New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Hunter Strickland

Simeon Woods-Richardson

Yes, Hunter Strickland did pitch for the New York Mets in 2020 and he is the final player evaluation. The two-time World Series champion joined the Mets in an attempt to latch on to a role in the bullpen. As expected, his better days were behind him and he could not replicate the success he once had.

Strickland started the season with the big league roster but allowed runs in two of his first three outings. His Mets debut came in the extra-inning loss to the Atlanta Braves where he allowed three runs in the 10th inning and picked up the loss. Strickland made two more outings before being shipped to the alternate site for over a month.

When he returned on August 31, he threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts in his final outing before he was DFA’d for the second time. At this point in his career, Strickland does not have the heat on his fastball to threaten hitters anymore but he did have good success with his slider. It is hard to see Strickland pitching in the big leagues again without rethinking his course of attack as a pitcher.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 20 (20), Batters hit .429 with an 11.8% whiff rate

Slider: 35 (45), Should be his main pitch in the future

Sinker 40 (45), Only threw 4 on the season

Changeup: 35 (35), Only threw 1

Command: 60 (60), Walked one in 3.1 innings pitched

Overall: 20 (25)

 

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Ariel Jurado

Ariel Jurado is the second to last New York Mets player evaluation of the 2020 season. It was another one of the boneheaded moves from Brodie Van Wagenen who trade pitching prospect Stephen Villines to bring in Jurado. He only made one start for the Mets since they were in desperate need of an arm.

Jurado’s only appearance came in his September 1 start against the Baltimore Orioles. He struggled through four innings, allowing five runs on nine hits. Jurado is known for his sinker/slider combo which induces plenty of contact. He did not walk anyone in the start but it seemed like every ball was hit solidly.

The Mets ended up stashing him away at the alternate site for the rest of the season before non-tendering him last week. Much like the Billy Hamilton trade, Brodie Van Wagenen had no idea what he was doing when making this move.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Slider: 40 (40), Produced a 46.7% whiff rate.

Sinker: 20 (25)

4-Seam Fastball: 20 (25)

Changeup: 40 (40)

Curveball: 35 (40)

Command: 50 (50)

Overall: 20 (20), Do not see much of a future for him as a starter

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Drew Smith

Simeon Woods-Richardson

Drew Smith made his way back from Tommy John Surgery to make the New York Mets opening day roster. Smith originally would have missed the first half of the season for rehab, but the pandemic allowed him to make his first outings back on the big league level.

Smith was a forgotten bright spot from the 2018 season. He was the only acquired relief pitcher that actually turned out to have success with the Mets. Smith factored into the bullpen picture for 2019 until TJS ruined any thoughts of that.

Despite making his first professional outing since the surgery at the big league level, Smith faired well. Over his first seven outings, he threw six innings, allowing two runs with six strikeouts and no walks. Smith found plenty of success using his fastball/cutter combination, which netted him plenty of swings and misses.

Sent Down Early

Instead of capitalizing on his success, the Mets optioned him on August 14, and he made one final appearance on August 30. It was a disastrous outing against the New York Yankees where he struggled in the one inning he threw. Smith allowed four hits, three runs, two walks, and one long home run. It was the complete opposite of the pitcher that was with the Mets earlier in the season.

Smith did not get into another game after that to right his stats. He finished the season with a 6.43 ERA, but it did not do justice to how well he pitched. Smith looked like a reinvented pitcher with his newly added cutter. With a fully healthy offseason and spring training, he is a very underrated option for the Mets bullpen in 2021. They would be crazy to waste the potential he showed in 2020.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 55 (60), Lost an mph but still throws in the mid-90s, and the ability to use the fastball up in the zone set up the cutter.

Cutter: 80 (75), It had an unreal 63.2% whiff rate in 2020 and a .200 batting average against. While it is very tough to repeat the whiff rate, an xBA of .099 shows its potential.

Curveball: 45 (50), Only threw 13, but it will be a good third pitch in his arsenal.

Changeup: 35 (45), All 11 were thrown to left-handed batters. It still needs work in keeping it down in the zone. When he works at the knees and lower, it has terrific arm action to it.

Command: 70 (70), Always a good strike thrower out of the bullpen.

Overall: 40 (60), Good reason to have high hopes in him for the 2021 season. Just a matter if the Mets allow him to get a shot.

 

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Paul Sewald

Paul Sewald‘s 2020 season was marked with the inconsistency that made him a frequent member of the shuttle between AAA and the New York Mets. Sewald ran into plenty of struggles and hard contact which forced the Mets to non-tender his contract to make him a free agent.

Sewald started the season on the big league roster but did not last a whole month with the Mets. Sewald allowed runs in three of his five outings, none of them in high leverage spots. His worst and final outing in a Mets uniform came during a blowout loss to the Washington Nationals. Sewald only recorded two outs and allowed six runs on six hits with two walks.

