While most of the New York Mets roster seems to be locked in for Opening Day, it appears that the only remaining competition involves who is going to be in the bullpen on Thursday evening when the Mets open the season against the Washington Nationals. One of the more interesting players to monitor is right-handed pitcher Robert Gsellman, as it’s fair to wonder what the plan is moving forward with the 27-year old pitcher.
Gsellman has one minor league option remaining which allows the Mets a bit of roster flexibility when determining who may ultimately head north with the team. Gsellman’s minor league option is arguably a big reason the Mets had tendered Gsellman a contract this winter, despite his ineffective campaign last season.
While Gsellman hasn’t had a terrible spring, I believe the Mets should utilize the Minor League option that Gsellman has remaining to add Jacob Barnes to the Opening Day roster due to the great spring he has had. I firmly believe as well that Mike Montgomery should make the roster in place of Gsellman, who they could risk losing if he’s not added to the roster. In this scenario, it allows the Mets time to figure out Gsellman’s role with the organization moving forward, as well as provides Gsellman the opportunity to work on some things away from the bright lights of New York City.
The New York Mets will have a decision on their hands on how to best utilize Robert Gsellman and get the most out of him this season.
Gsellman has experience as both a starter and as a reliever over his six seasons with the organization, in which the Mets could get creative in how they use him moving forward. Over his career, Gsellman has produced a 4.83 ERA with a 1.494 WHIP as a starting pitcher, and a 4.50 ERA with a 1.346 WHIP as a reliever. The numbers trend more towards Gsellman being more effective as a reliever than as a starting pitcher at this point in his career.
I firmly believe Gsellman’s best opportunity to make the club out of Spring Training could be in a long-relief role for the Mets, but when he has been given the opportunity in the past he has largely struggled. Also due to Mike Montgomery’s opt-out, as well as his performance to this point, it’s hard not to argue that Montgomery is more deserving of the long relief role at this time.
Should Gsellman perform well down at the Mets alternate site and potentially during the upcoming Minor League season, he should be in line as one of the first options recalled for a spot in the Mets bullpen. But to this point, Gsellman is left in roster limbo, and it may be best for him to continue his work in becoming more consistent throwing strikes in a lower pressure environment, as his walks-per-nine-innings have been on the rise over the last two seasons (3.25 in 2019, 5.14 in 2020).
Gsellman has also largely struggled with his sinker which is his primary offering. In 2019 batters hit .318 off his sinker and hit .292 against it in 2020. Gsellman’s ground ball percentage has also steadily declined since his breakout campaign in 2016. Back in 2016, Gsellman’s ground ball percentage was at 54.2% and in 2020 it was all the way down to 41.5%, which could also attribute to his struggles over the last few seasons.
Gsellman’s horizontal movement on his sinker was at 16.7 inches of break back in 2016 and in 2020 it was down to 13.2 inches of break. Command and harnessing his sinker are two areas in which Gsellman should be looking to improve in order to have another successful run with the Mets in 2021.
Ultimately Gsellman’s ceiling at this point is that of a potential low-leverage reliever, which is a far cry from the pitcher we had witnessed back in 2016 as a member of the starting rotation. You also could consider this season as Gsellman’s last chance to remain with the only organization he has known to this point in his career.
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However, should Gsellman make improvements to some of the areas listed above he could certainly play a role in the Mets bullpen this season. With the possible pitching refinements listed above that the organization would love to see, Gsellman could potentially find himself put back into higher leverage situations as well at some point this season for the Mets.