With pitchers and catchers reporting, the Mets are reportedly still looking for a second left-handed reliever to compliment Jerry Blevins in the bullpen. The Mets search is not surprising considering Blevins and Steven Matz are the only two left-handed relievers on the entire 40 man roster.
While Sandy Alderson and the front office continues their search, there is an opportunity for a pitcher to show the team they should crack the Opening Day roster.
2017 Team: Binghamton (AA)
2017 Stats: 8-9, 3.3.8 ERA, 28 G, 22 GS, 3 CG, 3 SHO, SV, 136.0 IP, 108 K, 1.235 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.1 K/9
For the second straight season, Conlon has been invited to Major League camp with an opportunity to make the Opening Day roster as the second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. The Mets interest in looking at him as a LOOGY is understandable for a few reasons.
First and foremost, Conlon gets left-handed batters out. Last year, he limited left-handed batters to a .252/.273/.358 batting line, and in 2016, he was even stingier limiting them to a .216/.267/.288 batting line. One of the reasons he is so successful is because Conlon locates the ball exceptionally well, and as a result, he limits his walks.
The other reason the Mets want to look at him in the bullpen is there is some doubt about his viability in the rotation at the Major League level. Conlon lives in the 80s with his fastball and change-up. We have seen this type of repertoire succeed in the majors with Jamie Moyer, and Mets fans have seen Bartolo Colon be a successful pitcher featuring a fastball that did not top 90 MPH. However, the margin of error is small for these types of pitchers.
Overall, this should not obfuscate the fact Conlon knows how to pitch, and he knows how to get left-handed batters out. With a good Spring and no other moves, he may get a chance to prove that at the Major League level.
2017 Level: International League (AAA)
2017 Stats: 4-5, 3.84 ERA, 48 G, 65.2 IP, 80 K, 1.355 WHIP, 3.8 BB/9, 11.0 K/9
Like Josh Smoker, Purke is a former Nationals draft pick who had questions surrounding his shoulder, did not succeed as a starter, and he now finds himself as a reliever in the Mets organization. In 2015, he signed a deal with the Chicago White Sox, and he had a brief 12 game cup of coffee with the team in 2016.
Last year, Purke spent the entire season in Triple-A where he dominated left-handed batters. Overall, left-handed batters hit just .192/.314/.212 off of him with just two extra-base hits. Purke has strikeout stuff with a low 90s fastball, good slider, and split that acts like a change-up. However, Purke has difficulty keeping the strike zone, which is evident in left-handed batters maintaining a .314 OBP off of him despite their inability to square up against him.
2017 MLB Stats: 7-5, 4.92 ERA, 46 G, 56.2 IP, 60 K, 1.341 WHIP, 4.6 BB/9, 9.5 K/9
At this point, Mets fans are tired of Robles’ inconsistency and his pointing to the sky. However, like Rafael Montero, he is still here, and he is poised to make the Opening Day roster. With that in mind, the Mets need to find the best way to use him.
Now, one of the reasons why Callaway was an enticing managerial candidate was because he thinks outside the box. We have already seen that with him stating he wants to use Jeurys Familia like Andrew Miller in that he wants Familia to pitch in the highest leverage situations and not just save situations. If Callaway is really looking to maximize everyone’s skill-set, then Robles should be used as a right-handed LOOGY.
In his career, Robles has limited left-handed batters to a .178/.281/.335 batting line. As a point of reference, Blevins, an excellent LOOGY, has yielded a .211/.264/.304 batting line to left-handed batters. More impressively, the best left-handed NL East batters, Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Freddie Freeman are a combined 2-10 with a double, walk, and four strikeouts.
Given his track record, are you going to trust Robles to get one of the best left-handed batters in the game out in a pressure filled seventh or eight inning spot? No, you’re not, but the Mets aren’t going to do that with hypothetical second left-handed reliever they obtained before the start of the season.
And if you plan to utilize Robles to get left-handed batters out, you open the door for the Mets to give another reliever a chance to make the roster. Certainly, this would open the door for a Jamie Callahan or Jacob Rhame to make the team with a good Spring.
Overall, the Mets internal options are limited because the team has only invited two non-roster left handed pitchers to Spring Training. Unless they are willing to really think outside of the box, the team is going to have to add one more arm this Spring.