Nice Knowing You

He was always one of the nicer players in the Mets clubhouse but never found consistency at the big league level. Sewald finished the season with a 13.50 ERA in the five outings he made. Hitters teed off on his fastball to hit .529 and they hit .414 against him overall. Sewald is still a free agent and will likely latch on to spring training invites when March comes around.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 20 (20), Hard to find success without a reliable fastball

Slider: 30 (35), Struggled with the slider over the last two seasons after having a 33.6% whiff rate his rookie year.

Changeup: 40 (40), Only threw nine all season. Might learn to throw it more than his slider in the future.

Command: 25 (30), Struggled with walks for the first time in his career, four in six innings.

Overall: 20 (25), 5.50 Career ERA

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Walker Lockett

Walker Lockett was a late member to the New York Mets roster during the COVID shortened 2020 season. Lockett made two appearances within two weeks before the Mets put him on waivers and was claimed by the Seattle Mariners.

Lockett made his season debut on August 14 in a start against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was typical of his Mets career as he allowed five runs and seven hits over six innings of work. The only blemish on the start through four innings were back to back RBI singles in the second. J.T. Realmuto struck in the fifth innings as a three-run home run derailed the start, but Lockett struck out four of the final five batters he faced.

On to Seattle

Two weeks later, Lockett pitched two scoreless innings against the New York Yankees in his final outing with the Mets. After the traded deadline and out of minor league options, the Mets left him on waivers. The Mariners took a chance with Lockett, and he pitched better with them. Lockett had a 4.32 ERA in five games, but his strikeouts went down while the hits increased.

Lockett opted to use his sinker than his 4-seam fastball for the first time in his career. It has good movement, but he could not consistently throw it in the bottom half of the strike zone. His curveball continued to emerge as a good second pitch, but his changeup regressed slightly. Lockett’s 4.54 FIP was the best of his career, but it will not mean much if his groundball rate continues to hover in the 40% range.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Sinker: 20 (30), Batters hit .450 against the pitch thrown 32.6% of the time. It will be the reason Lockett’s career does or does not improve.

Curveball: 75 (55), His best pitch but does more damage with its movement across the zone.

Changeup: 20 (30), Still a pitch Lockett has to master. The whiff rate dropped from 29.5% to 10.3%.

Cutter: 40 (30), Threw it the most of his career (20.4%) but has to emphasize staying on top of the pitch, so it does not frisbee in the top of the zone.

4-Seam Fastball: 50 (N/A), Only threw 10 on the season; doubt we see it in 2021.

Command: 40 (45), Good at limiting walks but will not live up to his potential until he learns how to work down in the strike zone.

Overall: 40 (35), Still young enough for one more team to want a shot at him.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Miguel Castro

The electric Miguel Castro brought his sidearm style to the New York Mets at the 2020 trade deadline. He emerged as a useful reliever in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen, former GM Brodie Van Wagenen thought Castro would make a terrific addition to the Mets late-inning staff.

Castro had not put it all together yet to rise to an All-Star capable level, but the stuff was there for him. For the first time in his career, he was finding success as a strikeout pitcher. In his two months with the Orioles, he had a 4.02 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched with 24 strikeouts. Castro’s 2.9 BB/9 were on pace to be the best of his career but ran into control issues again with the Mets.

New Face in Flushing

Castro allowed runs in two of his first four Mets outings, which included an extra-innings loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. Five of the final six outings were scoreless, but Castro ran into control issues. During this span of games with the Mets, we saw Castro’s peaks and valleys on the mound. He looks electric with his sinker/slider combination in some outings, and in others, he shows the extra work he still needs.

Castro has the potential to be an elite reliever, but his consistency holds him back. Due to his sidearm motion, his mechanics are tough to repeat and have led to his erratic control. Castro tends to throw a pitch without any idea where it will end up, leading to his sinker finishing up in the zone. This is why hitters to the most damage off it and nothing off slider and changeup, which has better control.

As the Mets head into the 2021 season, Castro is a good option to a deep bullpen. He has a 4.06 ERA over the last four seasons, and his increased strikeout rate is a good thing to bank on. Castro has strikeouts stuff and is not far from being a reliever whose ERA is much closer to the threes. He likely does not get as many late-inning opportunity chances, but a middle relief role suits him right—Castro’s 3.34 SIERA and 33% strikeouts rate show he is trending in the right direction.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Sinker: 25 (45), This was an odd pitch for Castro as hitters batted .354, but the xBA was only .268. Should he learn how to locate it at the bottom of the zone, it can be dominant.

Slider: 75 (80), As good as any slider gets with a 48.3% whiff rate and .179 average against.

