P.J. Conlon

Mets Mishandling Corey Oswalt

The Mets were aware but not yet set on putting Jacob deGrom on the 10 day disabled list, so rather than make sure Corey Oswalt was in line to start the opener against Cincinnati, the team decided to add P.J. Conlon to the 40 man roster and have him make the start.

After Conlon’s short start and with Jason Vargas making a start, the Mets needed to add a fresh arm in the bullpen who could give them some length.  Instead of calling up Chris Flexen, who was on normal rest, the team called-up Oswalt, who was on three days rest.  Since that time, the team has more than ample opportunity to use him, and they haven’t:

Game Bullpen Innings Relievers  Used
May 8th 6.0 Lugo (1.0), Ramos (1.0), Blevins (0.1), Robles (0.1), Sewald (1.1)
May 9th 3.0+ Gsellman (2.0), Lugo (1.0), Ramos (0.0)
May 11th 4.0 Lugo (1.0), Sewald (1.0), Ramos (1.0), Familia (1.0)
May 12th 7.0 Gsellman (3.0), Sewald (2.0), Ramos (1.0), Familia (1.0)

Overall, the Mets needed to go to their bullpen for 19+ innings in a four game stretch.  Robert Gsellman and Paul Sewald went multiple innings on multiple occasions.  AJ Ramos appeared in four games with Seth Lugo appearing in three.  Breaking it down, there were plenty of chances for the Mets to get Oswalt in for even an inning.  They didn’t.

It’s more than that. For a team gun shy to use Oswalt on short rest, between days off and rain outs, Oswalt has not pitched since Saturday, May 5th, he is not going to get a chance to pitch until 10 days after his last star, and that’s if he’s even used. Effectively, Oswalt has skipped two starts so he can sit idly by in the bullpen.

This is not how a team handles their top Major League ready starter.  Oswalt needs to be on a mound pitching, working on his game, and generally improving as a pitcher.  Really, there is no benefit to him by his not pitching, and seeing how Mickey Callaway is reticent to use him, there is really no benefit to him even being on the roster.

The roster spot could be better allocated towards Buddy Baumann, who could serve as a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen, or Tyler Bashlor, who has been lights out in Binghamton.  You could even argue the spot should go to Conlon, who could serve as the 2015 version of Sean Gilmartin.

As for Oswalt, he’s serving no purpose right now, and he’s not getting the starts he needs.  The Mets need him in Triple-A at the ready in case Vargas doesn’t improve.  He needs to be at the ready in the event Steven Matz suffers another injury.  Really, they need him to do anything other than sitting unused in the bullpen.  That’s not benefiting anyone.

Mismanagement, Vargas Has Mets Seeing Red in Blowout Loss

Well, if you were feeling good about the Mets after their win last night, those feelings were quickly dispatched.  Todd Frazier, arguably their second best position player all year, landed on the disabled list meaning Jose Reyes was in the starting lineup.  Worse than that, Jason Vargas was the starter.

Right away, Vargas loaded the bases, and he then allowed a Eugenio Suarez two RBI single to give the Reds an early 2-0 lead.  It was a minor miracle the Reds did not score more from that point.

However, they would score two more in the second with Suarez once again being the catalyst.  His RBI double scored Joey Votto from first, and he would come home on a Tucker Barnhart, the catcher the Reds kept, RBI single.

Overall, Vargas’ final line was 4.0 innings, six hits, four runs, four earned, two walks, and one strikeout.  As poor as that start was, it should be noted this was his best start this year.  With his pitching, you almost have to question why he’s guaranteed a starting spot while the team is keeping some pitchers in the minors and sending another one to Cincinnati.

That four run margin would prove to be enough for a number of reasons.

The first was Reds starter, Luis Castillo, no not that one, but then again it doesn’t really matter because nothing good happens to the Mets when there is a Luis Castillo on the field.  He would limit the Mets to just a single over the first five innings.

Finally, in the sixth, the Mets would break through on a Wilmer Flores one out homer.  Now, Flores did not start the game.  Rather, he was double switched in for Amed Rosario despite Rosario being the one Met with a hit, and Reyes being a terrible defensive shortstop.

