Top 10 Candidates For New York Mets Bullpen
After the horrendous season the New York Mets got out of its relievers a year ago, one of the biggest tasks for general manager Sandy Alderson this past offseason was to once again rebuild the bullpen. Instead of being aggressive and signing high-priced free agents the way he did last year, Alderson was patient and let the market come to him. The result was a lot of veterans signed to low-risk contracts, many of them on minor league contracts.
What Alderson has done with this method is created a lot of competition during spring training for the empty spots in the bullpen, and not just with young players trying to solidify spots in the major leagues, but also with proven veterans that have spent many years in the majors. The hope is that by stockpiling options in the bullpen, everybody will be forced to bring their best effort to spring training, and ultimately give the Mets a competent bullpen, something they haven’t had in quite a few years.
Of course, a few spots in the bullpen are already spoken for. If Frank Francisco is healthy, which is a big if at this point, he will have a spot guaranteed to him. Bobby Parnell and free-agent signee Brandon Lyon will also be pitching at the back-end of the bullpen. Josh Edgin will be the Mets primary lefty specialist this year, earning that right after his performance last season. However, that leaves three, and possibly four, openings in the Mets bullpen, and an almost endless list of possibilities to fill those spots. Here are the top 10 options the Mets have to fill those spots in the bullpen:
Ramirez made his big league debut last year, and while he may be a long shot to make the team out of spring, he has the velocity to contribute to the Mets bullpen at some point this year. Other youngsters the Mets have that stand little chance of making the opening day roster, but could see time in the Mets bullpen at some point this year are Gonzalez Germen, Darin Gorski, Collin McHugh, and Cory Mazzoni.
Rice is a minor-league veteran that could become a contender to be the Mets second lefty. At 6’6’’, Rice is a big guy that’s always had good potential, and if things break well for him this spring, he’ll be in the conversation for a bullpen spot.
Laffey has been around the majors a while, but has struggled to find a permanent home. Still, he could play the role of the long man or the second lefty in the bullpen, which could give the Mets some flexibility.
The Mets are going to give Familia a good look this spring after he got a September call up last year. If he doesn’t earn a spot over the veteran options the Mets have they won’t rush him to the big leagues, but he has swing-and-miss stuff and could one day be a late-inning reliever. Of course, whether he’s ready for that or not remains to be seen.
Hefner is a bit of a forgotten man in camp this year, but he was a nice addition to the Mets pitching staff last year, and should contribute again this year. He could be sent to AAA to work as a starter, but Hefner could also be the best candidate the Mets have to be the long man in the bullpen and make spot starts occasionally.
Carson made his big-league debut last year and ended the season at the major league level, which means he will be in the thick of the race to be the Mets second lefty this year. He could certainly benefit from some additional time in the minors, but if he outperforms the veterans in camp, the Mets won’t hesitate to put Carson on the opening day roster.
After two years on the sidelines, but on the New York Yankees payroll, Feliciano is back with the Mets. Unfortunately, a heart condition discovered during his pre-spring physical will keep him on the sidelines for at least a couple of weeks. If he’s cleared to play and can prove his arm still works, he should be the favorite to be the Mets second lefty specialist.
Atchison was a real good pick up for the Mets this offseason after he was non-tendered by the Boston Red Sox. In over 50 innings of work last year he had a 1.58 ERA, but he also missed a big chunk of the season due to an elbow injury. If healthy, Atchison could be a real asset to the Mets this year.
Hawkins is an old a veteran that has logged over 1,300 major league innings. He’s doing his best to hold off his retirement so his motivation to perform should be high, and if he’s got anything left in the tank he’s got a chance to make the team and give the Mets a solid option in middle relief.
Burke has a big advantage over most of the other guys on this list in that he’s already on the 40-man roster. He has made the transition from being a traditional pitcher to having a side-arm delivery, which should also give him a leg up on his competition. Burke’s unique delivery could give the Mets bullpen a nice change of pace, and as long as he has a solid spring, he’s a good bet to make the team.