Sean Gilmartin

Sewald and Rowen May Force a Roster Move

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.

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.

 

New Year’s Resolutions

We are headed for another season of Mets baseball where we hope that once again these Mets can make it all the way back to the World Series.  Since 2015, we have seen a definite pattern emerge with the Mets, and I think as Mets fans, we should all try better this year to not react, some would say overreact, when one of the following things we know will happen, happens:

  • The Mets are not going to sign another big name free agent this offseason.  It’s not going to happen, and it just may happen that Jose Bautista winds up in the division and on a fairly discounted deal;
  • Jerry Blevins will sign an extremely reasonable two year deal . . . with another team;
  • Instead of fortifying the bench, the Mets are going to go with this year’s version of Eric Campbell -> Ty Kelly;
  • Terry Collins is going to use and abuse Addison Reed to the point where his arm may actually fall off.  This will go double if Jeurys Familia gets suspended;
  • Hansel Robles is going to go through a stretch in one week where he pitches five innings, 1/3 of an inning, two innings, and three innings, and everyone is going to wonder why his production has fallen off;
  • The infield of Lucas Duda, Neil Walker, David Wright, and Asdrubal Cabrera will be ridden hard despite their injury histories and capable backups like Wilmer Flores and Jose Reyes on the bench;
  • Just pick a random player on the roster – he’s going to be on the DL for over two months with a back injury;
  • There will be a game with Reyes in center and Juan Lagares in right;
  • Travis d’Arnaud is going to get injured, and Kevin Plawecki is not going to be able to replace his bat in the lineup;
  • Matt Harvey will complain about the six man rotation that will be implemented at some point during the season;
  • Robert Gsellman will make an appearance throwing well over 100 pitches in five innings or less;
  • Rene Rivera will hit under the Mendoza Line;
  • T.J. Rivera will be raking in AAA and not get called up despite the Mets needing some offense;
  • Michael Conforto will not face one left-handed pitcher all season;
  • Yoenis Cespedes will not dive for a ball, run out a pop up, or run hard to first on a dropped strike three;
  • Curtis Granderson will have a better OBP than Reyes, but Collins will continue to lead off Reyes and his sub .330 OBP;
  • Collins will not know if Brandon Nimmo is faster than Flores and it will cost them a game;
  • No matter where he winds up this offseason, and no matter how poor his year is going, Chase Utley will hit two home runs in a game he faces the Mets;
  • Sandy Alderson will mortgage a part of the Mets future because he didn’t make a move in the offseason that he should have made;
  • Paul Sewald will pitch well in AAA, but the Mets won’t call him up because they would rather rip Sean Gilmartin or Gabriel Ynoa from the Vegas rotation to make a relief appearance on 2-3 days of rest;
  • Both Josh Smoker and Robles will be fully warmed up, and Collins will go to Smoker to pitch to the lefty;
  • For reasons the Mets themselves can’t quite explain, Rafael Montero will spend the full season on the 40 man roster;
  • d’Arnaud will come off the disabled list, play well for a stretch, and the Mets will lose him and Steven Matz in the same game;
  • Matz will have appendicitis, but the Mets will talk him out of the surgery because they need him to start against the Reds;
  • Dilson Herrera will tear it up every time he plays the Mets;
  • Wherever he lands, Jay Bruce is going to hit 30 homers and 100 RBI;
  • Collins will show up in the dugout without wearing pants, and the Mets still won’t fire him;
  • Noah Syndergaard will get ejected from a game for throwing inside.  A player who takes a bat to one of the Mets infielders in retaliation won’t;
  • Fans will clamor for Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith to get called up all season long;
  • Seth Lugo will bounce between the bullpen and rotation so much, MLB is actually going to test him to see if his arm is actually made out of rubber;
  • Bartolo Colon will pitch so poorly against the Mets, fans will wonder why they wanted a bum like him back;
  • R.A. Dickey will not only beat the Mets, but he will throw the team into a week  long offensive funk causing some fans to decry the trade;
  • One or more pitchers will get hurt, and fans that even question if the Warthen Slider could be an issue will be mocked mercilessly;
  • Some way some how Jon Niese will pitch for this team;
  • Rather than build Tom Seaver a statue, the Mets will issue #41 to Niese upon his return to the team;
  • Daniel Murphy will have another terrific year for the Nationals, and some Mets fans will still defend the decision to let him go;
  • Ricky Knapp will make a solid spot start for the Mets causing fans to think he is the second coming;
  • Mets will trade a good prospect for Kelly Johnson; and
  • Despite all of this the Mets will make it to the postseason

Honestly, I give it until April 9th when Collins declares the last game in a three game set against the Marlins is a must-win game.

Mets Don’t Need To Sign Left-Handed Reliever

In 2015, the Mets not only won the National League East, but they went all the way to the World Series.  During that wonderfully unexpected run, the team left a bevvy of left-handed relievers in their wake.  Time and again, the team tried to solve their presumed issues with not having a left-handed reliever to no avail.  Here is a look at all the left-handed relievers they went through that season:

  • Josh Edgin – needed Tommy John surgery before the season began
  • Jerry Blevins – appeared in seven games before suffering a broken arm
  • Alex Torres – pitched to a 1.515 WHIP and was released on August 4th
  • Sean Gilmartin – used as a long man in the bullpen due in part to his reverse splits
  • Jack Leathersich – shuttled back and forth between New York and Las Vegas before his season ended due to him needing Tommy John surgery
  • Dario Alvarez – appeared in six games before suffering a groin injury that cost him the rest of the season
  • Eric O’Flaherty – 13.50 ERA and left off the postseason roster

The lack of the left-handed pitcher did not prevent this team from making it to the postseason or to going to the World Series.  The main reason is that team’s right-handed relievers could pitch to left-handed batters.  In fact, the batting lines suggests the right-handed relievers performed just as well as a LOOGY would:

The moral of the story is that you do not need a left-handed pitcher to get out left-handed batters.  Rather, you need pitchers who are effective at pitching against left-handed batters to get them out.

There are some caveats.  First, the Mets did go with Jon Niese as the left-hander in the bullpen during the 2015 postseason, and he did get some big outs including a key strike out of Anthony Rizzo in the NLCS.  Second, Blevins was an extremely important part of the 2016 bullpen.  Without Blevins in the bullpen, it is quite possible the Mets do not get one of the two Wild Card spots.  This creates a problem as Blevins is now a free agent – a free agent that is about to cash in on a terrific year.

