Predicting winners of 3 big Mets spring training battles to watch
3) New York Mets bullpen open spots: Jeff Brigham, Tommy Hunter, Elieser Hernandez
The Mets bullpen enters their first workouts this week with five givens among its group of eight in Edwin Diaz, Adam Ottavino, Brooks Raley, David Robertson, and Drew Smith. So this leaves three spots to earn among about what will probably be about 12 candidates, several of whom were low-risk, high-reward pickups this offseason.
But I think one non-roster invitee along with two relievers on the 40-man roster will get the jobs out of camp.
First, I think Jeff Brigham and Elieser Hernandez will be the two other relievers on the 40-man roster to make the team. They were the two pitchers they acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins last November.
Brigham brings excellent stuff to the hill, most notably a nasty slider that can be a serious weapon for the Mets with its tremendous horizontal movement. The Mets got success from Adam Ottavino last year for incorporating his slider into his game in big spots, and the Mets would see something similar for Brigham. He also brings an above average fastball velocity of 95 mph and can touch 98 at times
Hernandez figures to be a long reliever for the Mets in the bullpen after letting Trevor Williams go this winter. He did have a rough season in Miami last year, but he threw first pitch strikes 69.1 percent of the time last year, which was ranked 7th among all pitchers that threw 50 or more innings last year. Jeremy Hefner will coach him up and he’ll prove himself when he pitches for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March.
The non-roster invitee that I predict will make the team is Tommy Hunter. Even in a limited capacity and without many high leverage situations, he was really good last year, pitching to a 2.42 ERA in 22.1 innings and 18 appearances. Buck Showalter’s familiarity with him and Hunter’s status as a veteran would help the Mets, and he will prove himself again this spring.