With 2013 all but over for the New York Mets and their fans, this is a perfect time to take a look at who might be toeing the rubber for the Metropolitans next April.
Now as a bit of a disclaimer, this list will not include Matt Harvey. That is because, personally, I believe that Harvey will have to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2014 season. If this isn’t the case and Harvey will be able to pitch, then he can be placed # 1 and everyone else can be moved down a spot on the list.
1) Zack Wheeler: The decision to put Wheeler number one took a while to settle on, as Niese was a consideration to be the ace of the staff. But what Wheeler has done during his short time in Flushing shows that he has that ace mentality and can carry a pitching staff for an entire year. As a bit of comparison, Wheeler in 95 innings has put up a 7-5 record with a 3.22 ERA, a 7.7 SO/9 and 3.8 BB/P. In Harvey’s first stint in the big league, he sported a 3-5 record with a 2.73 ERA and a 10.6 SO/9 and 3.9 BB/9 in 59.1 innings. While the innings don’t match-up there are parallels that can be made. This doesn’t mean that Wheeler is the next Harvey, but he means Wheeler can be a good 1A to Harvey and can fill in nicely at the top of the rotation.
2) Jonathon Niese: The key for Niese is to stay consistent for an entire season and by being slotted in the # 2 role, the pressure of carrying the pitching staff will be off and Niese can just focus on pitching. Another problem for Niese is the command of his secondary pitches. His cutter and change-up are his best pitches that set up his curve. He needs to have the command of these pitches for a majority of the year in order to take that next step as a pitcher. He has all the tools, but needs to apply them in a full season.
3) Dillon Gee: Gee might be the best pitcher (behind Harvey) the Mets have had this year. He has emerged as a reliable starter for the middle of the rotation and has really shown how talented he is. His 11-10 record doesn’t do him justice. In the second half this season, he is sporting a 2.47 ERA in 10 starts putting him with some of the best in baseball with that number. Gee has given this team quality innings and can keep them in ballgames. He is a lock for the rotation in 2014, most likely at the # 3 spot.
4) Rafael Montero: And this is where things get interesting. With Jeremy Hefner out for all of 2014, and the pending news on what will happen with Harvey, there will be up to two spots open at the back of the rotation. One of the prospects in consideration to break camp is Rafael Montero. The hard throwing righty leaped onto to scene this year with a fantastic start at AA Binghamton with a 7-3 record and a 2.43 ERA in 11 starts. Those numbers earned him a promotion to hitter friendly Las Vegas, where he put up a 5-4 record with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts. He is still very raw, at age 22, and has all the tools to be successful at the big league level. The only that could keep Montero out of Flushing next year is if he is traded. With the Mets needing to bolster their lineup, talks have increased of trading pitching prospects in order to acquire an impact bat. Montero’s name has been circulated around with a number of potential trades, so keep an eye out this winter for his name to be thrown around more.
5) Jenrry Mejia: The forgotten man. Mejia was called up way too early in his career and was exposed for being too young. Now at only 22 years old, he has brought himself back into the picture. Some still believe he will forced into the bullpen, but in his short stint in the bigs this year, Mejia proved he has got the stuff to be a starter. A naturally cutting fastball, a slider, a curve and a change-up completes Mejia’s arsenal. He was shut down this year in order to get elbow surgery, but Mejia should be able to be at camp in 2014 and help in some capacity.
Tim Lincecum: The first free agent on the list, and one that would require some money to be spent. “The Freak” would be a good addition to the back-end of the Mets rotation. Lincecum could use a change of scenery, as the last couple of years in San Francisco has seen him fall out of the limelight. He can re-invent himself on a team that could use a former Cy-Young winner to help win games. And at age 29, he still has gas left in the tank to help for more than just next season. With multiple teams needing starting pitching, it seems that a bidding war could break out for Lincecum. Alderson isn’t to keen on spending big bucks on second generation contracts, so if Lincecum exceeds the price tag that Alderson sets look for Alderson to stick with the in-house options.
Noah Syndergaard : A long shot to break camp, but still a possibility. One of the two key pieces of the R.A. Dickey trade, Syndergaard has established a reputation for himself. A future rotation of Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergaard has analysts across baseball saying that the Mets are on the way up. Currently in AA ball with the Mets affiliate in Binghamton, he has put together quite a season. Look for him to get an early call up to AAA and be looming for a potential mid-season or Semptember call up.
Jacob deGrom: Another in-house option, but one that not many outside of Flushing know about. The 25-year-old isn’t in the top ten of any prospect list. According to Jonathan Mayo (MLB.com’s leading prospect expert, deGrom is ranked as the Mets 19th best prospect. deGrom who has had command trouble in the past has a repertoire that includes a plus fastball, an above average slider and a solid change. This season he has seemed to figure out his command trouble and get himself to AAA Las Vegas and on multiple occasions has been considered for a spot start at the big league level. He will definitely be apart of a competition for that number five-spot come next spring.
The one thing that the Mets have is pitching depth. With Matt Harvey’s surgery decision looming, it’s nice for Sandy Alderson to have a number of options in the system that he can turn to with confidence. This surplus pitching allows Alderson to still invest in the lineup, and still have confidence in a rotation for the 2014 season. Going forward Mets camp in Port St. Luice is going to be must-watch for fans , as a competition for that last spot could include up to 4 pitchers. Mets baseball is starting to get exciting again, and this is only the beginning.