So far, we have seen arguably less talented left-handed relievers get big contracts.  Brett Cecil received a four year $30.5 million contract from the Cardinals.  Marc Rzepczynski received a two year $11 million contract from the Mariners.  Mike Dunn received a three year $19 million from the Colorado Rockies.   According to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, Blevins was already seeking a three year deal worth $5-$6 million per season.  Based upon the contracts already handed out, it is easy to assume Blevins will get the deal he is seeking.

However, it should be noted that deal is likely not coming from the Mets.  As already noted, Sandy Alderson does not want to give out multi-year deals to relievers.  Furthermore, it does not not appear the Mets are interested in investing $6 million a year on a left-handed reliever.  With that being the case, the Mets best chance might be to revert to the 2015 model thrust upon them.

From that team, Familia, Reed, and Robles still remain, and they are still effective as ever in getting left-handed batters out.  Here were their stats from the 2016 season:

  • Familia .239/.315/.313
  • Reed .210/.264/.269
  • Robles .179/.287/.299

There is also some promise with Edgin.  Despite him not fully regaining his velocity after his Tommy John surgery, he still showed the ability to get left-handed batters out in a very small sample size.  In 2016, he faced 20 left-handed batters, and he limited them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.

Between, Familia, Reed, Robles, and Edgin, the 2017 Mets may already have sufficient bullpen depth to get left-handed batters out.  Moreover, with the Mets resportedly wanting to cut payroll from where it currently stands, the team may be forced to stick in-house and instead seek a seventh inning reliever.

That is certainly a justifiable route because the bullpen as constructed already has enough depth to get left-handed batters out.  As such, the team does not need to add a left-hander for the sake of adding a left-hander.

Mets Veteran Starting Options

Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz are coming off season ending surgeries, and the Mets most likely don’t want them making over 30 starts and/or going over 200 innings.  The Mets need someone to fill-in for those starts and eat up some innings.

Additionally, the team needs a fifth starter.  If the season was going to begin today, the fifth starter would be determined by a competition between Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman.  Both pitchers showed enough to prove they deserve the job out of Spring Training.  However, both pitchers are likely going to be on innings limits, which would prevent them from pitching the entire 2017 season unless the team skips a couple of their starts.  That reverts back to the issue created by Harvey, deGrom, and Matz that the Mets need another arm to eat up some innings.

Naturally, the hope is that Zack Wheeler could be the fifth starter at some point during the season.  However, after missing two straight seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the Mets would be hard pressed to rely upon him to provide anything during the 2017 season.  It is a large reason why the Mets have at least discussed the possibility of putting Wheeler in the bullpen to start the season.

Pitchers like Sean Gilmartin and Gabriel Ynoa did not show the Mets enough in 2016 to prove they can be relied upon to make more than one or two spot starts.  With that, it is likely the Mets are going to need to look outside the organization for a pitcher who is willing to start the year as a fifth starter, but is willing to transition to the bullpen as the year progresses.  Ultimately, the Mets are looking for someone to reprise the role that Bartolo Colon was slated to serve during the 2016 season.  With that in mind, here are some available free agent pitchers who could serve in that role:

Rubby De La Rosa

2016 Stats: 4-5, 4.26 ERA, 13 G, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 1.243 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

While Welington Castillo got most of the publicity, De La Rosa was another surprise non-tender by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The reason De La Rosa was non-tendered was because there remains a real possibility he needs a second Tommy John surgery. At the moment, he has been trying to use stem cell treatment as a means to circumvent the surgery. For what it is worth, Bartolo Colon used the stem cell therapy back in 2010, and he was able to revive his major league career.

When he is healthy, De La Rosa has a live arm with him throwing a mid to high 90s fastball with a curve and slider who has shown some flashes of dominance. De La Rosa does have issues walking batters in his career, but it should be noted he was pitching to the aforementioned Castillo who is a terrible pitch framer.

Assuming the stem cell therapy will work, and further assuming De La Rosa is ready by Opening Day, the 27 year old needs a team who will help him harness his stuff and a catching staff that will help him get those borderline pitches.  With that in mind, there are few places that are better fits for De La Rosa than the Mets.  At a minimum, the Mets can offer the young pitcher at least a chance to pitch in the rotation while also assuring him a spot in the bullpen where he could become a lights out reliever.

Scott Feldman

2016 Stats: 7-4, 3.97 ERA, 40 G, 5 GS, 77.0 IP, 1.377 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

While Feldman has spent the majority of his career as a league average starting pitcher, the Astros moved Feldman into the bullpen in the 2016 season, and Feldman pitched well for the team in that role.  What is interesting about Feldman’s success was he didn’t throw any differently out of the bullpen than he did as a starter.  The main reason is that in his career as a starter, batters tend to hit Feldman much harder the third time through the lineup.

Overall, Feldman’s numbers would have been much better had he not struggled in his 14 appearances for the Blue Jays.  In those 14 appearances, he pitched to an 8.40 ERA and a 1.933 WHIP.  It might have just been a slump or a poor mix with the Blue Jays because Feldman has not wilted under pressure in his career.  In nine postseason relief appearances, Feldman is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.024 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.

Given Feldman’s ability to pitch as a league average starter, and his being even more effective out of the bullpen, Feldman could very well be the exact pitcher the Mets need in 2017.

Edwin Jackson

2016 Stats: 5-7, 5.89 ERA, 21 G, 13 GS, 84.0 IP, 1.583 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

For nearly 14 years, there have been 11 franchises that have taken on the mantle of being the franchise that is going to be able to figure out Jackson and help him unlock his potential.  With a career losing record and a 4.65 ERA, none have been successful, and now the 32 year old is a free agent.

There is no doubt Jackson has talent.  He is a five pitch pitcher that predominantly relies upon a low to mid 90s fastball and a slider.  Through his tenure as the Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen has been successful in helping pitchers like Jackson.  Like many of the other pitchers on this list, Jackson should be aided by the Mets pitch framing.  The combination of Warthen and the pitch framing has been shown to help a number of pitchers who have come to the Mets the past few seasons.

Over the last two seasons, Jackson has also begun pitching out of the bullpen.  In 2015, he showed some promise in the role making 47 appearances while going 4-3 with a 3.07 ERA and a 1.168 WHIP.  He would limit batters to a .218/.291/.332 batting line.  Unfortunately, he regressed as a reliever in 2016 after he had failed again as a starter.  Overall, as is the story with most of Jackson’s career, there is promise here, and a union with the Mets could be mutually beneficial.

