Nine Minor League Relievers the Mets Could Target


As a whole, the New York Mets bullpen has more or less been a disaster. And with the recent injury of Frank Francisco, the bullpen is shuffling even more than it already has been. Hopefully Bobby Parnell can become a solid replacement closer, but with Jon Rauch, Ramon Ramirez, and Miguel Batista struggling, it might be time to look outside the organization for help. Seeing as the Mets may not want to take on a big reliever contract or trade good prospects in exchange for a top flight stopper, it might be a prudent approach to pluck a veteran reliever from another organization’s Triple-A squad.

Jensen Lewis

(Age: 28, Arizona Diamondbacks): Lewis hasn’t pitched in the Major Leagues since 2010, but given his solid career statistics (3.68 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and 2.08 K/BB), it’s a little surprising. His most dominant year was his rookie season in 2007, when, at age 23, he hurled 29.3 innings of 2.15 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 3.40 K/BB baseball for the Cleveland Indians. The right-hander’s biggest hurdle was always control (3.9 BB/9 career), but boy could he sit down batters (10.4 K/9 in 2007). Now as a 28 year-old in the Diamondbacks system, it seems as though Lewis has traded some of his dominance for control. In 27.6 innings for Triple-A, the reliever has posted a 2.93 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 3.33 K/BB (with a 6.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9). With age still on his side, Jensen Lewis deserves another crack at the show, and perhaps the Mets could be a nice fit.

J.C. Romero (Age: 36, Baltimore Orioles): People aren’t kidding when they say left-handed pitchers will always find a job. In Romero’s fourteen year career, the southpaw has pitched for six organizations (including four just last season)–and seven if you count the Baltimore Orioles Triple-A squad this year. The veteran reliever was cut by the St. Louis Cardinals after pitching to the tune of a 10.13 ERA, 2.00 WHIP, and 2.50 K/BB in 8 innings. Despite seemingly being at the end of the line, Romero has been nothing short of brilliant for Norfolk, owning a 0.00 ERA, 0.48 WHIP, and 5.50 K/BB in 10.3 innings. It’s surprising he hasn’t gotten the call yet, but at this rate, Romero belongs with a big league club.

Pat Neshek (Age: 31, Baltimore Orioles): After Neshek’s rookie season in 2006 for the Minnesota Twins, most people assumed he would surely become one of the game’s best relief pitchers. The 25 year-old posted a dominating 2.19 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and 8.83 K/BB in 37 innings. His 2007 season wasn’t anything to cough at either, owning a 2.94 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 2.74 K/BB. But as soon as his career took off, it fell flat on its face. Neshek succumbed to some serious arm injuries, which led to a short-lived 2008 season (4.73 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 3.75 K/BB in 13.3 IP), and completely missing the 2009 season. The righty attempted to come back in 2010, but was ineffective at both the Minor League (4.35 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 1.80 K/BB in 41.3 IP) and Major League (5.00 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 1.13 K/BB in 9 IP) levels. The San Diego Padres threw him a bone in 2011, but were greeted with similarly poor results (4.01 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, and 0.91 K/BB in 24.6 IP). Having not enjoyed a fruitful season since 2007, few people expected Neshek to latch onto any club. However, the Baltimore Orioles decided to ink him on a Minor League deal, and so far, it’s worked out very well. So far, the former stud has uncovered his formerly great control (1.7 BB/9), and has proven he can still sit down batters at impressive rates (8.5 K/9). While his 3.13 ERA and 1.26 WHIP aren’t as lights out as his 2006 and 2007-selves, it would still be a welcome addition to the fledgling Mets bullpen.

Kevin Jepsen (Age: 27, Los Angeles Angels): With a fastball averaging the mid-to-high 90’s, Kevin Jepsen and his three-pitch arsenal long seemed destined for late-inning work. However, like so many flamethrowers, Jepsen has always struggled with his control. Even in the Minor Leagues, the righty owns a dismal 5.2 BB/9. Despite his solid career 8.5 K/9, his walk numbers are simply unacceptable. And they didn’t get any better in the Majors, either. In five scattered seasons for the Angels, Jepsen owned an abysmal 5.01 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, and 2.00 K/BB. His worst BB/9 ratio came in 2011, when he posted an unfathomable 6.2 BB/9 (and just a 4.2 K/9). Struggles aside, it seems as though Jepsen has finally strung it together in Triple-A. In 23 innings, the reliever has posted a dominant 3.52 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 3.56 K/BB. Even though his K/BB has been fueled by an awesome 12.5 K/9, his 3.5 BB/9 is well below his Minor League career average.  It’s also important to note that while Jepsen has been in the Angels organization since 2002, he’s still just 27 years-old, so it’s possible he’s still learning. And judging by his average 95.8 MPH fastball, he’s still got the goods.

