The Mets don’t have much money to spend, and according to reports, most of the money at GM Sandy Alderson’s disposal will go towards fixing the outfield. The team is limiting itself to one multi-year deal which, again will likely go to an outfielder. Of course, this is necessary to improve the team because frankly, the outfield is terrible and definitely the weakness of the team. However, it will force the Mets to get creative with how they go about constructing the rest of the 2013 roster. While the outfield may be the most pressing issue, the bullpen also frustrated fans all season. They will need to re-tool it, and they will have to do it without spending much money on the open market like they did last season. That brings me to an important question that’s been debated by bloggers and fans all year: should the Mets move Jeurys Familia to the bullpen?
In Buffalo, Familia had a very disappointing season, never able to reconstruct what made him so successful in 2011. He finished the year with a 9-9 record and a 4.73 ERA. He saw his walk rate balloon to an abysmal 4.8 batters per nine innings and his K/9 drop from 9.6 in 2011 to 8.4 in 2012. His strikeout to walk ratio hit a career-low of 1.75. At one point considered a top 100 prospect, Familia and the Mets are still trying to figure out what his role is.
Familia seems to fit the profile of a relief pitcher more than a starter. He was rushed up the minor league ladder thanks to an electric fastball, but he doesn’t have much else. His breaking pitch has upside, and is a pitch that, if consistent, can be an above-average pitch. His change-up, however, is far behind his other pitchers and nowhere near a major-league pitch. Without this pitch, it will be tough for Familia to remain a starter.
One thing that can be said about Familia is how dominant he can be when he’s on. One measurement of how dominant a pitcher is is how often he misses bats and Familia does that very well. In Buffalo, Familia struck out 125 batters, 101 of them on swinging strikes. That’s 80.8% of his strikeouts ending in a swinging strike. Compare that to Zack Wheeler‘s 2012 percentage of just over 75% and you see how Familia has prolific stuff. But again, going back to his repertoire, he doesn’t have the change-up that most MLB starters need to succeed. He is almost a two-pitch pitcher, making the bullpen his most likely destination.
If eased into the role, Familia could become a dominant force in the back of the Mets ‘pen. There, he will have the freedom to let loose his electric fastball and possibly develop his potentially dangerous slider. I’d like to see Familia get a few more starts in the minors before he transitions to a relief role, just to get a few more innings in for development purposes. After that, however, it seems like he could be a prolific force in the back of the Met bullpen for many years to come.