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.
Ten years ago, Omar Minaya had his second draft as the manager of the New York Mets. With the team having signed Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran in the offseason, they would not have a first round draft pick. In total, the Mets would draft 49 players, and they would be able to sign 35 of them. Of the 49 players drafted, six of the players would play in the major leagues. Here is review of those players that were drafted and played in the major leagues:
Kevin Mulvey, LHP (2nd Round, 62nd Overall)
Mulvey was a fairly well-regarded fastball-changeup pitcher out of Villanova, who shot through the Mets minor league system. In his first full professional season, he started in AA, and he finished the year with one start in New Orleans, which was then the Mets AAA affiliate.
In the offseason, Mulvey was a significant piece in the trade that brought Johan Santana to the Mets. Notably, he was the only player drafted by Minaya to be included in the deal.
Mulvey would not last long with the Twins. He spent a year and half with the team, and he made a very brief major league appearance with them in 2009. He would become the player to be named later in a trade in which the Twins acquired Jon Rauch to help them not only win the AL Central, but also to help them in the postseason.
Mulvey would not pitch well for the Diamondbacks. In 2009 and 2010, he would only make four starts and four relief appearances. He would go 0-3 with a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP. In 2011, the Diamondbacks would designate him for assignment to remove him from the 40 man roster. A year later, he would be outright released.
Mulvey caught back on with the Mets in 2012, and he was assigned to AA Binghamton. After 13 relief appearances that saw him go 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA and a 1.707 WHIP, Mulvey retired from the game of baseball, and he returned to Villanova to be an assistant coach. On July 14, 2016, he was named the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats.
In total, Mulvey only started four games and made six relief appearances over three major league seasons. He finished with an 0-3 record, a 7.90 ERA, and a 1.756 WHIP.
Joe Smith, RHP (3rd Round, 94th Overall)
After losing Chad Bradford to free agency, the Mets decided the side winding Smith was ready to take over Bradford’s role in the bullpen.
Smith would pitch two seasons with the Mets making 136 appearances. In those games, he would go 9-5 with a 3.51 ERA and a 1.402 WHIP. While he could never match what Bradford did for the 2006 Mets, Smith was still a reliable bullpen arm so long as he was called to pitch to right-handed batters.
With the Mets bullpen falling to pieces during the 2008 season, the Mets sought a dominant reliever who could pitch in the eighth inning and who could be a reliable closing option in the event the Mets closer once again succumbed to injury. With that in mind, Smith was included as a part of a three-team deal that netted the Mets J.J. Putz. Ironically, it was Smith who would have the best career out of all the relievers in the deal.
During Smith’s five year tenure with the Indians, he got better and better each season as he got better and better pitching to left-handed batters. He went from being a reliever who got just righties out to an eighth inning set-up guy. Because of that, he got a big three year $15.75 million contract from the Angels when he hit free agency for the first time.
While Smith regressed a bit during his time with the Angels, he was still a very effective reliever. Because he is still a very useful reliever, the Chicago Cubs obtained him after the non-waiver trade deadline. Despite pitching well with a 2.51 ERA in 16 appearances for the Cubs, he was left off the postseason roster. Smith is due to be a free agent after the season.
So far in Smith’s 10 year career, he has averaged 64 appearances and 57 innings per season. He is 41-28 with 29 saves, a 2.93 ERA, and a 1.199 WHIP.
John Holdzkom, RHP (4th Round, 124th Overall)
Holdzkom was a high school pitcher with a big arm whose fastball could reach triple digits. Initially, he posted big strike out numbers in the minors before needing season ending Tommy John surgery in 2008. The surgery caused him to miss the entire 2009 season, and when he returned, he was never the same pitcher.
After six games in the rookie leagues in 2010, the Mets released him. Holdzkom would take a year off from baseball before signing a minor league deal with the Cincinnati Reds. He would struggle for two years in the Reds farm system before being released in June 2012.
From there, Holdzkom went to the Independent Leagues in the hopes of rekindling his hopes of becoming a major league pitcher. With his fastball returning, he was dominant with high strikeout numbers once again, and he caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who offered him a minor league deal. In 2014, Holdzkom would actually appear in nine games for the Pirates pitching very well. In those games, he was 1-0 with a 2.00 ERA and a 0.667 WHIP.
