Jeff Walters Closing In On Mets Debut?
It’s not like he’s a kid any more. Binghamton closer Jeff Walters (pictured on the right) is 25 years old. It’s not like he’s lacking in experience. Walters pitched four years in college. In fact, starting in his senior year in high school, the B-Met closer was drafted four times, turning down four different major league offers (Giants, Nationals, Indians, Orioles) before signing with the Mets after his senior season at the University of Georgia. Binghamton is Walter’s fifth minor league stop in his climb toward a shot at making the big leagues. Jeff Walters is having a banner year as the B-Met closer. No other pitcher at any level of the minor leagues has more saves than Walters this year. Walters has made good in 33 of 35 save opportunities tied with Victor Moreno who pitches in the Triple-A Mexican League.
A live arm with a fastball that regularly touches 96 mph, an above average curveball, and a developing change-up — Walters can shut down a game. I’ve watched him throw 16 consecutive ninth inning fastballs all at 94 to 96 mph one night, then use a 73 mph breaking ball behind a 96 mph fastball the next. Walters is 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA, a 1.027 WHIP, and 9.4 K’s/9 innings — impressive stats indeed. Binghamton’s all-time single season save leader, Walters topped Jerrod Riggan who chalked up 28 ‘game-stoppers’ in 2000. With three more saves, Walters will become the B-Mets all-time save leader.
Walters seems to thrive on the pressure that comes with the 9th inning and crunch-time baseball. Earlier in the season, when I asked Wheeler how he handled the pressure that comes with entering a game in the final inning with the contest on the line he smiled broadly and said, “That’s the time to rock and roll.”
Walters’ Double-A season and the loss of closer Bobby Parnell and lefty specialist Josh Edgin from the Mets bullpen leaves you wondering if the B-Met closer should get a major league look. The Met bullpen has been brilliant as of late. A gritty LaTroy Hawkins has filled in admirably in the final frame. Yet, with no realistic chance for post season baseball would it be prudent to give Walters a look?
A good argument could be made in either direction. Walters is a pivotal part of Binghamton’s record winning season and could benefit greatly from the experience of closing in the B-Mets upcoming post season playoff push. On the other hand, it might be instructive for Walters to get his feet wet in the big leagues, particularly on a Mets team with a good clubhouse mix, a team not in a pennant chase but still playing hard, inspired and competitive baseball.
You be the judge. Would the Mets and Jeff Walters be best served with the B-Met closer continuing his 2013 stint in Binghamton or joining the major league Mets in Citi Field?
Thoughts from Joe D.
I’ve had my eyes on Jeff Walters since May and like you say, John, he is having a remarkable season and in fact a record-breaking season for the B-Mets smashing their all time single-season saves mark.
What is funny about LaTroy Hawkins, and yes he too has done well in the ninth inning role, is that I didn’t expect Hawkins to survive the trade deadline. While I did want to see Marlon Byrd stay, mostly because the Mets had no adequate replacement, we had Parnell and other worthy candidates in the minors to replace Hawkins at the time. Walters was one of those candidates.
Now that Hawkins is still here, it looks like we’ll have to wait until September 1st before we get to see Walters and possibly even Jack Leathersich as well if he can get his walk rate down.
(Photo Credit: Gordon Donovan)
About the Author: John Bernhardt
John Bernhardt is a retired public school teacher and administrator, who still coaches high school baseball. Growing up in a Yankees household, Bernhardt was an ardent Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra fan. When the Yankees fired Yogi in his first season as the Bomber manager, curiosity turned to passion when the Mets signed Berra as a player/coach and he has pulled for the Mets ever since. In retirement, John writes the sports for a local weekly, The Catskill Mountain News and hosts Tip-Off, a Friday morning sports hour, from 8:00-9:00 on WIOX, 91.3 F.M.
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