The Mets would continue from there with a two out rally.  With consecutive walks to Yoenis Cespedes, Jay Bruce, and Adrian Gonzalez, the Reds forced home a run.  That’s when Mickey Callaway opted to pinch hit Brandon Nimmo instead of Juan Lagares or even the newly acquired Devin Mesoraco to face the left-hander Amir Garrett.

Nimmo struck out to end the rally, and things would only go downhill from there.

AJ Ramos was fighting it, but he kept the Reds off the board in the sixth, but he would allow a double to Scott Schebler, and with Votto coming up, Jerry Blevins would come into the game.  He got his man, but he would be pulled for Hansel Robles.

After a Suarez single, Scooter Gennett would have Robles pointing to the sky again with his three run homer giving the Reds a 7-2 lead.

Making this game worse was the fact the Mets had called up Corey Oswalt in place of P.J. Conlon to give them some length in the bullpen.  Of course, they called up Oswalt on three days rest instead of Chris Flexen on full rest.  The end result was Callaway ripping through his bullpen trying to save Oswalt’s arm . . . the very same Oswalt who was called up to supposedly help protect against that.

That’s embarrassing.  Almost as embarrassing as getting blown out by the now nine win Reds team.

Game Notes: On the eve of the game, Matt Harvey was traded to the Reds for Mesoraco.

Mets Offense Snaps Funk, Bullpen Holds On

After a horrid offensive homestand, Mets fans were left with the hope coming to hitter’s parks like The Great American Ballpark and Citizen’s Bank Park would help wake up this Mets offense.  Well, on the second pitch of the game from Homer Bailey to Michael Conforto, it seems like our hope was well placed:

The combination of the Reds pitching and Citizen’s Bank Park really did wake up this Mets offense.  Things were going so well offensively that not only did the Mets score in each of the first five innings, but Adrian Gonzalez would hit two home runs.

Jay Bruce would also homer to ensure that all the pure left-handed hitters would have a homer run on the day.

But it was more than Conforto and Gonzalez who woke up.  Amed Rosario was 2-3 with an RBI and a sac fly. With the exception of Asdrubal Cabrera and Todd Frazier, the two who happened to be their most consistent hitters all year, each Met in the starting lineup had at least one hit.

Take out Jose Lobaton and all the starters had multi-hit games.

In the beginning, this seemed as if it was going to be more than enough run support for P.J. Conlon and the entire Mets pitching staff.  The Irish born lefty making his MLB debut got off to a great start keeping the Reds scoreless through two and to just one run through three.

With two outs in the fourth, and the Reds gaining some momentum, with three doubles in the inning coming from Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, and Tucker Barnhart, Mickey Callaway went to Paul Sewald to nip the rally in the bud.

Sewald did just that, but he would run into trouble in the sixth yielding a home run to Suarez, and then leaving runners at the corners with one out.  Robert Gsellman came on, and he allowed just a sacrifice fly to make it 7-5.

Like Sewald, Gsellman was in to pitch multiple innings, and he would even hit for himself striking out.  When Gennett homered to make it 7-6, you were left questioning the decision.

You were also left questioning some of the Mets base running.

In the sixth, the first inning the Mets did not score, the Reds caught Rosario in a run down off third base on a Yoenis Cespedes ground ball.  He was eventually tagged out, and the run did not score.

In the eighth, Jose Reyes pinch ran for Cespedes, and he misread a ball, and did not bust it to third causing Glenn Sherlock to hold him at third.

Fortuantely for the Mets, it did not matter as Jeurys Familia came on and recorded the save giving the Mets their first win in over a week.

Game Notes: Conlon joined teammates Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz in getting a hit in his MLB debut.

Five Prospects To Watch This Spring Training

The one thing that is interesting about Spring Training is you never know which prospect is going to make a name for themselves.  Personally, the one that always comes to mind is Dillon Gee having good Spring Training causing then Mets manager Jerry Manuel to take notice.  With that, Gee had an important champion in the Mets organization, and when the opportunity finally presented itself, Gee would get a call-up to the majors despite struggling in Triple-A with an injured shoulder.  From there, Gee has put together a nice MLB career.

