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In 2012, the Mets' bullpen wasn't a position of strength, but young left-hander Josh Edgin showed promise in limited action. What sort of performance should we expect in 2013?
In the middle of the 2012 season, a relatively unheralded rookie made his debut in Queens for the Mets. Josh Edgin stepped into the Mets bullpen with very little fanfare and pitched okay in 34 games before hitting an appearance limit and sitting out the rest of the season. Despite some rather middling overall rate stats and virtually no prospect hype, Edgin looks as if he could be an important piece of the Mets' bullpen going forward. Today, we'll take a brief look at what we might expect from the 26-year-old hurler in his first full season in Flushing.
Josh Edgin's biography is unspectacular, and he's never had much hype as a prospect. A 30th-round pick out of Francis Marion University in South Carolina, Edgin has only ever been a reliever in his professional tenure. After posting strong rookie-league numbers in 2010, Edgin split 2011 between Savannah and St. Lucie. He thrived at both stops, posting 27 saves between the two squads and striking out over a batter per inning.
2012 was another quick ladder-climb for Edgin. After a nice little performance in spring training, Edgin only put in 6 games at Double-A Binghamton before hitting Triple-A Buffalo. Though his walk rate was high, by July he was called up to the big club to work.
At the major league level, Edgin was slightly below-average for the season. He posted a 4.56 ERA and a 4.69 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), mainly because of walk and home run issues. Edgin walked 9.4 percent of the batters he faced — which is a lot — and gave up home runs on 17.2 percent of his fly balls.
All of that equals out to performance that grades out somewhere between "eh" and "not good." But, as always in Flushing, hope springs eternal. And I believe that Edgin won't just be okay in 2013, he'll actually be quite good.
Hope for 2013
When it comes to projecting reliever performance, one statistic should stand out more than any other: the almighty strikeout. Josh Edgin, to his credit, has proven that he can strike guys out. At each stop in the minors, save a six-game stint in Binghamton, he's struck out a batter or more per inning. In the majors, albeit in a small sample, Josh fanned 28 percent of the batters he faced. That's big-league. That will play. In fact, only 37 relievers who pitched over 20 innings in 2012 struck out a higher percentage of hitters. Not bad.
You can see a touch of Edgin's potential here, in a video clip of his July 13 major-league debut. In this video, he enters the game in a one-out, bases-loaded jam, and promptly strikes out Juan Francisco and Michael Bourn to escape trouble. Both strikeout pitches appear to be on his slider, a pitch that has received positive reviews from our own Rob Castellano before 2012. He wrote:
Ultimately, Edgin's strong low 90s fastball and excellent low 80s slider as well as his solid command are what give him a chance to move fast.
Edgin is really a two-pitch pitcher who uses a fastball-slider combo. But the slider is what appears to be the real weapon in his arsenal. Sliders have distinct platoon splits and are much more effective against same-handed hitters. With Edgin throwing left-handed, that means that he is likely to fare much better against left-handed hitters. And that comes out in the stats, too.
Edgin pitched about 15 innings against lefties and about 10 innings against righties in 2012, but neither is a huge sample. Left-handed hitters fared far worse than righties against Edgin, even though he struck out the same proportion of hitters on each side of the plate. Overall, lefties posted a putrid .161/.246/.345 triple-slash line against Edgin, while righties pounded him to the tune of .256/.364/.474. In my opinion, it shows that even if Edgin can't make significant strides in development, he might still be an average-or-better lefty specialist.
But a lefty specialist isn't the ceiling for Edgin; I'd say it's closer to the floor. All those strikeouts paint the picture of a guy who can get outs, period. If only he had an offering that could be a bit more effective against right-handed hitters, he might be very good.
Well, the data from FanGraphs also shows that Edgin experimented a little with a changeup, which is another pitch with a distinct reverse platoon split. If Edgin really can offer a mediocre changeup, he could use it to improve his performance against right-handed hitters. This, in turn, will also really work to move him from a left-handed specialist to someone with the real potential to be a late-inning option working against both sides of the plate.
According to Terry Collins, Edgin has suffered from a command issue, one that caused him to miss over the plate too often. As you might imagine, this probably contributed to his obscene home run rate. And there's no doubt that command and control improvements would help Edgin reduce his walks, too. But command tends to be an issue with many young pitchers, especially relievers. There's hope that continued work and more innings will allow Josh to refine that command of his arsenal. Remember, Edgin only made his professional debut back in 2010. There still might be room to develop those skills.
Reliever performance is notoriously volatile, especially due to the small sample sizes associated with the job, so we shouldn't make any big-money bets on whether or not Edgin will be effective in 2013. But the indicators are there for future success: a high strikeout rate and a solid minor-league track record. Josh Edgin has the potential to be a late-inning reliever if he can keep up the strikeouts and limit the damage done by walks and home runs.
Pedro Feliciano 2.0
I'd like to think that an improved Josh Edgin could be a lot like former Mets reliever Pedro Feliciano going forward. Feliciano was an effective workhorse in the Mets' bullpen for years, using a left-handed slider especially well to knock out opposing hitters and consistently posting a high strikeout rate despite yearly variances in walks and home runs. The big difference between Feliciano and Edgin, right now at least, is the aforementioned changeup. Feliciano threw a change between 10 and 20 percent of the time as a Met, and it allowed him to match up decently against righties as well as lefties.
Though his advanced age kept him off top prospect lists, Edgin could be a valuable young player for the rebuilding Mets. Given the state of the Mets' bullpen this year, I'd be very surprised if Edgin doesn't get every opportunity to be the left-handed arm — perhaps opposite Bobby Parnell on the right side — used most in high-leverage situations. While we shouldn't expect Jonny Venters-like performance from Edgin, I think reasonably high expectations — a 3.50 ERA/FIP and a strikeout per inning — are fair for this rising reliever. He could be a solid piece of the Mets' bullpen or something even better.
All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.