There aren't many spots up for grabs on the Mets' Opening Day roster, but the team still has a few options for two spots in its bullpen. With five relief pitchers—the right handed Jeurys Familia, Addison Reed, and Hansel Robles and the left-handed Antonio Bastardo and Jerry Blevins—set to make the team to start the season, a few pitchers could slot into the final two spots in the bullpen.
The Mets might go with just a six-man bullpen early in the season because of their quirky first-week schedule, but they should settle in to the standard seven-man bullpen soon either way. They'll also be without Hansel Robles for two games, as he was suspended for throwing at Cameron Rupp of the Phillies late in the 2015 regular season.
At this stage of spring training, there are four candidates for the last two spots in the bullpen: Sean Gilmartin, Erik Goeddel, Jim Henderson, and Logan Verrett. All four have major league experience, but let's take a look at what the Mets have and what each of the four has to offer.
Here's how those five pitchers performed last year, via Fangraphs.
While Blevins only pitched a handful of innings before a broken pitching forearm effectively ended his season, the Mets' relievers all pitched well last year. Three of the four non-Blevins pitchers had above-average strikeout rates for a relief pitcher, as the average last year in that group was 9.56 strikeouts per nine.
Among those pitchers, only Familia's walk rate was better than league average, which was 2.95 per nine. But neither Reed nor Robles were too far above that rate. And the popular projection systems have all five of those Mets' relievers pitching reasonably well in the upcoming season.
|Career||FIP vs. LHH||FIP vs. RHH|
That's a relatively balanced bullpen in terms of splits, and there a couple of things to point out here. While he wasn't as good against lefties as he was against righties in 2015, either, Familia fared better against lefties than he had in the past. And Robles's reverse split is interesting, but he has only thrown 54.0 major league innings thus far in his career. Overall, the Mets don't have a glaring need for a one-side-of-the-splits specialist.
As for the candidates for the last two bullpen spots, all three of Gilmartin, Goeddel, and Verrett were rookies last year and all have options remaining, per tpgMets. As far as the Mets are concerned this season, all of them can be sent to the minors without any risk.
Henderson, who the Mets signed to a minor league deal earlier in the offseason, was good in 2012 and 2013 with the Brewers but struggled in just 11.1 innings in 2014 because of an injury and didn't pitch in the big leagues in 2015. His contract also allows him to opt out and become a free agent on June 15 if he isn't on the Mets' major league roster. That gives the team time to send Henderson to the minors to start the year if they decide to include two other pitchers on their roster instead.
Here are the career numbers for those four pitchers.
Of the four, Gilmartin is the lone left-handed pitcher. Sample size caveats apply here, too, as Henderson has thrown roughly twice as many major league innings as the other three pitchers. His ERA comes in third in this group, as does his league- and park-adjusted ERA-.
And here are the lefty/righty splits for these four pitchers.
|Career||FIP vs. LHH||FIP vs. RHH|
Again, things are fairly well balanced, though the predictive value of these splits is fairly low given the limited sample of work for everyone involved, even Henderson. But aside from Verrett's struggles against left-handed hitters, the group has been pretty well balanced against both types of hitters in their major league careers.
In terms of bullpen roles, Gilmartin and Verrett pitched multiple-inning outings for the Mets at various points last year. The majority of Verrett's relief outings lasted two innings or longer, and while Gilmartin's use didn't go quite that far, he had plenty of those outings, as well. If there's a desire to have a long-man in the bullpen to help bridge the gap between a bad outing by a starting pitcher and the rest of the bullpen, carrying one of these two pitchers makes sense. Gilmartin was the more effective pitcher last year and would be the preferable option.
If the other spot comes down to Goeddel vs. Henderson, Goeddel has the better numbers, though injuries limited his major league workload to 33.1 innings last year. He got a late start in spring training because of a lat injury he suffered in February, and that may very well result in him starting the season in Las Vegas with Henderson on the major league roster. A healthy Goeddel would be slightly preferable to Henderson, though neither decision would be a bad one.
These are good roster decisions for a team to have to make. The Mets can't really go wrong with whatever they do here, and the two pitchers who start the year in the minors should get a crack at the major league roster as soon as the Mets have a need, either because of performance or injury. Hansel Robles had a spot locked up coming into spring training, which is understandable given his strikeout and walk rates last year, but he doesn't have a track record as long or as good as the other four pitchers in the Mets' bullpen.