What to expect from Mets’ newest pitching additions

The unanimous feeling amongst Mets fans this offseason was that the franchise needed to acquire more arms to compete, especially with the loss of ace Johan Santana, who will most likely be out for half the year with a shoulder injury. Many Mets fans were upset that the team stood idle while divisional-rival Philadelphia snatched the biggest prize on the market in Cliff Lee.

However, new General Manager Sandy Alderson has preached financial responsibility and has mostly scoured the scrap heap to find hidden gems. So, will the addition of Chris Young, Chris Capuano, Taylor Buchholz, D.J. Carrasco, Taylor Tankersley, Pedro Beato, Mike O’Connor and Tim Byrdak turn into the Mets’ treasure, or rightfully some other team’s trash?

The Mets, while working with a tight budget, bypassed on some of the bigger free-agent arms (notably Lee) and avoided making any trades (Matt Garza, etc.) while trying to keep payroll flexible for 2012, when they can be actively aggressive. So, this ragtag collection will have to do for now.

Let’s breakdown what each can bring to the table:

Chris Young: If there is a jewel in the group it would be Young. Young has battled many injuries in his past, most recently a shoulder injury, and the former all-star will look for a new beginning in Queens. While he is losing speed off his fastball, Young is crafty and his flyball-pitching ways can lead to success at Citi Field, much like it did at Petco Park. At this point, it’s fair to expect an injury. Hopefully he can give the Mets more than 100+ innings.

Chris Capuano: Capuano is another ex-All-Star who is trying to recapture past glory. Tommy John surgery had him miss all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, in 2010, while pitching in 24 games (nine starts), Capuano had an effective run down the stretch finishing with a respectable 3.95 ERA and 1.30 WHIP to go along with 54 strikeouts in 62 innings. The cavernous gaps of Citi Field can only help him as well, as he looks like a decent replacement to fill Hisanori Takahashi’s old role.

D.J. Carrasco: The well-traveled set up man comes to the Mets after a successful season with both the Pirates and the Diamondbacks last season. Carrasco has shown the ability to pitch well against both lefties and righties, and he eats up a lot of innings too. Carrasco will compete with Bobby Parnell to be the team’s primary set-up man.

Taylor Buchholz: Buchholz is another decent low-risk/high-reward type pitcher to gamble on. Buchholz is another Tommy John survivor who could bounce back. He is not overpowering, but he once was the prominent set-up man in Colorado back in 2008. He is no lock to make the roster, but odds are he finds a spot.

Taylor Tankersley: Tankersley is a lefty-specialist who missed all of 2009 with a stress fracture in his elbow. The 2004 first round draft pick has not made good on his talent, and will have to prove something in spring training. Tankersley was only signed to a minor league deal, so the chances of him making the opening day roster looks slim at this point.

Pedro Beato: Beato, a Rule 5 Draft selection, has to make the roster or else be sent back to the Orioles. Beato is a hard throwing righty with a lot of upside. Like most of the other additions, a lot depends on how Beato does in spring training. If not for anything else, Beato is a local product out of Brooklyn.

Mike O’Connor: O’Connor is a lefty specialist without much of a ceiling. O’Connor will have to battle the likes of Tankersley and Byrdak for the role as the team’s LOOGY. O’Connor has posted mediocre numbers while pitching in the majors with Washington (5.47 ERA, 1.42 WHIP). Consider O’Connor an extreme long-shot to make the roster.

Tim Byrdak: Byrdak is the most recent signee. Byrdak is in the driver’s seat to be this year’s LOOGY. Left-handed batters hit .210 against him last year. While with the Astros last year, Byrdak had a 2-2 record with a 3.49 ERA. Byrdak has enough veteran moxie to replace Pedro Feliciano.

As it stands right now, Young and Capuano are likely to start off in the rotation, while the rest (sans Carrasco-who is a lock) will fight it out to make the bullpen. Read here to see Brian Joura’s take on how the bullpen might shake out.

While these new additions will not produce a buzz in Queens-and subsequently put butts in seats- they are projects that could turn into fools’ gold. All Alderson wanted was flexibility for next year’s payroll and he got in this group.

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.

Sizing up the Mets’ 2011 Opening Day roster

While there are several jobs up in the air, the Opening Day roster is starting to take shape for the Mets. There are 17 positions which seem set and another four which seem likely. And the remaining four are possibly already on the team, it is just a matter of which direction Terry Collins and Sandy Alderson choose to go.

The definites
Pelfrey, Dickey, Niese, Capuano, Rodriguez, Parnell, Buchholz, Carrasco, Thole, Paulino, Davis, Wright, Reyes, Hu, Bay, Beltran, Pagan

The likely
Gee, Acosta, Murphy, Evans

For lack of a better option, Dillon Gee seems to be the club’s fifth starter. There also remains the possibility he becomes a long man/swing guy if the Mets sign another starter before the start of Spring Training.

Manny Acosta had 42 strikeouts in 39.2 IP for the Mets last year and a 2.95 ERA. He is not yet eligible for arbitration and seems like a good, low-cost reliever. One thing working in his favor is his success last year versus LHB, who posted a .163/.217/.256 mark, albeit in just 46 PA.

Daniel Murphy might be the starting second baseman on Opening Day. Even if he does not win the job, his ability to play multiple positions (he played third base in the minors and left field and first base for the Mets) seems like an obvious asset, unless the Mets want him to go to the minors to concentrate on playing second on a daily basis.

Nick Evans should benefit from the shift in management, having, for whatever reason, seemingly fallen out of favor with Manuel/Minaya. Evans’ ability to play first base, along with both corner outfield spots, seems to give him a leg up. Also, being a righty bat with some sock helps Evans’ chances.

That leaves two bullpen spots, a second baseman and one other reserve position, likely an outfielder, up for grabs. It makes sense that the two Rule 5 guys – Pedro Beato and Brad Emaus – get a long look to fill a reliever spot and the second base job.

Next, the question is if the Mets hold onto Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo because of their contracts or if they are willing to eat part of all of their salaries in trades/releases. If the Mets do get rid of Perez, how important is having a lefty in the bullpen? Southpaw Mike O’Connor was unimpressive in two short stints with the Nationals, but had 70 Ks in 70.2 IP in Buffalo last year with a 2.67 ERA. Pat Misch is a lefty but has displayed little ability to be a LOOGY. But he does have the ability to pitch multiple innings as a reliever and should not be discounted.

If Emaus makes it, it seems unlikely that Castillo will also be on the team. Justin Turner probably needs Emaus to fall flat and another team to show interest in Castillo to have a shot, especially since he can be sent to the minors without risk.

That leaves the outfield. Ordinarily, Lucas Duda would be an asset as a power lefty bat off the bench, but he is likely better served to get regular ABs in Triple-A. Plus, he looked stretched as a left fielder and the Mets probably want this reserve to be a good defensive outfielder. Jason Pridie could fill the bill, although there is a chance the Mets bring in a veteran who is willing to sign on the cheap. Recently, MLB Trade Rumors indicated Scott Podsednik might be an option here.

My guess is that both Rule 5 guys make the roster and both salary guys are elsewhere. O’Connor gets the other relief spot and Pridie is the final guy for Opening Day. If this is indeed the Opening Day roster, their will be just six players returning from the 2010 Opening Day roster (Niese, Pelfrey, Rodriguez, Wright, Bay and Pagan). There were 11 returnees on the 2010 roster and 13 on the 2009 Opening Day one.