It’s no secret the major league club has had bullpen issues. Jerry Blevins pitches in far too many games. Jeurys Familia is possibly done for the year. Fernando Salas and Addison Reed aren’t the pitchers they were last year. Both Josh Smoker and Hansel Robles have been sent down to Triple-A due to ineffectiveness. Somehow Rafael Montero is still on the major league roster, and he does not appear to be in jeopardy of being sent back to Vegas.
Part of the reason for that is the 51s relievers have been struggling mightily of late. Worse yet, it is the arms who were possibly closest to making the major leagues that are struggling the most.
Kevin McGowan started the year using his big fastball to strike batters out at high clip. More than racking up strikeouts, McGowan was keeping runners of the bases. He had a 0.700 WHIP to go along with a sterling 0.90 ERA. With him harnessing his stuff, and the major league bullpen struggling, it appeared as it he might get his chance sooner or later. Well, it is going to be later. Since May 4th, he’s appeared in six games, and he has allowed two plus runs in four of those appearances. His last appearance was a disastrous 0.2 appearance where he allowed six earned.
Another pitcher who has struggled of late is Alberto Baldonado. The left-handed pitcher was getting both righties and lefties out in Double-A leading to his promotion to Triple-A. Since joining the 51s, Baldonado has been hit hard. In his six appearances, he has a 10.80 ERA and a 1.350 WHIP. He’s become less of a cross-over reliever and more of a LOOGY with right-handed batters hitting .261 off of him. It’s a large reason why Baldonado has allowed three earned runs in two of his last three appearances.
Both McGowan and Baldonado have presumably surpassed Erik Goeddel on the depth chart. In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had been a good major league reliever pitching to a 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP. Last year he struggled, and he would need surgery to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow. He hasn’t gotten back to the effective major league reliever. In fact, he hasn’t even gotten back to being an effective pitcher. In 16 games, Goeddel is 2-3 with an 8.68 ERA and a 2.036 WHIP. He’s probably closer to being designated for assignment than getting called up.
It is more of the same with the rest of the 51s bullpen. Ben Rowen went from a consideration for the Opening Day roster to a 5.91 ERA. David Roseboom went from revelation last year in Double-A to an 8.31 ERA. Chasen Bradford has a 4.22 ERA and a 1.622 WHIP. Beck Wheeler has a 5.95 ERA and a 1.932 WHIP. About the only reliever with good stats is Logan Taylor, and he is walking the ballpark with a 4.1 BB/9.
Right now, as bad as things are in the majors, it is worse in Triple-A. At both levels, the Mets have talented pitchers who are going to have to make the necessary adjustments to start getting batters out. If they don’t, the Mets will be forced to look outside the organization for bullpen help. That is something no reliever in the Mets organization wants right now.
With the full season minor leagues having their Opening Day on Thursday, the Mets have announced the rosters for each of their minor league affiliates. Each team includes an interesting group of prospects. Each team also features a particular strength of each aspect of the Mets farm system. Keeping in mind each particular group is viewed not just in terms of how good the players are now, but also how they project going forward, here are the best of the best:
Best Starting Pitching – St. Lucie Mets
The St. Lucie rotation features a number of pitchers who may very well make their way to a major league mound. The former second round draft pick Church fixed both his hip and his mechanics, and he had a breakout season last year. Dunn is already a top 10 Mets prospect a year after he was drafted. Molina is back from Tommy John surgery, and he has looked good in both the Arizona Fall Leauge and Spring Training. Crismatt more than held his own against the vaunted Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball Classic. This is as exciting a rotation as there is in the minor leauges, and possibly, you will see some version of this rotation with the Mets one day.
Honorable Mention: Columbia Fireflies. A rotation with Jordan Humphreys, Merandy Gonzalez, and Harol Gonzalez is a very interesting minor league rotation. It would have been more interesting with Thomas Szapucki, but he is slated to miss time due to a shoulder impingement.
Best Bullpen – Las Vegas 51s
The 51s bullpen features Sewald and Roseboom who were both extremely effective closers last season. Certainly, both impressed the Mets enough to get long looks during Spring Training. Prior to having bone spurs removed, Goeddle was an effective major league reliever. Rowen gives you a different look with his sidewinding action on the mound. Arguably, this could be a major league bullpen that could hold its own.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The Rumble Ponies bullpen has Corey Taylor, who has been favorable compared to Jeurys Familia, as its closer. There are some other interesting names like Ben Griset, who is a very promising LOOGY, and Luis Mateo, who was once a very well thought out prospect before he faced some injury issues.
