elite out of the bullpen for stretches. If nothing else, we know he can absorb innings. The same could also be true for Jordan Yamamoto. The Mets also have a number of interesting young relievers to throw at the problem with Jacob Barnes, Yennsy Diaz, Sam McWilliams, Sean Reid-Foley, Drew Smith, Stephen Tarpley, and Daniel Zamora. Of course, there is also Mets fan favorite Jerry Blevins here on a minor league deal.

The moral of the story is the Mets have the talent in the bullpen. The real challenge is going to be for Hefner to work with them to get the most out of them. Then, perhaps the even bigger challenge is for Luis Rojas to deploy them properly. Overall, if Hefner and Rojas are successful, the Mets will get the most out of what is an extremely talented group, and we will begin to wonder why exactly we were so overly concerned about adding a big name reliever in the offseason.

Mets Fans Shouldn’t Be Upset Over James Paxton, Justin Wilson, Etc.

Look, the New York Mets still have work to do this offseason. That’s a result not just of how terrible Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon were, but it’s also representative of where the Mets aspirations are.

To that end, instead of looking at a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, and eventually Noah Syndergaard buttressed by impressive depth, fans see a team in need of another starter. To be fair, the Mets organization does as well.

In light of that, the Mets pursued James Paxton, and they’ve pursued other starters as well. Except, the Mets didn’t get Paxton. He would return to the Seattle Mariners for a little more money to pitch at a place where he’s had success to rebuild his value.

Remember, Paxton has an injury history, and he’s coming off an injury. Would Paxton have made the Mets better? Sure. However, what he provides is fungible as compared to the free agent market.

Right now, pitchers like Taijuan Walker, Jake Odorizzi, and Rick Porcello are still free agents. Arguably, Paxton has the highest ceiling, but he may also have the lowest floor.

If the idea is to add a starter for depth, wouldn’t it be better to add the guy you can count on to be healthy? With that being the case, Paxton and Odorizzi aren’t the answer. Walker and Porcello are.

Regardless, missing out on Paxton is not remotely a big deal when you have these other options.

The same can be said about the Mets missing out on Justin Wilson.

Undoubtedly, with Seth Lugo‘s injury, there is an increased need for the Mets to bring in another reliever. Losing Lugo turns a bullpen which was looking like a strength and turning it into a question mark.

Yes, Wilson was quite good with the Mets, and he’s likely to be quite good next year. To that point, it makes the Aaron Loup signing all the more curious. Wilson would’ve likely been far superior for that role, but for some reason, the organization thought Loup was the better fit.

Even with that, there still remains quality options available. There’s Trevor Rosenthal who seemed to put the injuries behind him to return to his dominant form. David Robertson is coming off Tommy John, and he’s been a dominant late inning reliever in his career. There are other interesting names like MVP vote getter Ryan Tepera.

If the Mets want a strictly left-handed reliever, Oliver Perez is available. Put the old nonsense aside, Perez has been a quality reliever. There’s also Tony Watson, who can provide every bit what Wilson could’ve provided.

In total, there’s still plenty of quality arms on the free agent market who can easily provide what Paxton and Wilson would’ve. In fact, there are pitchers available who are in fact better. Because of this, there is absolutely zero reason to get upset over missing those two or other similarly skilled pitchers.

Really, the only time to get upset is in the event the Mets don’t add another starter or reliever. That said, based on all we’ve seen this offseason, it’s hard to believe that’ll happen.

Mets Can’t Afford To Lose Seth Lugo

Perhaps, the New York Mets just heard the worst possible news they could’ve heard. Seth Lugo needed elbow surgery, and he may not be able to pitch again until May, which is probably the optimistic view .

Make no mistake here. The Mets need Lugo back as soon as he can get back to being Lugo. That Lugo is the best and most versatile reliever in baseball. That reliever was desperately needed to stabilize this Mets bullpen.

Edwin Diaz is coming off a tremendous bounce-back year. That said, it was still just 26 appearances, and he still managed to blow 40% of his save opportunities. Moreover, he’s developed an every other year pattern with 2021 projected to be the down year.

Jeurys Familia has not been good since returning to the Mets, and based on his FIP, it’ll be difficult to imagine him turning it around in 2021.

There are some indications we could see a bounce back year from Dellin Betances. Still, Betances needs to regain some velocity and control with the latter always being an issue for him.

Miguel Castro may have a live arm, but he’s yet to harness it. He’s got a very poor career 4.7 BB/9, and even with the strikeout numbers, he only has a 1.59 K/BB, and batters hit .244 against him.

Aaron Loup has traditionally pitched well against left-handed batters, but he’s historically struggled against right-handed batters.

When you break it all down, the only pitcher you can truly have confidence in the Mets bullpen is Trevor May. Part and parcel of that is how the aforementioned relievers will be deployed has now been altered by Lugo’s injury.

Now, this is an opportunity for another pitcher, but they have to grab it.

Drew Smith has tremendous velocity and spin. The same holds true for Yennsy Diaz and Sean Reid-Foley. None of these three have been able to establish themselves yet with the later two having significant control issues. This also applies to Franklyn Kilome.

Robert Gsellman could return to the form we saw of him when he first landed in the bullpen. One of Joey Lucchesi or Jordan Yamamoto could find themselves there pending the results of the fifth starter spot.

