Thursday was the deadline for teams to finalize their rosters for the Rule 5 draft which will take place on the final day of the winter meetings in Anaheim. The Mets pursued a similar strategy as they have under Sandy Alderson in protecting nearly any pitcher they could who has a chance to provide big league -- possibly bullpen -- value in the next two years.
This strategy, of erring on the side of adding an extra arm or two, perhaps creates extra churn at the back end of the 40-man roster. For example, the Mets added Hansel Robles in 2012 after a nice season with short-season Single-A Brooklyn. He was removed after an injury-marred and ineffective 2013, and earned his way back on with a good 2014 in the bullpen.
To make room for these guys the Mets removed Jeff Walters from the 40-man roster. Walters, a fastball/slider righty, was ineffective for Triple-A Las Vegas and then went under the knife with Tommy John surgery that will keep him out a significant part of 2015.
The Easy Calls
We're not going to spend much time on Syndergaard here as he was the easiest call. He's the Mets top prospect, one of the best pitching prospects and a likely Top 20 guy on most of the major league-wide rankings this winter. His addition was a formality.
Mazzoni, the Mets second round pick in 2011, has yet to make it through a full minor league season healthy. This year, a lat strain suffered in his final spring training outing kept him from reaching Triple-A until July 18. His past ailments include elbow neuritis in April 2013, arthroscopic surgery on his knee in August 2013 and some missed starts in late July 2012 with a finger issue.
Mazzoni made nine starts with Las Vegas, where he ran a 4.67 ERA over 52 innings. He struck out 22 percent of opposing hitters and walked 5.5 percent. He finished well, as in his final start of the year on August 29, he struck out 10 and did not walk a batter. All told, in his final six outings, he fanned 41 batters and walked only two.
He has good control and an arsenal that's probably a little short to start. As a starter, he mostly workes off a low 90s fastball, with a split-fingered offering that works as a changeup and a slider. In shorter bursts, he can reach back for the mid 90s. He seems destined for the bullpen. His Triple-A pitching coach, Frank Viola, suggested that would be his final role on the Mostly Mets Podcast and Mazzoni has demonstrated, in each of his three tries that at 6'1", 200 lbs, he is not built to handle the rigors of a starting pitchers' workload every turn through the rotation. His big league debut should come in 2015.
Ynoa, who turned 21 in May, 2014 was one of three easy call additions along with Syndergaard and Mazzoni. He's a strike throwing machine with an easy, repeatable delivery who works in the low 90s and can touch 94, with feel for a changeup and a slider that advanced toward average in 2014. Combine that with a smart pitcher, and one is looking squarely at a potential back-end starter. He walked 5.1 percent of hitters he saw in advanced Single-A and Double-A in 2014.
Now, for the negative: Ynoa's stuff is not special, when measured against big leaguers. His fastball is averagish, and the changeup might be a tick above. He's a heavy fly-ball pitcher, and the world's most powerful batters in the majors could make him pay. He ran a 4.21 ERA in 11 starts in Double-A after a 3.95 mark in 14 starts in the advanced Single-A Florida State League. More telling, his strikeout rated tumbled from 26 percent in advanced Single-A to 17 percent in Double-A.
The Speculative Bullpen Additions
The Mets have moved Robles either on or off the 40-man roster in each of the last three years. This time it comes after a successful conversion to a reliever in July. As a starter in Double-A, he ran a 4.86 ERA with a 21 percent strikeout rate in 90 2/3 innings. As a reliever, he ran a 1.80 with a 30 percent strikeout rate in 20 innings. He was reportedly up to 96 mph with his fastball out of the bullpen.
There might well be a major league middle-reliever in here. He should start 2015 in Triple-A and will be among the first wave of bullpen depth callups if/when the Mets need help.
The left-handed reliever largely repeated Double-A this year doing what he's always done, strike guys out in big numbers, while walking too many opponents. This year, he ran a 2.93 ERA in Double-A with a 40 percent strikeout rate and a 11 percent walk rate in 46 innings. That's pretty similar to 2013, when he had a 1.53 ERA on a 44 percent strikeout rate and a 13 percent walk rate
He's a fastball, curveball, changeup guy who got his first start at Triple-A in 2014 where he ran an ERA over five in 8 1/3 innings. He works up in the zone with a fastball that's mostly 92-94. He's not a lefty specialist, however. This year in Double-A, he held righties to a .527 OPS while yielding a .732 OPS to lefties.
Leathersich, with his high walk rates and reverse platoon splits is a funny piece. His results were not very good in Triple-A and I'm skeptical he will ever repeat his delivery well enough to have enough command to be a reliable piece of an effective bullpen.
Morris earns this year's 'Hansel Robles Award' as the player furthest from the big leagues to be added to the 40-man roster.
The slight right-hander put up stupid good numbers in the South Atlantic League: 0.63 ERA in 57 innings with a 42 percent strikeout rate and a 10 percent walk rate. He whips his fastball to the plate around 94 mph, although there's a little more in there on a good day. His first secondary offering is a diving changeup in the 70s. His breaking ball is wildly inconsistent. He creates deception with an high-effort delivery and a very quick arm in back and a very high release that comes almost right over the top.
Now the bad news: he's a reliever in Single-A with command issues. There's no guarantee that bullpen success translates to success in the high minors and even the big leagues.
I also think it's a little odd that if the Mets were considering adding him to the 40-man roster this winter, the team left him in Savannah all year. At some point in the late spring, it became clear that SAL hitters were not much of a challenge for Morris. Rather, his own command was his biggest opponent. Surely, the time in advanced Single-A would have delivered useful information about his efficacy against more advanced competition. Moreover, if he had succeeded in the Florida State League , he would be a better bet to start 2015 in Double-A with an outside chance at making his big league debut. Now, he will have to start 2015 in advanced Single-A, assuming he does not skip a level.
Given that he did not pitch above the SAL in 2014, I think the Mets could have left him off the 40-man roster this time around. However, the fact that they did add him might mean that there are ready to push him quickly through the system, or at least as quickly as they can given his success.
As long as the Mets were putting an a-ball reliever on the 40-man roster, I would have taken Domingo Tapia from advanced Single-A. No, Tapia's numbers have not been good. He's also been working as a starter. However, his fastball (96-98 with sink and run) is better than Morris', or was, anyway, when he was in the South Atlantic League. That's no slight against Morris, Tapia's fastball is one of the better ones I've seen in Single-A. He's the guy I expect some other team to take shot on in the Rule-5 draft.
The Mets chose the three relievers (and Mazzoni, who is likely a reliever in the end) over Logan Verrett, who had a little buzz as a potential add. Verrett has a fastball that lives around 90, but his best offering is his slider. In 28 starts in Vegas, he ran a 4.33 ERA in 2014 with a 17 percent strikeout rate. I don't think he can go through a big league lineup multiple times, but I'd be intrigued to see what he could do as a slider-heavy reliever. All three relievers the Mets protected have bigger fastballs than Verrett, so his exclusion makes sense.
The Mets roter now sits at 39 players, so they have space to add one player without dropping any player currently on the 40-man roster.