SAN FRANCISCO — Say what you will about the Mets’ farm system — which looks a bit better now than it did six months ago after most of the top prospects had strong seasons — but it has at least one strength: righthanded power relievers.
The Mets’ late-season evaluation of rookie bullpen arms continued Saturday when they promoted Eric Hanhold for the first time. He didn’t get into the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Giants, but manager Mickey Callaway indicated he was looking forward to seeing the 24-year-old Hanhold, who missed about two months with an oblique injury this year. He was great with Double-A Binghamton (2.84 ERA) but had a rough time with Triple-A Las Vegas (7.11 ERA).
“The minor-league pitching coaches raved about him, his ability to throw the ball downhill with some pretty good velo and mix in some good off-speed pitches,” Callaway said. “We’re going to give him a shot to go out there and do the job and get a good look at him.”
With a fastball that sits at 96 to 98 mph and a breaking ball (slider) considered above-average, Hanhold fits the same general mold as Drew Smith, Tyler Bashlor, Jacob Rhame, Gerson Bautista, Ryder Ryan and others — many of whom the Mets acquired in last summer’s veteran fire sale.
Now it’s a matter of figuring out which of them can do the job in the majors.
“We have quite a few of them,” Callaway said. “All of them have a really good fastball. There’s no doubting that. The one thing we’re trying to see if we can improve with each one of them is their ability to throw the breaking ball in the zone and out of the zone when they need to.”
Callaway cited Smith, who has a 2.70 ERA in 16 games, as one who “has set himself apart from the others” simply by being able to throw strikes consistently.
Bautista, however, has underwhelmed. He has a 5.50 ERA for Triple-A Las Vegas — where he has struck out 50 batters in 37 2⁄3 innings — and wasn’t good in a five-game taste of the majors (six runs, eight hits in 4 1⁄3 innings across three call-ups).
For a guy who can ramp up his fastball to 100 mph, Bautista has been hittable. The Mets are trying to change that.
“We’re trying to add some deception to his delivery,” Callaway said. “[Hitters] probably put better swings on his fastball than they should. We’re working on some things mechanically to try and add some deception, keep his head in there and not arch his back as much so they don’t see the ball as well.”