Remember that crazy week last month when Mets fans were pretty happy about Michael Conforto's promotion, then kind of happy about getting Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson, and Tyler Clippard, then really angry about Jenrry Mejia getting suspended, then extremely angry about the Carlos Gomez trade that didn't happen, then really happy about the Yoenis Cespedes trade that did happen?
With all the insanity surrounding that week, the Mejia suspension seemed like one of the less significant stories to come out. But with Bobby Parnell's poor performance banishing him to the disabled list and Jerry Blevins re-fracturing his arm, the bullpen has suddenly become Mets' most urgent issue.
Luckily, reinforcements are on the way. Granted, these reinforcements are minor league pitchers who are largely untested in the majors, but if just one of them can establish himself as a reliable seventh-inning option, the Mets will be in a much better position to win close games.
Here are some of the top options:
The left-hander—who seems likely to be activated by the Mets today—is having a very good year, with a 2.75 ERA in 39.1 innings between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas. What is perhaps more impressive is the fact that he has actually improved his performance since being promoted—albeit in a small sample of appearances—allowing just one run and striking out 15 batters in 8.1 innings, facing tougher hitters in one of the most hitter-friendly leagues in baseball.
With lefties posting a .407 OPS against him this year, Alvarez could conceivably oust Eric O'Flaherty as the team's primary lefty specialist. His control, however, is a problem. Alvarez has walked 18 batters and hit another five this year. But if he can find the strike zone more often, his above-average stuff could serve him well at a major league level.
Morris is the only pitcher on this list that has appeared with the Mets this season, and it did not go particularly well. He gave up five earned runs in 0.2 innings, though the appearance was at Coors field. Still, the short-lived promotion demonstrated the faith that the Mets have in Morris. With a 2.35 ERA between St. Lucie and Binghamton, he has established himself as one of the more promising bullpen prospects in the system. Despite being a right-hander, he has been remarkably effective against lefties, who have a mere .096 batting average against him. At only 22 years old, Morris is still fairly green, a fact that may explain his four balks on the year. If he can prove himself in low-leverage situations in September (assuming he gets the call-up), he may be a dark horse candidate to take over the seventh inning.
Another lefty, Smoker was a first-round draft pick for the Nationals in 2007. While not currently a member of the 40-man roster, he has an impressive 2.47 ERA while rising from Low-A Savannah to Double-A Binghamton this year. Smoker has managed to improve his performance as he has faced progressively tougher batters, but unlike Morris, he is currently pitching better against right-handed batters than he is against lefties, holding them to a .496 OPS this year. His strikeout rate has been fairly impressive as well, with 22 strikeouts over 15.2 innings with Binghamton in 2015.
Black, who has been rehabbing from a shoulder injury since the beginning of the season and has experienced multiple setbacks, does not currently look like much of a savior for the bullpen. His 6.53 ERA in 30.1 minor league innings this year does not inspire much confidence. However, Black has been an effective reliever in the past, with a 2.60 ERA with the big club in 2014. The Mets have said they will not activate Black until he regains the velocity that he had last year, but roster expansion may lead them to give him a shot despite his poor performance so far.