The Mets pitching staff will be vital to the team’s success this upcoming season.
The Mets pitching staff, as we know, is both talented and injury prone. What I am going to do is look at what the starting rotation and bullpen may look like barring all possible injuries. The Mets have a lot of bounce-back candidates on the roster.
They also have multiple guys who are starters that may end up in the bullpen and a few Major League ready prospects that will be competing for spots in the bullpen. All of this means there will be some good old-fashioned Spring Training competition.
The beautiful part about this competition is that it’s not going to be borderline Major League players competing for spots on a tanking team trying to save money. In reality, this Mets team is a legitimate postseason competitor and all of the pitchers that will be competing are good enough to be on virtually every team in the league.
With that being said, let’s talk about the pitchers that will be competing for spots in the starting rotation.
Remember, we are assuming that no player will get hurt in Spring Training and the competition will be based completely on performance.
As of now, the Mets have two slots in their 5-man rotation locked up. The two men who own those spots are Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Both pitchers have been dominant and consistent for their entire Major League careers.
The other three spots are seemingly up for grabs with a few favorites. The Mets still have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to starting pitching and the only reason this team isn’t believed to have the best rotation in baseball is that their pitchers can’t stay healthy but in this scenario, they will be.
The six men competing for the final three spots in the rotation are Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo, and Rafael Montero. All of these guys have had varying degrees of success in the big leagues throughout their careers, Matt Harvey has had the most success and Montero the least.
Regardless of past success, to me, these six guys should all have an equal opportunity to win a spot in the rotation. As I said earlier there are favorites to win these spots and if the season were to start tomorrow those spots would go to Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zack Wheeler.
I understand why these three guys are the favorites, there is no denying that these guys have had the most success and arguably have the most promise. However, excluding Harvey, they have not proven that they can succeed in 30+ starts. Even Harvey may never be the pitcher he was before injuries derailed his career.
To me, that should put these six pitchers in the same boat.
You may be wondering why Rafael Montero is even on the list of candidates and you are right to have that thought process, but it is not that simple. Although Montero has had more chances to prove himself than anyone else and simply hasn’t done what many think he can, he is now out of minor league options.
Montero can’t be sent down to the minors anymore without being put on waivers, the Mets would then risk losing him to another team. Adding to that, Montero has proven to be inconsistent but he is too talented to lose. He had shown some improvement down the stretch last season, which made the Mets hopefull that he may have finally turned a corner.
Rafael is the least likely guy to get a shot in the rotation but he will most likely end up in the bullpen unless he is traded.
Gsellman and Lugo
Next up is the duo that shocked the world when they came up in 2016 to help propel the Mets toward a Wild Card berth, filling in for the team’s injured starters. Those two are Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, who were expected to be depth options for the Mets last year. As things go with the Orange and Blue things did not go as planned.
Both Lugo and Matz started the year on the 10-day DL which opened the door for Gsellman who had an exceptional Spring Training, so good in fact that he was a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate.
Unfortunately, Gsellman struggled mightily the entire first half and eventually pulled a hamstring trying to leg out an infield hit. He even spent some time in the minors and received open criticism from Sandy Alderson. He came back up in August and had a pretty strong finish but some believe he might be better suited for a bullpen role.
Last year as I said earlier, Lugo started the season on the disabled list, he did not appear in a big league game until June. When he finally got on the mound the results were not pretty, he struggled for the majority of the season and looked nothing like his 2016 self.
Gsellman and Lugo can easily earn themselves a spot in the rotation with solid Spring Training performances but Gsellman is much more likely to win a spot because of his upside and age (24). However, Lugo will be pitching with a partial tear in his UCL, so being a reliever may be too dangerous for his elbow to go through.
There is one other thing to consider with these two. Both players have minor league options left, so even though they deserve to be in the bigs one or both could end up in AAA to start the year as depth options.
Zack Wheeler is probably the most interesting candidate for multiple reasons. When he is healthy his stuff is electric and he is a legit 2-3 starter in any rotation. However, he just missed 2 years due to Tommy John surgery and he came back last year to have stretches of great performances combined with stretches of poor performances.
Wheeler could not make it the whole season without being shut down only 86 innings into his year. Unfortunately, Wheeler did not bounce back from his surgery well at all and the fact of the matter is, he can’t be trusted to go out every 5 days as a starter for this team.
Instead, he should be moved to the bullpen where his stuff would translate especially well and he can improve the team as a whole.
Matz and Harvey
Finally, we will look at Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. These two are easily the two most talented pitchers of the group but they are also the most oft-injured.
Harvey started off his career as a phenom who was so talented that people were saying he was a Hall of Fame talent in his first full big league season. As everything goes with the Mets good things don’t last long. He underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of 2013 which caused him to miss all of 2014. He came back dominant as ever in 2015 but his dominance did not continue into 2016 and 2017 as injuries hurt his performance.
Steven Matz, the hometown kid, has all of the talent in the world. He is a left-handed pitcher that can throw in the upper 90’s with good secondary pitches. Matz, like all Met pitchers, can’t stay healthy no matter the circumstance.
The hope is that with the Mets changing their entire training staff in conjunction with bringing in a new manager known for his injury prevention techniques will allow Harvey and Matz to stay healthy and perform to the high levels they have showcased in their short careers.
If the Mets make Spring Training the open competition that it should be they will be better off. I predict that if those final three spots aren’t just given to Harvey, Matz, and Wheeler there will be at least one surprise in the rotation.
As I said earlier Wheelers arm just can’t be trusted to start every fifth game and he belongs in the bullpen where he can be more effective. I think his spot should go to Gsellman if he performs well in Spring Training and if not him then Lugo.
Gsellman and Lugo have different skillsets, Lugo uses his secondary pitches to get hitters out, whereas Gsellman is more reliant on his fastball. If both these guys perform well in Spring Training I wouldn’t be surprised if Gsellman is pushed to the bullpen where his stuff would be more effective. This would allow Lugo to be a starter where he would be more effective.
It is hard to predict how everything will end up because in Spring Training injuries arise, it is not the injury safe world that I made this situation. If all 8 potential starters stay healthy in the Spring, the rotation should look like this: 1. Jacob deGrom 2. Noah Syndergaard 3. Matt Harvey 4. Steven Matz 5. Gsellman.
That should push Wheeler and Montero to the bullpen and Lugo to AAA. The reason Lugo should be in AAA is to be a starter that can be brought up and fill a hole in the rotation if one opens. It would be harder for Wheeler or Montero to step up in that situation because they simply wouldn’t have the stamina.
Spring Training is less than 2 weeks away so these questions will be answered soon. The question I have is will Met fans like the answers?