Kris Medlen

2016 Stats: 1-3, 7.77 ERA, 6 G, 6 GS,  2.055 WHIP, 6.7 K/9

Medlen has gone from a promising young pitcher with the Atlanta Braves to a pitcher whose career is a crossroads with him being limited during the 2016 season with shoulder issues.  While these shoulder issues did not require surgery, they limited Medlen in 2016, and it had an impact on his performance.  Another issue with Medlen is his having two Tommy John surgeries.

With that said, when Medlen is right, he is a good pitcher.  His last year with the Braves, before he needed a second Tommy John surgery, he was 15-12 with a 3.11 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9.  In 2015, his first year back from his second Tommy John surgery, Medlen was 6-2 with a 4.01 ERA, 1.269 WHIP, and a 6.2 K/9 between eight starts and seven relief appearances.  In the 2015 postseason, he made two appearances pitching six innings with a 3.00 ERA, 0.667 WHIP, and a 12.0 K/9.

If the medicals check out, Medlen can be a very effective pitcher for someone.  Considering the need to get a pitcher comfortable in the rotation and the bullpen, the Mets might be a good fit.

Jon Niese

2016 Stats: 8-7, 5.50 ERA, 29 G, 20 GS, 121.0 IP, 1.587 WHIP, 6.5 K/9

Admittedly, no Mets fan wants to see Niese in a Mets uniform again, especially after a disastrous 2016 season for Niese.  However, it should be noted that Niese was dealing with a knee issue that required season ending surgery.  It should also be noted Niese has been a league average pitcher under Warthen’s tutledge.

In his six seasons as a starter for the Mets, Niese was 59-59 with a 3.86 ERA, 1.351 WHIP, and a 7.0 K/9.  We also saw him come out of the bullpen and get some big outs in the 2015 postseason.  Looking at the pitchers who are likely going to get incentivized one year deals or minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training, you can do a lot worse than Niese.

There is certainly any number of places the Mets could go this offseason.  There are pitchers like Matt Harrison who are injury risks, but who can also be dominant pitchers when healthy.  There are also reclamation projects like Jered Weaver and Tim Lincecum.  Overall, there are many different ways to go.  At this point, the Mets just need to identify their guy, be patient, and let the market develop.  Once it does, the Mets could obtain a pitcher who could very well be a difference maker during the 2017 season.

Mets Internal Bullpen Options

Lets start with the caveat that the non-elite closer bullpen market has yet to fully materialize.  Once Kenley Jansen picks his team, it appears as if the market for the next tier of relievers, which includes possible Mets targets in Brad Ziegler and Koji Uehara, will begin to emerge.  It is also possible the Mets could trade Jay Bruce or some other players for bullpen help.

With those caveats in mind, there are two issues confronting the Mets bullpen.  The first is that many relievers who could help the Mets in 2017 may move out of their price range, especially with Sandy Alderson announcing the team has to reduce its current payroll.  The other obvious issue is the Mets have to somehow contend with the possibility that Jeurys Familia may be gone for a significant portion of the season.  With that in mind, the Mets may very well have to look internally to fill one or more of the holes in their bullpen.

This begs the question about whether they can do it.  Here is a look at some of the options for the 2017 season to determine whether or not the Mets current bullpen issues can be solved internally:

Josh Edgin

2016 MLB Stats: 1-0, 5.23 ERA, 16 G, 10.1 IP, 1.548 WHIP, 9.6 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 2-2, 3.11 ERA, 43 G, 37.2 IP, 1.540 WHIP, 10.8 K/9

In his first season back from Tommy John surgery, the biggest thing that stuck out for Edgin was his loss of velocity.  Once, Edgin was a reliever who came out of the bullpen throwing 94 MPH.  In 2016, Edgin loss three MPH off his fastball, and as a result, he went from limiting right-handed batters to a .219/.286/.250 batting line in his breakout 2014 season to a .300/.400/.500 batting line in 2016.

It should be noted the numbers from the 2014 and 2016 seasons are both relatively small sample sizes.  Additionally, Edgin continued to pitch well against left-handed batters in 2016 limiting them to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  With that Edgin proved he can still be an effective LOOGY out of the pen even with this reduced velocity.  If Edgin were to regain that velocity, he can fully take over the role left vacated by Jerry Blevins.

Sean Gilmartin

2016 MLB Stats: 0-1, 7.13 ERA, 14 G, GS, 17.2 IP, 1.585 WHIP, 5.6 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 9-7, 4.86 ERA, 19 G, 18 GS, 107.1 IP, 1.425 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Despite Gilmartin being an important part of the Mets 2015 bullpen, the team decided it was better for him to work on being a starting pitcher in AAA rather than him reprising his role as the long man in the bullpen.  While he started out well for the 51s, he would eventually begin to suffer some shoulder discomfort, which required a stint on the disabled list, and his stats would suffer from there.  It probably didn’t help that the Mets expected him to take cross-country flights and make multiple inning appearances out of the bullpen with three days of rest or less.  Ultimately, we have seen Gilmartin be successful in the major leagues out of the bullpen, and accordingly, we should not discount the possibility he will be successful out of the bulllpen again in 2017.

Seth Lugo

2016 MLB Stats: 5-2, 2.67 ERA,  17 G, 8 GS, 64.0 IP, 1.094 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 3-4, 6.50, 21 G, 14 GS, 73.1 IP, 1.677 WHIP, 7.6 K/9

After Lugo struggled in AAA, he was taken out of the rotation, and he was put in the bullpen.  For a guy that can max out his fastball over 95 MPH and has a terrific curveball, it seemed like the best place for him in a Mets organization with plenty of pitching depth.  When he first came up to the majors and made Anthony Rizzo look foolish with his curveball, it seemed like Lugo had a home in the bullpen.

However, with the starting pitching injuries mounting, Lugo was thrust into the rotation.  With a postseason berth on the line, he combined with fellow rookie Robert Gsellman to pitch extremely well.  It is now debatable as to whether or not the bullpen is the best use of Lugo’s talents.  It is all the more debatable when you consider the Mets rotation has some injury concerns and is likely going to deal with some innings limits.  With that in mind, while Lugo has certainly proven himself to be an effective reliever, he may be best suited to either the fifth spot in the rotation, or starting the year in the AAA rotation and being ready for the first opportunity that arises.

