Manny Acosta and the bullpen competition

After a flurry of moves in the past 10 days, the Mets seem set with the people they will bring to Spring Training to compete for jobs. There should be plenty of competition for a slot in the bullpen, as there should be no fewer than nine relievers vying for the final four spots. Earlier in the offseason, I thought Manny Acosta was likely to wind up with a place on the Opening Day roster. Let’s see if that’s still the case.

First, we know that three spots in the bullpen are set with Francisco Rodriguez, Bobby Parnell and D.J. Carrasco. All three of those are righties, so it is a reasonable guess to assume that the Mets would prefer one of the final four spots to be filled by a lefty. Here are the nine main contenders for the bullpen jobs, along with some stats from 2010. I used major league data whenever possible.

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Name L/R Avg FB SwStr% K/9 K/BB
Manny Acosta Right 94.1 9.6 9.53 2.33
Pedro Beato Right low 90s Unknown 7.54 2.63
Taylor Buchholz Right 89.0 10.2 6.75 1.50
Tim Byrdak Left 88.9 9.8 6.75 1.45
Dillon Gee Right 89.1 7.9 4.64 1.13
Pat Misch Left 85.7 7.7 5.5 5.75
Mike O’Connor Left 85.0 7.0 8.92 4.12
Oliver Perez Left 88.0 7.1 7.19 0.88
Taylor Tankersley Left 87.4 8.2 5.25 1.0

Acosta’s advantages are that he throws the hardest of our remaining candidates. He has the top fastball velocity and the most strikeouts. Acosta also is among the leaders in Swinging Strike percentage and K/BB. And while he is a righty, Acosta limited lefties to a .473 OPS last year.

Beato’s numbers are from Double-A, with an approximation on his fastball velocity. When he was in junior college, Beato regularly threw in the 90s and could dial it up to 96. His velocity had dropped his first few years in the minors, but reports had him throwing harder last year, his first in the bullpen. A Rule 5 selection, Beato has to make the Opening Day roster or be offered back to the Orioles.

Buchholz is not overpowering but he gets a lot of swings out of the strike zone, plus swings and misses, thanks to his curve ball and changeup. The Mets gave Buchholz a major league deal, one that includes a $400,000 bonus if he makes the Opening Day roster and is not on the DL.

Byrdak has not officially signed but I included his numbers here, anyway. If the Mets agree to terms with the 37-year old, he is more of a traditional LOOGY, a guy to bring on to face a tough lefty and get him out of the game if a righty steps into the box. In his nine-year career in the majors, Byrdak has limited lefties to a .677 OPS but righties smack him around to an .886 tune.

Gee is still in the mix for a starting job, but with the signing of Young, his best bet to make the team is probably as a reliever. Without having to pace himself, he probably could throw a little bit harder than the numbers above show, which are limited to his time in the majors last year.

Misch is in the same boat as Gee, perhaps slightly better situated because he throws lefty and is out of options. While he is a southpaw, Misch enjoys no platoon advantage, as lefties in the majors have an .804 OPS against him, compared to a .768 mark for righties.

O’Connor pitched very well at Buffalo last year. The K/9 and K/BB numbers above were taken from his time in Triple-A in 2010. The other numbers were from his major league trial with the Nationals in 2008 and probably are not a good reflection of his current talent level. O’Connor is now a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but is a good bet to make it to the majors during the 2011 season.

Perez comes to camp with a chance to win a spot in the bullpen but virtually no one expects him to be with the club when it begins the regular season.

Tankersley is signed to a minor league deal but the lefty has a good shot to make the team. Tankersley is recovering from elbow surgery which kept him out of baseball during the 2009 season. Last year in Triple-A, he limited lefties to a .118 AVG and when he was promoted to the Marlins, LHB had a .200/.286/.433 line in 35 PA.

We know that Spring Training stats are meaningless but the Mets will probably make some bullpen decisions this year based on what the above pitchers do in Florida. Acosta and Misch are out of options, Beato is a Rule 5 guy and Buchholz gets extra money if he makes the team. I still like Acosta to make the team, but a strong Spring showing would certainly help his cause.

3 comments for “Manny Acosta and the bullpen competition

  1. 86mets
    January 20, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Here’s my idea on how the bullpen could shape up:

    First, the obvious: CL-F. Rodriguez; SU-B. Parnell; SU-D. Carrasco

    The Rest of the Pen: Middle-T. Bucholz; Middle-M.Acosta; LOOGY-Byrdak (if he signs)
    Long Relief-P. Misch

    I think Bucholz makes the team since his contract is a ML deal. Acosta and Misch are out of options and I doubt either passes through waivers unclaimed, especially Acosta. As for the LH specialist, Tankersley has a lot of potential but is coming off some injuries and has some command problems so Byrdak may be more attractive to the Mets in the short term while “Tank” works on his command issues in Buffalo. Although I am not particularly fond of Pat Misch, I do think as a long man he could be useful for a couple of reasons. One, he’s left handed and could be used against some of the tougher LH hitters in this division. Secondly, he provides the Mets with an emergency starter should the need arise and can work multiple innings out of the pen if needed as well. I would like to see what Beato could do, but I think he probably gets squeezed out of the picture. Maybe the Mets and Orioles could work out a trade where the Mets could keep Beato and allow him to develop at Buffalo.

    • Brian Joura
      January 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      I could definitely see those guys you mentioned being the bullpen on Opening Day.

      I think the LOOGY will end up being whoever pitches best among the LHP guys in ST. I don’t think Buchholz is guaranteed a spot. While he does have a major league contract, the bonus he gets if he makes the roster is essentially the minimum wage salary. So it doesn’t cost the Mets any more to keep, say, Dillon Gee instead of Buchholz.

      And Misch is not a guy to keep because he’s lefty, because he doesn’t really perform that well versus LHB. Being able to pitch as both a SP and RP is probably his biggest asset right now. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over losing Misch and I’d rather keep Beato because I think he (potentially) has more long-term value to the club.

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