The Mets Internal Bullpen Options, Las Vegas 51s Righties | Astromets Mind

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Mets Internal Bullpen Options, Las Vegas 51s Righties

Reviewing the bullpen options for the Mets from the AA and AAA level – a look at the Las Vegas 51s pen today, and I’ll try to have the B-Mets post up by tomorrow.

            After many questions surrounding the pen coming into 2015, the Mets have had one of the top bullpens in the major leagues this year – Fangraphs has the Mets relievers at a 3.14 ERA after their series in Baltimore, which is 6th in the majors – but they’ve been stumbling lately – they have a 4.34 ERA over the last 30 days, which is 20th in the majors. Jenrry Mejia’s second suspension was an unexpected blow, and while Bobby Parnell’s struggles were a little more predictable – he struggled a lot in A+/AA before coming up, and he didn’t have his normal upper-90’s velocity – the Mets still ran him out there for 23 appearances (19.1 IP).
Fortunately, Logan Verrett has returned in place of Parnell, which is not something I would have imagined typing back in March (when Verrett wasn’t even on the Mets), but he was great during his first stint with the Mets this year, and he’s been strong in Las Vegas since. The Mets are getting further good news for the pitching staff down in AA, where Erik Goeddel has looked great during his 2 appearances (GIF’s from 8/16 here, details from 8/19 here), topping out at 94 MPH with his heater on Wednesday night. Also, down in Port St. Lucie Rafael Montero and Steven Matz are in various states of rehab, and at least Matz is expected to return this year.
            While Verrett and Goeddel should help boost the pen in the short term, the Mets will look to add reinforcements once the rosters expand in September, and may wish to look internally for a lefty option in the mean time if Eric O’Flaherty proves unreliable. I reviewed the seasons and stuff of the right-handed internal bullpen options from the Las Vegas 51s below, and I also give my opinion as to whether they would be a good fit for the Mets in September.

23 G, 7.20 ERA, 6.09 FIP, 20 IP, 22 H, 20 K: 17 BB, 3 HR, .896 OPS, 57% Strikes, 9% Swinging strike rate (Las Vegas stats only)

            Walks have always been the problem for Black, especially when pitching with Las Vegas, but he’s been getting better results over the past month – 13 G, 11.1 IP, 2.38 ERA, .712 OPS allowed since 7/17. He had a much higher walk rate before his promotion to the Mets last year, and then went on to have a nice season at the major league level, although his 3.77 FIP was not as shiny as his 2.60 ERA. Surprisingly, Black has struggled against RHB this year, allowing a 1.000 OPS over 88 PA (LHB have a .620 OPS against Black in 52 PA), but that number is boosted by a .382 BABIP. In 2014, he held RHB’s to a .574 OPS in 128 PA between AAA and the majors (LHB had a combined .696 OPS in 102 PA against Black), which is more in line with his minor league history.
Since he’s on the 40-man roster, I expect Black will pitch for the Mets this season, but poor results and a high walk rate in Las Vegas haven’t been the only things keeping him from the major league pen to this point, he’s also yet to prove that he can pitch with success on consecutive days. For the season, he’s pitched on consecutive days just 4 times (3 since joining Las Vegas), and he’s recorded 0 outs during 2 of those appearances, including his most recent chance on 8/17. But that won’t matter once rosters expand and the Mets can have extra arms in the pen, so it’s very possible he’s up as soon as September 1st. He’s been consistently in the mid/upper 90’s lately, and his breaking stuff has been there all season, so he should help the Mets in September, even if he’s not ready to go on consecutive days.

47 G, 4.02 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 56 IP, 76 H, 42 K: 12 BB, 3 HBP, 2 HR, .789 OPS, 12% Swinging strike rate

            Bradford has maintained a low walk rate at AAA (3.6%), but his below average strikeout rate has been less than encouraging (18.3%) – he does have an above average 12% swinging strike rate the past two seasons. After allowing 0 ER over his first 14 IP this year, Bradford has allowed 30 R (25 ER) over his past 41 IP, which is good for a 5.49 ERA, and PCL batters have an .875 OPS against him during that time. While he’s allowed a very high number of hits this year, PCL batters have a unsustainably high .422 BABIP against Bradford over his last 41 IP, so he’s been unusually unlucky during this stretch – PCL batters have a slightly below average .122 ISO against Bradford during the stretch, so they aren’t consistently crushing the ball against him.
Before he started struggling, it looked like Bradford would be one of the first AAA pen options to get a look from the Mets this year, but now it looks unlikely that he’ll even get a September look. He has an average 93-94 MPH fastball, and a nice changeup, with good control of both, so he could still be interesting next season, but he’s not forcing his way up right now, and the Mets already have some tough 40-man roster decisions ahead.

