Over at our depth charts, we have 13 different relievers listed for the Mets. 13! And that doesn’t even include Kyle Farnsworth, but it does include Jose Valverde and Erik Goeddel and Steven Matz and Jeff Walters, and it’s okay if you want to admit now that you’ve never heard of two of those names. It’s not pretty, but for a Mets team that probably isn’t going to be contending for anything seriously in 2014, it makes sense. Throwing money at relievers at this point in the team’s development is often money wasted, and so Sandy Alderson and friends will instead try to go with what they’ve got.
But from a fantasy perspective, that makes it difficult. It’s hard to know for sure who is even going to be in this bullpen, much less contributing — I imagine it’ll be something of a revolving door all season long — and that limits fantasy utility. Still, someone has to get saves, and we can start with the likely closer and go from there.
Among the dozen-plus pitchers in the mix, the five who seem most assured of a spot are Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Carlos Torres, Jeurys Familia and Scott Rice. Parnell is the prize here in terms of fantasy, because he’s pretty clearly the closer, having collected 22 saves last year in that role. While his outstanding velocity still hasn’t turned into big strikeout numbers — 2013′s 7.92 K/9 doesn’t look like much when you see what guys like Craig Kimbrel and Kenley Jansen are doing — Parnell had something of a breakout season in that he was able to limit both his walks (2.16 BB/9) and his homers (just one allowed in 50 innings). He’s still only headed into his age-29 season, and he’s been a quietly effective reliever for most of the last four seasons.
So why the hesitation? Parnell threw his last pitch of 2013 on July 30, then missed the remainder of the season with a neck injury which required surgery. It’s only been about a month since he was cleared to resume baseball activities, and it’s not a guarantee that he’s even ready for Opening Day, though he has reportedly looked good so far in Florida. If the uncertainty around his health and the fact that the Mets aren’t likely to be very good this year hurts his fantasy positioning, then there’s the chance for a real bargain here, because Parnell was a solid option last season.
Behind him, it gets a bit more questionable. Rice likely makes the team, but as a bad-control LOOGY without any particularly elite skill, he’s got no fantasy utility. Torres put together a nice season in 2013, even while trading in wildness (dropping his BB/9 from 4.42 to 1.77) for longballs (HR/9 increased from 0.34 to 1.56, despite moving from Colorado to New York). He made nine starts last year and may find himself seeing time in a post-Matt Harvey rotation again, but as a reliever his fantasy value is limited, because the role of swingman usually is. Familia has struggled terribly with his command in two short looks in the bigs, and until he can get that handled and improve his slider, his blazing fastball will take him only so far.
Black, acquired last summer from Pittsburgh for Marlon Byrd, is a bit more of a lottery ticket. Like Parnell and Familia, he throws hard — this Mets bullpen could be full of heat — and when I wrote about him last September, I couldn’t help but note what LaTroy Hawkins had said about him:
“Some guys have late life on the ball,” the 40-year-old Mets reliever Hawkins said. “Sometimes I play catch with him and he has, like, double life. The ball comes out of his hand and it picks up speed halfway and hits up another gear. It’s weird. It’s something I’ve never seen. That’s why I said he has a magical arm. I told him he has a magical arm.”
That’s high praise from a man who has seen it all, and Black performed well in a limited sample with the Mets, striking out 12 in 13 innings, and serving as closer during the final days of the year. Like most of these guys, he’s had control issues in the minors, and that may yet derail him. But if I’m looking for a $1 shot in the dark at the end of a draft, Black is a guy who fits that description pretty well.
Everyone else is either going to have trouble making the team or won’t be worth worrying about if they do. Gonzalez Germen can miss some bats, but is a middle reliever at best. Walters piled up 38 saves at Double-A last year and was added to the 40-man roster, but is most likely headed back to Triple-A to start the season. With a good fastball and what is reportedly a solid breaking pitch, there’s some potential for value here; then again, he’s already 27 and hasn’t made it past Double-A yet. A name to file away for later, potentially. There’s also Josh Edgin, who doesn’t really do anything exciting other than throw from the left side.
As for the formerly-famous Farnsworth and Valverde, now well into their 30s, it’s going to take a lot of contortion to see them providing fantasy value this year. If either makes the team, and if they’re any good, and if Parnell is still out, and if Terry Collins decides he needs a “proven closer”… well, even then, it’s hard to see happening.
The wild card here might be in the next wave of young Mets pitching, should the team try to break them into the bigs in the bullpen. That likely won’t happen with Noah Syndergaard, but it could with Jacob Degrom or Cory Mazzoni or Rafael Montero, or perhaps even Jenrry Mejia. Mejia has undeniable talent and looked very good as a starter in 2013, yet he so rarely stays healthy enough to show it. A permanent move into the bullpen may very well be in his future.
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