It’s easy for Mets fans to forget, but Paul Sewald was seen as a potentially useful asset not too long ago. After he posted a 1.75 ERA in 51.1 innings of relief at Double-A Binghamton in 2015 and followed that up with a 3.29 ERA and 10.96 K/9 in the extremely hitter-friendly PCL in 2016, Sewald was viewed an interesting relief prospect going into the 2017 season. So interesting, in fact, that FanGraphs listed him as the Mets’ 20th-best prospect for that year.
Sewald made it to the big leagues early on in that 2017 season and impressed right out of the gate, posting a 2.21 ERA, 1.39 FIP, and 10.62 K/9 in his first 20 major league innings. Things didn't quite go as easily for him after that, but he still finished the season with a respectable 4.55 ERA, 3.74 FIP, and 9.51 K/9. He particularly specialized in getting right-handed hitters out, holding them to just a .265 wOBA for the year. Those aren’t the numbers of an elite reliever, but that’ll typically play in the middle or the front end of a good bullpen.
Fast forward to 2018, and Sewald came sprinting out of the gates yet again. By May 27, he had amassed 27.1 innings out of the bullpen and delivered a 3.62 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, and he was holding opposing hitters to just a .216 batting average. Once again, the numbers didn’t last, but this time the fall was even more prodigious. From May 27 through the end of the season, Sewald tossed 29.0 innings and gave up 27 earned runs. He walked almost six batters per nine over that stretch and stopped getting hitters of any handedness out, as his opponents hit .315 off of him.
We may never know exactly what caused Sewald to crash and burn so hard after such a promising start last year, but it’s possible that he was just overworked after being used so heavily in the first two months. His walk rate rising so uncharacteristically high would certainly be a symptom of that. Either way, with an offseason of rest, Sewald entered spring training vying for a spot in the bullpen, but he was optioned to minor league camp on March 12.
While he will not be starting the year in the big leagues, it is still certainly possible for Sewald to get things back on track and make it back to the Mets’ bullpen before too long. He still possesses the above-average slider that made him a big leaguer in the first place, and his side-arm delivery still poses enough deception that he can still get right-handed hitters out. While most fans are probably sleeping on him now, there is still potential in Sewald, and he’ll go to Syracuse looking to harness it and make it back to where he was a year ago.