The Mets’ bullpen in 2017 was a disaster. From the Jeurys Familia suspension & injury to the Fernando Salas implosion from overuse to the homer happy ways of Hansel Robles there was a lot of disappointment from the team’s relievers. So, when the Mets traded away impending free agents in July and August, they prioritized hard-throwing righty relievers. Well, they prioritized getting cash and the righty relievers were the best they could get to go along with those dollars.
Here in 2018, the Mets’ pen started out great. But babying the starters along with a stretch of 18 games in 17 days and some curious managerial decisions has left the pen in tatters once again. But this time, the Mets had those righty relievers to fall back on, right? Let’s see how the collection of bullpen arms acquired in 2017 have performed this year. Two of them have seen time in the majors so we’ll start with those and then do the others in alphabetical order. The number in parenthesis is their current age.
Gerson Bautista (23) is probably the hardest thrower of the bunch, hitting triple digits on the radar gun. He’s appeared in five games in the majors and has allowed 6 ER in 4.1 IP for a 12.46 ERA. The concern about Bautista was his penchant for walks. However, he only allowed 3 BB in 14.1 IP after being acquired by the Mets last year. But he’s allowed 4 in 10.1 IP in Triple-A and 5 in 4.1 IP in the majors. It’s hard to give up on a guy who throws 100 mph. But maybe he should be in Double-A trying to work on these command/control issues.
Jacob Rhame (25) has appeared in 11 games with the Mets and has a 6.35 ERA in that span. It looked like maybe he was turning into a useful option but he’s given up 5 ER in his last three outings, covering 3.1 IP. That led him to being sent back to the minors. Rhame’s average fastball velocity has been 95.9 so far this year in the majors and he’s done okay when he throws his heater. But his offspeed pitches aren’t fooling anyone, a continuation of what he showed in his cup of coffee in the majors last year.
Jamie Callahan (23) was thought to be the most major league ready guy among the seven relievers that they acquired in these selloffs. He appeared in nine games last year and held his own, with a 4.05 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. Callahan started this year in Triple-A, where in seven games he has a 9.72 ERA and a 2.160 WHIP. He’s been sidelined since April 21 with an undisclosed injury.
Eric Hanhold (24) was a starter until last year, when he was moved to the bullpen during his second season in Hi-A. He’s in Double-A this year and having a strong season, with a 2.84 ERA and a 1.184 WHIP. He’s got 32 Ks in 25.2 IP, thanks to an upper 90s fastball that he complements with a hard slider. With a 3.2 BB/9, you’d like to see fewer walks but he’s probably better suited to be in the majors right now than Bautista.
Stephen Nogosek (23) got hit hard after being acquired by the Mets last season, so he’s back for another stint in Hi-A. He’s doing quite well this year (2.61 ERA, 0.871 WHIP) and he can get the call to Binghamton when the Mets call up Hanhold. He doesn’t throw quite as hard as the others but he has a deeper repertoire and his slider is considered a good pitch. Walks are a concern here, too.
Ryder Ryan (23) is a converted infielder so he doesn’t have a ton of pitching experience. He started this year as Nogosek’s teammate in Hi-A but just got the call to Binghamton. Stop if you’ve heard this one before but Ryan throws 97 and also has a slider. He seems to have better control than guys who’ve been pitching much longer. He allowed an unearned run in his first appearance in Double-A.
Drew Smith (24) complements his heater with a curve. There are concerns about his 97 mph fastball not having enough movement so he’ll need to be consistent with the curve if he hopes to succeed in the majors. Smith is doing well in Triple-A, albeit with a 4.5 BB/9. His control has been better in most of his previous stops in the minors and given that the Mets are his third organization since he was drafted in 2015, he’s seen a few stops along the way.
Can any of these guys be useful options in the pen? And if so, can any of them be counted on this year with the Mets? Your guess is as good as mine but the two we’ve seen so far don’t inspire a ton of confidence. But let’s not pretend Buddy Baumann or Scott Copeland were wowing us, either. Tim Peterson has battled but with a 5.66 FIP, let’s not get our hopes up too high.
The best hope for the Mets’ bullpen this year is the return of Seth Lugo and Anthony Swarzak. Lugo had what appears to be a one-start shot in the rotation and Swarzak has missed most of the year with an oblique injury. But if those two combine with Familia and Robert Gsellman to give the club four solid relievers, the hope is the manager can figure out how to better use his entire staff going forward.
Post Script: Hanhold pitched for Las Vegas last night. He put up two scoreless innings with three strikeouts. He did not allow a run or a walk.