In all of the discussions about the makeup of the Mets’ bullpen, one name keeps getting left out. You would think his first name alone would keep him in the discussion, but Boof Bonser is the forgotten man in this equation. The Mets picked up Bonser on a minor league deal and he’s one of many who are vying to make the team as a reliever.
Bonser was a first-round pick of the Giants in 2000, the 21st player taken in that year’s draft. He was shipped to the Twins along with Nathan and Liriano for Pierzkynski. He’s pitched parts of four seasons in the majors but has never lived up to the expectations of being a top draft pick.
On the surface, his numbers look borderline bad, but Bonser has peripherals which suggest he is a better pitcher than his results show. Lifetime, he has a 5.18 ERA in 416.2 IP, but he has a 4.55 FIP and a 4.31 xFIP, with most of his innings coming as a starter.
Like a lot of pitchers in Mets camp, Bonser is coming off surgery. He went under the knife for labrum and rotator cuff issues in 2009. And if that wasn’t enough, he also had an injured groin which slowed him in 2010. Bonser split time between the Red Sox and A’s last year and did not impress. He lasted just two outings in Boston, where he allowed 4 R in 2 IP. In Oakland he gave up runs in five of his first nine appearances (and four of those were multi-run outings) en route to a 5.09 ERA.
On the plus side, his velocity was just as good as it ever was, as he averaged 91.6 with his fastball, just 0.2 off his career average. And his 9.4 SwStrk% was a career-high. Where Bonser got into trouble last year was with his curve ball, which had a Pitch Type Value of -4, the first time in the majors that his curve was not an above-average pitch.
Bonser pitched two scoreless innings in his first Spring Training outing with the Mets but he still faces an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster. But Bonser will be a good arm to have in the minors and is someone who will likely appear in New York at some point during the season. Last year eight pitchers who began the year in Buffalo ended up pitching for the Mets.
Finally, Boof is his real name, not a nickname. Well that’s not exactly true. He was born John Paul Bonser (it’s unclear if that’s a reference to the pontiff or the Beatles) and his childhood nickname was Boof. He grew so attached to the name that he had it legally changed to Boof in 2001.
Doug Parker may soon have to update his favorite names of Mets players list.