The New York Mets bullpen has been a major weakness this year. It’s time to promote minor league pitcher Steve Villines and see what he can do.
The lack of pitching depth the New York Mets have is already coming back to the bite them.
Not only are their starting pitchers floundering, but their bullpen ERA has been near the bottom of the league all year long. Besides Edwin Diaz, nobody has consistently gotten outs out of the pen.
Enter, Steve Villines. Villines is a sidearming righty who touches 90 mph with his fastball and has done nothing but get outs since beginning his professional career.
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Through 100.2 innings in 71 relief appearances, Villines holds a 2.50 ERA and has recorded 145 strikeouts. That includes 6.2 scoreless innings at double-A in 2019 thus far.
Villines currently ranks 23rd on MLB.com’s Mets prospect list and is already expected to make his major league debut at some point this year. With a deceptive arm slot and three effective pitches that include a fastball, slider, and changeup, he can be put into any situation of a game in order to give opposing batters a different look.
Changing perspectives by mixing in a sidearm pitcher not only makes Villines tougher to hit but the guys who pitch after him as well. Given his arm slot, surprising velocity, and overall effectiveness, Steve Cishek is an easy player comp to base his ceiling.
Cishek earned 2.3 wins above replacement last year. It’s very reasonable to expect the addition of Villines to earn the club an extra win or two over the course of a season. It’s not like anyone not named Diaz is stepping up and getting outs at the moment.
Not that Villines is the Mets’ closer of the future, but he has never been ineffective his entire career. Why not give him a chance? Even in the minors, a career 13.0 K/9 rate and 0.924 WHIP is nothing to scoff at.
If he continues to miss bats and gains a little more experience at double-A, he should be given a chance to quickly move up the ladder until he proves he has flaws. Let’s not get crazy about him, but let’s at least make him part of the conversation when it comes to minor league pitching depth.
The way I see it, the Mets cannot rely on Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Jacob Rhame, Paul Sewald, Drew Gagnon, or Tim Peterson. And, with Tyler Bashlor struggling in the minors and Drew Smith hurt for the next year or so, there has never been a better time to aggressively promote Villines to the big league roster.
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Keep an eye on him for the future. We’ve seen the Mets regret letting go of similar pitchers like Joe Smith and Darren O’Day in the past. Maybe this time the Mets will have a new sidearming staple in their bullpen for years to come.