The Divisional Outlook column is a new feature at BaseballHQ.com for 2013. Each column -- one per day except on Sunday -- will be dedicated to one division and attempt to identify and examine playing-time issues as, or even before, they become news. Player skills history, a team's track record with player development, managerial tendencies and organizational depth will all be considerations. The combination of the revamped Playing Time (news analysis) column and the Divisional Outlook (forward looking) column will cover all aspects of player performance on a day-to-day basis in 2013. --Ed.
By Greg Pyron
New York Mets
The closer situation is in flux in New York. Frank Francisco (RHP, NYM) has been shut down due to inflammation in his right elbow and manager Terry Collins on Tuesday told reporters that Bobby Parnell (RHP, NYM) will begin the season in the closer role.
Brown to get legit chance?
Parnell was a setup man for most of 2012, but he replaced Francisco late in the season and converted all three save chances. He made significant strides last year improving his Cmd from 2.4 to 3.1, while also inducing more groundballs (up 11% from 2011 to 62% GB%). In doing so, his BPV soared into triple digits. If Parnell can sustain those aforementioned skills gains, the job could be his to keep.
If Parnell falters, Brandon Lyon (RHP, NYM) could be next in line. The veteran had arguably the best season of his career in 2012, posting an xERA below 4.00 and a triple digit BPV for the first time. Collins has said that he would prefer to leave Lyon in a setup role, but it is pretty clear that the Mets don't have a whole lot of trust in Francisco.
The fifth starter spot is up for grabs this spring with Julio Teheran (RHP, ATL), Sean Gilmartin (LHP, ATL), and J.R. Graham (RHP, ATL) fighting for the job.
Teheran's disappointment for much of 2012 can be traced to a changed windup. Worried about the risk of future injury due to Teheran's rather violent delivery, the Braves
tweaked his mechanics and, needless to say, the experiment failed and was scrapped in late July. His performance then began to resemble what everyone had come to expect from the highly regarded prospect and that momentum carried over into the Dominican Winter League (3.23 ERA in 30.2 IP).
Gilmartin, the team’s first round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, could be poised to pounce on the opportunity if Teheran struggles this spring. The 22-year-old is not overpowering, but he controls each of his four pitches and mixes them well. With just 37.1 IP above the Double-A level, the Braves would prefer that he open the season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Graham is a long shot to win the job this spring (only nine starts above Single-A), but he is someone to keep an eye one as there is a chance he could make it to Atlanta sometime this season. A college closer, Graham is still making the transition to starting pitcher after being selected in the 4th round of the 2011 amateur draft. In his first full season as a starter, the 22-year-old posted a 2.80 ERA, 110K/34BB and a 2.2 GB/FB ratio in 148 IP combined at Single-A and Double-A.
Daniel Rodriguez (LHP, ATL) is an under-the-radar guy worth tracking. The 28-year-old led the Mexican League in strikeouts a year ago (135 in 117 IP) and posted a 2.54 ERA prior to signing with Atlanta in August. The non-roster invitee features a 89-92 mph fastball with a good change-up and a nice curve. He made just one start at Triple-A Gwinnett before season’s end.
Teheran enters camp as the favorite to claim the job, but he'll have to earn it.
Marlins, Phillies, Nationals
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