Grading New York Mets' Bullpen Acquisitions and Their Chance for Success in 2013

Nathan TesslerCorrespondent IFebruary 11, 2013

Grading New York Mets' Bullpen Acquisitions and Their Chance for Success in 2013

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    After ranking second-to-last in bullpen ERA last season, the New York Mets have drastically changed the look of the bullpen.

    But Frank Francisco, who struggled through injuries and inconsistencies as the closer in 2012, will remain the closer at the beginning of 2013, according to manager Terry Collins. Francisco finished the season with a respectable 23 saves to three blown saves, but also a career-worst 5.53 ERA and 21 walks in 42.1 innings.

    Francisco was effective when healthy, but must maintain that health and production to be the closer all season. 

    The Mets got rid of a number of relievers from the 2012 season, including the productive Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez and Manny Acosta.

    Here are my grades for the relievers the Mets have acquired this offseason in replacement, as well as their chances for success in 2013:

1) Greg Burke

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    In early November, on the same day Jason Bay was released, the Mets quietly signed right-handed pitcher Greg Burke to a minor league deal.

    Burke is from the happy city of Camden, N.J., which is continually ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. 

    Burke last pitched in the majors in 2009 and has had a very journeyman career. 

    Burke labored through the beginning of his pro career, with moderate numbers in low-level leagues. But in 2008, he worked hard toward a breakout Double-A season, with a 2.24 ERA and 23 saves. In 2009, spending the entire rookie season with the San Diego Padres, Burke had a decent 4.14 ERA.

    But Burke has dominated right-handed hitters throughout his career and has posted an amazing .208 BAA in the lone major league season.

    Last season, through two of the top minor league levels, Burke posted an incredible 1.53 ERA over 64.2 total innings.

    The primary reason for this success is that the 6 foot 4 inch, 30-year-old Burke reinvented himself as a sidearm reliever, knowing he desperately needed to make a change to make it back to the majors. The change has caused a complete turnaround, and with 50 strikeouts and only 15 walks last season Burke has also maintained his command and control.

    Burke, who usually only has success against right-handed batters, had a combined .193 BAA in all of last season. But if Manny Acosta proved anything last season, it is that Triple-A success does not always equate to anything close to major league success.

    If Burke proves himself this spring training, he could be one of the more underrated bullpen signings the Mets have had this offseason.

    Grade: B

    Chance for Success: Moderate

    Final Analysis: Burke may only be a righty-one-out-guy (ROOGY) due to the radical difference in success he has against right-handed hitters versus lefties. It is tough to hold a roster spot for a pitcher like that. But for only a minor-league deal, he is a very low risk. If Burke can sustain his newly found success against lefties, he can easily secure a roster spot and potentially have a big year for the Mets.

2) Scott Atchison

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    Scott Atchison, who will turn 37 this season, was signed to a minor-league deal this offseason.

    He is coming off a career year in 2012 with the Boston Red Sox.

    In 51.1 innings, Atchison posted a career-best 1.58 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, as well as only nine walks and two home runs. Three of those walks were intentional. He had a .223 BAA, and can pitch very effectively to both right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters. Atchison also pitched well against three of the four NL East opponents for the Mets and only allowed a single earned run to the Atlanta Braves.

    However, Atchison also partially tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow, but elected not to have Tommy John surgery. 

    Despite this very worrisome injury, Atchison returned by the end of the year. He had five late appearances and did not allow a single run. 

    Atchison admitted that the market was down for his services primarily due to this injury and his age.

    But Atchison will be on the big-league roster by the regular season and he will have a large impact. Perhaps the most impressive stat from this past season was his BAA pitching to three and four hitters: .136 and .083, respectively. If the Mets are serious about competing this year, they will need relievers like Atchison to shut down the top hitters in this division late in games.

    The five late-season appearances say a lot about the health and ability that Atchison still has, and if he stays healthy he could be very productive this season.

    Grade: A-

    Chance for Success: Moderate/High

    Final Analysis: Atchison has very minimal risk due to the small contract, but plenty of upside. If he had a career year at 35 and showed he is still healthy and effective at the end of last season, there is no reason to believe he cannot be a good reliever this season. Or at least better than Ramon Ramirez.

3) LaTroy Hawkins

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    The ageless LaTroy Hawkins, who turned 40 in December, was also signed to a minor-league deal after a productive 2012 season.

    Hawkins ended the 2012 season 2–3 with a 3.64 ERA in 42.0 innings for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

    But Hawkins broke down by the second half of the season, as before the All-Star break he was a completely different pitcher. In 20.0 innings, he was2–1 and had a 1.35 ERA and .247 BAA. Hawkins also did not allow a single home run for the entire first half. Like Atchison, Hawkins also had great success last season against the three and four hitters, posting a .240 and .217 BAA, respectively, with only one extra base hit combined.

