Future Closers: New York Mets


Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets have put together an impressive group of pitching prospects in recent years that should give fans great hope for the future. With Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler establishing themselves at the top end of the big league rotation (barring injury, of course) and Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero set to arrive soon, the pitching outlook looks bright for years to come.

But, what about the ninth inning? Here, we take a closer look at some of the future closing pitching prospects in the Mets’ system.

Best Bet: RHP Vic Black

The Mets acquired Black from the Pittsburgh Pirates late last season and inserted him into the bullpen for 15 September appearances. With a power fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a devastating curveball, Black did not look intimidated. He held hitters to a .224 batting average with the Mets and collected his fist big league save on September 24 against the Reds.

New York was likely interested in acquiring the soon to be 26-year old, at least in part, due to his dominant performance at Triple-A Indianapolis. The Texas native held hitters to a .169 batting average in the minor leagues in 2013, and was nearly effective against left-handers (.179/.304/.244) as he was against righties (.159/.229/.250).  Black also struck out 38% of the hitters he faced over the course of 46.2 innings.

Prior to the Triple-A All-Star game, Black was at his best. In 34 innings across 28 appearances in the first half of the season, he saved 15 games and held opponents to a .158 BAA while recording a 2.12 ERA.  He also proved ready for the big leagues and made his Major League debut for the Pirates on July 25, appearing in three games for Pittsburgh before the trade.

Black will start the season in Triple-A Las Vegas, but expect him to see plenty of time at Citi Field in 2014 before making a run at the full-time closer role in 2015.

Under the Radar: RHPs Michael Fulmer, Jeurys Familia and Domingo Tapia

As mentioned, the Mets rotation looks pretty crowded in the years to come, so some other top pitching prospects may end up in the bullpen if they make it to New York. Michael Fulmer is just 21 years old, and still has time to establish himself as a starter, but many experts feel he is destined for the bullpen. The combination of a mid-90s fastball with movement and an above-average slider show he has the arsenal to succeed late in games. Fulmer struggled with injuries early in the year and only made nine appearances over the course of the season. Nevertheless, he put together a strong performance late and posted a 2-0 record and 2.35 ERA in three August starts, in which he held hitters to a .137 average.

Jeurys Familia is a familiar name once thought destined for the big league rotation. However, the big righty from the Dominican Republic has made only one Major League start to date. He missed a big chunk of 2013 with an elbow injury, but still has premium velocity and showed it off across eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League. Though his numbers were less than impressive (0-2, 6.48), he reportedly sat at 95mph and cranked it up to 99 at times. The 24-year old struck out 11 of the 40 hitters he faced and held batters to a .229 BAA in the AFL. After a solid spring in which he allowed just two runs and nine across 11.1 innings in nine appearances, Familia will open with the big league club.

Another hard-throwing righy, Domingo Tapia could be a dark horse candidate as a future closer. Also featuring a hard slider, Tapia flashes a solid change-up that could give him a greater opportunity to make it into the rotation than Fulmer or Familia. He has certainly struggled with command and consistency at times, but he can also be unhittable. As an example of that inconsistency, through his first seven starts in 2013, the 22-year old held opponents to a .185 average and struck out 28 hitters across 32.1 innings. In his next start, however, the native of the Dominican Republic allowed six earned runs and recorded only one out. It would be the first of four total appearances in which he allowed six earned runs in a start. Strangely, Tapia posted a striking split in his home ballpark as opposed to when the club was away from home. In St. Lucie, he had a 2.82 ERA and .199 BAA in 12 appearances, as opposed to a 7.30 ERA and .275 BAA on the road. He did end the season on a positive note and did not allow an earned run in his final 12 innings.