Time to finally put a capper on my Mets prospects by position series with our second-to-last entry: the always in-demand, left-handed reliever group.
There just are not very many guys working out of the bullpens in the Mets system who throw from the left side.
LHP – Relievers
1. Jack Leathersich
2. Adam Kolarek
3. Chase Huchingson
4. Hamilton Bennett
1. Leathersich, who has put up big strikeout numbers throughout his minor league tenure, reached AAA in his age 22 season. He was extremely effective in AA (1.53 ERA in 29.1 innings with 55 strikeouts (44%) and 16 walks (13%). More patient AAA hitters pushed his walk rate up to a walk an inning (29 BB/29 IP), an overall rate of 20%. He still missed bats with 47 strikeouts, but his ERA rose to 7.76. Leathersich has succeeded as a pro with a low 90s fastball (91-93, usually) that hitters just do not seem to pick up at all. His second pitch is a curveball, and he adds in a seldom used changeup. He’s never been a plus command guy, and the control issues he ran into in AAA are very concerning. Leathersich has a good feel for how to improve his own pitching and runs a fun twitter account, so he’s become something of a minor league follower fan favorite. He should start 2014 in Las Vegas, where his first mission will be to keep the ball down.
2. Kolarek has not put up the same crazy strikeout numbers as Leathersich, but he has also walked fewer batters. He had a strong 2013 for AA Binghamton with a 1.71 ERA and a 25% strikeout rate to go along with a 8.6% walk rate in 63 innings. His fastball is 89-92, settling in at 90-91 most nights and he’s worked on improving his slider to get to about 80mph. There’s nothing in there that’s overpowering. He ran a .649 OPS against righties and a .537 OPS against lefties. He could be a left-handed focused middle-reliever with a small improvement in his command. Like Leathersich, he will start 2014 in Las Vegas.
3. Huchingson, a 6’5″ lefthander, who joined the Mets as a non-drafted free agent, is all about a deceptive delivery that results in him slinging the ball from a pretty low armslot. It looks like there are many arms and legs flying at the hitter. He was effective for Binghamton in 2013, with a 1.61 ERA and 68 whiffs against 29 walks in 67 innings in his first full year in the bullpen. His fastball sits at 90. His best off-speed pitch is a to be a changeup. He’s also added a sinker to give lefties another look. As a result, lefties ran a .487 OPS against him in AA compared to .708 for righties. He was suspended 50 games for a second violation of a “drug of abuse” at the end of 2013, so will miss the first month and a half of the 2014 minor league season. When he is eligible to play, he should head to Las Vegas where he will work on taking the final steps toward MLB LOOGY-dom.
4. Bennett is a soft-tossing lefty with a great moustache, and a better story of personal redemption from college dropout to professional baseball player. He’s survived and thrived in a-ball by throwing lots of curveballs. I don’t know that he has the fastball to pitch in the big leagues, but since he held left-handed hitters to a .375 OPS in advanced-A in 2013, maybe he too can grow up a LOOGY.