The New York Mets have already made decisions on the first four spots in the team’s starting rotation for this upcoming season. With four viable options fighting for the last spot, a decision might not be coming for a while.
Jacob deGrom, the staff ace from last season, will combine with a healthy Noah Syndergaard as one of the most fearsome one-two combinations in the league. Additionally, newly signed Jason Vargas had a career year for the Kansas City Royals in 2017, and Matt Harvey has impressed in Spring Training while looking much more like the dominant pitcher he was in 2014 and 2015 than the subpar pitcher he has been the past few seasons.
Unfortunately for the Mets, there are four pitchers who were all in the Mets’ starting rotation at different points last season and who have shown enough promise in the past to earn the last spot in the rotation. Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Robert Gsellman, and Seth Lugo would likely all be very effective as the team’s fifth starter, but bar any major injuries, only one will have that opportunity, with the rest heading to the bullpen or the minor leagues.
Matz entered the league with a lot of hype surrounding him, and that hype seemed warranted after he dazzled in his first few seasons, posting a 2.27 ERA over six starts in 2015 before compiling a 9-8 record with a 3.40 ERA in 2016. Last season was a different story, though, as injuries limited Matz to 13 starts, and when he did pitch, he looked nothing like the promising talent from just one year earlier, going 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA.
Wheeler followed a similar path to Matz, entering the league with a lot of buzz and proving his worth early before struggling in recent seasons. Wheeler had very respectable numbers in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, but various injuries forced him to miss both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, and his return in 2017 was marred by inconsistency, as evidenced by his 3-7 record and 5.21 ERA.
Gsellman was not as highly rated as either Matz or Wheeler prior to making his debut in 2016, but he did not let that stop him from becoming one of the team’s most important pitchers down the stretch that season, compiling a 4-2 record and a 2.42 ERA over seven starts. He struggled in his sophomore season, missing the first half of the season before posting a disappointing 5.19 ERA, but he is just 24 years old and has plenty of time to continuing developing.
Lugo also made his debut in 2016 even though he is four years older than Gsellman and one year older than Wheeler. Lugo posted a 5-2 record with a 2.67 ERA that season, but after missing the first half of the season like Gsellman, he similarly struggled to the tune of a 4.71 ERA despite showing increased pitch command.
All four pitchers have pitched to varying degrees of success this Spring Training, with Wheeler posting the best numbers and Matz struggling through his first two starts. However, Matz’s most recent start was very encouraging, as he pitched four scoreless innings on just 53 pitches, and after that performance, the competition for the last spot is truly wide open.
Ultimately, given how beneficial a left-handed pitcher would be to the back end of the Mets’ rotation, Matz will likely win the spot to start the year, with either Gsellman and Lugo being sent to Triple-A and the other pitcher being sent to the bullpen with Wheeler. Still, with how many injuries the Mets suffered last season, this competition will likely last throughout most of this season and even beyond.
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