One of my beliefs is that the farm system should be able to create major league relievers from minor league starters, something which seems like it doesn’t happen enough for my tastes. But it’s one thing to have a thought on how things should be; it’s another thing for that thought to be grounded in reality. So, let’s look at MLB relievers and see how many of them were starters in the minors.

It’s tougher to examine this than it might appear at first. A bunch of pitchers make it to the majors as a reliever. But we’re not really interested in a guy who comes up and appears in a dozen or so games. Rather, we want someone who’s a multiple-year contributor. So, our sample is MLB relievers from the 2021-23 seasons, ones who amassed at least 120 IP out of the pen.

And this gives us a healthy sample of 144 pitchers. But while we were able to search for guys who amassed 120 innings in relief, that doesn’t mean these are exclusively relievers. To cite just one example, Ryan Yarbrough has 39 starts and 36 relief appearances in the majors the past three seasons. But with 121.1 IP out of the pen, he meets our minimum requirement.

And it’s at least as tricky to establish how many starts in the minors would qualify a guy as a starter. Initially, my thought was that if a player had 40 starts in the minors, he’d have spent the better parts of two seasons as a starter, which somehow feels significant. Ultimately, the choice was made to just see how many starts all 144 of our relievers made in the minors, leaving it up to you to make the determination. Here’s how it shook out:

25 – 100 or more starts
23 – Between 80-99 starts
15 – Between 60-79 starts
21 – Between 40-59 starts
13 – Between 20-39 starts
11 – Between 10-19 starts
36 – Between 0-9 starts

That works out to exactly 25% of our sample that had fewer than 10 starts in the minors. But even this is not straightforward. Raisel Iglesias made eight starts in the minors. Yet, he only appeared in nine games before making the majors. So, while he’s nowhere near my original thought of 40 starts, what little time he spent in the minors was as a SP.

At the end of the day, there’s no perfect number to use. And at the very least, we have ballpark numbers that 75% of the sample made at least 10 starts in the minors and 58% (84) made at least 40 starts. Lastly, 20 of our pool of 144 relievers made one or no starts in the minors. That’s a shade under 14% of pitchers to amass at least 120 relief innings the past three years to be almost exclusively relievers in the minors.

That last figure is something to keep in mind when thinking about the MLB chances of Paul Gervase (0 starts) and Nate Lavender (1 start) – two relievers in the Mets’ organization who’ve had good results.

It’s a little unwieldy to list here all of the relievers in the sample. If you want to see them, make a request in the comments section to receive an email with the names. But let’s break down a couple of subsections from our sample of 144, based on Mets-related ties:

Drafted/signed by the Mets: Nabil Crismatt, Michael Fulmer, Collin McHugh, Rafael Montero, Paul Sewald
Pitched for Mets: Phil Bickford, Miguel Castro, Edwin Diaz, Jake Diekman (soon!), Brad Hand, Dominic Leone, Aaron Loup, Trevor May, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, David Robertson, Dennis Santana, Chasen Shreve.

Of the five pitchers from our sample to be developed by the Mets, four had at least 81 starts in the minors, with only Sewald having a minimal number of starts with one. All five left the organization before finding success as a relief pitcher elsewhere. So, the problem is not that the Mets’ farm system isn’t producing relievers from minor league starters – it’s that they give up on them or trade them away before it happens.

Now, let’s take this knowledge and use it with the current starting pitchers in the Mets’ organization who’ve made it to Double-A and have received some buzz for being MLB-caliber pitchers. Following their names will be two numbers, the first the number of games they’ve pitched in leagues in this country and the second being their starts:

Dominic Hamel – 53, 51
Christian Scott – 40, 28
Tyler Stuart – 24, 23
Joander Suarez – 51, 41
Blade Tidwell – 30, 30
Mike Vasil – 47, 46

It would be great if all six of these pitchers made it as starters. But we know that’s not likely to happen. But the good thing is that they’ve all received significant time in the minors as SP, which could help them make it as relievers down the road.

