2023 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Player Spotlight: David Robertson and the Future of the New York Mets Bullpen
Joe Gallina breaks down David Robertson and what to expect from him as the potential Mets closer for the 2023 fantasy baseball season.
With Edwin Diaz’s 2023 season ending before it even began if tomorrow was baseball’s Opening Day, David Robertson would likely be the Mets’ closer and primary option for ninth inning saves.
As we’re sure you’re aware, Diaz tore his right patellar tendon while celebrating a Puerto Rican team win in the World Baseball Classic and had season ending surgery to repair the tear on Thursday. We wish Diaz the best in his recovery, but as the next man up it’s up to Robertson to fill that gaping hole in the Mets’ bullpen.
It's been a long road back to fantasy relevancy for Robertson, who’ll turn 38 years old in April. He’s no stranger to having to fill big shoes. Robertson became the Yankees’ closer, inheriting the job from legendary Mariano Rivera who retired after the 2013 season, and recorded 39 saves in his first year on the job. He was one of baseball's best closers from 2014-2018, saving 129 games and pitching to a 2.99 ERA and 1.043 WHIP. Unfortunately, Robertson underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2019 season and was out of baseball until the 2021 season. Beginning in July of that year he pitched for the independent league High Point Rockers, won a silver medal while pitching for the U.S. Olympic team and in September he finally made it back to the bigs, pitching for the Rays.
Robertson pitched for the Cubs and Phillies last season, compiling a 2.40 ERA while saving 20 games. His overall 4.9 BB/9 was a bit high, but his extremely reasonable 5.5 Hit/9 rate helped him maintain an above average 1.162 WHIP. The average velocity of his cutter (93 mph) was the highest of his career and while all three of his offerings were impressive, his curveball stood out with its .097 BAA and 44.4 Whiff%. As Casey Kasem (Google him) used to say Robertson is really moving up the charts! According to the NFBC, Robertson’s ADP between February 1st and March 15th was 583. His ADP for March 16th was 182, meaning that he was being selected in the 16th round of a typical 12-team league. That would put him about three rounds behind Andres Munoz and Paul Sewald, and one round behind Jose Leclerc.
While Robertson will probably get the majority of save opportunities to start the season, the Mets will almost certainly be looking at other ninth inning options as well. Adam Ottavino has 33 career saves, including the 11 he recorded with the Red Sox during the 2021 season. He’s likely to get occasional save opportunities but he has thrived as a setup man throughout his career. Ottavino has pitched better in non-save situations (3.20 ERA) as opposed to save situations (3.59 ERA). Ottavino had greater success against right-handed batters (.161 BAA, 479 OPS) than left-handed batters .301 BAA, .838 OPS) last season and will likely be a better resource for holds than saves this season.
Brooks Raley, who the Mets acquired from the Rays this offseason, could also see the occasional save opportunity come his way. He’s coming off of a career season in which he pitched to a 2.68 ERA and posted a 0.969 WHIP and he also saved six games. He was pulled from the World Baseball Classic after suffering a low-grade left hamstring strain but is expected to be ready for Opening Day. Like Ottavino, expect Raley to record more holds than saves.
Tommy Hunter (22 career saves), Stephen Nogosek (35 minor league career saves) and Sam Coonrod (5 career saves, currently on the IL due to a lat strain) round out the Mets relievers who have some closer experience. Unfortunately, none of them have much fantasy value at this point but pitchers who have some closer experience sometimes eventually land a role that regularly allows them to pitch in high leverage situations so keep their names on your watch list.
The Mets almost assuredly will continue to seek to add quality arms to their bullpen in order to mitigate Diaz’s loss. Robertson’s biggest short-term competition for saves might not even be on the team yet. The Mets were among the clubs who attended Zack Britton’s workout on Thursday. Britton has 154 career saves and was the Orioles’ closer during part of current Mets manager Buck Showalter’s tenure as the Orioles’ manager. The Mets will also likely attempt to bolster their bullpen through the trade market as the season progresses and teams start to fall out of their respective pennant races.