Holdzkom would lose his fastball again, and he would never again be able to crack the Pirates major league roster. On the eve of Opening Day, he was released by the Pirates, and he was eventually signed to a minor league contract by the Chicago White Sox. While never appearing on an injury report anywhere, Holdzkom only made one appearance in 2016 for the White Sox rookie league affiliate in July. In two-third of an inning, he allowed four runs on three hits and two walks.
As for this moment, it is unknown what lies in the future of this 28 year old pitcher who is still looking to reclaim his fastball.
Daniel Murphy 3B (13th Round, 394th Overall)
Murphy is the best known player from the Mets 2006 draft. He got his start with the Mets in left field for a 2008 Mets team desperate for offense. Murphy hit well enough that he was named the Opening Day left fielder in 2009. That year it was apparent he was not an outfielder, and he began his transition to second base.
While there were some rough spots along the way, everything finally clicked for Murphy last postseason with him hitting home runs in six consecutive postseason games. These home runs were all the more notable when you consider Murphy hit them off Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and Kyle Hendricks. His key steal and home run in Game 5 helped propel the Mets to the NLCS, and in the NLCS he was the obvious choice for MVP.
He signed with the Nationals, and he went out and proved his postseason run was no fluke. Murphy hit .347/.390/.595 with 47 doubles, 25 homers, and 104 RBI. All these numbers were career bests. He led the National League in doubles, slugging, and OPS.
In his Mets career, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 while averaging 33 doubles, nine homers, and 57 RBI per season. Among Mets second baseman, Murphy is the all-time leader in games, at-bats, runs, hits, doubles, RBI, and batting average. He is also ranked third overall for the most doubles by a player in a Mets uniform, and he is ranked eighth in batting average.
Tobi Stoner, RHP (16th Round, 484th Overall)
The German born Stoner was used as a starting pitching in the Mets minor league system. However, in his brief time with the major league club, he was used exclusively out of the bullpen. Between 2009 and 2010, Stoner made five appearances going 0-1 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.412 WHIP.
After his big league call-ups, Stoner actually regressed. That could be in part due to bone spurs in his elbow he had to have removed prior to the 2011 season. Even with the removed bone spurs, Stoner could never get back to being the pitcher he was or who the Mets thought he could be, and he was released on the eve of the 2012 season. Stoner would pitch the 2012 season in the Independent Leagues. In 12 starts, he would have an 8.11 ERA, and his professional career was over after that season.
Josh Stinson, RHP (37th Round, 1,114th Overall)
Stinson was a high school pitcher with a mid 90’s fastball. As he did not truly develop his secondary pitches, he became a bullpen arm. With a his live arm, he got called-up in 2011, at the age of 23, and pitched in 14 games with the Mets recording a 6.92 ERA and a 1.615 WHIP.
The Mets relased him before the 2012 season, and he was claimed by the Brewers. He pitched mostly in the minors for the Brewers. Stinson did get a brief call-up where he actually pitched well. Despite his success in a small sample size, he was released before the 2013 season, and he was eventually picked up by the Orioles. He made 19 appearances with the Orioles, pitching to a 4.50 ERA, before he was granted free agency. Stinson signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and he would not make it to the majors in the 2014 season. The Pirates released him at the end of the year.
In the 2015 season, Stinson pitched for the Kia Tigers of the Korean Leauges. In 30 starts and two relief appearances, Stinson was 11-10 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. No one signed him to a professional contract to pitch in 2016. According to Stinson’s Twitter account, the 28 year old still considers himself a free agent pitcher.
Vic Black, RHP (41st Round, 1,234th Overall)
The Mets drafted Black out of high school, but he would not sign a deal with the Mets. Rather, he attended Dallas Baptist University, and he re-entered the draft in 2009 where the Pittsburgh Pirates would draft him in the first round (49th overall). The Mets would acquire Black in 2013 as part of the trade that sent John Buck and Marlon Byrd to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Black and Dilson Herrera.
In 2014, Black seemed to have a breakout season for the Mets. He began to harness his high 90s fastball, and as a result, he was becoming a reliable bullpen arm. Unfortunately, Black would land on the disabled list with a herniated disc in his neck. When he tried to pitch through it, he eventually developed a shoulder strain. He was first shut down, and then designated for assignment in the offseason.
