Nick Tropeano has the potential to be quite a find for the New York Mets

New York Yankees, Nick Tropeano
June 9, 2019; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Nick Tropeano (35) throws against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Just a few days ago, the New York Mets claimed right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. A waiver claim at this time of the year usually doesn’t mean much, but this particular one could pay huge dividens for a team in need of reliable relievers in 2021 and beyond.

Tropeano made his debut with the Houston Astros back in 2014, and then he pitched for almost five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. He found his way to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the condensed 2020 season, and the team tried him in the bullpen after he had played 39 of his previous 42 games as a starter.

Sure, the sample size available in his first “extended” bullpen look was very small. But he was very impressed, a development that gives the New York Mets some hope that they have actually unearthed a gem.

For the Mets, the numbers don’t lie

With the Pirates, Tropeano pitched in seven games. In 15.2 innings, he had a 1.15 ERA with a 2.55 FIP and a 3.94 xFIP. Depending on the metric you look at, he was elite, excellent or adequate. For the Mets, even if he turns out to be a sub-4.00 ERA reliever, it would be seen as a victory.

In those 15.2 frames, Tropeano struck out 10.91 hitters per each nine innings, and handed out only 2.30 bases on balls per nine frames. Sure, he got lucky by leaving 96.6 percent of the hitters on base, but his .317 BABIP doesn’t scream a complete product of good fortune.

So what changed for the future Mets’ reliever? Well, he increased the usage of his slider (31.4%) and splitter (24.8%) and decreased his four-seamer (to 25.2%.) He also threw 13.6% of changeups and 5.0% of sinkers.

He had great results with this pitch mix, increasing his SwStr% (swinging strike percentage) to a career-high 14.9%, according to Fangraphs.

If the New York Mets continue to deploy him as a reliever, he could take off and prove that his excellent performance in 2020 wasn’t a mirage.

In the first time through the lineup, Tropeano has a 2.98 for his career. The number increases to 5.02 the second time through, and 6.15 the third time through the order. He is no starter, but he can be a fantastic reliever if given the chance.