In a season where the New York Mets were faced with insurmountable injuries and underperformance, the time was as good as any for the front office to call up some of their upper-level prospects to better assess those who could be long-term assets, as the club looks to rebound for the 2018 season.
Fans got to witness many major league debuts this season, with top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith leading the pack. A total of 12 players made their debuts with the Mets this season, the most they’ve had since 1995 (14 debuts).
On June 25th in San Francisco, right-handed reliever Chasen Bradford made his debut with the Mets, coming out of the bullpen in the bottom of the 9th as the Mets looked to sweep the three-game set against the Giants. Bradford worked around a one-out single and two-out walk to retire the Giants in the 9th, a game that will forever be ingrained in the 28-year-old’s mind.
A 35th round pick out of the University of Central Florida in 2011, Bradford flourished in the early levels of the minor leagues, posting solid ground ball rates (over 50% except in 2016) with his sinker-slider combo, and pitching to sub 3.00 ERAs from 2012-14.
Bradford was optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas on July 17th, after allowing five earned runs on nine hits over five games pitched. The rookie reliever looked back at old footage from his 2013 season and discovered a mechanical adjustment to be made on his front side. Bradford continued to work on the adjustment in Vegas, hoping to rejoin the big club and showcase what he could provide the Mets.
That opportunity came on August 1st, one day after the Mets dealt reliever Addison Reed to the Boston Red Sox for three hard-throwing, right-handed relievers. Bradford made the most of his second chance in the majors, posting a 0.54 ERA over 12 appearances from August 2nd to August 27th. In 16.2 IP, Bradford allowed just four hits with 14 strikeouts, holding the opposition to a .261 OPS.
Despite two rough outings on August 29th and September 13th, Bradford pitched to a solid 2.93 ERA over 27.2 IP from the time he was recalled to the end of the season, holding hitters to a .206 average with 66 percent strikes thrown. Overall on the season, Bradford pitched to a 3.74 ERA over 33.2 IP, with a 114 ERA+ and a 55.9 percent ground ball rate.
Bradford’s splits were evident at the end of the season, as he posted a 0.96 WHIP and 3.33 FIP against right-handed hitters as opposed to a 1.63 WHIP and 4.47 FIP against the opposite hand. His .190 average against righties was the best among all Met pitchers, and his .596 OPS was second only to Jeurys Familia (.542).
As the team looks to upgrade the back end of the pen this winter, internal candidates such as Bradford will likely be given a strong look this spring. With Sandy Alderson’s stated desire to upgrade the team defensively near the end of the season, Bradford should be given even more consideration given his pronounced ground ball rates.
MMO: What were your initial reactions when you found out you were getting your first big league call-up at the end of June from Las Vegas?
MMO: Talk a little about your memories from your major league debut on June 25th in San Francisco.
Chasen: It was an amazing day! In the bullpen I was a little wild and Ricky Bones settled me down. Everyone in my family and friends said I looked calm, but I had ten or twenty different things rattling around in my head, but it was a dream come true.
MMO: You pitched parts of four seasons in Las Vegas, how difficult are the conditions for pitchers with the altitude and hitters’ parks?
Chasen: It’s a tough place to pitch for sure. The thing about the altitude and heat is that the ball just doesn’t have the movement that it would have in a environment like Florida or California where there is some moisture that helps the ball move a little more.
MMO: Were there any adjustments you made when you were sent down to Vegas in July before being recalled in August?
Chasen: Yes, when I got sent down I looked at some video from 2013 and figured something out with my front side that I was lacking in the years after 2013. I just worked on that and got called back up and continued to work on it.
MMO: Growing up, who were some of your favorite players?
Chasen: I grew up a San Diego Padres fan because both of my parents are from San Diego. I still have a lot of family that lives there, so obviously I grew up a Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman Fan. Two San Diego legends.
MMO: To date, what has been your most memorable moment in your career?
Chasen: Obviously my debut is a big moment in my career but I think my first win in Colorado against a good Rockies’ team is at the top of the list.
MMO: You finished the season strong; six scoreless innings, no walks, and 74 percent of your pitches for strikes. What are some things you’ll look to work on in the offseason? What’s a typical winter like for you in terms of preparation?
Chasen: This offseason is all about working on consistency with all my pitches. There were times where I walked a guy, and I’m usually in the strike zone all the time, some of it had to do with nerves. But other times it had to do with lack of mechanics against a certain hitter so that is a big goal this offseason, to be more consistent in the zone with all my pitches.
A typical offseason for me was working at a golf course or playing winter ball and working out. This year it’s about getting in the gym, getting strong, and ready for next season.
MMO: Obviously you got to join a lot of your Triple-A teammates in New York (Rosario, Smith, McGowan, Sewald, Taijeron, Evans, etc.) did having those familiar faces in the clubhouse make the transition easier? And, who were some of the veterans that helped you acclimate to the majors?
Chasen: It was awesome to see all of those guys get their chance, they all deserved it! I think being in so many spring training’s with the guys who were already on the big league team also helped to come in and be comfortable. Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed were a big help in getting comfortable in the bullpen.
MMO: I know you’re from Las Vegas, and you went home to aid in the relief and donate supplies and such to the first responders after the horrific violence that took place. Can you talk a bit about your efforts and what it means to you to be able to help your hometown?
Chasen: Born and raised here and love this city and the people. I had a few contacts and found out that all they needed at the family assistance center was donuts and coffee for the family and workers down there, so I picked some up and took it down. The outpouring of goods such as water, food, sleeping bags, toiletries and other goods was so overwhelming that they didn’t need anymore, and this was only two days after the horrific act. (It) really showed how awesome this community is, so all they needed from me was coffee and donuts.
MMO: What were your thoughts on Dan Warthen and Terry Collins? How well did you work with both?
Chasen: Terry and Dan were put in a tough spot with all the injuries that happened this year and they did all they could to keep the team together. I worked with Dan the most, he helped me a lot and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him and what he did for the pitching staff.
With Mickey Callaway coming in to be the new manager, it will be exciting to see what he can do. It’s a shame that Terry and Dan went out on a year like that, but they have had wonderful careers and will do well in whatever rolls they find themselves in in the future.
MMO: Speaking of Callaway, any first impressions on your new manager?
Chasen: I don’t really know much about him but everyone seems to be pretty excited about him being the manager. I look forward to working with him.
MMO: Appreciate your time Chasen, have a great offseason.
Follow Chasen on Twitter, @CBbaseball46