Paul Sewald

2016 MiLB Stats: 5-3, 3.29 ERA, 56 G, 19 SV, 65.2 IP, 1.203 WHIP, 11.0 K/9

With Sewald not being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, he is now a possibility to be a part of the Mets bullpen in 2017.  The issue with Sewald is his stuff is not that impressive with him only topping out in the low 90s with his fastball.  However, that overlooks the fact that he has a good slider which he uses as an out pitch, and the fact he rarely walks batters.  In his minor league career, he has only walked 59 batters in 258.0 innings pitched.

Another factor to consider is how well he pitched in the Pacific Coast League, which is a hitter’s haven.  In the second half of the season, Sewald made 20 appearances going 1-1 with a 1.98 ERA, 10 saves, 0.95 WHIP, and an 11.8 K/9.  In looking over his entire minor league career, Sewald has rarely walked batters, has struck out over 10 batters per nine, has had low ERAs, and has consistently been a good closer.  With his experience, talent, and the Mets catchers excellent pitch framing, there is every reason to believe Sewald has a legitimate chance to be a good reliever in the major leagues.

Josh Smoker

2016 MLB Stats: 3-0, 4.70 ERA, 20 G, 15.1 IP, 1.304 WHIP, 14.7 K/9

2016 MiLB Stats: 3-2, 4.11 ERA, 52 G, 57.0 IP, 1.474 WHIP, 12.8 K/9

The Smoker we saw with the Mets was essentially the Smoker that we have seen in his minor league career.  Smoker is a one inning reliever who strikes out a lot of batters, but he has reverse splits.  Whereas Edgin is a LOOGY, Smoker is somehow a left-handed ROOGY that gets tattooed by left-handed hitting.  Another issue for Smoker is he is only good for one inning.  Every single outing he was asked to go over one inning by the Mets, he allowed a home run.

Still, there is a place for a pitcher like Smoker in the bullpen.  His ability to generate strikeouts at a level as high as he does is rare, and it is very valuable.

Zack Wheeler

2014 Stats: 11-11, 3.54 ERA, 32 G, 32 GS, CG, SHO, 185.1 IP, 1.327 WHIP, 9.1 K/9

With Wheeler missing two seasons, the Mets have already bandied the idea of putting Wheeler and his 96 MPH fastball in the bullpen.  On the one hand, it seems like it is a good opportunity for Wheeler to get back to pitching to major league batters while keeping his inning down after missing the past two seasons while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

There are some issues with Wheeler in the bullpen.  The first is he has a tendency to lose the strike zone which is a huge problem for short inning relievers.  The second is, as we saw with Jim Henderson, Terry Collins has a tendency to overlook his relievers injury issues and overwork them anyway.  The third and final issue is what type of reliever will he be?  Is he going to be a multi-inning reliever who will be shut down for a couple of days afterwards, or is he going to be a one inning reliever expected to air it out for one inning.

The answer to that and many other questions will be resolved once the Mets ultimately decide what Wheeler is.  Is he someone that can rejoin the rotation, or is he someone forever slated to the bulllpen?  At this point, it is hard to know the answer.

Overall, the Mets have plenty of internal options to fill-out their bullpen.  Indeed, if they were to use only internal options, it is possible the Mets could build themselves a very good bullpen.  However, if the Mets were to purely stick with internal options, it remains possible the Mets may expose their starting rotation by not having pitchers like Gilmartin, Lugo, or Wheeler sufficiently stretched out to start.

Ulimately, the Mets would be wise to use some of their internal options to help build their bullpen in 2017.  With that said, the team is still going to need to obtain one or two relievers before the end of the offseason.

Cutting Payroll Is Unacceptable

Every Mets fan was elated the Mets signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four year $110 million contract.  With that contract on the heels of Neil Walker accepting the $17.2 million qualifying offer, it appeared as if the Mets were finally out from under the Madoff disaster, and they were ready to spend like the big market team they were.  Turns out we were wrong . . . very wrong.

As the Winter Meetings come to a close, Sandy Alderson met with reporters, and he informed them that the Mets are not only done spending, they actually need to shed payroll before Opening Day.

That’s right.  Alderson expects the Mets to be below $150 million before Opening Day.  According to Spotrac, a payroll under $150 million would put the Mets in bottom half of payroll in the major leauges.  Worse yet, reducing the payroll would actually mean the Mets 2017 payroll will be lower than the Mets year-end 2016 payroll.  The payroll will be lower despite the Mets coming off back-to-back postseason appearances, the Mets having twice increased ticket prices, and attendance having gone up each year since 2013.  With increased revenues, there is no reason for the Mets to reduce payroll.

Now, payroll isn’t everything.  As we saw in 2015, it is possible to compete without having one of the top payrolls in the majors.  Ultimately, it is not payroll that wins, it’s talent.  Looking over the Mets major league roster, the team still does not have everything it needs to win in 2017.

First and foremost, the bullpen is in disarray.  The Mets are likely to lose Jerry Blevins to free agency, and it is likely the team will lose Fernando Salas.  Right there, the Mets need to obtain another LOOGY unless you believe Josh Edgin will suddenly find his lost velocity or Josh Smoker‘s entire career of reverse splits will suddenly reverse itself.  Morevover, the Mets will need a seventh inning reliever, which is something the team has seemingly always needed in the Sandy Alderson Era.  Further compounding the issue is the prospect of a lengthy Jeurys Familia suspension.  With all those factors in mind, this team is 2-3 arms short in the bullpen.

Speaking of arms, it is questionable the Mets have enough starting pitching.  Yes, the team does seem to have seven starters, but most of them carry question marks and/or innings restrictions.  Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, and Steven Matz are all coming off season ending surgeries.  To ask them to make 30 innings and throw over 200 innings may be unrealistic.  Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo helped pitch the Mets to the postseason last year, but they will likely be on innings restrictions in 2017 meaning if they are in the Opening Day rotation, they will likely need to be shut down by September.  Finally, no one can reasonably expect anything from Zack Wheeler after he hasn’t pitched in over two years.  With that in mind, the Mets could use a veteran starter who could eat up innings as the fifth starter, and also could serve as the long man in the bullpen once the Mets are ready to hand the reigns to a Gsellman, Lugo, or Wheeler.

