The New York Mets promoted right-handed pitcher Jeurys Familia to the major league roster yesterday, sending reliever Greg Burke back to Triple-A. The Mets need a fresh bullpen arm, and hard-throwing Familia seems like a better present option than side-arming Burke and his 7+ ERA.
The 23-year-old Familia had thrown five innings of relief for Triple-A Las Vegas, picking up one save in four games with a 4/1 K/BB ratio and no runs allowed. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, the 6-4, 230-pound Familia has been one of the Metropolitan's top pitching prospects for the last four years, although his exact placement on prospect lists has yo-yoed with his performance.
At times he has been excellent, flashing dominance ability particularly in 2009 and 2011, but he's also had his share of struggles, including a 4.73 ERA last year in Triple-A and a 5.58 mark in 2010. This is not a matter of stuff: Familia throws quite hard, working in the mid-90s and pushing 100 MPH at his best. He also has an effective slider, but has had problems developing a consistent third pitch. His mechanics are difficult to maintain and the resulting control problems have often kept him from fulfilling his full potential.
It was originally hoped that Familia could become a workhorse starting pitcher, but he appears more comfortable in the bullpen and that seems like his best role going forward. He has enough stuff to be a closer if the command is there, although for now middle relief will give him the opportunity to prove that he can throw strikes well enough to take on a larger role. I like his upside enough that I gave him a Grade B- in the 2013 Baseball Prospect Book and ranked him as the Number Six Mets prospect for 2013.