Changeup: 50 (55), This pitch has good potential, but the ability to locate it against righties can make it dominant.

Command: 45 (50), The command to be a late option is not there yet, but a full season with Jeremy Hefner should pay dividends.

Overall: 50 (55), Still just 26 years old and heading into his fifth full season in the big leagues. Expect the experience and talent to mesh together in 2021.

 

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Dellin Betances

Dellin Betances was the big signing the New York Mets made last offseason to bolster their struggling bullpen. In his first season in Queens, injuries and lack of spring training held him back from reclaiming his role as one of the best relievers in baseball.

After three scoreless and walkless outings to opening up his season, Betances struggled to complete entire innings. As usual, Betances still needed a few outings to regain his upper 90s velocity and reign in his breaking ball. Unfortunately, we never saw the consistent high velocity, and Betances had trouble finding the strike zone.

Betances made 10 more outings before heading to the injured list with a right lat injury. In those 8.1 innings, he allowed seven runs and seven walks. While he did not allow an extra-base hit, combining eight hits with those walks led to bad outings.

Betances stint on the IL lasted just under a month, and he returned to pitch twice before the season ended. Both outings were typical of his season, one scoreless with two walks and the other allowing three runs. Betances had more outings where he allowed a walk than ones without a free pass.

Reasons For Struggles

Throughout his career, Betances has been known for his lack of velocity early in the season. Combining the lack of outings he made in 2019 due to injury and the lack of a full, healthy spring camp was something Betances did not adjust to well. Betances had the worst strikeout and walk rates of his career six consecutive seasons of double-digit K/9 numbers.

A positive for Betances is continuing to limit the home runs against him (0). Finishing the season with a 7.71 ERA gave Betances no choice but to use his option year to return for 2021. After two seasons riddled with injuries and dealing with a wacky season, Betances should right himself with a fully healthy offseason and spring training.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

4-Seam Fastball: 45 (60), Lowest average velocity of his career and a 13.2% whiff rate, also the worst of his career.

Curveball: 40 (50), Used to be a major weapon for him and lagged as a strikeout pitch.

Slider: 55 (65), Only threw 24 of them but hitters only batted .231 against it. It should be interesting to see how he balances the curve and slider in 2021.

Command: 20 (50), Never been a control artist but is much better than he was in 2020.

Overall: 20 (55), Betances may not return to being an All-Star, but he still has plenty of good years left in him.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Brad Brach

Brad Brach had a wild 2020 season for the New York Mets. He missed the first two weeks of the season due to COVID-19 and could not find the strike zone towards the end of the season. Three rough outings took him from a solid season to one to forget.

Brach found renewed success with the Mets when he joined them at the end of 2019, and it carried over to 2020. Through his first 11 outings, he only allowed two runs and struck out 13 batters. Despite holding batters to an average under .200, the six walks in those outings would catch up to his final three outings of the season.

The final three outings of Brach’s season were a disaster. Brach only recorded one out, and while not allowing a hit, he walked eight batters and allowed six runs. He has dealt with control issues throughout his career, but this was the worse it has gotten for him.

What The Future Holds?

Brach opted to used his cutter as his number one pitch. He threw it 31.6% of the time, a career-high, but it did not have the same success from 2019. Batters hit .333 against it, and the whiff rate dropped from 30.2% to 21.9%. When batters put the ball in play, Brach was very successful. They only hit .186 against Brach, and he induced soft contact 31% of the time, a career-best.

Brach’s major issue was limiting the free passes. His BB/9 was 10.2, and his inability to keep his cutter in the strike zone cost him the most. Brach could not hone where he wanted the cutter to start, which resulted in them finishing too far off the outside corner. It took away the swing and miss threat it carried from the previous season.

Brach opted into his option year for the 2021 season, and it is not a bad move for the Mets to keep him. He finished the season with a 5.84 ERA, but if he can regain his command, a return to a three ERA is certainly a possibility. The biggest question is how much his cutter is relied upon during 2021.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Cutter: 30 (50), 60 of 79 were thrown to righties; he should throw it more to lefties. His ability to consistently throw it on the same corner makes it effective against them.

Changeup: 65 (65), Still his best overall pitch and something he throws to both sides of the plate.

Sinker: 80 (60), After being a liability in 2019, it was a pitch he threw just under 20% of the time. No one recorded a hit on it.

4-Seam Fastball: 75 (65), Thrown the lowest amount (17.6%) of his career and had its lowest velocity at just over 90. Since Brach is losing velocity, we will likely see this trend continue in 2021.

Slider: 30 (30), Once an effective weapon for Brach, he threw it the least out of any of his five pitches.

Command: 20 (40), A full spring training should allow Brach to avoid a “control slump” from slowing down his momentum.

