The New York Mets made some major acquisitions this offseason, and so far the signings have been both up and down.
It is still early in the season, so these grades are largely meaningless. They’re the equivalent of a pop quiz during the second week of school to see if the students have been paying attention.
Regardless, fans want to see results immediately, so there are always high expectations for newly acquired players.
Whether the performances so far are ridiculously good or very disappointing, the odds are that they will eventually level off.
The sample size for every player discussed in this article is small, but it is especially small for the relievers on this list, and their grades are subject to even greater change as the season progresses.
While these grades are largely based on numbers, I’m also taking into account other factors like luck (hard-hit outs) and expectations for each player.
So it's time to put on my professor’s cap and give grades to the Mets’ offseason acquisitions through the first week-and-a-half of the season.
Bartolo Colon: A
Beyond being entertaining to watch purely from an aesthetic standpoint, Bartolo Colon was outstanding in his first two starts of the season.
In his first start against the Washington Nationals, Colon’s final line was rather average, but not indicative of his overall performance.
Colon mowed down the Nationals through the first four innings outside of back-to-back doubles in the third. He then left the ball up and over the plate twice in the fifth, and both pitches were hit for home runs. He finished the sixth strong, but the few big hits hurt his final line.
The hefty right-hander limited his mistakes on Tuesday night against the defending National League East champion Atlanta Braves, putting forth an exceptional outing.
Colon pounded the zone with fastballs all night, effectively working both sides of the plate with good two-seam action. Outside of a double to Freddie Freeman, he didn’t give up any hard contact, and he gave up just six hits while striking out five in seven innings.
In the seventh inning, Colon got into a jam following a two-out single and an error by Ruben Tejada, but as the Daily News’ John Harper tweeted, Colon is no ordinary pitcher:
No other pitcher in BB quite like Colon. In 7th inning jam, he throws 3 straight 93 mph fbs to Heyward. Hadn't thrown 93 all night.— John Harper (@NYDNHarper) April 9, 2014
Colon has been amazing, and so far all signs point to his fastball-heavy pitching approach being successful in the National League as well.
While Curtis Granderson's performance has not been ideal, there have been some positive signs.
Through 26 at-bats in 2014, Granderson has yet to hit a single. While he shouldn’t be expected to have a high batting average, this is somewhat concerning.
Despite Granderson’s low batting average, he has exhibited some of the extra-base power that led the Mets to sign him to a four-year deal. He has ripped three doubles to go along with a huge go-ahead home run in the season’s early stages.
One of the major concerns about Granderson after he signed with the Mets was whether his power would translate from the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium to the power-zapping Citi Field. So far he has only added to the concern.
Granderson’s spray chart below (which only includes information through Sunday) tells a lot about his early-season struggles.
Outside of his home run, which would have left every stadium in the majors, he hit three balls in the right-center field gap that may have been home runs in Yankee Stadium, as well as many other ballparks.
The chart also indicates a disturbing trend. The only three balls Granderson has hit on the ground were pulled to the right side, and he also has had five flyouts or lineouts in shallow center field. Together these display how he has been trying to pull the ball, but pounding it into the ground. For the most part he is getting under the ball and not hitting it hard.
If Granderson is going to strike out as much as he has been (eight times thus far), he will need to do a better job driving the ball when he does make contact.
The Mets knew they weren’t getting a singles hitter when they signed Granderson, and he has exhibited some of his impact power. Still, his start carries some concerns, and watching how he works on driving the ball will be interesting in the coming weeks.
Jose Valverde: A
Jose Valverde signed with the Mets late in the offseason as a low-risk veteran with a chance at making the roster. So far this season, the Mets could not have asked for more from the fiery right-hander.
The Mets bullpen has been the team’s biggest question mark, yet Valverde has been a stabilizing presence. Granted he has pitched just 4.1 innings this year, Valverde has given up only four hits while walking one, allowing zero runs in the process.
The only reason Valverde’s grade isn’t higher is because of his appearance Tuesday night in Atlanta. While he didn’t give up a run, he exhibited vulnerability that wasn’t visible in his prior outings in the shot that was feet away from being a game-tying grand slam
The best part of Valverde’s hot start has been the fact that it was so unexpected, as many viewed him as washed up.
His start has also coincided with the news that closer Bobby Parnell will miss the season due to Tommy John surgery. Valverde has given the organization hope that they have a viable replacement for their closer.
While Valverde has had dominant seasons in the past, fans should expect him to regress to the mean. He is throwing nearly exclusively fastballs that have caused hitters problems, but is maxing out around 92 to 93 miles per hour. The National League will likely figure out this approach at some point, but he could still be an effective reliever.
Even though Valverde likely will not keep up this pace, his start to the season could not have gone any better.
Kyle Farnsworth: A-
Like Valverde, the Mets picked up Kyle Farnsworth with low expectations, but so far he has been a bright spot in a gloomy bullpen.
In 4.1 innings, Farnsworth has a 2.08 ERA and has rarely labored. He has worked efficiently and effectively, walking just one batter so far.
The veteran righty didn’t even make the Mets Opening Day roster, but after Parnell went down, Farnsworth jumped on the presented opportunity.
After struggling during spring training, fans should expect Farnsworth to regress significantly. However, his velocity has improved since then, which is a great sign that he can continue to be a solid reliever the rest of the season.
John Lannan: F
While there is plenty of time for John Lannan to turn around his season, he could not have started any worse.
It’s hard to give an F to a pitcher signed to a minor-league deal when he has thrown just one inning in two games, but a 36.00 ERA makes that possible.
In his one inning, Lannan gave up two home runs, and his stuff did not improve as it sometimes does for pitchers transitioning from starters to relievers.
Lannan makes sense moving forward for the Mets as a lefty out of the bullpen, but he is an atypical lefty.
Over the course of Lannan’s career, left-handed hitters have hit just .010 lower than righties against him, and have actually slugged better than right-handers. Because of the lack of difference in his pitching splits, there are fair concerns about how he translates as a relief pitcher.
Hopefully Lannan turns it around, as the Mets are starved for bullpen options. The beginning of his season is such a small sample that it is absolutely possible to project his season, but there are still reasons to be concerned outside of the poor start.
All statistics courtesy Baseball Reference.