The bench could probably use some help as well.  Rene Rivera is a nice backup catcher, but he’s better suited on a team that has a catcher who is not as injury prone as Travis d’Arnaud.  Arguably, the team could also use another bat for the bench, especially when you consider the battle for the final spot on the bench will be between Ty Kelly and T.J. Rivera.  Given Kelly’s switch hitting ability, and Terry Collins apparently fondness for him, it is likely Kelly will win that competition.

Overall, these are a lot of holes to fill.  Arguably, being able to trade Bruce will fill one of them, but will it?  If the Mets are indeed looking to slash payroll, how could the team take back salary in the deal?  Even assuming the Mets can bring back salary in the deal, doesn’t that mean the team will be prevented from adding another player or two in free agency?

Ultimately, that’s the problem.  The team’s needs are not likely going to be filled internally unless you believe Wheeler will be a dominant reliever, Sean Gilmartin will return to his 2015 form, Gabriel Ynoa will take a huge stride forward in his development, and Kelly starts improving at 28 years of age.  It is nice to hope this will all work out, but as history tells us, it is rare that everything breaks right for a team in one year.  No, the gaps will have to be filled by acquiring players, which will cost money.

Unfortunately, the Mets once again seem out of money.  It’s getting old, and sooner or later, it is going to cost the Mets a chance at the postseason as it nearly did last year.  When the team is raising ticket prices and the fans are still coming to the ballpark, that isn’t alright.  It’s about time the Mets start spending to at least address their needs in the offseason.

 

Mets Who May Still Lose Their Spot on the 40 Man Roster

After protecting Amed Rosario, Tomas Nido, Chris Flexen, Marcos Molina, and Wuilmer Becerra from the Rule 5 Draft, the Mets 40 man roster now stands at precisely 40 players.  This means that now when the Mets look to add a player in free agency, they will have to cut one of the players off of their 40 man roster.  And yes, the Mets will have to remove some players off of the 40 man roster.

From all indications, even if the Mets do no re-sign Yoenis Cespedes, they are pursuing other outfielders to replace him.  With the possible suspension of Jeurys Familia looming, it is likely, the Mets will have to add one, if not two, late inning relievers.  The team may be interested in bringing back Jerry Blevins or finding another LOOGY.  In addition to those moves, there are some other moves or upgrades the Mets may make this offseason.  With that in mind, here are some players whose spot on the 40 man roster is tenuous:

PITCHERS

Josh Edgin

Heading into the 2015 season, Edgin was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY for years to come.  Those plans changed when he needed Tommy John surgery causing him to miss the entire 2015 season.

He returned in 2016, and he was not the same pitcher having lost velocity off of all of his pitches.  He went from having a mid-90s fastball to having a low 90s fastball.  As a result, Edgin got hit around.  In AAA, he had a 3.51 ERA and a 1.650 WHIP.  In his limited stints in the majors, he had a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.  Another complication for Edgin is he is arbitration eligible meaning the Mets are presumably going to have to pay him a lot more to keep him on the roster.

On a positive note, Edgin still did get left-handed batters out at the major league level.  In a very small sample size (20 plate appearances), lefties only hit .235 off of him with no extra base hits.  It is a big reason why he was on the Wild Card Game roster when the Mets faced a San Francisco Giants team stacked with lefties.  Between his ability to get lefties out, the hope his arm could improve a second year removed from surgery, and his still having options available, there is still some hope for Edgin.

Sean Gilmartin

Gilmartin has gone from an important bullpen arm the Mets acquired in the 2014 Rule 5 Draft to a player who is seemingly lost his ability to get batters out.

Despite Gilmartin being a valuable long man in the pen, the Mets had him start the year in AAA to become starting pitching depth.  In 18 starts and one relief appearance, he was 9-7 with a 4.86 ERA and a 1.425 WHIP.  On a couple of occasions, he was recalled, and he pitched exclusively in relief for the Mets.  Things did not go well for him in those 14 relief appearances as Gilmartin had a 7.13 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  Between his performance and his having to go on the minor league disabled list with shoulder soreness, it was a lost year for Gilmartin.

Some of the struggles of Gilmartin were the result of his uneven usage between AAA and the majors.  The other issue was his shoulder soreness, which for now, appears to no longer be an issue.  Another strong factor in his favor is the fact that he is not yet arbitration eligible meaning the Mets do not have to pay him much to see if he returns to form.  His having options available is also a positive.  The Mets could still keep him on the roster with the idea of returning him to the role he was most successful.

Erik Goeddel

There is perhaps no Mets pitcher that evokes such split opinions than Goeddel.  For years, there were people who saw a pitcher that was able to go out there and get outs.  There were others who saw a guy who had fringy stuff that was more the beneficiary of good luck than good pitching.  After the 2016 season, most people agree that Goeddel was a liability for the Mets.

In 36 appearances for the Mets, Goeddel had a 4.54 ERA and a 1.318 WHIP.  It should be noted this was a big departure from how he had previously pitched with the Mets.  In 2014 and 2015, Goeddel had a combined 2.48 ERA and a 1.000 WHIP.  His prior success, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, gives him a chance to remain on the 40 man roster.

Rafael Montero

How he is still on the 40 man roster is anyone’s guess. Entering the 2016 season, the Mets had it with him, and they sent him a message by making him one of the first people sent down to minor league Spring Training.  Montero responded by pitching so poorly in Las Vegas that he was demoted to Binghamton.  It was only due a rash of pitching injuries that he got a shot at pitching in the majors again, and like his other opportunities, he squandered that.  Still, despite all that, the Mets cut Eric Campbell and Jim Henderson, AND exposed Paul Sewald to the Rule 5 Draft all for the sake of holding onto Montero that much longer.  Eventually, you have to assume Montero is going to get cut from the roster.  It is only a matter of when.

Logan Verrett

Strangely enough, the Mets had to make a decision on whether to expose Verrett to the Rule 5 Draft or to remove a player from the 40 man roster to protect him.  The Mets chose the former, and lost him for a period of time.  After Verrett struggled with the Rangers, the Mets took him back where Verrett pitched well out of the bullpen and the rotation for the Mets.

The Mets envisioned Verrett succeeding in that role in 2016, but it wasn’t to be.  He wasn’t as effective replacing Matt Harvey in the rotation as he was in 2015.  He went from a 3.63 ERA as a starter to a 6.45 ERA.  He performed so poorly out of the rotation that the Mets gave Montero a chance to start over him down the stretch of the season.