This Spring Training, there are a number of Mets pitchers who will now have the opportunity to impress new manager Mickey Callaway.  Aside from the big names like Dominic Smith, here are five names to keep an eye on during this Spring Training:

RHP Tyler Bashlor

MMN Rank: 14

Bashlor was added to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft because he has great stuff highlighted by an upper 90’s fastball.  He combines that pitch with a sharp curve which has led to the flamethrower putting up big strikeout numbers in the minors.  His stuff was a big reason why he quickly went from closing in St. Lucie to closing for a Binghamton Rumble Ponies team who was fighting for a postseason berth.

If there’s any issue with Bashlor, it’s the walks.  In his career, he’s walked 5.0 batters per nine, and he walked 5.4 batters per nine in 34 appearances for St. Lucie.  Those are unsustainable numbers.

Still, he has immense talent which could one day lead to him closing for the Mets one day.  Before we get to that point, he has an opportunity to work with Callaway, Dave Eiland, and Triple-A pitching coach Mickey Abbott to help him eliminate the walks.  If he does, he’s going to contribute at the Major League level next year.

LHP P.J. Conlon

MMN Rank: 24

For the second straight Spring, Conlon finds himself as a non-roster invitee with a an outside chance to make the Opening Day bullpen as a left-handed reliever.  Certainly, Conlon has earned the chance as he knows how to get batters out, especially left-handed batters.

Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line.  Conlon does this because he located well, and he has a great change-up.

However, with his topping out in the 80s, it appears the Mets have their doubts about Conlon’s viability as a Major League starter.  In Spring, Conlon is both going to get the chance to prove his stuff will work in the Majors similar to what we have seen with Jamie Moyer and Bartolo Colon.  More than that, he’s going to get a chance to show he belongs in the Majors right now to fill a now vacant second left-handed reliever spot in the bullpen.

RHP Corey Oswalt

MMN Rank: 12

Oswalt is coming off an outstanding year in Binghamton, and as a result, he was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  Oswalt did this because he was able to locate all four pitches, and he has shown the ability to throw his fastball in the mid 90s. While all of the Double-A took notice of Oswalt, the Mets did as well adding the starter to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.

It is no secret the Mets have health issues with their starters.  Over the past two seasons, almost every Mets starter currently on the 40 man roster has had injuries requiring DL stints lasting more than half a season, requiring surgery, or both.  As of the moment, the Mets have not added another starter to the roster, which has created an opportunity to show he should be at the front of the line when the Mets inevitably need another starter.

2B Luis Guillorme

MMN Rank: 10

Right now, the Mets have a trio of injury prone second baseman in Asdrubal Cabrera, Jose Reyes, and Wilmer Flores.  If one or any of the three go down with injury, there will be an opportunity for Guillorme, who is arguably the best defensive middle infielder in the Mets organization.

At the moment, we know he’s a great fielder.  The question mark on him is whether he can hit enough to play in the Majors.  To that end, early indications are Guillorme has increased his launch angle.  If true, and the transformation is a successful one, Guillorme’s career will transform to not if he can be the Mets second baseman of the future, but when he will be the Mets second baseman.  Given the aforementioned injury histories, he may get his chance next year.

C Patrick Mazeika

MMN Rank: 28

With Tomas Nido‘s BABIP normalizing, he had a disappointing year at the plate for Binghamton last year.  While the Mets are understandably high on him due to his defensive skills, Nido’s struggles do present an opportunity for another catcher to distinguish himself.

Essentially, Mazeika is everything Nido isn’t.  In his career, Mazeika has shown himself to be a good hitter, who is quite adept at getting on base.  What is interesting with him is he has shown glimpses of power; however, it should be noted those flashes have mostly come when he is filling in at first base for extended stretches.

What remains at issue is his defensive abilities.  It is an area where the 6’3″ catcher continues to make strides, but ultimately, the question is whether he is progressing quickly enough.  With him being a non-roster invite to Spring Training, he is going to get the benefit of getting in work with Major League coaches like Glenn Sherlock, which could help him make the adjustments necessary to take the next step in his career.

Ultimately, if the Mets coaching staff sees what they like with him, he may soon find himself in the Major League mix at catcher.  Having watched Travis d’Arnaud‘s injuries the past few years as well as Kevin Plawecki having mostly struggled in the Majors, his chance may come sooner than expected.

