The New York Mets only have a few more Spring Training games remaining before the regular season starts on April Fools Day. Mets fans are beginning to see the final roster take shape; however, the bullpen remains a tightly contested battle, with many players making strong and convincing cases that they earned the right to be on the active roster on April 1st.
One of these players is Jacob Barnes. Barnes is a 30-year-old right-handed pitcher who previously suited up for the Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, and Los Angeles Angels before being claimed off waivers. He worked his way up through the Milwaukee Brewers farm system after being drafted in the 11th round back in 2011. After being called up by the team in 2016, Barnes proceeded to be a solid producer in the Brewers bullpen. In his first stint in the majors, Barnes posted a 2.70 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and a 0.5 bWAR in 26 ⅔ innings.
Because of his initial success, Barnes started 2017 on the major league roster. He produced 12 straight scoreless outings before struggling down the stretch. In the end, he ended his 2017 season with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 72 innings.
The Mets will have a difficult decision to make in constructing their bullpen roster with Jacob Barnes pitching well at the opportune time.
Since then, Barnes has always had to consistently perform well to keep his roster spot. However, this time with the Mets, Barnes does not have the inside track at a spot in the team’s bullpen. Seth Lugo’s untimely injury increased Barnes’s chances at earning a roster spot, but he entered camp knowing he was going to have to leapfrog a pitcher or two in order to have a shot at making the Mets active roster for Opening Day.
With Spring Training almost over, Barnes has made a strong case, but the question is whether it will be good enough. He began the Grapefruit League season on a lackluster note, leaving his chances at a bullpen spot in a parlous state. However, Barnes quickly turned it around. Since then, he has pitched four scoreless innings, the last three of which saw him not allow a hit or a walk.
Looking at his competition, the Mets will likely go with an eight-man bullpen to start the year. Edwin Diaz and Trevor May will start off as the closer and setup man, respectively. Aaron Loup, Dellin Betances, Miguel Castro, and Jeurys Familia are guaranteed roster spots barring something unforeseen. That leaves Barnes fighting one of two remaining bullpen spots, and he is competing with a long list of players for those spots, including Robert Gsellman, Sam McWilliams, Mike Montgomery, Drew Smith, Jerry Blevins, and Tommy Hunter.
One important aspect to note about this competition is that Gsellman has a minor league option in his contract. This is a crucial point because it means that the Mets could send him to Triple-A and not worry about losing him to another team. It is possible that if several of these arms, including Barnes, have made a strong case for making the team, then the Mets will most likely use the minor league option on Gsellman to their advantage.
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Barnes may get one more chance to pitch before the Mets make their decision. Although he has made a sturdy case to make the team, one bad performance will be enough to derail him. Like several other veteran relievers the Mets have in camp, Barnes has no room for error.