Best Catching Tandem – Las Vegas 51s
If nothing else, Plawecki has established he can handle a major league starting staff. More to the point, Plawecki has shown himself to be a very good pitch framer. While his bat has lagged in the majors, at 26, he still has time to improve. Behind him is Carrillo, who is a good defensive catcher that won the Gold Glove in the Mexican Winter Leagues this past offseason.
Honorable Mention: Binghamton Rumble Ponies. Tomas Nido seemingly put it all together in St. Lucie last year, and he appears poised to take the mantle as the Mets catcher of the future. Binghamton very easily could have been named the top catching tandem off that, but some deference was paid to Plawecki showing he can handle the position defensively at the major league level.
Best Infield – Las Vegas 51s
When the weak point of your infield is a player who is coming off a season where he won the Eastern League batting title, you know you have something special. Rosario and Smith are considered two of the best prospects not only at their positions, but in the entire game. Cecchini played well enough last year to be put on the 40 man roster a year ahead of schedule and earn a September call-up where he hit two doubles in six major league at-bats.
Honorable Mention: St. Lucie Mets. The team features a pair of 2016 draft picks in 1B Peter Alonso and SS Colby Woodmansee who showed real ability during their time in Brooklyn. Due to that success, they both skipped Columbia and joined an interesting second base prospect in Vinny Siena and a promising hitter at third base in Jhoan Urena.
Best Outfield – Columbia Fireflies
No, this isn’t because of Tebow. This is mostly about Lindsay, who has been labeled as an “offensive machine” by the Mets organization. He is a five tool prospect that with a little health will arrive at Citi Field sooner rather than later. Another interesting five tool prospect is former Division II player Zanon. He certainly has all the tools to succeed. It is a question whether those tools can translate against better competition. Cone is a player who has a good baseball IQ, but he still needs to translate that and his talent to on the field success
Honorable Mention: Las Vegas 51s. The outfield got demonstratively better with the recent signing of Desmond Jennings. It will get better with either Brandon Nimmo or Michael Conforto playing for them again. That depends on Nimmo’s health as well as the health of the major league outfield. It will also be interesting to see how Matt Reynolds handles taking on what was Ty Kelly‘s role last year in being a utility player that mostly plays left field.
Overall, the Mets have a number of good to very good prospects who are either close or project to be major leaguers. Some of those players like Rosario will be stars. Others should have long major league careers. While we are getting excited for another year of Mets baseball, we also have a lot to be excited about for years to come with these prospects.
During Spring Training, Paul Sewald and Ben Rowen have emerged as real possibilities for the Opening Day bullpen. The issue with adding either player to the Opening Day roster is neither reliever is on the 40 man roster. Moreover, there is currently no room on the 40 man roster. Therefore, if the Mets want to carry either Sewald or Rowen on the Opening Day roster, the team is going to have to make a roster move.
The first possibility is putting David Wright on the 60 day disabled list. At this point in time, Wright is still not throwing, and there is no known timetable as to when he will be able to throw. Accordingly, it is eminently possible he will need an extended stay on the disabled list. If so, putting Wright on the 60 day disabled list would open up one spot.
The issue arises if Wright does not need a stay on the 60 day disabled list or if the Mets were going to look to add both Sewald and Rowen to the roster. To that end, there are some players who could be moved off the roster.
Normally, this is where most Mets fans would point to Rafael Montero. However, Montero has pitched quite well this Spring. It’s more than the 2.70 ERA. Montero has been trusting his stuff more, and he has been pounding the strike zone. As a result, we are finally starting to see what the Mets have seen with their decision to keep Montero on the 40 man roster all these years. Now, if you are keeping Montero, this means someone else is going to need to be removed from the roster.
The most likely candidate is Josh Edgin. Prior to his Tommy John surgery, Edgin could throw 95 MPH. With his fastball, he dominated left-handed batters, and he could hold his own against right-handed batters. Post-surgery, Edgin is throwing in the high 80s to the low 90s. He has not been the same pitchers since, and the results are no longer there. He’s also struggling this Spring. With him being out of options, it’s hard to justify having him block someone else’s path.