Overall, the Mets have a number of Minor Leaguers who are going to get a chance to go out there and show the Mets why they should be an important part of the future.  In the end, it is up to them to emulate Dillon Gee and make the most of this opportunity.  If they do, we may see them in Queens sooner than anticipated.

Editor’s Note: This was first published on MMN

Vargas Predictable, Great

Even with the Mets having improved pitching depth, the team went out and signed Jason Vargas to a minor league deal.

Based upon the people the Mets brought into the organization the past year, it should come as little surprise Vargas was the guy.

First and foremost, there is Omar Minaya. After the Mets lost in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS, Omar began looking to address one of the Mets weak points – starting pitching depth.

In what proved to be an unpopular trade, the Mets sent Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens for the 24 year old Vargas. The whole of Vargas’ Mets career amounted to two starts where he went 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA.

Roughly two years later, Vargas was one of 12 players in the ill-fated J.J. Putz trade. When you consider Joe Smith was part of the deal, a Mets team looking to improve their pitching wound up trading the two best pitchers in that deal.

With respect to Vargas, that may not have been entirely anticipated. But that is what happened over his three team nine year post-Putz trade career.

The most recent stop was Kansas City where he played for current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who as it turned out, gave Vargas a ringing endorsement.

With that, the Mets have made would could be the most predictable signing of the offseason. It also should prove to be a good one.

Likely, the Mets can count on Vargas to last a full season. That’s important considering you can’t expect the same from Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler. Perhaps more importantly, it’s just another arm to the equation.

As of the moment, the Mets have a somewhat incomplete bullpen. Publicly, the Mets are bandying about getting a second left-handed reliever to compete with P.J. Conlon and Matt Purke. However, the real need, and the one Mickey Callaway has discussed – the long reliever.

With Vargas here, either him or Matz could serve in both roles much like Darren Oliver did in 2006.

If not those two, we can see Eiland attempt to make Harvey or Wheeler the Mets version of Wade Davisor Luke Hochevar.

Really, the possibilities are endless. Same goes for the Mets season if Vargas permits Callaway and Eiland to effectively mix and match to get the most out of this Mets pitching staff.

Mets Pitchers Report Today, Are Better Than Advertised

It is quite fitting that today is unseasonably warm because we have the first sign of Spring with the Mets pitchers and catchers officially reporting to Spring Training.  No matter what your opinion on the Mets offseason, this time of year always brings a bit of hope for the fanbase because seeing the Mets players in uniform, you can begin to dream the players can put it all together and win the World Series.

For the Mets, like it has since 2015, the entire hope surrounds the starting pitching.

Now, there are people who are claiming there isn’t enough.  They still want the Mets to go out and sign Lance Lynn, Alex Cobb, or any number of a group of free agent starters who didn’t compile 200 innings, were coming off injuries themselves, or really just couldn’t even sniff this Mets rotation when healthy.  In fact, you could argue with their recent injury histories and peripherals, Lynn and Cobb are just more of the same. Actually, what the Mets have is just better.

That’s part of the reason why the narrative the Mets did nothing to address their franchise worst pitching needs to end right now.

The first move the Mets had made this offseason to address the pitching was to go out and hire Mickey Callaway.  If you are going to be a pitching staff built on pitching, Callaway was the inspired choice.  Joining him on his pitching staff is Dave Eiland, who is renown for his ability to work with pitchers.  One of his keys to success is how he helps pitchers with their mechanics, which in turn, helps reduce injury.

Speaking of injuries, gone is favorite punching bag Ray Ramirez.  In his place is Jim Cavallini, who will oversee everything related to player care and conditioning.  This includes nutrition, sleep science, injury prevention, and rehabilitation.  Apparently, after all these years of injuries, the Mets are finally interested in getting players to eat better, sleep better, and take better care of themselves.

And yes, we know even with that Zack Wheeler needed osteoarthritis injections this offseason.  Matt Harvey has not been able to stay healthy since that magical 2013 season.  Steven Matz has continued to suffer one injury after another.  Technically speaking, Seth Lugo is pitching with a torn UCL much like the Yankees have seen with Masahiro Tanaka.