Still, there was a silver lining to Verrett’s 2016 season.  In his 23 relief appearances, he had a 2.84 ERA.  When you consider his reliever ERA, how well he performed in 2015, his pre-arbitration status, and his having options remaining, there is still a chance for Verrett to remain on the 40 man roster.

POSITION PLAYERS

Kevin Plawecki

Thinking of Plawecki being on the bubble is a bit odd especially when he is only 25 years old, has shown himself to be a terrific pitch framer, and he has only had 409 plate appearances at the major league level.

The problem there is Plawecki hasn’t hit at all in those 409 plate appearances.  In his brief major league career, Plawecki is a .211/.287/.285 hitter.  That’s worse than what Rene Rivera could give you, and Rivera has firmly established himself as Noah Syndergaard‘s personal catcher.  Worse yet, Plawecki is not the defensive catcher Rivera is.

When you also consider Tomas Nido‘s breakout season in St. Lucie possibly forcing the Mets to protect him a year earlier than anticipated, the Mets are going to be faced with the dilemma of carrying four catchers on their 40 man roster.  With Nido perhaps passing him as the catcher of the future, and Travis d’Arnaud having shown he has more offensive ability than Plawecki, it is quite possible, Plawecki could find himself having run out of chances with the Mets organization.

With all that said, it is hard to believe the Mets moving on from Plawecki this soon is his career.

Ty Kelly

This is an interesting situation for Kelly to be in considering he was signed to be minor league depth last season.  With a rash of injuries and some hot hitting in AAA, Kelly finally reached the majors after his long seven year odyssey in the minor leagues.

After some time, the Mets actually discovered who Kelly was.  Despite his switch hitting skills, he really could only hit from the right-hand side against major league pitching.  He was versatile, but his best position was left field.  Overall, his main asset down the stretch in September was as a pinch runner.  He was mostly used as a pinch runner because of the dearth of team speed on the Mets roster.  With all the said, he did make the Wild Card Game roster, and he got a pinch hit single off Madison Bumgarner.

Basically, all the reasons you can make for him being kept on the roster or being cut from the roster are the same exact things you could have said about Campbell, and he just signed a deal to play in Japan.

Overall, it is hard to guesstimate how many of these players are going to remain on the roster because we are not sure how many moves the Mets are going to make this offseason.  Normally, you would say Montero was sure to be cut, but he is more and more looking like the pitching version of Campbell . . . there is just no getting rid of the guy.  Still, as we learned from Campbell, there is going to become a breaking point, and that point may well be when the Mets sign enough players this offseason to take them from the Wild Card back to being World Series contenders.

Editor’s Note: a version of this story was originally run on Mets Merized Online

 

Mets Final Season Grades – Relievers

Throughout the season, I attempted to grade the different Mets players performances for each month of the season. In determining the year end grades, the aggregate of the monthly grades given was considered, but it wasn’t conclusive.  For example, one player’s awful month could be more than offset by having an incredible month.  Also, those decisions were made in the heat of the moment.  There has been a cooling off period in giving these finals grades, and with that, there is time for reflection.  It should also be noted the Wild Card Game did have some impact on these grades as that game was part of the story of the 2016 Mets.  Overall, the final grades assessed considered the monthly grades, but also took into account that player(s) overall impact on the Mets season (good or bad).    For the ninth set of grades, here are the other Mets relievers:

Hansel Robles B+

This was the second year of his career, and to date, he has yet to carve out a role for himself.  The main reason for that is Terry Collins has used him in every sort of role imaginable.  He has been used to bail the Mets out of a bases loaded no out jam.  He has been used as a set-up man in the seventh and eighth innings.  He has closed out a game.  He has also been called on to pitch over three innings in a game.  Without looking it up, it is safe to say Robles was the only pure reliever this year to throw a pitch in every inning this season.  Essentially, Robles has become the Mets version of Ramiro Mendoza

Robles was having a great year for himself too before Collins over-worked him.  In a one week span, Robles threw 127 pitches while making three appearances of over two innings.  Robles next appearance after that?  Well, it was four days later, and it was a two inning effort that needed Robles to throw 33 pitches.  By late August, he was spent having made many more appearances and having thrown many more pitches than he had his entire career.  Overall, Robles was 6-4 with a 3.28 ERA and a 1.352 WHIP.

Who knows what’s in store for Robles in 2017?  Whatever it is, we can reasonably assume he will perform well in that role.

Jerry Blevins B

With Blevins injured in 2015, the Mets had a long search for a LOOGY that never materialized.  In 2016, we all got to see what the Mets were missing as Blevins had a good year.  Overall, Blevins made 73 appearances going 4-2 with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.214 WHIP.  As luck would have it, Blevins would actually have reverse splits for the first time in his career.

Right-handed batters were only able to hit .182/.266/.345 off of Blevins while left-handed batters hit .255/.313/.324 off of him.  Those numbers are usually reversed, and in reality, right-handed batters typically hit him much harder than that.  This speaks to the strides Blevins made in becoming more than just a LOOGY.  He became a pitcher that can be relied upon to pitch a full inning.  It increased not just his value to the Mets, but also his free agent value.

Sean Gilmartin D

Gilmartin went from an important piece of the Mets bullpen in 2015 to having a lost year.  He began the year in AAA as a starter, but by the end of the year, it would be unclear what his role with the Mets would be in the future.

Initially, Gilmartin succeeded as a starter, but he would be called up to the Mets to pitch out of the pen.  He would be used on three days or less of rest.  Initially, he pitched well out of the pen for the Mets encouraging the team to do it more.  As a result, his numbers suffered, and he missed part of the year with a shoulder injury.  When it became time for the Mets to go to the minor leagues for starting pitching depth, Gilmartin was no longer an option on that front.  When the Mets were desperate enough in September to give him a start, he wouldn’t make it out of the first inning.

Overall, Gilmartin made 14 appearances going 0-1 with a 713 ERA and a 1.585 WHIP.  After a year like this, it will be interesting to see what role, if any, Gilmartin has on the Mets in 2017.

Erik Goeddel D

It appears that Goeddel may be the Eric Campbell of relief pitchers.  There are many people who point to a number of statistics to say he should be a capable major league player.  However, as the sample size grows and grows, his performance suffers as do his numbers.  In 36 appearances this season, Goeddel was 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA and a 1.138 WHIP.  This was a result of him becoming more hittable and his issuing more walks.  With all that said, there is still hope for him as he did post a 9.1 K/9.  Despite that, he looks like he will be best suited to starting the year in the minors.