Erik Goeddel is another Mets reliever who struggled in 2016 that is also struggling in 2017. Last year, Goeddel pitched through bone spurs, and he had a 4.54 ERA. Unfortunately, things have not been better after the surgery. Goeddel does not seem to have his command or velocity, and as a result, he has posted a 9.95 ERA in seven appearances.
Another pitcher who struggled last year and is struggling in Spring Training is Sean Gilmartin. Gilmartin was a terrific long man in 2015 to a pitcher without a role last year. He bounced back-and-forth between Triple A starter and major leauge reliever. He did not handle the transition well. Now, he is struggling yet again posting a 6;75 ERA.
Certainly, the Mets could hope that Edgin, Goeddel, or Gilmartin rebound in 2017. However, those hopes are not going to stand in the way of the team putting together the best possible bullpen they can put together on Opening Day.
With Baseball America‘s Adam Rubin reporting the Mets are considering using low A starter P.J. Conlon out of the bullpen, the Mets are really giving the impression that they may not sign any relief pitchers this offseason. This would coincide with earlier reports the Mets may not have the budget to acquire another player unless the team is able to trade an outfielder, namely Jay Bruce. When considering the difficulties the Mets have in trading Bruce, it’s becoming increasingly more likely the Mets will use internal options to build their bullpen.
The Mets should have varying degrees of confidence in returning relief pitchers Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles. Last season, Reed and Familia combined to be the best 8-9 combination in baseball. Robles has shown versatility whether it was his bailing Jim Henderson out of a bases loaded no out jam or pitching 3.2 innings because Bartolo Colon left a game in the first inning with an injury.
While the Mets should have confidence in these three pitchers, they still need at least four other arms to complete their bullpen. Here are the leading options:
RHP Seth Lugo – While he should get the opportunity to compete with Robert Gsellman for a spot in the rotation, indications are Lugo will land in the bullpen. In limited bullpen duty last year, Lugo was terrific. In his nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Pitching out of the bullpen should also permit Lugo to ramp his fastball up to 95 MPH and throw his curveball, which has the best spin rate in the majors, making him an even more dominant pitcher.
RHP Zack Wheeler – Like Lugo, Wheeler may get an opportunity to pitch in the rotation, but early indications are he will start the year in the bullpen. Wheeler’s fastball-slider combination should play well out of the bullpen, and it should lead to him recording a high number of strikeouts. Conversely, he may have a high amount of walks as well. Unfortunately, Wheeler may not be able to sustain the same workload of a relief pitcher as the Mets will likely want to ease him back after Wheeler missed two years due to Tommy John surgery.
RHP Paul Sewald – With a high 80s to low 90s fastball with a slider in the low 90s with a low 80s slider, Sewald doesn’t have the dominating stuff you would typically look for in a major league reliever. However, despite having “lesser” stuff, Sewald has succeeded at every level of the minor leagues including his being an effective closer for the 51s last year. Despite pitching in an extreme hitter’s league, Sewald had 10 saves with a 1.85 ERA, 0.945 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9 in the second half of the season.
RHP Erik Goeddel – If Goeddel can return to his 2014 – 2015 form, the Mets have a reliever they can rely upon. During that time, he was on the New York – Las Vegas shuttle making 41 major league appearances. Over that stretch, he had a 2.48 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, and a 9.0 K/9. For many, it was believed Goeddel did it with smoke and mirrors, an impression that was given credence with his 4.54 ERA and 1.318 WHIP in 2016. With Goeddel able to strike out 9.1 batters per nine last year, he has at least shown he can get batters out, and as a result, should get another chance. His success in 2017 is going to depend on his ability to regain some of his fastball velocity or his ability to adapt to pitching without it.
RHP Chase Bradford – Like Sewald, Bradford has fringy stuff with a low 90s fastball and a low to mid 80s slider. However, unlike Sewald, Bradford has struggled in AAA. Over the past three years, Bradford has pitched to a 4.88 ERA, 1.454 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9. It should be noted many pitchers, like Lugo, struggle in Las Vegas, only to have success in the majors.
RHP Ben Rowen – The submarine style Rowen was brought in on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. The hope is that Rowen can be a modern version of Chad Bradford in what was an excellent 2006 Mets bullpen. However, given his low 80s fastball, and with both right-handed batters and left-handed batters hitting him hard in his brief 12 major league appearances, this seems more hope than reality.
