The Mets Internal Bullpen Options, The Binghamton Mets Bullpen | Astromets Mind

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Mets Internal Bullpen Options, The Binghamton Mets Bullpen

How many of these current B-Mets have a future in the Citi Field bullpen?

Reviewing the bullpen options for the Mets from the AA and AAA level – a look at the Binghamton Mets pen today, after I investigated the Las Vegas pen yesterday (lefties, righties).

            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 top internal bullpen options from the Binghamton Mets below, and I also give my opinion as to whether they would be a good fit for the Mets in September.


A+: 24 G, 1.69 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 32 IP, 11 H, 46 K: 14 BB, HR, .375 OPS
AA: 18 G, 3.32 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 21.1 IP, 17 H, 22 K: 11 BB, HR, .611 OPS, 15% Swinging strike rate

            Mets fans got their first taste of Akeel Morris in the majors on June 17th against the Toronto Blue Jays, and it was a sour one (0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 3 BB, HR), but expectations should not have been high for a reliever coming up from A+. He definitely wasn’t good that night, but he’s a better pitcher than what he showed, which is why he was added to the 40-man roster for rule-5 protection this past offseason. He throws a fastball that generally sits 93-95 MPH, but I’ve heard called in the upper 90’s, as well as a slider and changeup. His secondary pitches are still inconsistent offerings, but all 3 of his pitches can generate whiffs, and that has led to some extremely dominant stretches – for example, he struck out 13 of 28 batters with only 1 BB issued and 3 H allowed over 6 appearances (8 IP) during early June.
Morris was ridiculous in the 1st half with St. Lucie, and he finished with 16 K: 2 BB (37 batters faced) over his final 10 IP. He had a pair of hiccups shortly after arriving to AA, including a weird game during which the umps called 2 balks that both the announcers and Pedro Lopez were confused about, and which led to 2 runs charged to Akeel. Since that game, Morris has allowed just 2 ER over 13 appearances (17.1 IP), with 17 K: 6 BB (67 BF) and a .537 OPS allowed. The one knock on Morris is his control, which tends to get away from him out of nowhere.
Although he’s still a bit raw, and I expect he’ll need some more seasoning in AAA next year, Akeel’s 40-man roster status should earn him a bump to the big league club in September. The Mets should have all hands on deck, and since they’ve already burned an option on Morris and had him make his major league debut, there’s nothing logistical blocking him from a September call-up. Plus, it’s both a nice reward for Morris, and a chance for him to absorb a lot from the major league regulars and coaches.

37 G, 1.67 ERA, 2.61 FIP, 43 IP, 29 H, 45 K: 8 BB, 3 HR, .531 OPS, 11% Swinging strike rate

            Sewald is a side-armingish righty who continues to outperform expectations given his stuff – he even told Tim Heiman that he’s outperformed his own expectations. His 27.4 K% with Binghamton this season represents a career low, which is impressive for someone who rarely throws harder than 90 MPH, and whose game plan is to get batters to hit groundouts. He attacks the bottom of the zone with a nice sinker/slider combo, and pinpoint control has been key to his success throughout his minor league career – he has a 4.9 BB% for the season (164 BF) and his entire minor league career (733 BF) against his career 29.5 K%.
            He’s been the main closer for Binghamton most of the season, although he has shared those duties with Velasquez at times, and spent a month representing Team USA in the Pan-Am games. 30 of his 37 appearances have been scoreless, and he’s allowed multiple runs only twice – 3 ER on 5/9 at Akron, and 2 ER on 8/7 vs. Trenton.
            His consistency and control this year have been impressive, and he appears to have a future in the majors, but the Mets would have to clear room for him on the 40-man for a September cup of coffee. Unless someone scoops him up in the rule-5 draft, he should be a lock to start next year with Las Vegas, and if he keeps pitching like he did this year, it won’t be long before he gets a chance with the Mets.