Brian Sanches (Age: 33, Philadelphia Phillies): Sanches seemingly came out of nowhere in 2009 for the Florida Marlins, hurling an impressive 2.56 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and 1.96 K/BB in 56.3 IP. Many people thought his season was a fluke, but Sanches suprised critics with an even better 2010, pitching to the tune of a 2.26 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 2.00 K/BB in 63.6 IP. But, given the fickle nature of relievers, the righty couldn’t turn in a third good season. With already suspect control (4.0 BB/9 from 2009 to 2010), Sanches posted a very mediocre 3.94 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 1.47 K/BB, the latter fueled by a dismal 5.3 BB/9. The Marlins cut ties with the reliever, and the Phillies scooped him up. So far in Triple-A, there has been few better options. Sanches has posted a dominant 2.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 5.80 K/BB. Despite owning a career 3.1 BB/9 in the Minor League, the righty currently sports a very svelt 1.4 BB/9. Granted, Sanches got rocked in a recent 4 innings stint for the Phillies big-league club, but perhaps he’s deserving of more work.

Yoshinori Tateyama (Age: 36, Texas Rangers): When the Texas Rangers signed Tateyama to a two-year deal worth a little over $1 million, most teams were perplexed. The Japanese veteran was 35 years-old, and seemingly towards the end of his baseball career, but for whatever reason, the Rangers felt Tateyama had something left in the tank. After absolutely dominating Triple-A for 21 innings (2.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 6.50 K/BB), the import got the call. Initially, Major League hitters couldn’t figure him out. For a stretch of 38 innings, Tateyama owned a 2.37 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, and 5.71 K/BB. But his final few outings were pretty bad, bumping his seasonal stats up to a 4.50 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 3.91 K/BB. Despite the sour ending, one would think the Rangers would still hand Tateyama a middle-relief gig in 2012? Not the case. The 36 year-old started the season in Triple-A, and has been shuttled back-and-forth. The righty has actually been even more dominant in Triple-A this year than he was last year, posting a 0.45 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, and 4.50 K/BB in 20 innings, but his abysmal 11.88 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, and 2.67 K/BB in 8.3 Major League innings this year has kept the veteran in the Minors for the majority of the season.

Josh Kinney (Age: 33, Seattle Mariners): For a guy who honestly hasn’t had a good Major League season since 2006 (3.24 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 2.75 K/BB in 25 IP), there seems like little reason to even give him a chance. But in his fourth Triple-A season in a row, Kinney is dominating hitters. This year for Tacoma, the right-handed pitcher has posted a great 2.78 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 3.60 K/BB. His walk and strikeout numbers are good too, sporting a 2.5 BB/9 and 9.1 K/9. He’s still giving up a few too many hits (8.8 H/9), but then again, the PCL is a know hitter’s haven. But despite all the hits, Kinney has yet to surrender a homerun in 35.6 relief innings. That has some value, right?

Jesse Chavez (Age: 28, Toronto Blue Jays): Trading for Jesse Chavez is hardly a new thought. In fact, Chavez has been dealt four times in his still very young career. He’s been swapped for Kip Wells, Akinori Iwamura, Rafael Soriano, and most recently, for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. Even though most people attach a sigma to players who have been dealt a lot, in some cases, it just means that teams have faith in the player breaking out. After years of toiling in different franchise’s systems, it’s possible that time is now. The right-hander was actually switched to the rotation in Triple-A this season, but he’s still a reliever at heart. To-date, Chavez has posted a solid 3.84 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 4.33 K/BB. Considering his career walk rate is 3.0 BB/9, folks have to be impressed with his microscopic 1.9 BB/9 this year. It hasn’t been all bells and whistles for Chavez this year, however. The Blue Jays recalled him in late-May, and has since sported an ugly 7.56 ERA. Despite the amount of earned-runs, Chavez’s other statistics still look solid–1.32 WHIP, 3.16 xFIP, 11.88 K/9, 2.7 BB/9. He also has a five-pitch arsenal.

Justin Germano (29, Boston Red Sox): After pitching 133.3 serviceable innings as a starter in 2007 for the San Diego Padres, Germano has fallen off the map. Fast forward five years. Now with the Boston Red Sox Triple-A team, Germano is more than re-kindling his abilities. In 97 innings so far, Germano has hurled an impressive 2.60 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, and 4.77 K/BB. Granted, he’s not striking out a ton of batters (5.8 K/9), but he’s keeping runners off the paths (7.2 Hits/9), and being very stingy in the walk department (1.2 BB/9). Ideally, the Mets could slip Germano at the back-end of their bullpen in mop-up duties–but he wouldn’t be a bad option to start if God forbid someone got injured (we’re looking at you, Chris Young).