If you’re like me, you waited for today’s Grapefruit League opener with eager anticipation. This was a vacation day from work. It was an opportunity to celebrate a re-birth, the coming-to-life (amidst the 20-degree temperatures) of baseball once agin. And the game, for the most part, didn’t disappoint.
The Mets got stellar pitching from Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom, two of the relative slew of young arms of which the organization can be proud. Ike Davis hit a home run, and Lucas Duda hit the ball hard in every at-bat, signaling an interesting story line for the first base competition. The Mets yielded a run in the 9th, which broke a 4-4 tie, and the Nationals went on to win. That run was surrendered by Jeff Walters.
Well, for one thing, he bears a striking resemblance to Bronson Arroyo. In addition, the 26-year-old Walters was the closer last year for Double-A Binghamton, saving 38 games.
Walters posted a 2.09 ERA and 1.11 WHIP while with Binghamton, striking out 60 batters in 56 innings while walking just 16 and allowing 46 hits.
2013 was Walters’ fourth season in the Mets organization. He’s worked in relief in 90 of his 106 minor-league games. Walters features a fastball that generally sits in the low-to-mid 90s, a sharp curve, and a developing change-up. Walters will likely start the 2014 season with Triple-A Las Vegas.
However, his continued development will provide back-end bullpen depth for the Mets, who are hoping that Bobby Parnell‘s neck injury is fully healed.
Vic Black, Jose Valverde, and Kyle Farnsworth are ready to step in if Parnell isn’t ready to close, with Jeurys Familia waiting in the wings. Jeff Walters may not make an impact with the Mets during the 2014 season, but he’s potentially a developing closer who gives the Mets all-important depth (and possibly a trade chip).
We will probably see Jeff Walters sporadically during spring training, and we may not hear his name much once the season begins. However, having a pitcher who saved 38 games in Double-A flying under the radar is a sign of just how much quality pitching the Mets are stockpiling.