Yes, these injuries and injury histories exist, but as noted, the Mets finally have the people in place to not only help prevent those injuries from happening again, but also to get Harvey, Wheeler, and Matz back to form.  If they are, watch out because this is a pitching staff that can once again lead the Mets to the World Series.

If not?  Well, there’s real pitching depth in the Mets organization.  As noted above, there’s Lugo.  The team also have Robert Gsellman and Chris Flexen.  Yes, they both struggled last season, but they have an opportunity to learn from those struggles.  They also have the support system with Eiland, Callaway, and Mickey Abbott in Las Vegas.

Behind them are some intriguing prospects in Triple-A.  Corey Oswalt was the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year.  P.J. Conlon continues to defy the odds with his under 90 MPH stuff to pitch to a minor league career 2.35 ERA.  Marcos Molina is healthy after Tommy John, and he looks to build off a strong season.  Mickey Jannis is a late blooming knucke ball pitcher much in the same vein as R.A. Dickey.  And if you want to get deeper, Ricky Knapp rejuvenated himself after struggling in Vegas by pitching completely lights out as he helped pitch the Rumble Ponies to the Eastern League playoffs.

And if you are masochistic, this could finally be the year for Rafael Montero.

Point is, unlike last year, the Mets have actual starting pitching depth to start the season.  If one goes down, there’s two or three behind them to pick up the slack.  The team has a manager and pitching coach better suited to getting these pitchers to reaching their full potential.

Sure, it would be nice to see the Mets add a pitcher or two on a minor league deal to serve as a swing man, but even if the Mets don’t make that move, they have the depth they need in the organization.  Today is the day that group gets in peak physical shape and realizes their full potential.

And if you have a hard time believing me, sit down, take a deep breath, and remember the first two games of the season will have Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard starting for the Mets.  If you can’t get excited about that, nothing will.

Getting To Know The Prospects Before They Become Major Leaguers: LHP P.J. Conlon

By now, many of you have probably already heard of P.J. Conlon, the Mets’ left-handed pitching prospect, who emigrated from Ireland. However, that only scratches the surface of who Conlon is.

Conlon is actually from Northern Ireland – Belfast to be exact – a city at the center of The Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict over whether Northern Ireland belonged to the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland. Not an ideal place to raise a family, especially an Irish Catholic family like the Conlons.

Seeking to escape the danger that was so prevalent in their lives, the Conlons departed for America and settled in California. It was there that would all become citizens, and it was there they would seek to fulfill the American dream. And nothing is more American than baseball.

Like most American boys, Conlon played baseball, and he was good enough to play in high school. Despite being a standout high school starting pitcher, Conlon wasn’t drafted by any major league teams leading him to further purse his baseball dreams in college.

Conlon would go to the University of San Diego. His college roommate was current Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant. In Conlon’s Junior year, he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and an 8.1 K/9.

He wasn’t overlooked after that. The Mets would make him their 13th round draft pick in the 2015 draft.

Right away, he showed the Mets he was special. In 17 relief appearances for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Conlon was 0-1 with a 0.00 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, and a 13.2 K/9. His stats suggested he could become a draft steal and yet Conlon, himself, didn’t have great stuff.

His fastball routinely sits in the mid to high 80s. However, Conlon is still able to make it work because he pairs it with a terrific change-up and a good curveball. In fact, Conlon’s change-up may very well be the best change-up in the entire Mets farm system. Conlon also hides the ball very well due to his delivery. As you can see, it is a lot of arms and legs:

Perhaps, the main thing Conlon does right is he knows how to attack hitters. He plays each one of his pitches off the other ones making his repertoire more effective. He pounds the strike zone, and he typically keeps the ball on the ground. He’s really an uncomfortable at-bat for a hitter.

Conlon built upon his 2015 success when he was moved from the bullpen to the rotation in 2016. In his time split between Columbia and St. Lucie, Conlon was dominant once again. In 23 starts and one relief appearance, Conlon was 12-2 with a 1.65 ERA, a 0.98 WHIP, and a 6.1 K/BB ratio. His 1.65 ERA was lowest among all full season qualified starters.

His performance brought with it a lot of awards and recognition. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star. He was named the MiLB.com Fans’ Choice for Best Starting Pitcher. He was named an MiLB Mets Organizational All-Star. He was MLB Pipeline’s Mets Pitching Prospect of the Year. Perhaps most importantly, the New York Mets named Conlon the Sterling Organizational Pitcher of the Year.