50 G, 4.40 ERA, 61.1 IP, 60 H, 35 K: 14 BB, 7 HBP, 6 HR, .721 OPS, 11% Swinging strike rate

            Church was the Mets 23rd round pick from the 2009 draft, so he’s been a Mets farmhand for a long time, and is eligible to be a minor league free agent this offseason. He’s arguably been the most consistent reliever for Las Vegas this year, but he’s not going to force his way into the conversation. He features a fringe-average fastball, but his bread-and-butter pitch is the slider, and he has good control of both pitches. When that slider is working, he’ll induce a lot of weak contact, but it has not been a reliable out pitch at the AAA level. He did strike out more than 27% of batters faced across two seasons at AA with the B-Mets (2013-14), and he’s only 28 this year, so he’ll likely be back in a AAA bullpen somewhere next year.
If the Mets were to reward Church for all of his hard work within the system with a September call-up, it would surely make for a nice feel-good story, especially if he was there for the clincher. But while I’d root for that outcome in any of the 5 previous seasons, the Mets are hunting for the postseason as of now, and the Mets have better options than Church. 

10 GS, 5.87 ERA, 4.06 FIP, 61.1 IP, 81 H, 42 K: 16 BB, 5 HR, .833 OPS, 9% Swinging strike rate

            Dillon Gee is still the same pitcher that he’s always been, which makes him the most accomplished pitcher on this list, and probably the best righty option not on the 40-man roster. After struggling over his first 2 starts with Las Vegas, he held the PCL to a 2.95 ERA during his next 6 starts (42.2 IP, .694 OPS allowed), but has struggled again for his last 2 starts. He has been hampered by a high BABIP allowed during the 2 months he’s struggled the most this season (June: .469 BABIP, 13.02 ERA; August: .394 BABIP, 6.87 ERA), so there’s that.
            His current roster status suggests that we probably won’t see Gee with the Mets again this year, but if they need innings from someone not on the 40-man roster, he’s the safe option.

46 G, 4.55 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 61.1 IP, 61 H, 64 K: 24 BB, 2 HBP, 6 HR, .715 OPS, 10% Swinging strike rate

            Already in his age-28 season, Satterwhite is another potential minor league free agent, but I think he’s the most interesting reliever in the 51s current bullpen. He throws a mid-90’s fastball that will top out at 96 MPH, although he’s been sitting more 94 MPH with Las Vegas (per radio/ broadcasts), and mixes in a hard splitter and hard slider. He allowed a 6.65 ERA as he adjusted to the PCL over the first 2 months, but has held opponents to a 3.29 ERA over his last 27 appearances (38.1 IP), with a .660 OPS allowed and a 27 K%: 10 BB% during that span. Wally has used him for more than one inning in more than 40% of his appearances this year, so Satterwhite is used to getting up and down multiple times throughout the game, which is useful in Terry’s pen.
            Satterwhite is probably the most interesting right-handed options not on the Mets 40-man roster, but I’m guessing his inexperience has him behind Gee and Stauffer on the team’s relief depth chart.

4 G, 2.15 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 29.1 IP, 18 H, 22 K: 6 BB, 3 HBP, 2 HR, .508 OPS, 15% Swinging strike rate

            Stauffer is the most accomplished reliever on this list, and he was good in the majors as recently as 2014 – 3.02 FIP, 24.5 K% over 64.1 IP - but he struggled with the Twins earlier this year. He’s off to a nice start with Las Vegas, but his high FIP and .203 BABIP against suggest he’s been more lucky than great – he did have 11 K’s over 8 IP in his last start, after just 11 K’s total over his first 3 starts (21.1 IP).
Just like Gee, Stauffer could give the Mets a spot starter or right-handed relief option if they need someone no on the 40-man roster in September. If it came down to a decision between the two, the Mets might just choose the pitcher with a better finish to the PCL season.

53 G, 3.88 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 53.1 IP, 48 H, 46 K: 21 BB, HBP, 2 HR, .629 OPS, 8% Swinging strike rate

            Thornton got off to a hot start back in Spring Training after a few pen sessions with Dan Warthen, but that magic ran out only a week into the season, or so it seemed. After allowing 6 ER over 3 appearances in mid-April, Thornton would allow just 3 R (2 ER) over the next 6 weeks, holding opponents to a .366 OPS over 17 appearances (16.1 IP). He hit another rough patch in early June, allowing 7 ER over 4 appearances, but then held opponents to a 1.57 ERA and .534 OPS over his next 24 appearances (23 IP) before Wednesday night. He’s had a pair of rough stretches, but he’s mostly just been a lockdown reliever for the 51s this year. When he’s on, he has good control of his sinker and slider, and he’ll induce a high rate of groundballs by attacking the bottom of the zone.
            Thornton is rule 5 eligible again this offseason, but he’s basically a lock to be back in the Mets system next year (assuming they want to bring him back), and he’ll still be battling to make his major league debut. He can help a major league team as a middle reliever/first guy up from AAA when injury strikes, but the Mets have better options for the rest of this season, and there’s no clear path to the majors for him anyway.

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