Now for the crystal ball time. Which of the above six pitchers will make it as starters and which will make the switch to the pen? My guess is that Tidwell and Suarez will be starters, with Hamel, Scott and Stuart ultimately being relievers in the majors. The wild card will be Vasil, with the unknown of to what degree the changes identified by the pitching lab end up helping him.

8 comments on “Tyler Stuart and making major league relievers out of minor league starters

  • TexasGusCC

    I believe Stuart and Suarez will be the relievers, but that’s not the matter. I understand that teams want their more talented pitchers being starters for as long as possible, or at least in the low minors, to gain the most pitching experience. A reliever will warm up and then pitch according to the flow of the game. A starter will be left out there to work through jams and stress. Another thing about relievers that at least had starting experience is that they also have the most pressure of not having the safety net an airman reliever has. I equate that to a doctor during residency has to work forty hour shifts to learn to focus while mentally tired.

  • NYM6986

    From your basic premise, it seems reasonable that there are starters in the minors who should be able to be converted into relievers ho could throw an inning to plug the 5th, 6th and 7th innings as needed. It also might be their quickest route up to the big club. Despite his desire to start, Seth Lugo was trapped as a reliever because that’s where the need was. Last year I believe he showed that the Mets blew it by not returning him to the starting rotation when the sorely needed another starter. Hoping under Stearns that they are better able to evaluate talent and that some of the several arms he has brought in to vie for a pen spot, can bring some success to the team. Sometimes a change of scenery and a new coach can make a huge difference for a player. At least that is the hope for Severino, Manaea and Houser.

    • Brian Joura

      Lugo’s season as a SP last year certainly justified this article written before the 2020 season where I said that Lugo’s results as a SP in 2019 were not any reason to keep him from being used that way in the future.

      Seth Lugo and his trouble early in games

      As for change of scenery/new coach making a difference, I’m not sure how that should apply to Houser and Manaea. The former is who/what he is and the latter already made the change with adding a sweeper once he got busted to the pen last year. Maybe the Mets can do something with Severino, especially if tipping pitches was his primary problem. Then we just have to hope that the pitcher with a glass body can stay healthy.

  • Dan Capwell

    For me the biggest example in recent Mets history is Jason Isringhausen. After a made-for-TV-movie start to his big-league career in New York, he was dealt at the 1999 trade deadline for Billy Taylor.

    He went on to three great years in Oakland with 75 saves, a 1.2 WHiP , and some other good to great peripherals. He then spent 7 years as a Cardinal and was at times the most dominant closer in the game. He did have that nostalgia encore for the Mets, but his career was essentially over by then (2011).

    If even one of the Scott-Tidwell-Vasil-Stuart-Hamel quintets turns into a modern-day Izzy, one that the Mets manage not to trade away, we can count it as a farm system win.

  • Brian Joura

    Izzy’s a great example. And from our guys in the three-year sample used in this piece, Josh Hader made 95 starts in the minors and Brad Hand made 132 starts. Those two have combined for 297 saves in the majors.

    • Dan Capwell

      I was open to a reunion with Hand, but Diekman looks like a decent pick-up.

      The Mets bullpen doesn’t really concern me too much. I think between the return of Diaz, the additions of Diekman, Tonkin (an underrated signing) and perhaps Lopez, that the pen will be OK.

      More worried about the rotation. Severino had one good year in the last five. I have concerns about Houser’s durability. Hopefully this talk about Megill’s new pitch is more than Hot Stove nonsense. I see them needing he, Butto, and Joey Lu before the ASB. They shouldn’t rush any of “the kids” at least until they are out of it.

      And how about hitting Alonso second to lengthen the line up? Nimmo-Pete-Lindor-Alvarez-McNeil-Vientos-Marte-Baty-Bader.

  • JTOB

    Starting pitchers usually need three strong pitches, but relievers often need only two. I this is correct, then how does the number of solid pitches each of the six Mets prospects have predict their eventual role?

    • Brian Joura

      Various scouting outlets will agree on velocity but will frequently differ on the quality – and even the type – of offspeed pitches a prospect throws. Here’s the link to’s list of Mets prospects. When you click on the name, you can get scouting reports. This is not a blanket endorsement of their scouting takes, and certainly not of their prospect order. Just a free site that goes into solid detail of what they think.

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