Spring training begins in 9 days, and Sandy Alderson has been diligently working to address some of the team’s needs. Yesterday, the GM signed Marlon Byrd as a right-handed hitting option for the outfield (I think this is an excellent signing), and Alderson is still trying to get his first pick in the 2013 draft protected, so he can pursue Michael Bourn. In addition, Alderson is scouring the market for potential late-inning relief help, and has already signed Scott Atchison and LaTroy Hawkins to bolster the bullpen. Rumors indicate that the Mets are going to take another look at Brian Wilson. The Mets have also been linked to Jose Valverde and Francisco Rodriguez. Also, the Mets have some internal options to consider for the 2013 version of relief corps.
Unlike many, or most, other fans, I’m not extremely worried about the Mets’ bullpen. Beyond the names above, the Mets have Frank Francisco, Bobby Parnell, Josh Edgin, Robert Carson, Pedro Feliciano, Elvin Ramirez, Jenrry Mejia, and Jeruys Familia as internal options. Some of these pitchers are more familiar to us than others. Mejia has had a few stints in New York, both as a starter and a reliever. Mejia also has had arm trouble, and may be a wild card going into 2013. Late last year, Jeruys Familia made his major-league debut, with mixed results. In 8 appearances (1 start), Familia pitched 12.1 innings, allowing 10 hits, while striking out 10 and walking 9. Familia displayed a very fluid and calm motion, throwing his fastball consistently in the low to mid 90s. He threw 78% fastballs in 2012 (major and minor leagues combined), with the majority of the remainder of his pitches being sliders. In his minor-league career, Familia has almost exclusively been a starter, having started in 110 of his 109 appearances over 5 seasons. His minor-league statistics are good, if not stellar. His combined record is 32-31, with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP. What can we expect from the 23-year-old native of Santo Domingo in 2013?
The Fan Graphs projection for Familia in 2013 (assuming a starting role) is a 7-11 record, with 4.58 ERA over 163 innings pitched, with 148 strikeouts. While Familia is not anticipated to be a starter this season, it’s interesting to look at these projections. Clearly, using the Fan Graphs system, Familia is seen as a below average pitcher. I see Familia differently. In his brief time with the Mets last year, Jeurys showed above-average stuff, and a quiet, determined nature that should serve him well as he continues to mature. His primary opportunities for development seem to be adjusting to the relief role, and possibly mixing in some of his secondary pitches a bit more, so major-league hitters can’t adjust to and sit on his fastball. The talent is there, perhaps the veteran John Buck’s influence can help Familia, as he works in Port Saint Lucie to earn a spot in the major-league bullpen.
It’s obvious that Sandy Alderson is taking the “see what sticks” approach to assembling his relief pitching this year. There’s nothing wrong with this strategy. Bullpens are the most volatile parts of major-league teams. Alderson is collecting arms, and will essentially host an open competition in February and March. An additional benefit of this strategy is that it has enabled Alderson to conserve the money he does have available to address other facets of the team, having signed many of the cast of relievers to minor-league deals. As we get closer to the actual start of spring training, keep an eye on Jeurys Familia. He may be the “sleeper” of 2013.