For many young relievers, the path to job security is long and arduous. It frequently involves numerous trips between Triple-A and the majors as a member of the shuttle squad, filling in for injured relievers and trying to capitalize on the brief opportunities they have to face major league hitting. This was not the case for Hansel Robles. After being called up last April, Robles has not looked back, delivering two quality seasons and establishing himself as a mainstay of the Mets’ bullpen.
Robles had a strong rookie year in 2015, with a 3.67 ERA (98 ERA-) and a 3.91 FIP (100 FIP-) in 54 innings of work. While those numbers don’t jump off the page, they indicate that Robles was a league-average major league pitcher in his age-24 season, without any prior major league experience. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment.
Robles followed up his rookie campaign with an even better year in 2016. This year, the righty had an exceptional 3.48 ERA (87 ERA-) and 3.56 FIP (86 FIP-), with 9.85 K/9, 4.17 BB/9, and 0.81 HR/9. As Robles earned the trust of his manager, the reliever’s workload increased to 77.2 innings, which was tied—coincidentally, with teammates Jeurys Famlia and Addison Reed—for the sixth-most out of the bullpen in the National League.
As was the case in 2015, Robles’s arsenal this year consisted primarily of a fastball and a slider. His fastball, which he threw about 64% of the time, averaged 96 mph on the gun, while his slider averaged 85 mph and accounted for about 24% of his pitches. The biggest difference between this year and last is that Robles threw his changeup much more in 2016. His changeup usage increased from virtually 0% of his pitches to 12%, and it came in at an average of 89 mph.
Robles looks to play an even bigger role in the Mets’ pen in 2017. If Major League Baseball suspends Familia for domestic violence, Robles could move into the setup role while Reed becomes the closer. Even if Familia is not suspended—or when he returns from his suspension—Robles will likely see high-leverage innings and a sizable workload as he continues to build on his growth over the last two years.