The Heilman Experiment
The Mets bullpen is one the biggest question marks coming into 2005 but it is not because a lack of arms available for the spots. The only given right now is that Braden Looper will be closing games and Mike DeJean will be in the bullpen as well. In addition to those two, the Mets will be able to choose from Grant Roberts, Tyler Yates, Pedro Feliciano, Felix Heredia, Matt Ginter, Jae Weong Seo, Bartolome Fortunado, Orber Moreno, Scott Strickland, Heath Bell, Blake McGinley, and PJ Bevis. There are a few lefties, some fireballers, and some soft tossers. I'm of the group of people, however small, that think they can actually build a pretty effective core group of relievers from this bunch. Added to that mix should be Aaron Heilman. With the Mets current rotation set, and Bobby Keppel, Alay Soler, Phil Humber, and Yusmeiro Petit all set to pass him on the depth charts this upcoming season and Aaron Heilman being 26 and turning 27 after this season, he needs to be traded or given a shot to stick with the big league club in some capacity.
While there are still some out there that think he may turn into a good back end of the rotation guy who can eat some innings, his career BAA is .288 with a 6.36 ERA in 93.1 total innings. Perhaps the most disturbing of all stats is the fact that in 2002, he pitched in Norfolk at 23 years old. That season he posted a 3.28 ERA with a 7.7 H/9, 2.9 W/9, a 1.18 WHIP, and a 6.4 K/9. In 2003 at Norfolk he posted a 3.24 ERA with 9.5 H/9, 3.1 W/9, 1.39 WHIP, and a 6.8 K/9. In 2004 in Norfolk he posted a 4.33 ERA, 9.3 H/9, 3.9 W/9, 1.46 WHIP, and a 7.3 K/9. There is no evidence of any progress being made in terms of numbers and it looks more like he's going backwards. The higher K/9 is certainly something of interest and good to see, but he's also posted the highest W/9 he's posted in his entire minor league career. It's time to try something new.
Heilman is a decent sinker/slider guy that can touch 91 on the radar gun. For me, if you can turn him into David Weathers, that would help the team the most if he cannot be traded and somehow spun into something of value and a better fit for this team's needs right now. They actually have a similar repertoire and similar velocity. It certainly could not hurt anyone and maybe if he was pitching for one inning, he could put everything he has into a short stint and could act as the long man out of the pen. He's still young, but he's already entered the age that he is basically no longer considered a prospect. Time to scrap the starting pitcher tag and let him have a legitimate chance at the bullpen this spring and invite him into mini camp to start practicing converting him to a reliever. When he was drafted he was regarded as the most polished pitcher outside of Mark Prior and he has the tools to be an effective major league pitcher in some capacity. Part of his problem is mental and the way he approaches batters. He just is not aggressive enough and tries to live on the corners. He needs to work on going after hitters and he needs to work on being converted to a reliever. For Aaron to spend his 26 year old season at AAA Norfolk again getting knocked around as a starter really does not help anyone. Let him have a legitimate chance for the bullpen to act as the long man and spot starter in a rotation that will need that from time to time and he could prove to a valuable asset in the Dan Wheeler mold of 2003 and to some extent 2004. There simply is no other choice with him at this time since he's not a hot commodity on the open market. Aaron needs to get a shot in the bullpen this off season.