For the past few seasons, the Mets bullpen has been a major weakness. They have consistently ranked among the league’s worst, and they did not perform much better this season. In 2013, the Mets bullpen finished in the bottom ten in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts. Despite these struggles, the relief corps can become a strength in the future. The Mets have many talented relief prospects who have the ability to become successful at the major league level. Here are my top five:
#5: Beck Wheeler
Beck Wheeler was absolutely dominant for Low-A Savannah in 2013. His ERA settled in at 2.32, and his WHIP was a dazzling 0.93. He also struck out 74 batters in just 50 innings pitched. While the 24-year-old is an older prospect for his level, his age is deceiving. He’s still an inexperienced pitcher because he did not start his time on the rubber until his senior year of college. He still has a lot to prove moving forward, but he has potential to be a fast riser in the Mets’ system.
#4: Bret Mitchell
After missing the entire 2012 season due to hip surgery, Bret Mitchell was fabulous in 2013. He posted a 2.35 ERA with a 0.97 WHIP in 30 innings first half innings with Savannah, and he was selected to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Mitchell was rewarded for his strong showing and got promoted to St. Lucie, where he continued his success. Mitchell’s ERA against Florida State League competition stands at 1.76, striking out 34 in 30 innings. Although there are many reasons to like Mitchell, there are also some concerns. He walked 6.5 batters per 9 innings with St. Lucie, and he has yet to pitch above High-A.
#3: Adam Kolarek
Adam Kolarek, the Mets’ 11th round pick in the 2010 draft, was one of the key pieces in Binghamton’s fabulous bullpen this year. He owned a 1.71 ERA and 1.09 WHIP through 63 innings of work, striking out 63 batters. The 6’3”, 215-pound lefty has a low 90’s fastball, and has been solid throughout his professional career. For the past three seasons, he’s owned a sub-3.00 ERA. If Kolarek can continue his success in 2014 with AAA Las Vegas, he could be a factor in the big league bullpen next season.
#2: Jack Leathersich
Jack Leathersich has shown tremendous promise ever since the Mets drafted him in the fifth round in 2011. His career minor league ERA is 3.46, and he has struck out 241 batters in only 143 innings. In 2013, Leathersich could not have started his season any better. His ERA was a brilliant 1.53, while striking out 16.9 batters per 9 innings with AA Binghamton. Leathersich’s terrific first half with the B-Mets earned him a promotion to Las Vegas, but he encountered a rough patch. The hard-throwing lefty posted an awful 7.76 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP in 29 innings pitched for Las Vegas. He struggled the most with his control, walking 9 batters per 9 innings. While his second half for Las Vegas was discouraging, I expect him to rebound next season. Leathersich is a deceptive southpaw, and he has an explosive fastball with good movement.
#1: Jeff Walters
Jeff Walters wasn’t on many people’s radar heading into 2013, but his terrific performance this year has earned him a lot of recognition. He posted a terrific.2.09 ERA with a 1.10 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts in 56 innings pitched for Binghamton. Walters led the Eastern league in saves, and also shattered Binghamton’s all-time single season record in with 38 saves. The right-hander has a blazing fastball that can reach the mid 90’s and he isn’t afraid to pound the zone. Walters ranks as my number one relief pitcher because he has a high upside, and could potentially make his debut sometime in 2014.
In addition to these five pitchers, the Mets have more intriguing young relievers in the minors. Other notable minor league relief pitchers include Chasen Bradford, Chase Huchingson and Hamilton Bennett. New York also has plenty of young relievers already at the major league level as well. Those include Vic Black, Gonzalez Germen and Jeurys Familia. With this impressive amount of young and talented relief pitchers, it is unlikely the Mets bullpen will continue to struggle in the future.
Who are some of your favorite minor league relief pitchers you will be keeping an eye on in 2014?