There’s also the free agent and trade market as well. Even at this point in the offseason, there are still quality options remaining.

No matter where the Mets look, they’re not finding anyone nearly as good as Lugo. If they can’t, it throws the entire bullpen and pitching staff in disarray. As we’ve seen in years past, bad bullpens can ruin good teams.

These Mets are a good team. They might be a great team. However, with the loss of Lugo, their chances of hitting that ceiling took a massive hit. At the end of the day, there’s just no replacing the best reliever in baseball.

Instead, the Mets have to just hope they have enough quality depth. They need to hope 1-2 pitchers really step up. Mostly, they just need to hope Lugo is able to be Lugo at some point in 2021.

Anyone Calling Mets Offseason A Failure Is Clueless

So, the Mets didn’t get Trevor Bauer. Instead, Bauer went to his hometown Los Angeles Dodgers for what might’ve been less money. Despite Bauer really not being better than the Mets fifth best starter, the over the top criticism started:

https://twitter.com/bmonzoradio/status/1357780681670205441?s=21

This is just scratching the surface of what we find at the bottom of the barrel. For their sake, you hope this is just schtick because these are purely horrid opinions.

Yes, we all know the Mets didn’t get Bauer, J.T. Realmuto, or George Springer. Instead, they got better players and a much deeper roster. In fact, just look at who they signed/acquired so far this offseason:

That doesn’t include interesting depth options like Jerry Blevins, Jerad Eickhoff, Jose Martinez, Mallex Smith, Jose Peraza, and Arodys Vizcaino. There are other moves made on top of that.

We’ve also just learned with the Bauer bidding the Mets have at least $40 million they can invest in the 2021 team. It can also be used to extend players like Michael Conforto, Lindor, Stroman, and Noah Syndergaard.

If someone can take a look at that and what the Mets can still do, and say to you this is the same old Wilpon run Mets, they’re either lying, trying to get attention, think you’re gullible, have no idea what they’re talking about, or some mixture of these.

Make no mistake, this has been a phenomenal offseason. Yes, we can quibble with a move or two, but in the end, calling this anything but a success is dumb. Really, the people pushing these narratives really know better.

Well, at least they should. They should because it’s absurd to think adding a top five player in the game on Lindor on top of everything else they did is disappointing or a failure. It’s really beyond absurd.

This has been nothing short of a great offseason. Arguably, it’s among if not the best the Mets have ever had.

Aaron Loup Not A Great Signing For Mets

The New York Mets had one opening in their bullpen, and they were ideally looking for a left-handed reliever. When their pursuit of Brad Hand failed, the Mets moved towards more of a LOOGY in Aaron Loup.

The good is Loup is good against left-handed hitters. For his career, Loup has limited them to a .232/.301/.319 batting line. That was partially fueled by an outstanding 2020 where Loup limited them to .212/.278/.303.

Really, 2020 was an outstanding season for Loup. In 24 appearances, he was 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA, 0.840 WHIP, 1.4 BB/9, and a 7.9 K/9. In many ways, including ERA+, it was the best year of Loup’s career.

When you have a 33 year old starter having a career year, you do have to question the ability to repeat that year. That goes double when it happened in a shortened season. When looking at the numbers, it appears very dubious Loup can be as good in 2021 as he was in 2020.

First and foremost, his .219 BABIP is likely due for a significant regression. That goes double when you consider he has a .304 career mark, and he’s leaving the Tampa Bay Rays, who are the best at aligning defenses.

There’s also his Baseball Savant data. He pitched to contact with very low velocity and spin. Looking at it, you may question just how he got away with it all year. The answer is deception.

Now, deception like that will always play. However, it usually plays one way. That’s the way it’s proved out in MOST of Loup’s career.

While he’s kept left-handed hitters at bay, right-handed hitters have teed off on him to the tune of a .264/.332/.424 batting line. That was completely different in 2020 with Loup getting the better of right-handed hitters.

In fact, Loup dominated them and was better against them than lefties. Right-handed batters only mustered a .192/.246/.423 batting line off of him.

This was a complete outlier. Over the Sox years previous to 2020, right-handed batters OPS against Loup ranged from .721 to .925. If Loup returns to those levels, and given his BABIP, he very well might, that’s problematic.

Remember, the days of the LOOGY are gone. All relievers must pitch to at least three batters. There are some exceptions like retiring the last batter of an inning. That said, most often Loup will be called upon to face at least three batters.

For Loup to be a useful and effective reliever, he needs to be able to repeat his 2020. That’s highly debatable. You are also left to wonder if Steven Matz could’ve better fit this role before the trade. On that note, Joey Lucchesi, who is now a starter, or another free agent reliever could’ve better fit this role.

There’s also the matter of why do you even need a LOOGY. Again, the rules are set to make a LOOGY a thing of the past. You do have to wonder if Trevor Rosenthal, a pitcher with good splits against left-handed hitters, would’ve been a better investment.

On that note, we should take into account, Loup was a backup option, and it’s just a one year deal. Maybe he repeats his 2020 breakout, and maybe he regresses to career norms. For a one year deal, it’s worth a shot even if there were better ways to address this spot in the bullpen.

So, in the end, this wasn’t a great move by the Mets. By the same token, it’d be a stretch to call it a bad one. The Mets probably should’ve done better here, but if Loup is good again, then the Mets did extremely well.