As we continue to move through the 40-man roster of the New York Mets, we take a look at the year in review for Jeremy Hefner. The young righty had what I think is a successful season. He had his ups and his downs (which I’ll get into in a bit), but he made his MLB debut after pitching in the minors since 2007, and has proved he’s versatile enough to be used in a few different capacities on the Big League roster.
How He Did on the Mound
Hefner saw himself get pulled up the the Big League squad and sent back down to Triple-A on a couple of different occasions this season, but when he was with the Bisons, he showed his ability to handle the opposition well, as he put together a 5-2 record with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. He threw 61.2 innings in the minors, with 9 of his 10 appearances coming as a starter. Once he was called up to help the Mets’ pitching staff, he bounced back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen, being used as the long man/spot starter.
In the 93.2 innings pitched with New York, Hefner appeared in 26 games, half of them which were starts. His final stat line doesn’t look overly impressive, as he finished with a 4-7 record, 5.09 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, and 62 strikeouts. The 26-year-old had his lowest point of the season come on September 20th against the Phillies, as he didn’t record an out while allowing 7 runs on 6 hits and a walk before Terry Collins pulled him in what ended up being a 16-1 blowout. After the game, Hefner spoke to the media, obviously upset, saying how disappointed he was and how he hoped to get another chance to prove himself.
Collins did just that, giving him two more starts before his season was finished, as he did a 180 degree turn and looked fantastic. In his start following the debacle against Philly, he went 7 shutout innings, allowing 3 hits and 1 walk on 7 strikeouts against the Pirates. In his final start facing the Marlins, he went 7 innings again, allowing 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7.
Areas to Improve Upon
Before he joined the Mets organization, Hefner had the reputation for being a strike-thrower, and he certainly lived up to that expectation. He walked 18 hitters in his 93.2 innings pitched, good for a sparkling 1.7 BB/9 IP. Although he possesses four pitches to throw (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup), he doesn’t exactly have electric stuff that he can depend on to get hitters out. So, even though he gets the ball in the strike zone an awful lot, he’ll need to improve on using the corners and executing his game plan better moving into next year. His time in the minor leagues prove he’s ready for the challenge, and it’s likely a matter of adjusting at the next level. Also, he’ll need to improve on being stingier as he gets deeper into an inning; in 2012, his ERA went from 3.90 with no one out to 5.16 with two outs.
Projected Role for 2013
His strong performances to end the season should be enough to prove he is capable of being a productive part of the Big League pitching staff, and I think he will get that opportunity next season. Every manager would love a pitcher like Hefner; someone who can come in to eat up innings and throw strikes, while also being available to be a spot starter. That’s the role I expect him to have once the Mets break camp next spring; he should be the long man in the bullpen, and at the same time, be readily available to fill in for a start here or there.
Contract Status and Trade Rumors
Hefner just completed the one-year deal he signed last winter that netted him $480K, and it’s likely he will be getting somewhere close to that next year as well. If he makes the Big League squad, he will be eligible to earn the league minimum, which is $490K. He has not been involved in any recent trade rumors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up in a package with a position player this winter. Maybe coupling him with someone like Lucas Duda or Daniel Murphy could happen to bring back a legitimate outfielder. At this point, we can only speculate.