With Tuesday’s news that Frank Francisco was being shut down due to elbow inflammation, and Parnell was in line to be the Mets new closer, I began to think about some other possible closer options.
Mets fans know Jeurys Familia from being ranked on the teams list of top prospects for the past few seasons. The Dominican Republic native started last season at Triple-A as a starting pitcher, but finished in the Majors as a reliever. This season Sandy Alderson has already made it clear that the righty will strictly be a reliever, but as of right now his role is not yet defined. He still has to earn a spot on the roster, which he could do out of camp. If he doesn’t not earn a spot out of the gate, he will likely be one of the fist players called up to fill a need in the pen.
So, with that said, does Familia have the potential to be a quality late-inning reliever for the Mets this season, and possibly earn himself some save chances?
Armed with an impressive heater in the mid-90’s and the potential to miss bats consistently, Familia has been rated on the Mets list of top 10 prospects each of the past two seasons. Throughout that time he has pitched primarily as a starting pitcher, but has been a bit inconsistent from year to year. The youngster’s numbers were very impressive at the lower levels of the Mets system, but struggled a bit during 2012 while in Triple-A.
He has two “plus” pitches, with his fastball being his best pitch, followed by his impressive sharp breaking slider. His lack of a consistent third pitch has many scouts thinking he is much better suited to be a reliever in the Majors. The fact that he has two pitches of such quality begs the question, is Familia closer material? Can he be the Mets closer of the future?
Frank Francisco struggled mightily as the Mets closer last season, and while he has closed games at times during his career, he has not been very consistent in doing so. Brandon Lyon is kind of in the same boat as Francisco. He has closed games during his career, and been decent doing so at times, but he has primarily pitched in the 7th and 8th innings. Neither closer candidate is a shoe-in to nail down the job, and whichever player wins the job out of camp could lose it at any time.
Bobby Parnell appears to be the first choice with Francisco out, but Mets fans have seen him fail one to many times closing games. I just don’t believe he has the stomach to nail down a save in a big spot, despite his strong showing down the stretch in 2012 where he held opponents to a .196 batting average over 17 appearances.
Here’s a quick look at the three candidates success rates as closers.
- Brandon Lyon: 79 saves vs 31 blown saves – 72 percent
- Frank Francisco: 72 saves vs 24 blown saves – 75 percent
- Bobby Parnell: 14 saves vs 19 blown saves – 42 percent
The 6’4 right-hander should get a shot to pitch in the Mets bullpen at some point in 2013. He will most likely be spending time pitching in the 6th and 7th innings early on, but that may change as the season moves along. He could move up in the ranks for various reasons.
- Injuries to other key bullpen members (Parnell, Lyon, Francisco)
- Poor performance by key bullpen members
- Familia out-pitching other relievers in key bullpen roles
I believe Familia will get a chance to close some games in 2013 for more than just the reasons I stated above. Both Brandon Lyon and Frank Francisco are set to become free agents at the end of the season. At that time, Alderson will be looking to find a closer for the future when the team may be closer to contending. I’m sure he would love to have that closer come from within the organization, so that he does not have to go into the free agent or trade market and overpay to acquire one.
Familia, 23, has great control with his fastball, throws it consistently in the mid-90’s, and has the ability to crank it up to the upper 90’s when needed. He has an impressive slider and the ability to strikeout batters, which is a must late in games. His electric stuff is what has me thinking he may have a future in closing games in Flushing, something the Mets are going to need following this upcoming season.