The New York Mets will go into Spring Training with 5 bullpen sports already secured. There are a number of candidates that will be battling for the last 2 spots available. With Tyler Clippard gone, and Jenrry Mejia banned for life there will be a couple of opportunities for the taking in the bullpen. With relievers it can be so tough to predict as sometimes you never know what you will be getting from season to season. The Mets have a few young arms in the bullpen, which hopefully will be an area of possible growth for some of these guys and not regression. I will be taking a look at the 5 players who are already locked into a bullpen spot, and then discuss who’s in the mix for the last 2 spots in the bullpen.
Familia was absolutely filthy last season as he had a 1.85 ERA to go along with 43 saves during the regular season. After Familia had been given the closer role he did not look back and brought absolute filth to the mound every time he was out there. Familia had struck out nine batters per nine innings, and 86 K’s in 78 innings pitched. Familia did not have a great World Series but much of that was due to defensive miscues behind him. But the arsenal and the versatility to pitch 2 innings to get a save is something not seen by many closers in baseball today. Familia has a nasty sinker that tops between 97-98 MPH. His off-speed pitches become more lethal when his sinker is on. That is what makes Familia as unique as he is and will be seen as a top 5 closer in baseball this season. With the Mets to be expected to win a lot of ball games this season, Familia will have many opportunities to duplicate his numbers that he had last season. I expect a huge season from Familia with an ERA below 2, and around 50 saves. If Familia regresses or falters this season, the Mets will be in big trouble.
When Reed was acquired from the Diamondbacks in late August it was tough to predict what the Mets were going to get, as Reed was having an inconsistent season. Reed pitched well in September for the Mets and is expected to be Famila’s set-up man coming into this season. Reed had an ERA of 0 in September with opposing hitters only hitting .200 against him. Reed’s fastball according to Pitch F/X seemed to improve while he pitched for the Mets, which helped Reed’s effectiveness. If Reed can locate and command his fastball this season he will have similar results to last September. Reed will have to improve his numbers however when he has runners on base. When Reed had runners on base, batters hit a .312/.370/.495 line. It gets even worse for Reed when runners are in scoring position as hitters had a slash line of .364/.440/.591. Reed cannot allow base runners as he has a tendency to struggle. However albeit a small sample size in September Reed seemed to be a different pitcher than he was earlier in the season so one can hope he can provide that bridge to Familia successfully.
Bastardo was one of the key Mets acquisitions this offseason as he had a solid 2015 campaign with the Pirates, and was one of the most sought after relievers this offseason. Last season in 57 1/3 innings pitched Bastardo had an ERA of 2.98, 64 K’s, and an opponent’s average of .188. Bastardo had success against left-handed hitters as they only hit a line of .138/.233/.215. Right handed hitter’s didn’t fare much better either with a line of .210/.311/.315. Bastardo will most likely be the 7th inning guy for the Mets, as well as brought in to face some of the tough left-handed hitters in baseball. If Addison Reed struggles with his set-up role, don’t be surprised if Bastardo is thrust into the set-up role. The southpaw Bastardo is also a great pitcher with runners on as he had a line of .161/.318/.230. When runners were in scoring position Bastardo also had a line of .158/.333/.228. Bastardo relies on his great fastball and had a great 10 strikeouts per nine innings last season. Look for Bastardo to be one of the best late inning options for Terry Collins this season.
Hansel Robles came onto the scene last season, when Jerry Blevins had gotten injured in April. Many people will remember Robles for that quick pitch incident against the Phillies and the Reds, but Robles is a quality pitcher and throws gas when he is on the mound. Robles I believe can be the set-up man for the future with this team as he has a great fastball and slider. Robles was shaky at best during the first couple of months of the season, but he improved significantly as the season wore on, and proved he is a legit weapon out of the bullpen. Overall he had a 3.67 ERA last season although opposing batters were only hitting .190 against him. His earlier struggles are why that ERA is where it is. Robles also is similar in terms of pitching with runners on and in scoring position, as he has extremely low numbers in those situations. The Mets will be looking for another year of growth from Robles and he may be counted on in higher leverage situations this season.
Blevins was acquired last offseason in a trade with the Washington Nationals, and was being counted on as a lefty-specialist. Blevins had been hit by a comebacker and broke his arm early in the year and then had a freak accident and re-broke that arm, which resulted in him missing the rest of the season. Blevins was all but assured a spot in the bullpen by manager Terry Collins, and Blevins has had great success against lefties in the past. In 2014, Blevins had a .160/.202/.217 line against left-handed batters. After breaking his throwing arm twice in one year he bears watching, but I believe he should be healthy enough to be an asset to the bullpen. If he were to falter, Josh Edgin will be returning early in the season from TJ surgery, and would be a fallback option as the lefty specialist.
Battle for the final 2 spots:
The final two bullpen spots will be decided on who has the better showing in Spring Training. There are a host of names vying for those two spots, most notably Sean Gilmartin, Logan Verrett, Erik Goeddel, and Jim Henderson. Goeddel was solid and consistent when asked to pitch last season as he finished the season with a 2.43 ERA. An elbow injury cut into his season but he still had good stuff when he returned. His great splitter gives him a shot to stick on the Major League team if he shows well this spring. Sean Gilmartin stuck on the roster all of last season after being selected in the Rule-5 draft from the Minnesota Twins. Gilmartin had a solid season as well pitching to a 2.67 ERA and making a start down the stretch. Gilmartin could be considered for a reliever role, as well as the long reliever role or spot-starter Collins will be looking for. Logan Verrett will be considered for that role also after he played a factor at the end of last season. He started 4 games and pitched well coming out of the bullpen. I certainly won’t forget that 8-inning domination of the Rockies back at Coors Field that Verrett threw last August. Jim Henderson is a comeback story who is looking to revitalize his career in the Major Leagues. The former Brewers closer experienced diminished velocity last season after 2014 shoulder surgery, and was rehabbing and pitching in Triple-A last season. Henderson looks to regain some of the velocity he once had, and if he doesn’t have it during Spring Training he can be optioned to the Minor Leagues to try and regain his form. Henderson has an opt-out clause of June 15th so the Mets have time to stash him in AAA if they don’t believe he is performing well in Spring Training. I ultimately see Henderson starting the season at AAA, but could be a factor in June if he is strong and healthy.