    Surprisingly, despite his advancing age, Hawkins also had a .214 BAA on zero days rest and .237 BAA on one day of rest in 2012.

    Hawkins has thrown over 1,300 innings in his career, but he has always stayed healthy and can still potentially eat a chunk of innings for the Mets this season.

    If Hawkins earns a roster spot he will likely only provide middle relief help, but he has proven last season he can still be an effective pitcher.

    Grade: B-

    Chance for Success: Moderate 

    Final Analysis: Hawkins is 40 years old and, not surprisingly, broke down in the second half of last season. However, the Mets will not need to rely on him as the anchor.  Although his success on short rest is quite intriguing, the Mets will probably limit his innings so he can hopefully be effective all season in middle relief.

4) Pedro Feliciano

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    The 36-year-old Pedro Feliciano, who last pitched in the majors in 2010 for the Mets, was another pitcher signed to a minor-league deal.

    After the 2010 season, Feliciano was under contract with the New York Yankees, but did not throw a single pitch for them. This was because Feliciano spent that time recovering from a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder that required surgery. A likely source of the injury is the huge workload Feliciano took on during the latter half of his eight-year career with the Mets.

    Feliciano appeared in 344 games during the final four seasons with the Mets, and over the eight years posted a 3.31 ERA in 372.1 innings.

    Most recently, Feliciano pitched in the Puerto Rican Winter League, compiling a 1.23 ERA in seven appearances.

    Aside from paying him $8 million to be in rehab, the Yankees also gave the Mets a compensatory first-round pick for losing Feliciano. The Mets drafted right-hander Michael Fulmer, who was recently ranked by Baseball Prospectus as the fourth-best prospect in the Mets' farm system. 

    Mets fans should be even more thankful to Feliciano for that.

    Feliciano has a very sidearm motion, which left-handed hitters cannot read when he releases the ball.

    In his most recent major league season, Feliciano faced 133 left-handed hitters, posting a .211 BAA and allowing only eight RBIs. But he also had a .336 BAA against right-handed hitters.

    Josh Edgin is likely the top left-handed specialist, followed by perhaps Tim Byrdak or Robert Carson. But a healthy Feliciano stands a decent chance of just edging (no pun intended) Byrdak and Carson for a spot in the bullpen.

    But like any new addition, Feliciano also must prove himself in spring training.

    Grade: C+

    Chance for Success: Low

    Final Analysis: Mets fans nostalgic of the more rich times (pun intended) of the mid-2000s will be happy to see a familiar face back on the team. But even if he is healthy and makes the team, Feliciano cannot be expected to do much more than provide depth and left-handed help. But, for such a low cost and low risk, none of the acquisitions can get a very low grade.

5) Brandon Lyon

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    Brandon Lyon, the only reliever to receive a major league deal, was signed for a one-year, $750,000 contract. He can earn $1.65 million in performance bonuses.

    The 33-year-old has had an up-and-down career, but finally seems to be pulling it all together.

    Last season, he went 4–2 with a 3.10 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 61.0 innings. He only allowed five home runs all season as part of both the Toronto Blue Jays and the Houston Astros.

    Lyon boasted a .253 BAA against right-handed hitters, and a .216 BAA against left-handed hitters, so he clearly holds his own against both sides of the plate. Lyon also had experience last season against every NL East team, including the Mets, and only allowed one earned run in those 7.2 innings to the lowly Miami Marlins. 

    Throughout his 11-year major league career, Lyon has always been durable and reliable.

    He has a career 4.12 ERA and has only allowed 207 walks in 647.0 total innings.

    Lyon had a career-high 26 saves in 2008 and 20 saves as recently as 2010. Nevertheless, it seems that Francisco has a firm grasp on the closer role. But if he struggles early, there will likely be plenty of pundits clamoring for Lyon to take over as the closer.

    Regardless, Lyon should still fill in as a clutch, late-inning reliever for the Mets this season. He posted a .194 BAA in 2012 with runners in scoring position.

    As the only reliever to garner a major-league contract, expectations are highest on Lyon. But Lyon is consistent and durable, which the Mets undoubtedly need in their bullpen.

    As a result, he is the top bullpen signing by the Mets this offseason.

    Grade: A

    Chance for Success: High/Very High

    Final Analysis: Lyon has three good pitches in his fastball, slider, and curveball. He gets ahead early in the count and mixes off-speed pitches well. Lyon may command a major league contract, but he is still a low-risk investment as a lot of the money he could earn depends on his success. There is no reason to believe Lyon will not continue his recent form this season for a completely revamped Mets bullpen.