Today I begin a 5 part season preview on The New York Mets and first we will talk about the starting rotation–long believed to be the fulcrum of this team and quite frankly this group has more question marks in the makeup of the rotation than it had in recent years.
For the past few seasons, the Met starting rotation has been the biggest strength of the team but the loss of Noah Syndergaard to Tommy John Surgery and Zack Wheeler to a high priced free agent contract to the division rival Phils will test the depth that Brodie Van Wagenen says exists on this team.
We all know the greatness of Jacob deGrom who is clearly the best pitcher in baseball and in a truncated 60 game season I would not be surprised in the least if he walks away with a third straight Cy Young Award. He attacks hitters with an arsenal of pitches and even on the rare nights he is missing his best stuff he is great at gutting himself through the game.
When I say best in the game, I mean it and the best is not always determined by the size of a contract. Gerrit Cole walked away with tons of money this off-season but his post-season resume does not come close to deGrom’s resume. I learned all I needed to know from Jacob during Game 5 of the 2015 NLDS versus the Dodgers as he willed the Mets, along with the bat of Daniel Murphy, to a series clinching win. I am still waiting for something similar in the post-season travels of Cole and until he does, he is not in deGrom’s class.
The second spot in the rotation is a key part of the Met season as both Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz will both be battling to claim that spot. Stroman has great stuff but I simply can not discount the way Matz has looked in summer camp. His stuff has been electric and his mound presence looks so different than a year ago bursting with confidence. The one thing that hurt Matz last year was that one hidden inning in a start where he just could not limit the damage. I think he has found out the way to improve that is not forget about his 12 to 6 curveball which he has thrown a whole bunch this camp and it looks great rolling off the table with late movement when the ball is right on top of the hitter. I think Matz is headed for a great season–one the Mets have been patiently waiting for since 2015.
As far as Stroman is concerned, his stuff is electric but he needs to command the lower part of the strike zone which has been a bit of a problem for him in camp as he has served up a few home runs in intra squad games. The Met infield defense will be key for him and we will discuss that in Part 3 of this series when I discuss Team Defense. He should be super motivated in this 60 game season as he is in a year in which he could command a great contract in the off-season if he performs to the level he is capable of that he showed in Toronto before being dealt to the Mets.
The 4th and 5th starters will be a combination of Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello who much like Stroman are pitch to contact hurlers who will need a consistent defense in the infield. Wacha has looked better than Porcello in camp mixing his pitches up well.
Porcello seems to be a bit behind especially with his slider that has been hanging in the strike zone but his sinking fastball has looked good. Because of the inconsistency, I would put Wacha as the #4 starter followed by Porcello in the #5 role. However in this 60 game season rotation depth could always be needed and we must never forget in Seth Lugo the Mets possess a pitcher with starting pedigree who could be used in that role if needed,
Others to watch in the starting depth category are Robert Gsellman and prospect David Petersen who can be called on for emergency starting assignments as well as Corey Oswalt.
Overall the Met rotation is still one of the top 3 in the league but missing Syndergaard will hurt. As the 2020 season opens, this Met team will be far more balanced than it was a year ago as their offense may bail out their pitchers on a regular basis which was exactly the opposite case in 2019.
The 2020 Met Starting rotation will not possess the depth of 2019 but with the best pitcher in baseball leading the charge and a break through season from Steven Matz or Marcus Stroman–they will provide what the Mets need from a playoff-bound rotation. And in both Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha they will be putting 2 hurlers out there every fifth day who have tons to prove.
Tomorrow we preview The Met offense