He was also MMN‘s Starting Pitcher of the Year. He currently ranks as MMN‘s 22nd best Mets prospect.

He’s a prospect that seems to be not too far from the major leagues.He was a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training with the Mets considering using him out of the bullpen as soon as Opening Day. Most likely, Conlon will begin the year in Binghamton waiting for the call to the majors whether it is this year or the next; whether it is for a spot start or to pitch out of the bullpen.

And when that day eventually comes, Conlon will be doing something truly special indeed. The day Conlon steps foot on the field, he will become just the 44th major leaguer born in Ireland. He will be the first Irish born major leaguer since Joe Cleary pitched one-third of an inning for the 1945 Washington Senators over 70 years ago.

“I’ve always wanted to prove not only to myself but to people growing up that this was something I could do,” Conlon recently told the Irish Times.

“I feel like I can get big league hitters out and I’m just in the process right now of polishing everything and being ready for that step.”

This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in dangerous war torn cities. This isn’t supposed to happen to boys born in Ireland. This isn’t even supposed to happen to pitchers who don’t throw their fastballs in the 90s. And yet, Conlon continues to persevere and make the best out of who he is and what he has.

That, in a nutshell, is the American Dream.

Editor’s Note: this was first published on Mets Merized Online

Rain Out Is Better Than Montero

If the Mets were smart, they would use the window they have right now and call tonight’s game. They certainly have their excuse to do so. No, I’m not referring to the fact that it is supposed to rain all day into tomorrow. No, I’m referring to the fact that somehow we are back at the point where the Mets are once again in a position where they must give Rafael Montero a start.

This is the same Montero who made six appearances this year going 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA, 3.600 WHIP, and a 10.8 BB/9. This follows the pattern of Montero’s career where his ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 have continuously gone up in each of the last three seasons. While the narrative has been that Montero just needs to trust his stuff and pound the strike zone, the simple fact is he doesn’t. Furthermore, no one should trust that he can anymore.

Sure, he has gone down to Vegas, and he is pitching well again. In his two starts, he has a 1.74 ERA, 0.677 WHIP, and he has only walked three batters in 10.1 innings. That’s what he does. Montero pitches well against inferior competition. Last year, he was 4-3 with a 2.20 ERA, 1.102 WHIP, and a 3.5 BB/9 in nine starts. Due to his having a good stretch in Double-A and a rash of injuries, the Mets turned to Montero. The result was him making three starts pitching just 11 innings. Over those 11 innings, he walked 14 batters. This led to his 7.36 ERA and a 2.182 WHIP. From there, he was demoted to the bullpen.

The Mets were tricked again by him coming out of Spring Training when he pounded the strike zone. The Mets relied upon those outings and the Jeurys Familia suspension to give Montero another chance. As discussed above, he squandered that chance as well. In reality, there is no indication whatsoever that Montero will justify the chance he was once again given.

In fact, with every outing of his all you can think about is the other players the Mets passed on to let Montero keep getting chances. Logan Verrett and Gabriel Ynoa were traded for cash to the Orioles. Matthew Bowman was lost in the Rule 5 Draft, and he has since carved out a role in their bullpen. There are pitchers still in the Mets farm system like Ricky Knapp and P.J. Conlon, who despite their struggles to start the year, are certainly more deserving of a chance.

Instead, the Mets will once again give Montero yet another chance. That is unless it rains tonight, and they can skip his spot in the rotation. Hopefully, the rain beats Montero tonight. It wouldn’t be a surprise since everyone else beats him.  Yet somehow, even if it does rain, we know this won’t be the last we see of Montero.

 

Five Prospects Who May Contribute In 2017

Last year, we saw Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and T.J. Rivera become significant contributors to a Mets team who claimed one of the two National League Wild Cards.  Their contribution was as pleasant as it was surprising.  In fact, no one truly could have predicated the slate of injuries that befell the Mets last year.  This year?  Well, that’s a different story all together.

With David Wright already questionable for Opening Day, and the Mets prospects performing better in Spring Training than many originally anticipated, many fans question not if, but when will we see these prospects contributing for the Mets.  With that in mind, here are five prospects, who have yet to appear in a major league game, we may very well see at Citi Field in 2017.