While Black elected free agency, he hoped that he could re-sign with the Mets. Neither the Mets nor any other major league team were interested in his services. Black has not pitched in professional baseball in two years. At the moment, it is unknown if he will be able to ever pitch again.
Johnny Monell, C (49th Round, 1,463rd Overall)
Like Black, Monell did not sign a contract with the Mets instead choosing to re-enter the draft at a later date. He would be drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 30th round in the following draft.
From there, Monell has bounced around from organization to organization. Finally, in 2014, he returned to the same Mets organization that had drafted him eight years prior. Due to injuries to Travis d’Arnaud and the ineffectiveness of both Kevin Plawecki and Anthony Recker, Monell would be called-up to the Mets in 2015, and he would play in 27 games hitting .167/.231/.208 with two doubles and four RBI. Monell would be sent back down to AAA where he would remain for the 2015 season.
The Mets would remove him from the 40 man roster after the 2015 season, and Monell would agree to return to the Mets. Monell spent the entire 2016 season playing for the Las Vegas 51s. He hit .276/.336/.470 with 22 doubles, one triple, 19 homers, and 75 RBI. With Plawecki being sent down in favor of Rene Rivera, Monell became the backup catcher. In order to get him into the lineup more, Monell saw some additional time at first base. Monell finished the year tied for the team lead in homers and third in RBI.
At this point, it is not known if the Mets intend to bring back the 30 year old catcher to play for the 51s again in the 2017 season.
This postseason Terry Francona relied heavily on this three best relievers throughout the postseason. One reason why he did it was Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen were all terrific relievers. Another reason why is the Indians starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were out of the rotation due to injury before the postseason, and Trevor Bauer lacerated his hand while fixing a drone. Francona was forced to do what he did in the postseason. It was not unlike Willie Randolph in 2006.
Like Francona, the Mets were running away with the division when disaster struck. Their ace, Pedro Martinez, was ruled out for the postseason due to an injured leg, and then all hope of his return for the postseason was abandoned when it was discovered he had a torn rotator cuff. While Steve Trachsel was purportedly healthy a year removed from a cervical discectomy, he wasn’t the same pitcher anymore finishing the year with a 4.97 ERA. On the eve of the NLDS, Orlando Hernandez (“El Duque”) suffered a torn calf muscle thereby putting John Maine in position to start Game 1.
The surprise starter Maine gave the Mets 4.1 strong innings. Still, with runners on first and second with one out, Randolph wasn’t taking any chances in a 2-1 game. He first went to Pedro Feliciano to get Kenny Lofton, and then he went to Chad Bradford to get Nomar Garciaparra. The bullpen pitched the final 4.2 innings to secure the victory. This would essentially be how Randolph would manage the rest of the 2006 postseason in non-Tom Glavine starts. Overall, here’s a look at when the Mets bullpen entered each game that postseason:
|NLDS Game 1||John Maine||4.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLDS Game 2||Tom Glavine||6.0||Pedro Feliciano|
|NLDS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||3.1||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 1||Tom Glavine||7.0||Guillermo Mota|
|NLCS Game 2||John Maine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 3||Steve Trachsel||1.0||Darren Oliver|
|NLCS Game 4||Oliver Perez||5.2||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 5||Tom Glavine||4.0||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 6||John Maine||5.1||Chad Bradford|
|NLCS Game 7||Oliver Perez||6.0||Chad Bradford|
Overall, the Mets starters pitched 47.2 innings that entire postseason meaning they averaged 4.2 innings per start. This year, the Indians starters pitched the very same 4.2 innings per star those 2006 Mets did. Despite Francona and Randolph having the very same approaches to the postseason games, Francona was hailed as a visionary and a genius, whereas many blame Randolph for the Mets failures in the postseason. The difference?
It started in Game 2 of the NLCS. Mota infamously shook off Paul Lo Duca, and Scott Spiezio hit a game tying triple. When Billy Wagner subsequently allowed a So Taguchi lead-off home run, it was a completely different NLCS. Then in Game 7, Aaron Heilman left a change-up up in the zone, and Yadier Molina hit a go-ahead two run home run. If not for those two mistakes, the Mets are in the World Series, and quite possibly, it is Randolph, not Francona that is seen as the visionary.
But the Mets lost because their pitchers did not execute in the two biggest moments of that series. As such, Francona is the genius because to the victor goes the spoils.