Ranking the New York Mets' Best Young Relievers Heading into Spring Training
Over the past few years, New York Mets relief pitching hasn't really been up to par. This season, there will be a lot of young arms from the Mets organization that will be competing for a spot in the bullpen.
And we should look out for them during spring training.
Some of these players have already gotten a tiny taste of the big leagues. Other players have only played minor league ball. While a few pitchers excelled last season, a few struggled.
But there is reason to believe that any of these young relievers could work in the 2014 Mets bullpen.
Honorable Mention: Joel Carreno
MLB Games Played: 22
Joel Carreno signed a minor league deal with the Mets in early November. He actually has more MLB experience than any of the other players on the list. It is true that he is a young, talented arm that is competing for a job in 2014 but Carreno has not made the list.
Carreno hasn't made the list because he has not played a game in the Mets organization at any level. So we haven't really gotten a chance to feel him out. Also, there's not too much knowledge on what Carreno has been up to since 2012.
The last time he played in the majors was back in 2012 with Toronto. He played in 11 games and ended up with a 6.14 ERA and an 0-2 record. Toronto moved him to the minors, where he stayed for the last year.
The short video above shows Carreno getting a fly out against Phillies prospect Sebastian Valle in 2012.
Signing Carreno was actually a good deal, though. Between Double and Triple-A, Carreno has managed to pitch a 2.43 ERA in 66.2 innings. He gave up 39 hits, but he struck out 90 batters!
His bread and butter has been his curve ball, which is something he's improved on in 2013. His better improved curveballs have led to more strikeouts.
If he ends up working well for the Mets, the team can breathe easy for bringing in talent without spending too much money.
4. Gonzalez Germen
MLB Games Played: 29
Gonzalez Germen made his major league debut with the Mets in July.
Germen certainly had a rough September. He saw his ERA implode from 2.89 in July. Over 11.1 innings pitched, he racked up an ERA of 4.76. But he has the potential to do better.
His overall ERA for the Mets in 2013 was 3.93. But what was really impressive was the fact that Germen only gave up one home run throughout his 34.1 innings pitched. With Citi Field already being somewhat cruel to batters, it's nice to know that there isn't a huge home run threat out there when Germen steps in.
In fact, he is a decent strikeout pitcher from the small sample size that we have seen. In 34.1 innings, he's managed to get 33 strikeouts. Plus, hitters only batted .241 against him. Left-handed batters hit .226.
To do better in the majors, Germen needs to try to limit hits against him. He had given up 32 hits since being brought up in July. And in situations where there are runners in scoring positions, hitters are batting .393 against him. He needs to spot the ball better.
Nonetheless, his strong fastball and his improving command of it has gotten him invited to major league camp.
Currently, Germen has two wins and no losses in 9.1 innings for the Toros del Este in the Dominican Winter League. He has given up 12 hits, three earned runs and five strikeouts.
3. Jeurys Familia
MLB Games Played: 17
Jeurys Familia has had bouts with the Mets in 2012 and 2013. But he still hasn't played enough in the majors. After failing to impress as a starter, the Mets hope that Familia will dazzle as a full-time relief pitcher, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
Familia has had a miserable 2013. By the end of April he had a 2.84 ERA that immediately increased to an ERA of 4.50 within the next 10 days. Familia was then sent to undergo elbow surgery in order to fix bone spurs from his right elbow. He didn't return to the majors until September 17, when he gave up one earned run in just a third of an inning.
The Mets shut him down after that. But there's still hope that Familia can meet expectations and become a successful reliever.
Right now, Familia is a reliever for the Gigantes del Cibao in the Dominican Winter League, where he has an ERA of 2.20 over 6.2 innings. That's obviously not great. He is a hard thrower, but he needs to learn to control the baseball. His fastballs won't be of any use if he can't execute them properly.
Once he controls the ball, he won't be giving up many hits and walks.
His WHIP is 1.73 in the majors, which places him at the middle-end of current Mets pitching. And while with the Mets last season, Familia had terrible numbers against both left-handed (.313 BA) and right-handed batters (.280 BA).
He has the potential to do great, because like Jeff Walters, he is an excellent strikeout pitcher. In 6.2 innings, Familia has struck out 12 batters during winter ball. Familia just needs to learn to channel his control into producing more strikeouts.
2. Jeff Walters
MLB Games Played: 0
Jeff Walters hasn't cracked the big leagues yet.
But that doesn't mean the right-hander is not making splashes. In 56 innings with Binghamton last season, Walters posted a 2.09 ERA. He allowed 46 hits, 16 walks and 60 strikeouts.
He also posted 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Walters has two good pitches, a fastball and a slider. If he sharpens up the speed on both the fastball and the slider, hitters will find themselves in a quick 0-2 hole.
The video above shows Walters using his fastball, slider and sinker in a minor league game against the Trenton Thunder.
His WHIP for the season stood at 1.107, which isn't too shabby. In terms of lowest WHIP on the team, it would actually place him right between current Mets pitchers Carlos Torres and Bobby Parnell.
What makes Walters so interesting is that he already has the potential to be a closer in the big leagues. If Parnell can't fulfill his role as the closer, Walters can do it. Walters had franchise record with 38 saves in 2013, per Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League Blog.
If he continues to do well, there is no reason why he wouldn't be on the team by summertime.
1. Vic Black
MLB Games Played: 18
Vic Black was acquired by the Mets from the Pirates on August 27 last season. Since then, he has definitely impressed both the fans and the front office.
He finished the year with 15 appearances, a 3.46 ERA, a 3-0 record, five earned runs allowed, 11 hits allowed, four walks and 12 strikeouts. Black also had a 1.15 WHIP, which was the fifth lowest for the team. For the Pirates Triple-A affiliate last season, Black pitched for a 2.51 ERA. He had 17 saves in 38 relief appearances.
For sure, he has a certain flair about him. He is aggressive and appears to be a no-nonsense type of guy on the field.
He recorded his first and only save of the season on September 24 against the Reds. The moment, a double play to end the game, was captured in the above video. Black is a favorite of both the manager and front office, and he will be the leading candidate to close if Parnell's not ready, per DiComo.
If Parnell does come back in time for the season to begin, Black is sure to become his setup man. Like all of the other young pitchers, Black has struggled with control. I mean, he does regularly throw in the upper 90s to even 100 mph at times, so control is going to be an issue.
But that can be worked on.