The Super Bowl has come and gone. Yes, I had my Black and White cookie. And for the scientific amongst us the Groundhog has declared six more weeks of winter. All of this has me thinking of baseball again and in particular Spring Training. Less than two weeks until pitchers and catchers. Spring training is a time for optimism, and thoughts of possibilities. It’s also a time to see young players, many times for the first time. We can expect a lot of Noah Syndergaard news from Port St. Lucie. I will be as interested to see Thor as the next fan, but I don’t expect Syndergaard to pitch for the Mets in 2014. That will temper my excitement some. There are other young arms in this camp, though, who I’m hoping can help the 2014 team. Although I’m still looking for one veteran signing, there are bullpen jobs to be filled and plenty of room for any pitcher to carve out a spot. Three names in particular peak my interest at this time.
One year ago Jeurys Familia made the Mets out of spring training and was being touted as a future closer. Familia has the big fastball associated with late inning success. Shortly after notching his first career save Familia injured his elbow, and his year was cut short by reconstructive surgery. Jeurys made it back for a few minor league appearances very late in 2013. He also was able to pitch in the Arizona Fall league, but he did get knocked around. Familia is still a very young 22. Health is the key here.
I’ve seen Cory Mazzoni pitch twice in Binghamton, once each in 2012 and 2013. Both times Mazzoni was very hard to hit for four innings, but was not able to sustain his velocity. I saw him hit 95 MPH a few times and wonder if he could throw at that level consistently in one or two inning stints. Mazzoni also has shown good control, a trait that would also translate well to relief. Mazzoni pitched in college and is already 24 years old. The Mets have plenty of more intriguing starting pitching prospects, I’m hoping to see Mazzoni used as a reliever this spring. I think he could thrive as a bullpen arm.
Jeff Walters had a nice year in Binghamton last year closing games for the B-Mets, with 38 saves. Walters’ other numbers were solid too, with an ERA of 2.09, a WHIP of 1.107, and 9.6 SO/9. Like Mazzoni, Walters was also drafted out of college, and his age is a red flag. His success last year came at the advanced age of 25. This leaves the unanswered question of whether Jeff’s success was more a case of an older, more experienced player taking advantage of inexperienced foes. Unlike Mazzoni and Familia I have never seen Walters throw. I’m hoping to see a real fastball, it is hard to succeed as a righty reliever in the majors with nothing but guile. Frankly, given that he was never promoted to the Mets in 2013 I’m suspicious.
If a couple of these guys were to come through, our bullpen could surprise. Bobby Parnell established himself as a legitimate closer and Vic Black showed a live arm and bullpen demeanor in September. And as of now they are all undefeated.
That is one great thing about February.