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Jeurys Familia

Relievers Competing for the 2018 Mets Bullpen

The Mets bullpen had to carry a heavy load this season. The starting rotation was decimated by injuries, with 12 different pitchers having started games. Only 3 of them, deGrom, Montero and Flexen, avoided the disabled list.

The Mets bullpen also had to go most of the season without its closer Jeurys Familia. After being suspended for domestic abuse to start the season, he then missed 3 months with a blood clot under his shoulder.

The team later traded his replacement, Addison Reed, at the trade deadline. All of this added up, as Mets relievers have pitched more innings than 10 other teams in the National League.

2017 Mets Bullpen

So how has the Mets bullpen performed this season? Not good. Out of 49 save opportunities, they have blown 18 giving them just a 63% save percentage. They’ve suffered 25 losses. Mets relievers are good at striking out batters, with the 4th most K/9 innings in the National League. But they have allowed far too many men on base, as they are tied with the Giants bullpen for the worst WHIP. After allowing 22 runs in three games against the Cubs this week, the Mets bullpen also has the worst ERA in the league at 4.74.

2018 Mets Bullpen

General Manager Sandy Alderson acquired a lot of young, power arms during the trading deadline. Many are at the lower levels of the minor league system. He eventually wants bullpen flexibility using young arms that are already in the organization to fill needs as the season progresses.

A few of the acquired arms might help the team as soon as next season. 24-year-old Jacob Rhame, goggle glasses and all, has done well with a nasty slider in very limited major league appearances this season. Although Rhame gave up five runs on three hits and two walks while recording just one out in Wednesday’s blowout loss to the Cubs.

Jamie Callahan, just 22 years old, is also on the big league club now. A hard-throwing right-hander, he pounds the zone and goes after hitters. But he has yet to master his control issues. If he settles down, he could help as a middle reliever next year.

Drew Smith, age 23 and acquired from Tampa for Lucas Duda, is a hard-thrower with a heavy sinker, an excellent strike out rate and low WHIP. He could make it to the big leagues at some point in 2018. Scouts believe he has closer ability.

One Inning Guys

One inning roles next year could be filled by Paul Sewald, who has had a mixed rookie season at age 27. He’s struggled against left-handed batters, they’re hitting .302 against him. While righties are only batting .217.

Chasen Bradford has earned a long look next spring with his high ground ball rate and ability to pitch more than an inning on back-to-back days. He’s been tough against right-handed hitters and has shown a good sinker.

Hansel Robles, arbitration eligible this winter, has likely worn out his stay on the Mets. At least most Mets fans hope that he has.

Hansel Robles Points Skyward

Late-Inning Setup Role

The Mets have let it be known that they will probably pick up the $7 million option on veteran lefty Jerry Blevins. Blevins is usually tasked with getting less than 3 outs, yet he has already pitched more innings this year than all of last season. Despite some recent struggles, perhaps due to the heavy usage, he has a high K% and excels at men LOB. He has also always dominated left-handed batters, allowing a career slash line of only .213/.265/.306.

Righty Erik Goedell and lefty Josh Smoker will likely get looks next spring as well. Goedell recently had some dizziness and blurred vision for which he’s been prescribed medicine. Hopefully he’ll be alright. Smoker has pitched well the last two months, in one stretch pitching 15 consecutive scoreless outings without an earned run. Lately, he’s cut down on walks and relied more on his curve ball. It has helped against left-handed hitters, who had been hitting him as hard as righties.

Closer

The closer role is currently filled by A.J. Ramos, who is still under team control next year. Ramos has an alarmingly high walk rate, but also a good strike out percentage and low HR/9 rate. The Mets brought in Ramos to set up, or close if Familia can’t.

What can the team expect from Familia in 2018? He’ll be watched closely the remainder of this season for any residual signs of the surgery to remove the clot. So far, he’s shown that he is not yet able to pitch back-to-back days. There’s also a concern that additional clots are more likely once you’ve already experienced one.

Given the uncertainty with Familia, the Mets should add an experienced late-inning arm this winter. Possibly, they could sign Wade Davis, Luke Gregerson or look to a reunion with Addison Reed. But if they keep Blevins as expected, the Mets will already have over $21 million committed to the bullpen next season.

Long relief

Long relief, the piece that was missing all of this year, is still missing. The Mets counted on their excess of starting pitching to spill over into the long relief roles. But so many starters were injured that the long relief role went vacant. Next year, long relief could be provided by any of Lugo, Montero, Gsellman or even Wheeler. The best case scenario for the Mets is to get more quality innings from their starting rotation.

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Photo by apardavila