There are only 12 more wintery, nonbaseball filled days left until the sights and sounds of America’s past time starts revving up its engine. That’s right, Pitchers and Catchers report in 12 days down in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
Before the full squad workout on February 18th, social media will be filled with pitchers beginning to throw bullpens on the back fields of First Data Field. Let’s look into some of the more interesting pitchers to be on the lookout for aside from the familiar faces we have been accustomed to.
Luis Avilan was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training by the Mets on Jan. 10th. Avilan, 29, will compete to be the second lefty in the bullpen with newly acquired Justin Wilson. Avilan has a career ERA of 3.09 and held left-handed hitters to a 213 average. Compared to the Mets lone Lefty for the majority of the season last year, Jerry Blevins, Avilan had a better ERA (3.77 > 4.85) K/9 ( 10.13 > 8.65) BB/9 (3.57 > 4.64) and FIP (3.09 > 4.97). Scouts, according to Metsblog, see this signing for the Mets as a steal. It will be interesting to see the competition in spring with Avilan and Daniel Zamora, who had an impressive cup of coffee at the end of the 2018 season for the second lefty spot in the pen.
Hector Santiago is another interesting minor league invite who was signed on January 8th. The 31-year-old southpaw is an eight-year veteran who has been with the Whitesox, Angels, and Twins. Primarily working as a starter, Santiago is seen primarily as starting pitching depth for the Mets, which beyond the one through five, the Mets are pretty thin in options. He could also fight for a bullpen spot as an innings eater. Let’s look at the stats, Santiago last year with the Whitesox was in 49 games, 7 as a starter, and went 6-3 with a 4.41 ERA. Santiago is a flyball pitcher, with a lower ground ball rate than the league average (33% < 43%), but his batted ball contact percentage yields medium to soft contact 69% of the time. In Citi Field opposed to Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago) these fly ball rates could provide some positive results. With the way baseball goes, we are most likely to see Santiago at some point in the season due to injuries or performance. Hopefully, he will be able to find what made him an All-Star in 2015 with the Angels.
David Peterson, 23, was drafted by the Mets in the first round of the 2017 draft. He has received his first invitation the major league camp after going 7 – 10 with a 3.16 ERA in 128.00 innings between single-A Colombia Fireflies, and advanced Single-A St. Lucie. Peterson has no chance of making the roster out of spring, but fans will get a good look at the number one pick against major league talent. The lefty offers a 4 pitch mix, his best pitch being a 91-93 mph fastball that stays consistently down in the zone offering a high ground ball rate. He also provides a short tight slider and a “polished-feel” changeup. His curveball is a pitch used to mix up in sequence. Scouting report here.
Drew Smith was the piece the Mets acquired in the Trade with Tampa Bay for Lucas Duda in 2017. Smith appeared in 28 games for the Mets, finding success to a 3.54 ERA. Out of all of the young, hard-throwing relievers, the Mets acquired in 2017, Smith was the most impressive. He has a repeatable and fluid motion that produces an easy 97 mph fastball. Smith has had a sub 3 ERA in every level leading to the big leagues, even in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in his time in Vegas (2.76). My prediction is that if Smith produces, as his track record has shown, he will be in the 2019 bullpen to start the year that hopes to improve their 28th ranking in ERA.
They call him Sugar, I guess that’s the nickname you get when you lock a win down 57 times in one season. Brodie Van Wagenen kicked the offseason to a hot start when making the seven-player trade for Canó and Díaz. Diaz is arguably the best closer in the game right now, after his historic 2018 season. Díaz, 24, had a 1.96 ERA, 57 saves, and 124 strikeouts in 73.1 innings. This results in a 15.22 k/9 rate. Edwin Diaz had a video game-like stats in 2018, and I can only see the pitching excellence on display when a Jacob DeGrom 8-inning gem is closed out by an electric Díaz fastball.
With pitching on the west coast with the Mariners, many Met fans haven’t seen much of Díaz pitch in a game. He is going to be must-see baseball whenever he takes the mound in spring.
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