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Heath Bell, Breakout Candidate

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Jonah Keri has an article up at Baseball Prospectus listing his five breakout candidates of 2005. Who checks in at #5? None other than Mets bullpen candidate Heath Bell. Keri says:

Heath Bell, RP, Mets
2004 24.1 IP, 3.47 EqERA
2005 proj. 60 IP, 3.84 EqERA

Though far from a glamour name, the 27-year-old reliever projects to give the Mets a lift where they sorely need it -- in the bullpen. Lacking big-name relievers to support closer Braden Looper, many have fretted that the Mets may struggle to bridge the gap between the starters and the ninth inning this season. Bell, along with fellow no-name Bartolome Fortunato, has the performance record to portend success -- if used in regular roles.

While Bell is expected to crack the Opening Day roster,he's likely to be low on Willie Randolph's initial pecking order due to his limited big-league experience. While GM Omar Minaya and Owner Fred Wilpon deserve credit for landing the free-agent market's two marquee players in Carlos Beltran and Pedro Martinez, support players like Bell figure to play a pivotal role in determining the team's success this season.

Bell's projected breakout is earned through the jump in his playing time as a full-time member of the pen. His ability to miss bats -- he fanned 122 batters in 102 Triple-A innings in 2003 and 2004 -- and throw strikes (just 31 walks in those same 102 innings) translated well to the majors late last year, and figure to do so again in 2005. With a good mix of a low-90s fastball, darting slider, and a change-up, he's got the repertoire to succeed. Possible warning sign: five homers allowed in 24.1 innings with the Mets last year.