#1 David Roseboom

Once Akeel Morris was traded to the Braves for Kelly Johnson, Roseboom became the closer for the Binghamton Mets last season.  Roseboom blossomed in the role and made it an eight inning game for the B-Mets.  He saved 14 out of 15 games while posting a 1.87 ERA in 52 games on the year. From July 2 to the last regular season game on September 5, Roseboom held opponents to a .130/.193/.383 slash line, and a 0.92 ERA.  This work has caught the Mets attention, and he was a non-roster invitee giving the Mets coaching staff an opportunity to get an up close look at him.

At a minimum, he could very well be the second left-handed reliever the Mets covet in the bullpen.  With the struggles we have seen from Josh Edgin this Spring, that could be sooner rather than later.

#2 Paul Sewald

What is interesting about Sewald is his terrific results have not gotten him the attention he deserves.  Seemingly every pitcher struggles in Las Vegas, and yet in the second half, Sewald converted 10 save opportunities while posting a 1.85 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP.  While naysayers will point to his high 80s to low 90s fastball, Sewald has clearly shown the ability to get batters out even in the most difficult of pitching environments.  As teams go through multiple relievers year-t0-year, it may only be a matter of time before Sewald finally gets his well earned chance to pitch in the majors.

#3 Dominic Smith

This Spring, we have already seen Wright become questionable for Opening Day, and Lucas Duda need shots in his hip and have back spasms.  For a Mets infield that already had injury questions to start the season, things are already progressing quite poorly.  The Mets have talked about experimenting with Jay Bruce at first.  Wilmer Flores has already shown he can be part of an effective platoon there as well.  Neither player is the long term answer.  That’s Smith.

Smith is a terrific fielding first baseman who reported to his first major league camp in the best shape of his professional career.  So far, the only concern about him is if he will hit for power.  He quieted some of those concerns in the final 58 games of the season.  During that 58 game stretch, Smith hit .355/.426/.537 with 16 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 42 RBI.  Extrapolating that over the course of a 162 game season, that would translate to 45 doubles and 20 home runs.  That type of production can definitely play at first base especially when Smith has the promise to do even more.

#4 Amed Rosario

Across baseball and the Mets organization, Rosario has been dubbed a superstar in the making.  The only question is when his star will begin shining at Citi Field.  Arguably, he is further away from Citi Field than Smith as Smith played a full season in Binghamton last year.  Moreover, you probably want to give both players until the All Star Break before you even begin to consider calling them up to the majors.  And yet, as Michael Conforto proved in 2015, if you are a truly special talent, you can come to the majors and contribute for a World Series caliber team in the thick of a pennant race.

In Rosario, the Mets have a game changer in the field and at the plate.  Should any infielder go down, room can be made for Rosario.  Certainly, Asdrubal Cabrera has shown in his career he can play second and third.  Also, do not discount the Mets trying to play Rosario at third this season so he can become more versatile, and quite possibly open a spot for him on the major league roster this year.

#5 Chris Flexen

Arguably, this spot could go to P.J. Conlon, but Flexen is on the 40 man roster.  Also, Flexen pitched a full season for St. Lucie last year, whereas Conlon only pitched half a season there.  Another issue is Flexen’s stuff plays better in the bullpen as Flexen has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve ball.  If the Mets were to be willing to move Flexen to the bullpen, he can rocket through the Mets system.

In addition to Conlon, another name to consider is Corey Taylor.  He’s got terrific stuff, and the minor league closer is already drawing Jeurys Familia comparisons.  Overall, the Mets farm system has plenty of players who should be able to contribute at the major league level at some point next year.  It should give you some hope the Mets should be good in 2017 even if there is a rash of injuries.  It should give you more hope that the Mets should be good in years to come.

Editor’s Note: I consulted Michael Mayer while making my list, and he pointed out to me he wrote a similar column for Mets Merized Online.  His list is slightly different as he includes Champ Stuart.  As Michael is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Mets farm system, please give his article a read as well. 

Mets May Have Enough Internal Bullpen Options

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:

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

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.

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

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.

PREDICTION

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.