1. Armando Rodriguez
Rodriguez’ move to the bullpen in 2012 was a huge success. Pitching in smaller doses made him much more effective and accelerated his development, transforming Rodriguez from an average Minor League starter into one of the best relief prospects in the system.
He K/9 ratio came in at 9.23 and he only allowed 61 hits in 77 innings in his first year of Double-A. On top of that, Rodriguez has backed up his summer season with an even stronger performance in the Dominican Winter League, allowing only 11 hits in 25 and two-thirds innings.
Armando is a large, large man with a powerful arm. He is a high-effort thrower with a big fastball who can intimidate any hitter. Therefore, the bullpen always seemed like a more logical fit, but his quality stuff kept the Mets hopeful he could be a starter. If he can limit his walks and continue to develop his off-speed repertoire, the sky is the limit for the big righty from the Dominican.
Rodriguez is likely to begin 2013 in Triple-A, and as long as he performs well there, we could be seeing him in Flushing at some point this season.
2. Bobby Parnell
Bobby Parnell had a breakout year in 2012 and was the only bright spot in a bullpen of disappointments.
The North Carolina fireballer has finally figured out the Major Leagues, and is now widely considered a legit Big League set-up man.
And there are three reasons why.
One, he finally developed a good off-speed pitch. The best thing the Mets got out of Jason Isringhausen in 2011 was the knuckle curve he taught Bobby Parnell. It has made Parnell a different pitcher. Instead of a 92-mph power slider to keep hitters off-balanced (which was really more of a cutter), Parnell can now drop a mid-80s hammer that has so much more break and is capable of devastating knees.
The second career-changing reform was that Parnell knows when he needs to dial up his triple digit fastball and when he should dial it back to focus on location. He has shown a greater propensity to paint the outside corner each and every season since he came up.
The third reason is that he learned how to pop hitters inside with that big-time fastball. The combination of his knee-buckling curve and handcuffing fastball equaled a 2.49 ERA, easily the best season of his career.
The best part about Parnell’s campaign was that he finished strong, not allowing a run over the final four weeks of the season. He didn’t give up more than one earned run in any appearance after June 10, and never gave up more than two runs in any game. Second Half ERA: 2.14
3. John Mincone, LHP
John Mincone came out of nowhere in 2012. The Mets found him struggling in the Frontier League prior to signing him to a Minor League deal earlier this year.
The Long Island native was assigned to the New York-Penn League’s Brooklyn Cyclones, likely because the Mets did not sign a single left-handed draft pick in 2012.
Well, he dominated. Mincone pitched 29 and one-third innings, giving up just 19 hits and six walks. That’s a WHIP of 0.84, good for second best of any reliever in the Mets organization. Oh, and if you’re thinking lefty specialist, Mincone held left-handed hitters to a .119 average.
John grew up just 45 minutes from Shea Stadium, residing in Dix Hills and graduating from Half Hollow Hills High School. He stayed in New York to play college ball as well, pitching for Suffolk Community College West. It was from there that he transferred to JMU and was drafted by the Cubs in the 11th round in 2009.
Chicago shattered Mincone’s dreams within three years, which proved to be nothing a little home cooking couldn’t cure, as he signed with New York. Mincone’s still not considered a Major League prospect, but at the very least he’s earned himself another shot.
4. Logan Taylor
Remember how Mincone had the second best WHIP in the system in 2012? Well Logan Taylor was #1.
The professional sample size is small (less than 20 innings), but the results have been staggeringly good. The righty out of East Oklahoma State proved that the NYPL was no match for him, posting an ERA below 1 and striking out a batter per inning.
With a heater that touches 94 miles an hour, this 11th rounder could prove to be a steal.
5. Jack Leathersich
Pitching with High-A St. Lucie wasn’t a total success for the lefty from Massachusetts, but Leathersich can still strike out the world, punching out 113 hitters in 72 innings. No, that’s not a typo.
His deceptive delivery, plus slider and low-90s fastball has proved to be a lethal combination, but he got much more hittable after his promotion to St. Lucie. His H/9 numbers went from a ridiculous 3.75 with Savannah to 7.69 at the next level.
He was still very effective, which is why he’s #5 on this list, but Leathersich struggled with runners on base, which explains his 4.13 Florida State League ERA despite his great peripheral numbers.
I’m interested to see if the Mets launch the Leather Rocket in Double-A to start the season.
6. Paul Sewald
Paul Sewald was one of many dominant relievers for Rich Donnelly and the Cyclones in 2012, but he may have been the most reliable, going more than an inning in the majority of his outings.
The tenth rounder out of San Diego had, quite frankly, the best strikeout to walk ratio I’ve ever seen: 17.5 (35 Ks, 2 BBs in 28 2/3 IPs)
That bodes very well for his Major League potential. The Mets may even consider moving him to a full-season rotation in 2013 to see what he’s really made of.
The Bishop Gorman H.S. grad went 8-4 with a 3.09 ERA in 14 starts with San Diego in 2012, with much more modest peripheral numbers.
7. David Wynn
I don’t know what you would call a 5-foot-10-inch NAIA pitcher who posted a 7.14 ERA for Mid-American Christian University, but a Major League prospect would not be one of them.
Well, the Mets scouts seemed to have found a diamond in the rough with David Wynn. Minor League pitching instructors turned Wynn, the man who fits that description, into a shutdown professional reliever.
He allowed just 12 hits in 25 innings, after giving up 98 in 80 innings in his final season at MACU. Wynn allowed only one home run in 21 outings and finished up his first Minor League tour with a 1.44 ERA.
8. Josh Edgin
If you perform well in the Minor Leagues, you will progress rapidly until you reach the Major Leagues. No player exemplifies that principle more than Josh Edgin.
Edgin went from Rookie-ball Kingsport to the Major Leagues in two years by dominating every level, posting a career 2.38 Minor League ERA and striking better than 10 batters per nine innings.
Edgin started the year in Double-A and made it to Flushing by mid-July.
He is one of only three relievers to be guaranteed a spot on this year’s squad, primarily because he held left-handed hitters to a .164 average in the Majors.
All three levels added up, the Francis Marion grad struck out 75 batters in 69 innings and maintained that pace at the Major League level. He’ll have a chance to blossom into a true set-up man in 2013, and with his repertoire considered, I bet he will.
9. Tyler Vanderheiden
The 19th round submariner has a long way to go with his secondary offerings, but Vanderheiden has proven he can dominate the lower levels with his nasty sinker.
It’s hard to fathom that the Southern Conference handled Tyler better than the New York-Penn League, but that’s exactly what happened. Vanderheiden pitched to a 3.34 ERA at Samford, but lowered that to 0.82 with Brooklyn (similar innings totals at both).
He saved 12 games for the Cyclones despite a high WHIP, showing he can handle a little pressure.
Not that this term is thrown around very often, but Vanderheiden projects as a righty-specialist who comes in and rolls groundball double plays for a living.
10. Adam Kolarek
Kolarek is another guy whose pro numbers far surpass his college statistics. Two years removed from a mid-4’s ERA and walk rate in the 5’s, Kolarek has developed into a legitimate Major League relief prospect.
The 11th round pick out of Maryland did not allow a single run for over a month to begin the season. He finished his time in St. Lucie with a 2.37 ERA and struck out 70 batters in 57 innings, the second best K-rate of any full-season reliever (best: Jack Leathersich).