Josh Edgin C-

In Edgin’s first year back from Tommy John surgery, he did not regain his velocity, and he had some trouble with his control.  Those two issues combined led to him issuing more walks and to batters getting more hits off of him.  In his 16 appearances for the Mets, he would to 1-0 with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.548 WHIP.

These are ugly numbers indeed, but there was some good news behind those numbers.  Edgin, who was supposed to be the Mets LOOGY entering 2015, did limit left-handed batters to a .235/.300/.235 batting line.  In that essence, Edgin proved he could handle the role as a LOOGY, and it appears the Mets just might given him that chance in 2017.

Josh Smoker C+

Here is what Smoker is: he is a fastball throwing left-handed pitcher that racks up strikeouts.  He is not a pitcher that can left-handed batters out, nor is he a pitcher that should ever pitch more than one inning.  Collins inability to recognize that led to Smoker’s numbers being worse than they could have been.  Keep in mind, Smoker was called upon to go more than one inning, three times, and on each occasion he allowed a home run.

Overall, Smoker was 3-0 with a 4.70 ERA and a 1.304 WHIP.  Most impressively, Smoker struck out 14.7 batters per nine innings.  With those strikeout numbers, Smoker belongs in a major league bullpen, and chances are, we may very well find himself in one next season.

Antonio Bastardo F

All you need to know about his season is the Mets traded him away and gave the Pirates money to obtain Jon Niese, who was having the worst year of his career.  When the Mets are giving other teams money to take players off their hands, you know a player was having a nightmare of a season.

Editor’s Note: the grades for April, May, June, July, August, and September/October can be found by clicking the links.

Mets Have Rule 5 Decisions to Make

With the Mets adding Gavin Cecchini to the 40 man roster to sit on the bench as the Mets are chasing down a Wild Card spot, the team had one less decision to make on who should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft this offseason.  Even if the Mets didn’t add Cecchini now, he was going to be added in the offseason.  Cecchini is too valuable a prospect, and he would be snatched up immediately in the Rule 5 Draft.

Cecchini was not the only player the Mets were going to have to make a decision on this offseason.  In fact, the Mets have to make a decision on 66 different prospects about whether or not they should be added to the 40 man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.  Here is a review of some of the more notable Mets prospects that need to be added to the 40 man roster in order to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft:

AMED ROSARIO

SS Amed Rosario (Advanced A & AA) .324/.374/.459, 24 2B, 13 3B, 5 HR, 71 RBI, 19 SB

Yes, if it hasn’t been apparent this entire year, Rosario is in a class all by himself.  If he’s not added to the 40 man roster someone is getting fired.

ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE

1B/3B Matt Oberste (AA) .283/340/.409, 21 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 54 RBI, 1 SB

One issue that has plagued Oberste his entire minor league career is he has to fight for at bats as he is usually behind a bigger Mets prospect.  That has been literally and figuratively Dominic Smith (who is not yet Rule 5 eligible).  Oberste was an Eastern League All Star; however, the issue that is always going to hold him back is the fact that he is a corner infielder that does not hit for much power. Most likely, Oberste will not be added to the 40 man roster.

CF Champ Stuart (Advanced A & AA) .240/.314/.349, 12 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 40 SB

Stuart is an elite defensive outfielder that has speed on the bases as evidenced by him stealing 40 bases this season.  The issue with Stuart is he is a maddening offensive player.  He went from hitting .265/.347/.407 in 71 games for Advanced A St. Lucie to hitting .201/.264/.261 in 43 games for AA Binghamton.  While he certainly has the tools to possibly be a big leauger one day, he’s too far away at this point.  Also, with teams putting more of a premium on offense than defense, it’s likely he will not be protected, and he will go undrafted.

C Tomas Nido ( Advanced A) .320/.357/.459, 23 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 0 SB

This year was a breakout season defensively and offensively for the Florida State League batting champion.  Normally, with Nido never having played a game in AA, the Mets would be able to leave him unprotected and be assured he wouldn’t be drafted.  However, with catcher being such a difficult position to fill, it’s possible a bad team like the Braves takes a flyer on him and keeps him as the second or third stringer catcher all year.  It’s exactly how the Mets lost Jesus Flores to the Nationals many years ago.

SP Marcos Molina 2015 Stats (Rookie & Advanced A) 9 G, 8 GS, 1-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 7.9 K/9

Molina did not pitch for the Mets organization for the entire 2016 season as he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.  The Arizona Fall League will be his first time facing batters in a game since his eight starts for St. Lucie in 2015.  It’s likely he will go unprotected and undrafted.

ARMS THAT COULD HELP IN 2017

RHP Paul Sewald (AAA) 56 G, 5-3, 19 saves, 3.29 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 11.0 K/o

In many ways, it is surprising that a Mets bullpen that was looking for an extra arm never turned to Sewald.  While he struggled to start the season like most pitchers transitioning to the Pacific Coast League do, Sewald figured it out and had a terrific second half with 10 saves, a 1.85 ERA, and a 0.95 WHIP.  Sewald should be protected.  In the event he isn’t, he should be as good as gone.

RHP Beck Wheeler (AA & AAA) 47 G, 0-3, 6 saves, 5.98 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, 12.1 K/9

Wheeler went unprotected and undrafted last year, and based upon the numbers he put up in his time split between Binghamton and Las Vegas, it appears the same thing will happen this year.  The one reservation is like with the Braves interest in Akeel Morris, teams will always take fliers on guys with mid 90s fastballs who can generate a lot of strikeouts.  It just takes one team to think they can help him reduce his walk rate for him to go in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Chasen Bradford (5 saves, 4.80 ERA, 1.48 WHIP) – Bradford regressed statistically from last year in large part because he is a sinker/slider pitcher that pitches to contact.  On the bright side, he walks very few batters meaning if you have good infield defense, he will be a successful pitcher for your team.  His numbers should scare off a number of teams in the Rule 5 draft just like it did last year.

RHP Ricky Knapp (Advanced A & AA) 25 G, 24 GS, 13-6, 2.69 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.3 K/9

Knapp started the year in St. Lucie, and he finished it with a spot start in Las Vegas.  Knapp doesn’t have any plus pitches, but he gets the most out of all of his pitches because he is excellent at hitting his spots.  He is a very polished product that is best suited to being a starting pitcher.  Since he doesn’t strike out many batters, teams will most likely pass on him in the Rule 5 draft.