Overall: 35 (45), His all-star years are still behind him, but he can be a useful piece in a deep bullpen.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Corey Oswalt

Corey Oswalt only pitched in four games for the New York Mets during the 2020 season. It only took one bad outing to elevate his ERA to a point where it looks like he had a rough season. The only rough part of Oswalt’s season was the inability to last on the big league roster for a long period.

Oswalt started the season on the Opening Weekend roster and was called into long relief duty quickly. During the 14-1 blowout against the Atlanta Braves, Oswalt came into allowed seven runs and three home runs in four innings. The following day Oswalt returned to the Mets alternate site.

First Time, Long Time

Oswalt returned in mid-August and made an emergency start against the Miami Marlins. He faired well in 4.1 innings where he only allowed two runs on five hits with four strikeouts. Oswalt also did it on a very effective 44 pitches, which earned him the chance to remain with the team.

He returned to his long relief role a week later and threw four scoreless innings with three strikeouts on just 36 pitches. It was the first time he was finding consistent success at the big league level in his career. Unfortunately, right biceps tendinitis sent him to the 10-day IL but returned to the roster when healthy on September 20.

Oswalt threw two scoreless outs in his final outing of the season. The Mets optioned and recalled him a couple more times but never saw any more action. Despite having a 4.85 ERA, a 48.8% hard-hit rate, and a 17.1% barrel rate showed things could have been worse. Most likely, those inflated stats came from his outing against the Braves.

What’s The Plan?

Overall, Oswalt only saw 13 big league innings, but many small sample size numbers work in his favor. He had a 20% strikeout rate and a 3.6% walk rate. Oswalt is still under 100 career innings, and we have not fully discovered if he can be a useful major league pitcher. He heads into his last year of team control and looks to be a swingman option for the Mets if they do not sign Erasmo Ramirez. Oswalt could also be in line for a handful of starts with the Mets pitching depth very thin behind their top three.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Fastball: 30 (35), Thrown just under 50% of the time for a .360 batting average. Oswalt did average 92.1 mph, the fastest of his career.

Slider: 65 (60), Ditched the curveball for the slider, and it paid dividends—only a .143 average against and a 40.7% whiff rate.

Changeup: 70 (40), Only throws it about 18% of the time but is a good third pitch.

Sinker: 20 (20), Only threw it 5.4% of the time after throwing it in the 20s during previous seasons. It had better horizontal break than vertical, which made it a good call to go away from it.

Curveball: 20 (20), Only threw four and once resulted in a home run.

Command: 65 (60), Bounced back from a poor walk season in 2019.

Overall: 40 (45), Oswalt is an interesting case, but it is hard to see him as anything other than a swingman.

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Pitcher Erasmo Ramirez

Erasmo Ramirez was a latecomer to the New York Mets roster but became a useful arm in the bullpen. The 30-year old swingman only allowed one run in the month he spent with the Mets.

Ramirez was with the team from Spring Training and was released for a couple of days before making it back to the 40-man roster. When he arrived in September, he was a great long reliever in the bullpen. Ramirez’s ability to get quick outs and soft contact helped lead to his success in the bullpen.

Great Debut

In his Mets debut, Ramirez had his longest outing of the season. His long appearance was five innings of one-run ball out of the bullpen. In typical fashion, he only had one strikeout and did not walk a single batter. The reliance on contact resulted in a 54 pitch outing with 34 strikes.

That outing set the tone for what to expect from Ramirez. He threw 9.1 innings of shutout baseball in his final five outings, which included the first three lasting at least six outs. In that span, he struck out eight batters while holding opposing hitters to a .182 batting average.

Ramirez’s success came from ditching his 4-seam fastball for his sinking fastball. The 4-seamer was only thrown 4% of the time (career-low), and the sinker was thrown 41% of the time (career-high). Ramirez increased cutter use at 38% allowed him to use the hard stuff most of the time. It never allowed the hitters to assume a fastball would head in the same direction each time they saw it.

This does not mean that Ramirez will continue to be as dominant in the future. His 3.68 FIP, 4.84 SIERA, and 40% hard-hit percentage show he will have to continue to generate weak contact. Ramirez has never been a strikeout pitcher but is a rare innings eater. He is a quality arm to have as a swingman in the bullpen, and the Mets should bring him back in 2021.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Sinker: 65 (60), This was his money pitch as hitters only batted .190 against it.

Cutter: 70 (60), Very underrate pitch, which allowed him to be effective to both sides of the plate.

Changeup: 60 (45), 21 of 23 were against lefties and resulted in a whiff 57.1% of the time.

Curveball: 55 (45), Only threw 11, resulting in 0-for-2 against it.

4-Seam Fastball: 60 (40), Used only to change the eye level up in the zone.

Command: 60 (60), Always been a good control pitcher.

Overall: 75 (55), Could have a good impact with his increased sinker/cutter usage.