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

New York Yankees, Nick Tropeano

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.

New York Mets: Nick Tropeano and Jacob Barnes Claimed Off Waivers

The first move the New York Mets made under Steve Cohen’s ownership came on the waiver wire. Stony Brook product Nick Tropeano was claimed from the Pittsburgh Pirates and Jacob Barnes from the Los Angeles Angels. Both are low risk, high reward options for the 40-man roster in 2021.

Tropeano converted to a full-time reliever with the Pirates and showed a major improvement in his career. Despite never pitching in a game that finished within four runs, he was very effective with a 1.15 ERA in 15.2 innings pitched. Tropeano also had reverse splits, holding left-handed hitters to a .067 average while righties batted .289.

One of the keys to success was the increased usage of his slider. Tropeano threw the slider 31% of the time, a seven percent increase from the prior season. His slider’s runs above average were 2.3 compared to -4.3 back in 2018. One thing to look out for was a BABIP of .317 with his 28.8% strikeouts rate as hitters would find success when they put the ball in play against him.

Barnes Upside

Barnes is another right-handed reliever but has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 50.2 innings since 2019. He lacks a secondary pitch after his cutter and four-sean fastball and has only thrown four pitches that were not tracked his main two since 2019. What Barnes lacks in pitch quantity, he makes up in the velocity and strikeout department.

Barnes fastball averages 95 mph, and batters only hit .174 against it during the 2020 season. His cutter is slightly under 90 but has excellent movement. It is a pitch that seems to be very hit or miss for Barnes as it has a 41.5% whiff rate, but batters hit .311 against it in 2020. It will be interesting to see how the Mets make his cutter a better weapon because the correct improvements could bring him back to the 3.54 ERA reliever he was during the first three seasons of his career.

Overall, these are good moves because of where they are slotted to fit in on the roster. If they were signed to confirmed 25-man roster spots, it would be questionable because of their lack of consistent success. As players who deepen the 40-man roster and have high upside, they become solid pickups before free agency opens up next week.

New York Yankees sign pitcher Nick Tropeano to a Contract

New York Yankees, Nick Tropeano

John Heyman of the MLB Network has reported that the Yankees have signed right-hand pitcher Nick Tropeano to a minor league contract.  He reportedly will be a non-roster invitee to spring training that starts next month in Tampa.

Tropeano has been with the Hoston organization and last year struggled with the Los Angeles Angels.  He went 0-1 in three games, and 13.2 innings pitched and did not fare much better in the minors with Tripple A Salt Lake.  Looking at his history with Houston and his four years with the Angels, he has not shown any sign of shining.

One would wonder why General Manager Cashman would go after him, even for a minor league slot.  But over the years I have mostly learned not to question Cashman, he must see something.