RHP Luis Mateo (AA & AAA) 51 G, 4-4, 1 save, 2.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

He’s a fastball/slider pitcher with a low 90s fastball that generates a fair share of groundball outs while keeping the ball in the ballpark.  While his ERA should entice teams, his WHIP and strikeout rate may keep them away just like it did last year when the Mets left him exposed to the Rule 5 draft.  He will most likely begin next year in AAA.

RISING PROFILES

2B/3B/SS Phillip Evans (Advanced A & AA) .321/.366/.460, 30 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 1 SB

The Eastern League Batting Champion certainly raised his profile with a much improved offensive season.  He’s starting to become more selective at the plate and learn how to be less of a pull hitter.  The main issue for Evans is he may not have a position.  While he can make all the plays at the infield positions, he lacks range to be a solid middle infielder.  He also lacks the arm strength and power numbers you would want at third base.

RHP Chris Flexen (Advanced A, AA, AAA) 25 GS, 10-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 6.4 K/9

Flexen appears to be in the mold of a typical Mets pitching prospect in that he has a high 90’s fastball and a good slider.  Despite the repertoire, he is not generating a lot of strikeouts right now.  On the bright side, he does generate a number of ground balls while limiting home runs.   He was rumored to be part of the initial Jay Bruce trade that fell apart due to an unnamed prospect’s physical (does not appear to be him).  A second division club like the Reds could take a flyer on him and put him in the bullpen for a year to gain control over him despite him never having pitched at a level higher than Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Tyler Bashlor (Full Season & Advanced A) 54 G,  4-3, 2.75 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.8 K/9

While the 5’11” Bashlor is short on stature, he has a big arm throwing a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider which he used to dominate in the Sally League.  Bashlor used these pitches to strike out 11.8 batters per nine innings.  Like Flexen, there is danger exposing a big arm like this even if the highest level of experience he has is four games for Advanced A St. Lucie.

RHP Kevin McGowan (Advanced A & AA) 42 G, 4 GS, 2 saves, 2.35 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

McGowan is a fastball/changeup pitcher that still needs to develop a breaking pitch.  While that fastball/changeup combination has been good enough to get batters out at the lower levels of the minor leagues, he is going to need another pitch if he is going to progress as a pitcher.

DISAPPOINTING SEASONS

RF Wuilmer Becerra (Advanced A) .312/.341/.393, 17 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 34 RBI, 7 SB

Around the time of the Rule 5 Draft last year, the debate was whether a bad team like the Braves would take a flyer on Becerra just to get the promising young outfielder into their organization.  Unfortunately, Becerra would have a shoulder injury that would rob him of his budding power.  More importantly, that shoulder injury would require surgery ending his season after just 65 games.

1B/3B Jhoan Urena (Advanced A) .225/.301/.350, 17 2B, 2 3B, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 0 SB

With the emergence of David Thompson, Urena was pushed from third to first.  However, that isn’t what was most troubling about his season.  In fact, many questioned whether he could stay at third given his frame.  The issue was the switch hitting Urena stopped hitting for power this season.  With his not hitting for power, Rosario’s best friend in the minors should go undrafted in the Rule 5 Draft.

LHP Paul Paez (Advanced A & AA) 34 G, 4-1, 3.88 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

This year Paez failed to distinguish himself by not pitching particularly well for St. Lucie and then struggling in Binghamton.  He only has a high 80’s fastball and lacks a true swing and miss breaking pitch.  While lefties hitting .308 off of him this year, he may not even have a future as a LOOGY in a major league bullpen.

NEEDS TIME TO DEVELOP

OF Patrick Biondi (Advanced A) .271/.352/.332, 17 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 34 RBI, 26 SB

While Biondi’s stats look good on the surface, it should be noted at 25 years old, he is old for the level.  On the bright side, Biondi has speed and is a good defender in CF.  However, until he starts getting on base more frequently, he will not be considered for the 40 man roster.

RHP Nabil Crismatt (Short & Full Season A) 13 G, 7 GS, 1-4, 1 Save, 2.47 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 10.1 K/9

Crismatt is only 21, but he is mature in terms of his ability to control his changeup and curveball and throw them at any point in the count.  Couple that with a low 90s fastball that could gain velocity as he ages, and you have someone who has the repertoire to be a major leaguer.  However, considering he hasn’t faced stiff competition yet in his career, he is nowhere ready for the majors, at least not yet.

2B/3B/SS Jeff McNeil 2015 Season (Advanced A & AA) .308/.369/.377, 18 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 40 RBI, 16 SB

Coming into the season, McNeil appeared to be more mature physically and at the plate.  He seemed ready to begin hitting for more power while still being able to handle 2B defensively.  Unfortunately, he would only play in three games this season for Binghamton before going on the disabled list needing season ending sports hernia surgery.

RHP Tim Peterson (Advanced A & AA) 48 G, 4-1, 2 saves, 3.03 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 12.3 K/9

At each and every level Peterson has pitched, he has shown the ability to strike people out with a fastball that touches on the mid 90s and a plus curveball.  The only issue for him in his career so far was his PED suspension in 2014.

AAAA PLAYERS

OF Travis Taijeron (AAA) .275/.372/.512, 42 2B, 5 3B, 19 HR, 88 RBI, 1 SB

Taijeron continued to do what he does best, which is get on base and hit for power.  Despite a strong Spring Training and another solid offensive season, the Mets really showed no interest in calling him up to the majors.  He will most likely go unprotected, but maybe this year a team out there desperate for some power in the outfield or on the bench will give him a shot.

2B L.J. Mazzilli (AA & AAA) .239/.320/.348, 18 2B, 6 3B, 5 HR, 43 RBI, 8 SB

Lee Mazzilli‘s son is a grinder out there who plays a decent second base.  Unfortunately, it appears his bat will prevent him from ever getting a real shot to ever play in the big league.

PREDICTIONS

Guaranteed: Rosario

Likely: Flexen, Nido

Bubble: Bashlor, Knapp, McGowan, Sewald, Wheeler

As for the remaining players, the Mets may very well gamble exposing them to the Rule 5 Draft and potentially lose them to another team.  It is also possible the Mets unexpectedly protect a player like Knapp.  In any event, the Mets have a number of important decisions to make that can have far reaching implications.