August 23, 2016
The Situation: The Mets face what amounts to a do-or-die three-game set with St. Louis, the second wild card leaders, this week. One of those games will be started by Jacob deGrom. That is good. The other two are scheduled to be started by Jon Niese and Seth Lugo. And now that Steven Matz is headed to the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, it isn't a huge surprise that they called up their best upper-level starting pitching prospect to...uh...well...pitch out of the bullpen?
The Background: Robert Gsellman was the Mets 13th-round pick in 2011 out of Westchester High School in Los Angeles. A multi-sport athlete, he was also only 17 when drafted and proceeded through the system slowly, spending a Summer at each of the organization's three short-season affiliates. He's been on prospect radars for a while but only cracked the Mets top ten for the first time this past offseason off a strong campaign between St. Lucie and Binghamton. Gsellman struggled to miss bats in his first taste of Double-A, but the addition of a slider this Spring has helped him find more success in the upper minors in 2016.
Scouting Report: Gsellman is a big, athletic righty with an ideal pitcher's frame. He repeats his mechanics well, and the arm action is loose and easy. He works primarily off a sinking fastball that was 88-94, and sat 90-93 in my most recent look, which is a slight tick up from 2015 You will get reports that he sits and touches higher in some outings, while other starts he may work more around 90. The pitch has late downward bite at it's best, but when he is rearing back for more it will show more two-seam, arm-side run. The addition of the slider has been a huge boon to Gsellman's profile. It is an inconsistent pitch at present, but will flash plus and shows all the hallmarks of the Warthen slider at its best. He can touch the upper-80s with it, and it will be his out pitch in the majors, especially if he stays in a pen role past this week. And hey, getting to work more closely with Warthen on it for six weeks could pay rapid dividends. His curve is a high-70s, rolling 11-5 breaker. At times it may bleed into the slider, especially when it ticks up into the low-80s. He can backdoor it or backfoot it, and it's the more polished of the two breaking balls at present. The change is his clear fourth pitch, with a below-average projection due his inability to do much more than fade it off the plate. I doubt you will see much of it in relief, as he is comfortable throwing both breaking balls to lefties. The total package projects as a no. 4 starter in the majors, with the possibility for more if the slider ticks up or if he consolidates this year's velocity bump.
Immediate Big League Future: Gsellman getting the call to pitch out of the pen is a little surprising. The Mets have a fully rested relief corps, as they were off on Monday and Noah Syndergaard went eight innings on Sunday. They don't really need a long reliever and they have plenty of arms with major league bullpen experience on the 40-man. The Mets did something similar last week, calling up Gabriel Ynoa, who hadn't worked in relief since the Gulf Coast League, to pitch a few low-leverage innings. He didn't thrive in the role, as much as you can gauge that from a three-inning sample, and it is difficult to predict how Gsellman will adapt on the fly. I suspect he is primarily up as insurance if Niese or Lugo get bombed early in their starts, but if that is a serious enough concern, given how important these games are, why are they the ones taking the ball in the first place?
Fantasy Take: The lack of minor league strikeouts is the first thing that jumps off the page for Gsellman. This alone won’t necessarily negate the possibility of a major-league career for the 23-year-old right-hander, but it is likely to limit his fantasy value. The Mets have been judiciously cautious with Gsellman, only letting him pitch into the eighth inning twice this season, but this will be irrelevant in the short-term, as he is expected to pitch out of the bullpen initially. Citi Field and a relatively soft slate down the stretch would help him if he did get a crack at the rotation. Overall, his fantasy value is limited, particularly given the uncertainty of his role for the Mets.
Gsellman is solely an NL-only play at the moment. Perhaps there are some vulture wins lurking in him as a reliever thanks to a Mets bullpen that has been ineffective and possibly tired of late, but trying to predict middle relief wins is impossible. If you can stash him on reserve and not burn an active roster spot in leagues with deep reserve lists, there is certainly no harm in doing so. Even if it isn’t clear if he will get any starts, the weakened state of the Mets’ pitchers and their tenuous position in the NL Wild Card race make a Gsellman slot in the rotation possible in the near future. – Mike Gianella
Jeffrey Paternostro is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @jeffpaternostro