Mets RHP Seth Lugo is uniquely qualified to become this team's version of Indians reliever Andrew Miller, who made headlines last postseason for his ability to fill multiple bullpen roles.
Lugo is far from a household name. Unfortunately for the Mets, that is likely to change when baseball fans watch him start Friday night for Puerto Rico against Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
I'm very interested to see how people react to his curve ball, which you and I know can be amazing.
"What Giancarlo Stanton is to exit velocity and Billy Hamilton is to base running and highlight reel defensive plays, Lugo is to spin rate," StatCast expert Mike Petriello explains in Friday article for MLB.com. "Lugo doesn't just have the highest average curveball spin by a hair, he's got it by a lot."
Feb 24, 2017; Lugo (67) throws a pitch at JetBlue Park. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
According to Petriello, Lugo has thrown 104 of the 200 highest-spin curveballs since 2015.
That said, he told SNY in November that he hasn't found the pitch to be overly impressive.
"It's been better in the past," Lugo explained. "I've always known it's my best pitch, especially in tight situations. But, at the same time, I don't feel like it was where it was in the past."
I wonder if his dissatisfaction with his curveball, despite its incredible spin rate, is why he only threw it 16 percent of the time last season. It seems to me that if he can throw it more often, plus do it better, he should be in store for an even better season than he had in 2016.
In case you forgot, the Mets were 7-1 last season when Lugo filled in for Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Steven Matz, during which he had a 2.68 ERA and struck out 5.6 batters per nine innings.
Similarly, in nine relief appearances, he had a 2.65 ERA and struck out 8.5 per nine innings.
Lugo against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The good thing about Lugo's spin is that the opposition often makes weak contact against him, assuming they make contact at all. However, the concern for him is that he doesn't have much spin on his other pitches, which can often make the rest of his arsenal a bit vulnerable -- especially the more he is seen and scouted as a starting pitcher.
Zack Wheeler or Robert Gsellman is expected to begin this season in the team's starting rotation, with the other going to Triple-A or staying in St. Lucie for extended spring training.
In that scenario, Lugo will start 2017 in the big-league bullpen, where -- like Miller -- he can effectively be a two-pitch pitcher, adding in his sinker and slider to keep people honest. And, also like Miller, because he's conditioned as a starting pitcher, he should be capable of throwing multiple innings every time he takes the mound.
Lugo may no longer be a secret, but he can still be a very effective weapon for Terry Collins and the Mets, assuming they use him this season the way the Indians used Miller to get to the World Series.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. He recently left his position as Executive Editor and Dir. of Digital Content for SNY.TV to help sports brands build their own digital content businesses...