Help Wanted in the Mets Bullpen: Can Familia, Mazzoni, or Walters Gain Employment?

Bill MurrayThe 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 jeurys-familiafuture 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 Cory MazzoniMazzoni 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 jeff waltersSO/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.

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7 comments

  1. tommyb says:

    You overlooked Familia in Winter ball after the Fall League. His last 4 1/3 innings, he put up a Craig Kimbrel line: 4 1/3 shutout innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, ELEVEN K’s! Small sample, to be sure, but that short stint speaks volumes to me. I am expecting big things of Jeurys in 2014.

    I am shocked you think Noah will not pitch for Mets in 2014. He dominated AA until his last start, so I see a few months in AAA to get him through Super 2 and then a call up. He needs to get rookie adjustment out of the way so they can shoot for the post-season with a Syndergaard who already has his feet wet at the major league level – and a Noah who will help sell tickets in 2014.

    • Michael Geus says:

      Good point on that Winter Ball performance.

      As for Noah, I agree with everything you say but I’m not the GM. Based on how slowly Harvey, Wheeler, and Montero have been promoted I expect Noah to be in the minors all of 2014.

      • Alan K. says:

        If Noah pitches well in AAA, I expect him to be here sometime after the Super Two deadline. By then the Mets will need whatever positive energy he can provide to the fan base.

  2. tommyb says:

    A repost of the above with one edit:
    You overlooked Familia in Winter ball after the Fall League. His last 4 1/3 innings, he put up a Craig Kimbrel line: 4 1/3 shutout innings, 2 hits, 1 walk, ELEVEN K’s! Small sample, to be sure, but that short stint speaks volumes to me. I am expecting big things of Jeurys in 2014.

    I am shocked you think Noah will not pitch for Mets in 2014. He dominated AA until his last start, so I see a few months in AAA to get him through Super 2 and then a call up. He needs to get rookie adjustment out of the way so they can shoot for the 2015 post-season with a Syndergaard who already has his feet wet at the major league level – and a Noah who will help sell tickets in 2014.

  3. I see Noah on the team late this summer, also, unless something unforeseen happens.

    Not to be negative, but Mazzoni has only pitched AA. While I think he’s an excellent candidate for the pen, he should perform that role in the minors at AAA. I’ve seen him and did not consider his stuff dominant, though I liked his mound demeanor.

    I saw Walters last year, he has a SoCal long and lanky look to him. He should get a look, though I’m not super optimistic. Like Mazzoni, he only pitched AA last year.

    Familia is the guy who you can imagine as a force/horse out there. He reminds me of Benetiz, in that the delivery is AWFUL but the arm is a gun. He’s not an artist out there, but I’d love to see him in the pen. He’ll have issues with control, but a degree of wildness can work for some pitchers. If he a can stay healthy (and with that windup, I’m dubious), he’s exactly the kind of guy the Mets need to cultivate in the minor league system.

    Again: I’m bullish on the depth approach, on developing our own relievers, but this first wave of arms strikes me as not ready, inexperienced, and/or just not very good. For every hit and miss, discard and pick up, games will be lost in brutal ways. It’s part of the process, but I see a lot of guys I don’t particularly love (Edgin, German, Rice), guys who can look okay for two months, 20 innings, before being exposed. I actually think it’s not too difficult for almost anyone to put up acceptable BP stats for a while. I do like Torres in the long man role.

    Oh, and if Montero really is destined to be a reliever, I wish they would make that decision and allow him to adapt to that role. I think it’s hard for a young guy to jump from starter to reliever.

    Overall, I like the methodology, but don’t think the talent is there (yet) and collectively this group simply lacks experience with the long grind of bullpen work. Alderson needed to acquire more talent. I think the pen will be erratic — and I don’t think Collins has the touch for managing these guys.

    • Alan K. says:

      There are a number of relievers out there who could probably be signed fairly cheaply. I think it’s important to have options and someone who can provide veteran leadership to a young group.

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