Over the past two days, I’ve given you my grades for the guys we see every day (every 5th for the pitchers) but a very important part of every winning team is its role players. The ability to come off the bench to provide power or steal a base, amongst other things, is what shapes a team when it comes down to those big moments. The ability to successfully come in at random and only play a few innings at a time is few and far between. For this reason, there is a great amount of turnover on the bench of every team from one season to the next. The teams who play deep into October don’t have a single wasted spot on that bench. Let’s take a look at the Opening Day backups and where they stand with the team.
Anthony Recker - D- For someone who strikes out as much as he does, he doesn’t have a whole lot of power. I can see some offensive potential in him but I think he needs a little more minor league seasoning; I’d rather have a veteran catcher backing up d’Arnaud anyway.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis - F - I really thought this guy would be a stud when he first came up but he could just never figure out Major League pitching. He batted just .189 and struck out in nearly one third of his at-bats. Nieuwenhuis plays the outfield pretty well but its safe to say he’s lost his spot to Lagares. He could potentially be a 4th outfielder if he can become a better hitter but I don’t see him starting anytime soon.
Mike Baxter - F - Baxter was very good for us in the field and I’ll always remember him saving Johan’s no hitter. However, his bat is non-existent and having him in the lineup is a detriment. I appreciate that he hustles and works hard for every at-bat but I was glad to see him go. He also batted .189 and drove in just 4 runs in 74 games; anybody is an upgrade at this point.
Jordany Valdespin -F - Everybody loved this guy at the end of 2012 because he was clutch but his lack of discipline at the plate and in the field quickly wore out his welcome. In 2013, he struggled at the plate, batting just .188 in 66 games before he was suspended, which should mark the end of his time as a Met.
Justin Turner - D- Turner’s power was completely missing this season but he doesn’t strike out a lot so if he can become more consistent off the bench, he could make a great utility infielder. Unless something obviously better comes along, Turner will probably remain as the 5th infielder next season.
Baxter was claimed by the Dodgers and Valdespin probably wont get another chance with the Mets but the other three on this list have a fair chance of returning the bench at Citi Field. While backup position players are important, the pitchers who back up the starter are arguably the most important aspect to a championship team. A good bullpen wins you games which is the reason most of the league’s best bullpens pitch deep into the Fall. Remember 2006 when the Mets were so close to the World Series? Sure Heilman gave up the HR to Molina but our bullpen was FILTHY that season. Let’s take a look at some of the pieces we had in the bullpen last season.
Bobby Parnell - B - Before he got hurt, the Mets certainly had the confidence to use him as the closer and it was well deserved. His ERA was just 2.16 with 22 saves and although his strikeout numbers were down, he was allowing much fewer walks as well. If the Mets choose to go with another candidate for closer, Parnell should at least remain at the back end of the bullpen, perhaps as a set-up man.
Brandon Lyon - F- This was another signing that made me scratch my head. Lyon was past his prime by the time we got to him and it showed this season as he posted an ERA near 5 before his release on July 9th.
Latroy Hawkins -A- The oldest member of the roster was the most pleasant surprise among any of the pitchers. He posted an ERA under 3, a K/BB of 5.5 and 13 saves when he took over as closer at the end of the year. I’m thankful for what Hawkins did for us this year but he probably doesn’t have a spot with the team moving forward.
Scott Atchison - C - Atchison wasn’t terrible but for a 37 year old, he doesn’t really fit into the future of the bullpen in Flushing. For a reliever, he gives up way too many hits probably due to the fact that he doesn’t throw hard. It’s late in his career and I haven’t seen the stuff from Atchison to want to keep him on the staff.
Scott Rice - C - The 31-year-old rookie was better than I expected but he does have some control issues. If his location doesn’t improve, he still has a chance to be the lefty specialist should the team choose to carry one. Otherwise, he probably won’t see much more time in the majors as a regular.
Josh Edgin - C - Edgin was somewhere right in the middle this season. There were some games where he looked unhittable and other games where he couldn’t get anyone out. If he can gain control of all of his pitches, his stuff will make him the more effective version of Scott Rice but I don’t see Edgin being anything more than a middle reliever or specialist.
Greg Burke - F - Burke returned to the MLB for the first time since 2009 and wasn’t very effective out of the bullpen for the Mets. He gave up a lot of hits in his short taste of the big leagues which tells me his delivery might have more movement than his pitches. He’s 30 years old and, for that reason, will more than likely not get another chance with the Mets.
As good as our starting rotation is projecting to be in the coming years, our bullpen is equally bad. There isn’t a ton of stability because of the revolving door that is the Mets bullpen staff. Only Parnell and possibly Josh Edgin should even be a part of the bullpen next season but the team definitely needs to make a move for a reliever and begin grooming young arms in the farm system. I really like the addition of Vic Black so far and I believe he and Parnell could make a good back-end of the bullpen in the future. We have a long offseason ahead of us and I’m certainly looking forward to the types of guys Sandy Alderson wants to bring in.