AA: 30 G, 1.64 ERA, 1.97 FIP, 33 IP, 19 H, 27 K: 4 BB
AAA: 16 G, 5.74 ERA, 5.59 FIP, 15.2 IP, 18 H, 13 K: 5 BB

            At 29, Velasquez is more of an org. guy, and his status as a minor league free agent suggests that his time with the Mets might be coming to an end soon. He’s interesting enough that he should draw attention as a AAA reliever somewhere next year, but like John Church, the Mets appear to have better options lined up for the AAA bullpen next year. He’s done a great job in AA this year, and his AAA numbers are inflated by one bad appearance (6 runs allowed on 6 hits, 1 BB, and 1 HR over 1 IP on 6/7), but the Mets have used him as needed, not as merited.

AA: 9 G, 1.80 ERA, 2.34 FIP, 10 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 9 K: 3 BB, .593 OPS, 7% Swinging strike rate

            Walters was expected to be one of the Mets first AAA options coming out of Spring Training in 2014, but early struggles was followed by news of an impending Tommy John Surgery, which will end up setting him back 2 years. His velocity has been creeping back up with the B-Mets over the past 3 weeks, and he spent a month rehabbing between the GCL and St. Lucie before that, but he’s not yet back to the electric closer that set the Binghamton saves record (38) in 2013, and 2015 is nearing a close.
The good news is that he has been healthy to this point, and he’ll have the entire offseason to get back to full strength. It’s also encouraging that he’s been effective to this point, which is not something that all pitchers can say after only 14/15 months of recovery from TJS (see Parnell, Bobby).

AA: 37 G, 3.93 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 50.1 IP, 41 H, 49 K: 24 BB, HBP, 2 HR, .656 OPS, 10% Swinging strike rate

            For the first month of the season, Beck Wheeler looked like a pitcher who might not last the season, but he’s been lights out since then – 1.57 ERA, 2.57 FIP, 33 K: 11 BB, 23 H, and a .554 OPS allowed over 34.1 IP (132 BF). The righties main offerings are a low-90’s fastball and a big curve, and he’s held LHB’s to a .534 OPS this year (RHB’s have a .742 OPS against him). The 26-year old undrafted free agent from 2011 has definitely surpassed expectations to this point, but he’ll have to prove himself in AAA, and even then still wait for an opening in the Mets bullpen over the next few seasons.

21 G, 3.86 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 133 IP, 134 H, 70 K: 25 BB, 6 HBP, 11 HR, .712 OPS, 7% Swinging strike rate

            Ynoa came into the season as one of the more highly touted young arms within the system, but he’s had mixed results to this point. He was wilder than he’s ever been over his first 10 starts, allowing a 5.72 ERA and .853 OPS over 56.2 IP, with a 11.4 K%: 7.1 BB%. That walk rate was still better than league average, but nearly twice the rate of his previous career for a minor league stop. He allowed multiple walks in 5 of those starts, including a career high 5 on April 17th. Since then, he’s held opponents to a .595 OPS over 11 starts (76.1 IP), with a 2.48 ERA and 13.8 K%: 2.4 BB%, and only one start with multiple walks issued. Despite the improved numbers over the past 2 months, Ynoa is still not missing bats or racking up strikeouts at even close to an average rate.
Stuff-wise, his slider hasn’t really improved this year, his fastball is still fringy, and his changeup is average at best. He has shown a curveball at times, and the pitch might have more swing-and-miss potential than the slider, but it doesn’t appear to be a consistent part of his arsenal just yet.
Throwing all 3 pitches for strikes consistently is currently his best tool, and his pitch-to-contact approach has allowed him to go deep into starts this year – 15 starts have lasted 6+ IP, and he’s only reached 100+ pitches twice – but is that enough to transition to a starter in the majors? I’m not so sure. As a reliever, he should be able to consistently reach that mid-90’s heat that he flashes, and converted starters often focus on their better secondary offering, which helps them develop it further (see Goeddel, Erik).
Considering Ynoa is only 22 and he’s made the adjustments to have success at the AA level, I’m not convinced that he needs to be moved to the bullpen full-time just yet, but he could still help the Mets in that role from in September. When it comes to pitching, I think the Mets should have all hand on deck in September, and Ynoa was already added the 40-man to protect him from the Rule-5 draft. Injuries and extra inning games happen all the time, and the Mets are better off using Ynoa over a position player in those situations. Similarly, blowouts happen too, and Ynoa could make an extended appearance to give the main pen arms some rest. If he does get the Cup o’ Joe, it will probably be after the B-Mets finish their season, and that might not be until mid-September if the make another title run.


