The Mets bullpen is starting to take shape as we head into 2018. It would seem likely that the Mets will mostly add a few guys on cheap contracts and hope they can provide value. Someone like Tony Watson or Seung Hwan Oh.
The current bullpen looks like Jeurys Familia, Jerry Blevins, AJ Ramos, Anthony Swarzak, Paul Sewald, Jamie Callahan,/Hansel Robles,/Jacob Rhame, Zack Wheeler/Robert Gsellman, and Rafael Montero/Seth Lugo.
First up, let’s look at Jeurys Familia who is entering his final year under team control. Familia was a dominant reliever in 2015 but regressed a little in 2016 (to be fair, he was still really good). Last year was a lost season due to injury and suspensions but he made a return at the end of 2017 to pitch in September.
Familia posted an ERA of 3.00 in September (12 innings) with a 2.41 FIP and .200/.286/.256 slash against him. Familia also had the seventh lowest exit velocity against him in September at 78 MPH. Familia is playing for a big contract so I believe he’ll be due for a good 2018 while pitching near his 2015-2016 level. I’d bet that a sinkerballer who gets to have Amed Rosario behind him will help.
The next is Jerry Blevins. I think at this point, we know what Jerry Blevins is. He is a very good left-handed specialist with a nice curveball. There’s probably not much more to say but he’s a good LOOGY and he generated the second lowest exit velocity in all of baseball in 2017 among pitchers with 100 batted ball events. The only one ahead of him was Andrew Miller, so that’s some good company, well done Jerry. Before you head to the comment section, no, I am absolutely not saying that Jerry Blevins is as good as Andrew Miller.
AJ Ramos and Anthony Swarzak are the guys who can make or break this bullpen. Both will be expected to be significant contributors, but they have questions behind them. I’m buying into Swarzak thanks to Jeff Sullivan’s piece on Fangraphs, which shows that Swarzak is trending upwards. Swarzak also allowed very weak contact in 2017 against both lefties and righties.
Ramos posted a 159 ERA+ from 2014-2016 over 198.1 innings. That’s a pretty big number for a reliever but his FIP decreased each year from 2014-2016. Judging by Ramos’ velocity charts, nothing would suggest he’s in a decline due to overuse. Ramos could benefit from Mickey Callaway‘s philosophy. Callaway is a curveball guy and Ramos’ curve ranked 108th out of 444 in terms of spin rate.
Ramos is one of those relievers who throws four pitches. Ramos seems to do better and gets more swings out of the strike zone when he throws the fastball more. His two highest outside the zone swing percentage seasons were in 2014 and 2015. In both those seasons, his fastball usages were 56% and 46% respectively. In 2016 and 2017, those numbers dropped to 38% and 37% respectively. Just some ideas to help Ramos improve in 2018 as he also is heading into his contract season.
The rest of the guys, I’m not sure what they can be. I’ll just have to make my guesses based on their stuff and other data points. Callahan is the guy I really like. He’s a really hard thrower with a promising slider and splitter. I predict Zack Wheeler will be in the bullpen to start 2018 and believe his stuff in the bullpen really plays well.
I still have not given up on him as a starter, but it seems difficult to see them committing to him as their number five guy. Many starters go to the bullpen and do really well. Andrew Miller, Archie Bradley, Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia, Chad Green, Dellin Betances, and Brad Hand are just some of the many examples off the top of my head. Wheeler definitely has the pure stuff like those pitches do.
Finally, I think the swingman job will go to Rafael Montero. Montero is out of options which works in his favor. He was also one of the few pitchers who stayed healthy in 2017. His biggest issue is his inability to throw strikes.
Among pitchers with 100 batted ball events against them, he had the 10th lowest exit velocity against him. Montero also ranked 81st out of 598 in terms of spin rate with his changeup. His problem is throwing strikes. He has the potential to generate whiffs and generate soft contact, but he just walks so many people. I hope someone can get through to him because he clearly has the talent to succeed.
The bullpen as currently projected looks fairly good. The group was very good as recent as 2016 and they have the potential to be just as effective once again. As opposed to last season, they have good prospect depth in the minors in terms of relievers. Drew Smith, Tyler Bashlor, and Adonis Uceta should all be MLB ready by mid-season and all could be contributors in short order. They also have pitchers like Jacob Rhame, who is a good depth piece as compared to someone like Erik Goeddel, who they have been forced to use in the past.