It feels like Jeurys Familia has been in the Mets’ organization forever. The hard-throwing right-handed pitcher made his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League at the age of 18 back in 2008, and from there, he spent the grand majority of his minor league career as a starting pitcher. In fact, his first professional relief appearances were the ones he made as a September callup with the Mets in 2012.
Before that, Familia was a well-regarded prospect. Though he never quite topped our list of the Mets’ top prospects, he was in or around the top ten in 2011, 2012, and 2013. After a very good year in 2011, Familia struggled to the tune of a 4.73 ERA in Triple-A Buffalo in 2012, but he wound up pitching just nine more minor league innings after that season.
Familia started the 2013 season with the Mets, was sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas for a few games, and rejoined the Mets shortly thereafter. But by early June, his elbow was barking, and he had surgery that cost him most of the rest of the season. He did manage to appear in a couple of minor league games that September and returned to the Mets for one appearance, his last of the year.
Coming off that year, Familia was still prospect-eligible, though we had him ranked 21st before this season began. Here’s what Steve Sypa said of him on our list:
"I'd like to rank Familia higher, but the right-hander has yet to really come into his own despite flashes of brilliance here and there. When he's on, he's on- but the problem is that, be it injury, ineffectiveness, or something else entirely, Familia just hasn't been able to get into the swing of things over the last couple of years. The potential for him to be dominant is keeping him on this list, but with so many questions surrounding him, Familia needs to finally put everything together and silence the critics."
Fortunately for the Mets, that’s exactly what Familia did. As one of the hardest-working relief pitchers in baseball—only six pitchers, including Carlos Torres, threw more relief innings—Familia lived up to the promise that he had shown for all those years in the minors. In 77.1 innings, he had a 2.21 ERA, which ranked 31st among 142 qualified pitchers, and a 3.07 FIP, which ranked 53rd. He struck out 73 (22.7 percent/8.5 per nine) and walked 32 (9.9 percent, 3.56 per nine).
While he wasn’t quite one of the best relief pitchers in baseball, Familia clearly broke out and cemented himself as a major league player. Heading into next year, he’s one of several young relief pitchers who could make the Mets’ bullpen a significant strength all season.
Desired 2015 role: The best relief pitcher on the Mets with improved strikeout and walk rates.
Realistic 2015 role: The second- or third-best relief pitcher on the Mets, which would also be just fine.