Jim Henderson: Potential New York Mets Bullpen Piece

Jim Henderson has had an interesting career. After being drafted by the Montreal Expos in 2003, he spent time in the Expos/Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers systems before making his debut in 2012 with the Brewers, nearly a decade after he was drafted.

Henderson debuted in the majors as a 29-year-old journeyman, but he quickly made a name for himself. Over 36 games in his rookie campaign, he struck out an astonishing 34.4% of the batters he faced, translating to a 13.5 K/9 ratio; he was an elite strikeout pitcher. His walk rate of 9.9% was terribly high, but his strikeout rate circumvented that problem. He was a ground ball pitcher as well, as evidenced by his GB/FB ratio (ground ball to fly ball) of 1.20. His ERA was okay, 3.52, but his xFIP- of 70, and his SIERA of 2.44 show that he was better than the ERA suggests. He came out of nowhere, and was good. He ended up as the setup man to closer John Axford, finishing the season with 14 holds and a 0.9 WAR.

2013 is where he really shined. He started the season as the setup man, but eventually replaced the struggling Axford to become the closer for the Brewers, and he was excellent in that role. He had 28 saves in 61 appearances, only blowing four saves. His strikeout numbers stayed high (30.4%, 11.25 K/9), as did his walk numbers (9.7%), but his batting average against went down to .199 from .222 the previous year. His WHIP was down to 1.13 as well. His LOB% skyrocketed up to 88.4% from 72.5%. He became more of a fly ball pitcher as opposed to his groundball tendencies, as his GB% dipped to 27.6%, and his FB% went up to 44/1%. The difference in his fly ball and ground ball ratios did not change much for Henderson, as he was excellent in 2013 as the closer. His 2.75 SIERA and xFIP- of 88 are proof of that.

2014 is where his career took a turn for the worse, however. In spring training he battled shoulder inflammation which caused a drop in velocity and eventually was shut down just 14 games into the season for shoulder surgery (the second on that shoulder). He did not pitch for the rest of the year, and struggled in Triple-A in 2015 before being released. For a journeyman pitcher in his 30s with multiple arm surgeries, these can be career-threatening injuries.

Henderson now has a legitimate shot at restarting a career that looked to be in jeopardy with the New York Mets, despite the past two seasons. The now 33-year-old pitcher signed a minor league deal with the Mets this offseason, and has been impressive in camp thus far. He’s been perfect through 3.0 innings pitched, with four strikeouts, and his velocity is back up to the mid-90s, which is an excellent sign for his health. There are two open spots in the bullpen, and Henderson is a name for Mets fans to watch out for. He has the strikeout ability and can even serve as an emergency closer (behind closer Jeurys Familia and setup man Addison Reed), which is a vital role in the bullpen.

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