“Who wouldn’t want to be the guy to start the game and then get to sit in the clubhouse and drink a few brews on the back end and watch the rest of it, you know?”
Aaron Loup‘s first press conference with the New York Mets already produced the best quote from camp on an interesting topic. Loup’s former employer (Tampa Bay Rays) revolutionized baseball by introducing the opener, and the veteran lefty would love opening for the Mets.
Aaron Loup is more than willing to be an opener for the Mets:
"Who wouldn't want to be the guy to start the game and then get to sit in the clubhouse and drink a few brews on the back end?" 😂 pic.twitter.com/3Nl9gAplLM
— SNY (@SNYtv) February 18, 2021
The Rays implemented the strategy because of their lack of quality starting pitching. The Mets have less of a need for an opener because Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, and Marcus Stroman are already established starting pitchers. An opener would help conserve innings for David Peterson and Noah Syndergaard or pitchers coming off rough 2020s like Joey Lucchesi or Jordan Yamamoto. Here are three solid opener options for 2021.
Loup pitched in 24 games for the AL champs but never opened for them. His splits from last season had right-handed hitters hitting for a worse average than the lefties (.192 vs. .212). Despite the great 2020 splits, Loup has always dominated lefties. Each NL East team has at least one All-Star caliber hitter at the top of their projected lineup (Juan Soto, Bryce Harper, Freddie Freeman, Corey Dickerson). The downside of using Loup as an opener would leave the bullpen without another left-handed reliever.
Familia fits the “Sergio Romo” mold of a perfect opener as a former closer who cannot cut it in the ninth inning anymore. He rebounded from a rough 2019 to put up a 3.71 ERA over 25 games but still struggled with walks (6.4 BB/9). The Mets do not trust/need Familia in the late innings but he is still useful as a middle reliever. Familia limits hard contact very well and pitches better with a new inning. He was a starting pitcher as a rising prospect in the Mets farm system.
Castro sidearm delivery with electric stuff and makes him a reliever with a ton of potential. His strikeout rate (90th percentile) and fastball velocity (99th percentile) show the level he can reach. On the other hand, Castro was in the 9th percentile for exit velocity and hard-hit rates.
Castro is very much an “all or nothing” type of pitcher. It makes him a huge risk to use late in games because of the possibility of three strikeouts coming with a home run. This risk is better taken in the first inning than in the eighth or ninth when the game is on the line. Out of the three options, Castro would be the best as an opener.