It’s April 18, and the Mets have already used eleven different players in relief, a number that’s sure to grow as the season churns on. One of them was infielder Luis Guillorme, who pitched in a blowout loss to the Brewers, but the other ten have been regular relievers.
Given the standard eight-man bullpen in baseball, ten doesn’t really seem that high, but it feels like they’ve cycled through even more than that. With the long-term injury to Edwin Díaz starting the trend, the team has seen Sam Coonrod, Tommy Hunter, Bryce Montes de Oca, and Stephen Nogosek, among others throughout the organization, suffer injuries of various degrees of severity. And Dennis Santana, claimed on waivers shortly before the season began, already racked up a bad enough ERA over just enough innings to get designated for assignment.
The Mets’ top five current relievers—David Robertson, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, Drew Smith, and John Curtiss—were all expected to be here at this point of the season. The remaining three—Denyi Reyes, Jimmy Yacabonis, and the recently-claimed Edwin Uceta—were not.
If you’ve watched baseball long enough, you know that jumping to conclusions based on April performance is a fool’s errand. But there’s nothing wrong with picking out some promising early stats and dreaming on what they could look like if they were sustained over the course of the entire season. That brings us back to Reyes.
Before joining the Mets in November, the 26-year-old Dominican right-handed pitcher had just 7.2 innings of major league experience under his belt, all of which came last year with the Orioles. He fared pretty well in them, with a 2.25 ERA, three strikeouts, one walk, and a 2.72 FIP.
Called up to take Tommy Hunter’s place on the Mets’ active roster earlier a couple weeks ago, Reyes has gotten into four games and thrown a total of five innings. His fastball velocity isn’t anything special for a major league reliever in 2023, but in this tiny sample, it’s up to an average of 94.4 miles per hour, per FanGraphs, an uptick from his average of 92.9 miles per hour last year.
In this tiny sample this year, Reyes has struck out five batters, which is good for a 29.4 percent strikeout rate, and he hasn’t walked anyone. Relievers who issue lots of walks an endlessly frustrating, but those who issue very few are always intriguing. And that’s the part of Reyes’s game that seems like it might not just be a fluke.
With the Orioles’ Triple-A affiliate last year, Reyes walked just 3.3 percent of opposing batters. It’s certainly worth mentioning that the overall results at that level were not so great, as he racked up a 7.17 ERA despite that walk rate last year.
It’s also worth noting, however, that Reyes is still relatively new to pitching in relief. While he made a total of 22 relief appearances over the first three years of his professional career in the lower levels of the Red Sox’ organization, the vast majority of his outings in 2018 and 2019 came as a starting pitcher.
With no minor league season because of the pandemic in 2020, Reyes didn’t pitch that year, but he made five starts and 15 relief appearances in 2021. But last year, his first and only in the Orioles’ system, he started 12 games and came out of the bullpen just five time in the minors and made one start and two relief appearances in the big leagues.
Reyes isn’t the first pitcher to make a good first impression in April, and there aren’t any guarantees that the early returns will prove sustainable. If he ends up struggling, he has options and can be sent back to Syracuse freely, which is also the case for Edwin Uceta but isn’t for Jimmy Yacabonis. If there’s a roster crunch, that alone could cost Reyes his roster spot. But until that happens—or he struggles—it’s fun to think that the Mets might have found an unexpectedly good bullpen arm.