Mets' bullpen stacked with fireballers
Parnell, Mejia headline bevy of arms capable of late-inning roles
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Port St. Lucie, Fla., by Feb. 19, it's time to continue dissecting the Mets' 2015 roster. This is the fifth of a six-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Next up: bullpen.
NEW YORK -- For the first time in years, the Mets will enter Spring Training with their bullpen mostly set -- a rare place for any team to be this time of year. Though a couple of jobs remain up for grabs, the late-inning core is already in place.
It's a young, hard-throwing bunch that the Mets believe is already one of the best in baseball. In Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia and Vic Black, the Mets boast four potential closers at the back end of their bullpen. Carlos Torres gives them flexibility. Josh Edgin offers a left-handed look.
This is largely the same crew that ranked 22nd in the Majors with a 3.98 bullpen ERA in 2013. But a healthy Mejia and Familia -- combined with improvement from Black, Torres and Edgin -- lifted the Mets to fourth in the National League with a 3.14 mark last season.
If they want to compete for a playoff spot in 2015, the Mets will again need this group to be a strength.
The closers: Mejia, Parnell
A year ago at this time, the Mets were committed to giving Mejia one final shot in the rotation. But Parnell's torn right elbow ligament undermined that opportunity, and when the dust settled, Mejia emerged as the team's closer. Thriving in that role for the most part -- remember his funky save dances? -- Mejia converted 28 of his 31 chances with a 2.72 ERA in relief. All of which was enough for manager Terry Collins to name Mejia the closer heading into the season -- but not necessarily coming out of it.
Everything at the back end still hinges on Parnell, who is unlikely to be completely recovered from Tommy John surgery by the end of Spring Training. Collins has insisted that once Parnell is healthy, he will reclaim the closer's job he seized in 2013. But if Mejia is thriving at the time, it could grow into a difficult decision.
The rest: Familia, Black, Edgin, Torres
No Mets reliever is coming off a better season than Familia, who posted a 2.21 ERA thanks to a 57.4 percent ground-ball rate -- fifth best amongst Major League pitchers with at least 75 innings. Though Familia could challenge for the closer's job at some point this summer, he may be more valuable to the Mets in a setup role.
The same goes for Black, who used his upper-90s fastball to strand 25 of the 26 runners he inherited last season. The Mets see Black as a valuable weapon in critical spots.
Edgin is the organization's most established lefty reliever, making him all but a lock to make the Opening Day 'pen. Torres is yet another lock after giving the Mets two excellent seasons in a row.
On the radar: Rafael Montero, Sean Gilmartin, Buddy Carlyle, Scott Rice, Dario Alvarez, Jack Leathersich, Erik Goeddel, Cory Mazzoni
This group could expand between now and Spring Training, if and when the Mets ink one or two more arms on Minor League deals. As it currently stands, Montero is a decent bet to make the team as a long reliever, while Gilmartin, a left-hander selected from the Twins in the Rule 5 Draft, could make a strong play for one of what appears to be two open spots.
The Mets are thankful for what Carlyle gave them last season and for what Rice did two years ago, but those two are currently on the outside of the 40-man roster looking in.
The other four pitchers on this list are long shots. Alvarez and Leathersich are both left-handed and on the 40-man roster, but the Mets would prefer to develop them more in the Minors. Goeddel converted to relief last year and struggled, receiving a cup of coffee anyway in September. The Mets gave Mazzoni a chance to compete for a bullpen role last year and could do so again, considering his so-so track record as a Minor League starter.