Sandy Alderson did a decent job this offseason making upgrades that will hopefully make the Mets more competitive, if not this year then next year. Alderson addressed the outfield situation with the signings of Chris Young and Curtis Granderson. Alderson added an arm in Bartolo Colon to hold down a spot in the rotation until Matt Harvey is ready to come back. For the most part, people would agree that these signings improved the team. There are still some obvious problems with the Mets. They’re probably going to need to find some sort of long-term shortstop solution, and the logjam at first base still prevails. However, one issue that has been neglected is the bullpen.
Alderson made some attempts to add some depth to the bullpen with the signings of Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth. However, those two signings come with a lot of uncertainty. Both Valverde and Farnsworth are older guys, who have struggled in recent seasons, and have had declining velocity. When you sign cheap guys there’s always upside, but more often than not the upside isn’t achieved — not to mention that neither Farnsworth nor Valverde is impressing scouts in spring training. Farnsworth was struggling to hit 90 MPH on the gun in a spring training game against the Marlins.
The free agents that Alderson brought in don’t look to be the solution to the Mets’ bullpen woes. However, the Mets still have some internal options. According to ESPN New York, Cory Mazzoni will be given a chance to compete for a spot in the bullpen. Mazzoni is interesting. Throughout his minor-league career, he has been considered a starting pitching prospect, as he made only one appearance as reliever last year in AA Binghamton.
There is always a little concern when you take a prospect who was thought of as a potential starter, and use him as a reliever at the major-league level. It could turn out that a team may actually hinder the development of a pitcher in doing this. The Mets learned this the hard way with Jenrry Mejia, when he pitched 39 innings in the majors as reliever when he was only 20 years old and had not spent considerable time at the Triple-A level.
Then again, Mazzoni isn’t considered to be in the same class of pitching prospects as Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz. In 2013, he was ranked between Jacob deGrom and Gavin Cecchini on Marc Hulet’s top Mets’ prospects list. In 2014, he was left off Hulet’s list altogether. Obviously Mazzoni hasn’t really progressed the way scouts have wanted him to as a starter. Mazzoni may not develop into a major-league start, but he definitely has some qualities that would make him a good reliever.
Mazzoni has velocity. When I saw him in spring training he was hitting 93 MPH on the gun, and scouts say he can reach 95 MPH. Mazzoni is also known to have good control as he has had a K/BB above 3.00 in each level of the minor leagues, but this is also a problem because he is known to throw too close to the heart of the plate to challenge hitters. Aside from being overly aggressive, Mazzoni has a lot of tools that would make him a good reliever; he has some velocity on his fastball, and he can throw strikes.
While the Mets’ bullpen looks concerning, with guys like Farnsworth and Valverde struggling, it’s important to realize that there are other options the Mets have other than the guys they signed from free-agency. Spring training is the time where managers get creative ideas, and Terry Collins is going to see a lot of pitchers. Hopefully Collins’ can find an internal solution, and maybe that internal solution will be Mazzoni.
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