This will be part 9 in an 11 part series regarding the 2017 roster choices the Mets must make to continue their pursuit of a World Championship. Today the question to consider is starting pitching. Who stays? Who goes? Who’s on the bubble?
Assuming he recovers successfully from the Thoracic Outlet Syndrome issue that plagued him in 2016 and resulted in a very un-Harvey-like 4.68 ERA, he’ll be back on the mound once again to lead the staff. Those people who were clamoring perhaps to trade him a year too soon rather than a year too late will have to wait. He needs to prove to Major League Baseball that the Dark Knight of Gotham still has a few tricks to unmask. He’s not eligible to become a free agent until 2019, so there’s still time to wring performance out of him at bargain prices for another full year (or two).
Jacob de Grom
Whether it is merely exhaustion or an injury that put a crimp in the hirsute one’s season, the fact remains that he’s actually been a better pitcher than Matt Harvey since making it to the majors. His 30-22 with a 2.74 ERA bests Harvey’s nearly .500 record of 29-28 and 2.94 ERA. He’s not slated to become a free agent until 2021. If there’s nothing wrong with his arm or shoulder then he’s certainly priority number one for the long term deal to lead the rotation.
Following close on de Grom’s heels, however, is his blond counterpart, Noah “Thor” Syndergaard. There are times during this season that he’s looked magical on the mound. Overall the numbers are spectacular. On a team that hovered around .500 for much of the year, he’s 13-8 with a sparkling 2.48 ERA. He’s also fanned 195 in just 167 innings. Let’s hope his elbow holds up and we can pencil him into the rotation at least through his 2022 free agency.
This poor guy can’t catch a break with his health, but we’ve seen what he’s capable of doing when he’s physically capable of playing. Even this year with a few physical issues plaguing him, he still managed to post a winning record with a respectable 3.40 ERA and roughly 1 K per IP. Let’s hope he’s back to pitching form soon. He’s here for next season as well due to health concerns making him difficult for any other team to acquire in trade.
The great wildcard in the pitching mix is Zack Wheeler who suffered a few setbacks on his return to the mound. While the potential is there, no one knows if he’s the next stud starter or more of a Mark Fidrych whose career ended almost as soon as it began with a multitude of injuries. While he was originally considered a worthy risk in the prospective trade that fizzled to land Carlos Gomez, one would think he’s got virtually no value until people see him pitch again.
Big Bart has become something of a folk hero with his first home run, his All Star appearance and his unflappable attitude. Oh yeah, the guy has turned in some pretty good pitching, too – 13-7 with a 3.27 ERA. With Zach Wheeler very much a question mark for next year and injuries hanging over the heads of other Mets starters, it would behoove Sandy Alderson to extend another year’s invitation to see him throw behind his back to nail runners at 1st base. Even if the rest of the rotation remains surprisingly healthy, Terry Collins used him out of the pen in the 2015 World Series and there’s always room out there for someone who consistently throws strikes.
His rags to riches story is certainly fun to watch and couldn’t have possibly come at a better time. However, if you go back and look at Lugo’s minor league track record it was nothing spectacular. He is demonstrating he’s much more comfortable as a starter than as a reliever and for the most part he did a decent job keeping runners off base in the minors. Consider him Plan B if they don’t choose to retain Colon.
Despite not succeeding at quite the same level as his late season Las Vegas teammate Lugo, Robert Gsellman is actually the guy with a better minor league record. His career ERA prior to joining the Mets was a tidy 3.11 that included his 5.73 baptism by fire in Las Vegas. He’s not a big strikeout guy. Lugo has an edge in that regard. However, there are successful pitchers in the majors who don’t tire out people in the K corner, too. Besides, wouldn’t it be cool to have the long haired trio pitching together regularly?
Please, just go away. The fact he received starting assignments at all was baffling, to say the least. His 6.00+ ERA in that role suggests he is not major league pitching material, yet the manager kept trotting him out that until the outfielders playing behind him were get neck strain from watching balls rocket over their heads and out of the ballpark. He’s the Eric Campbell of pitching.
After his magnificent Rule V debut season with reverse platoon splits (something the manager never quite understood) and a 2.67 ERA, he was banished to Las Vegas for most of the year where his game pretty much fell apart. He’s had an entire season of major league success under his belt, so I’m willing to give him more benefit of doubt than I am Verrett. However, his role is possibly limited to long man, mop up duty and emergency starter.
He is another pitcher, like Gsellman, who gets by on guile more than any ferocious weapon in his pitching repertoire. His pitching numbers took a big hit in advanced metrics upon hitting Las Vegas (no surprise there) but unlike some of his Vegas teammates, he has not exhaled and pitched better at lower altitude. I’m curious to see how he might handle the non-PCL environment with a few starts, but he may not get that chance given what’s at stake.
Here’s the very definition of enigma. Look at his minor league track record up through 2012 he posted a career minor league ERA around 2.50 and a WHIP under 1.000. Then he hit Las Vegas where most pitchers crumble and he responded in 2013 with a 3.05 ERA and a higher but still respectable 1.241 WHIP. In some ways control is like base running speed. It’s a weapon that should play at any level. He’d always been a starter so naturally the manager decided he should be a reliever., eerily reminiscent of what Jerry Manuel did to Jenrry Mejia. Arm/shoulder/focus issues ensued and he became a lost cause for the next two years. It got so bad this year that he was demoted to AA where he seemed to rediscover his mojo. When the season ended there he was on a run of 4-3, 2.20 with a 1.120 WHIP. He looked like he was finally back. His first start in a Mets uniform since returning was a brilliant 2-hit shutout effort over 5 but he pitched in and out of trouble with six walks. Something is simply not clicking in his head to lose control after exhibiting enviable control elsewhere in his career. He’ll have to find it somewhere else because there’s nothing left for him in this organization. He’s useless in Las Vegas and has pitched himself out of Queens. He’s a good wildcard chip for some other team to acquire if they can figure out why he’s come down with Steve Blass disease.
Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
If healthy, the first four are written in ink in the rotation. Zack Wheeler may likely be on the extended spring training circuit to make absolutely sure he’s ready to return to starting. Consequently I think Colon will be retained as that 5th starter and/or bullpen arm with Lugo getting the first nod. Gsellman has had relatively little time in AAA compared to Lugo and not having finished as strongly he’s probably slated to be the Las Vegas ace. Personally I'd rather see them sell high on Lugo and keep Gsellman in the wings after Bart until Wheeler is ready.