RHP Rafael Montero – Despite being terrible for the Mets, he somehow remains a part of the Mets organization. As if his presence on the roster wasn’t baffling enough, Sandy Alderson even mentioned him as a possibility for the bullpen. (ESPN). It figures that this year is the year push comes to shove with Montero. Either he is finally going to trust his stuff and throw strikes at the major league level, or the Mets are going to designate him for assignment for someone who can.
RHP Gabriel Ynoa – Ynoa struggled with the Mets last year, but those struggles could have been the result of him being asked to pitch out of the bullpen when he’s never done that before and the team shifting him between the bullpen and rotation late in the year. Fact is Ynoa has real talent. He has a low to mid 90s fastball that he may be able to consistently get in the mid 90s if he was airing it out in the bullpen. His slider is also effective in generating a number of groundballs. With him in the bullpen as opposed to the rotation, he can primarily utilize his two best pitches to get batters out.
LHP Josh Smoker – There are three things we learned about Smoker last year: (1) he strikes out a lot of batters; (2) left-handed batters absolutely crush him; and (3) he is not effective for more than one inning. Now, if Smoker is able to work with Dan Warthen to develop a slider to get help him get left-handed batters out, he’s got closer potential. If not, he’s still an effective arm out of the bullpen so long as Terry Collins acknowledges his limitations.
LHP Josh Edgin – Even with his reduced velocity, Edgin still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out. Until such time he re-gains his velocity, if it ever were to happen, he should primarily be used as a LOOGY. Now, with Familia, Reed, and Robles each being extremely effective against left-handed batters, the Mets are not in dire need of a LOOGY. Still, in a division with Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, and Bryce Harper the Mets could benefit from having more than one pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.
LHP Sean Gilmartin – In 2015, Gilmartin was an important part of the Mets bullpen as the team’s long man. That season, he made 50 appearance pitching 57.1 innings going 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, and an 8.5 K/9. Surprisingly, Gilmartin had reverse splits allowing a .216 batting average to right-handed batters and a .260 batting average to left-handed batters. Last, year, Gilmartin began the year in Las Vegas as a starting pitcher. Due to some bullpen issues at the major league level, the Mets had him fly on a red eye and pitch on short rest. Eventually, he would suffer a minor shoulder injury, and his promising season would tail off. Ultimately, the Mets will need a long man in 2017, and there is enough evidence here to suggest Gilmartin can competently fill that roll.
LHP David Roseboom – It’s not common for pitchers to go from AA to the Opening Day roster the next year, but Roseboom may just be capable of doing it. While a closer by trade, who is coming off a season with a 1.87 ERA, he is extremely effective against left-handed batters. Last season, he limited left-handed batters to a .141 batting average. Primarily, Roseboom is a sinker/slider pitcher who also has a change that allows him to remain effective against right-handed batters. While Roseboom primarily sits in the high 80s to the low 90s, he remains effective because he is able to effectively locate his pitches, and he induces a high rate of ground balls.
LHP P.J. Conlon – As touched on above, considering Conlon for the Opening Day roster was a surprise given he has not pitched in AA, he consistently throws in the mid to high 80s, and he was used as a starter last season. Another reason this was a surprise is the Conlon is better against right-handed batters than left-handed batters. The main reason for that is while Conlon is a four pitch pitcher, his out pitch is his change-up. Like with most left-handed pitchers, Conlon’s change-up is more effective against right-handed batters than left. Overall, it is highly unlikely he will make the Opening Day roster, but he should still benefit from the opportunity to further develop his slider.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Wheeler seems assured of being in the Opening Day bullpen with Familia, Reed, and Robles. Considering the Mets probably want to add another left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, and the fact that he is out of options, Edgin seems to be the next best guess as to a pitcher who will make the r0ster. Based upon their performance in the bullpen last year, it is likely the next two spots go to Lugo and Smoker. Right there, the Mets have a seven man bullpen with an interesting array of arms that can both register strike outs and induce ground balls to try to get a double play to get out of the inning.
If there is an injury, suspension, or someone proves to be ineffective, the Mets have interesting options behind this group in Rowen, Sewald, and Roseboom. There is also Gilmartin and Ynoa who can provide either a spot start or be able to serve in the bullpen if needed.
Ultimately, while you would feel much better with the Mets having at least one more veteran arm in the bullpen like a Jerry Blevins or a Fernando Salas, there is at least enough quality arms in the Mets system that can conceivably build a good bullpen.