Way back at the start of the offseason in November, the Mets signed eleven players to minor league deals, one of whom was right-handed relief pitcher Arodys Vizcaíno. Best known for his time with the Braves, Vizcaino is attempting to come back from shoulder surgery very early in 2019 season and has yet to pitch in a game since then.
Signed by the Yankees as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic, Vizcaínowas traded to the Braves alongside Melky Cabrera in a deal that sent Boone Logan and Javier Vasquez to the Yankees following the 2009 season. That winter, Vizcaínomade his first appearances on the Baseball Prospectus top 101 and Baseball America top 100 prospect lists, and he appeared on both of those lists in each of the three seasons that followed.
Vizcaíno made his major league debut in 2011, appearing in seventeen games for the Braves with mediocre results: a 4.67 ERA and 3.54 FIP in 17.1 innings. And in the spring of 2012, he had Tommy John surgery. A few months later, the Braves sent him to the Cubs as part of a trade that brought back Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm.
Two years after his Tommy John surgery, Vizcaíno returned to the mound in the Cubs’ minor league system to start the 2014 season. He worked his way up from High-A to Double-A to Triple-A, and the Cubs called him up in September. He made five appearances for them, pitching 5.0 innings with a 5.40 ERA. And a few weeks after that season ended, the Cubs traded him back to the Braves, getting Tommy La Stella in return.
Just as the 2015 season was set to begin, Vizcaíno was suspended for 80 games for a positive PED test. Once that suspension was over, he got up to speed in a brief minor league stint, and he rejoined the Braves’ major league bullpen in early July. In 33.2 innings with the team that year, he had a 1.60 ERA and 2.48 FIP with 37 strikeouts and 13 walks. He notched nine saves for Atlanta along the way.
Vizcaíno got off to a great start in 2016, pitching nearly as well as he had the year before, but he was place on the disabled list in mid-July with a strained oblique. He returned in mid-August but only made four appearances and pitched ineffectively, turning what had been a promising season into one that saw him finish with a 4.42 ERA.
In 2017, Vizcaino threw 57.1 innings for the Braves and pitched well, finishing that year with a 2.83 ERA and 3.72 FIP, though he spent some time on the DL during that season, too. And in 2018, he threw 38.1 innings with a 2.11 ERA and 3.76 FIP, again spending time on the DL during the season—this time with shoulder soreness.
Given his injury history and the difficulty of a pitcher returning from shoulder surgery, the most surprising thing this spring would be if Vizcaíno is healthy throughout spring training. Before his shoulder got to the point of needing surgery, he had been averaging 98 miles per hour on his fastball from 2015 through 2018. In his handful of appearances leading up to his surgery in 2019, he averaged just shy of 96.
If he is healthy, Vizcaíno is one of many pitchers who figures to have a shot at making the Mets’ bullpen—a bullpen that has very few sure things in it right now. As spring training games get underway in the near future, it’ll be worth monitoring whether he pitches at all and, if so, how hard he’s throwing and if he’s getting opposing batters out. Spring training results should never be taken too seriously, but given the time that’s elapsed since he last pitched in a game, it’s all the Mets will have.
Considering he was merely a minor league signing, if things work out, the Mets will have found a reliever with a track record of major league success. And if they don’t, they won’t have lost anything in giving him a shot.