44 G, 3.99 ERA, 3.38 FIP, 56.1 IP, 48 H, 53 K: 23 BB, 2 HBP, 3 HR, .626 OPS, 8% Swinging strike rate

            After allowing multiple runs in 4 of his first 5 appearances this year, Kolarek decided things weren’t working and made a big change to his pitching mechanics, switching from an over the top delivery to a ¾-arm slot. Since that switch, he’s allowed multiple runs in just 4 of 39 appearances (49.1 IP), and he’s held batters to a .532 OPS, with a 23.2 K%: 9.9 BB% ratio – also, those 4 appearances were over a two week stretch in late May/early June, and he’s allowed just 2 ER in 28 IP since. This isn’t the first time Kolarek has put together a great stretch for the B-Mets, as he allowed a 1.71 ERA over 63 IP back in 2013, but it is a huge improvement over his 2014 (6.07 ERA over 56.1 IP).
            Kolarek is more of an org. guy than internal bullpen option, but he has shown significant LOOGY splits this year, which was his M.O. before 2014 as well. A lot would have to go wrong with the Mets for Kolarek to end up getting a call in September, but he’ll be back in the fold next season, possibly taking Scott Rice’s roster spot with the 51s.

A: 6 G, 8.10 ERA, 1.99 FIP, 6.2 IP, 11 H, 8 K: 2 BB, .813 OPS
A+: 14 G, 1.69 ERA, 2.18 FIP, 21.1 IP, 12 H, 26 K: 6 BB, HR, .464 OPS
AA: 15 G, 1.15 ERA, 1.20 FIP, 15.2 IP, 12 H, 22 K: 4 BB, .512 OPS, 18% Swinging strike rate

             Saving the best for last, I present to you the case of Josh Smoker. Smoker is a former 1st round draft pick (31st overall to the Nationals in 2007), whom the Mets signed out of Indy ball earlier this year, and who will be a minor league free agent at the end of the season. He throws 95+ from the left side, mixes in a split-fingered fastball, a changeup and a big slider, and he’s commanding his arsenal like he never has before. The only time he’s shown better walk rates in the minors was back in rookie ball, and Smoker said that St. Lucie pitching coach Phil Regan made a minor mechanical change that has ‘made all the difference in the world’ as far as his command.
            He’s fared slightly better against righties for the season – .496 OPS allowed, 32.5 K%: 5.8 BB% in 120 PA’s vs. RHB’s; .644 OPS allowed, 28.3 K%: 8.3 BB% in 60 PA vs. LHB’s – but much of the OPS difference can be attributed to BABIP results – RHB’s have a .286 BABIP against Smoker, LHB’s have a .368 BABIP against him. Also, he has a 12 K: 1 BB ratio against lefties since joining the B-Mets, so he’s been handling them just fine at the highest level he’s reached.
            For his career, Smoker has only thrown the 15.2 IP above A+ ball, and that lack of pro experience probably influenced the Mets to trade for Eric O’Flaherty instead of giving him a chance. He’s not on the 40-man roster, but the Mets should not let him get away as a minor league free agent this offseason. Almost every minor league team will have a right-hand pitcher who can throw upper 90’s, but lefties who can do that with consistency are much less common. Also, Smoker’s control this year has been uncommonly good for any reliever throwing upper-90’s heat.
            The Mets would have to make room for Smoker on the 40-man, but I think he could upgrade the club today, so it’d be a worthwhile move. The most obvious candidate to be replaced on the active roster is O’Flaherty, but they did just trade for O’Flaherty instead of calling Smoker up, so it’d be strange to see them cut bait on him so soon – although, they gave up very little in the trade, so it wouldn’t be hard to just let him go. If the Mets are interested in trying Smoker during the stretch run, they should add him before September 1st, so that he is eligible for the postseason.

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