The New York Mets have the chance to put one of the greatest pitching rotations in history on the mound this summer. Best-case scenario the Mets have a 3-headed race for the Cy Young Award and another pitcher winning Rookie of the Year.Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz are the pitchers we are talking about, with the latter Matz being a rookie. In the fifth spot you have the ageless wonder Bartolo Colon who can provide a solid bridge to another great young pitcher in Zack Wheeler who is coming off of TJ surgery. All of these pitchers, (with the exception of Colon), would be considered a top of the rotation pitcher on many teams in the league. I want to dive in and take a look at what each of these pitchers brings to the rotation and what we can expect from this great group of pitchers.
There is no other way to explain DeGrom’s 2015 regular season and postseason but by saying WOW! DeGrom pitched to an ERA of 2.54 during the regular season, which was fourth lowest among starting pitchers last season in the NL. DeGrom pitched in 30 ball games and had an incredible 205/38 strike out to walk split. DeGrom loves to pitch when the pressure and bright lights are on as evident in his postseason outings. Most notably for research purposes Game 5 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. He also pitched great in his All Star Game appearance when he struck out the side in his lone inning of work. When right-handed hitters have an average of .181 and lefties .245 you can be considered filthy. It is hard to project DeGrom taking a step back as he had shown a leap of growth in his second full season. Granted DeGrom pitched 76 more innings combined between the postseason and regular season than he did his rookie year, you have to imagine the Mets will monitor his workload in Spring Training to keep him as fresh as possible. All of the other young pitchers will be monitored through the spring as well. One area DeGrom can improve would be keeping consistency when pitching later in games as his numbers tend to favor the batter significantly with the more pitches he throws. When DeGrom hovers between the 61-75 pitch mark batters are hitting a .321 clip against him. He also allows a .367 OBP and .500 SLG %. If you compare that to pitches 46-60 he has a .230 AVG, .275 OBP, and .291 SLG %. Baseball Reference predicts DeGrom will hover around an ERA of 2.93. I personally believe DeGrom can continue to build off his two very successful seasons and take another step forward. I will not be surprised if he ends up with a lower ERA than what was predicted by Baseball Reference. I could picture his ERA somewhere in the middle of his rookie year ERA of 2.69 and last year’s 2.54. I also believe DeGrom has the ability to hover around 250-plus strikeouts if he pitches around 30 games again, and has better numbers deeper into games.
Harvey’s season back from TJ surgery couldn’t have gone any better on the field than the Mets and fans would have hoped. Yes there were some off-field issues that surrounded his procedure that we could have done without, but simply put Harvey delivered more than I had expected. Harvey surprisingly threw 189 1/3 innings last year during the regular season, which was heavily frowned upon by agent Scott Boras. While Harvey did have games where he still didn’t look fully like himself, especially in July, the good outweighed the bad with his performances. Fan Graphs had shown that Harvey’s fastball velocity was on par with his great 2013 campaign. That is one year removed from TJ Surgery by the way. I believe Harvey will have better command of his off-speed pitches and return to that elite status that many people may have forgotten about. This season will be a big one for Harvey as I believe he will come out firing to start putting together his campaign for his next big contract. Harvey also has to have a sense of hunger after having that bad taste left in his mouth after Game 5 of the World Series. It’s hard to argue that Harvey won’t have his best season since his 2013 campaign where he lit the league up before getting injured.
Syndergaard’s rookie campaign was nothing short of spectacular. Thor put it all together last season in such a stellar way that he was easily the top rookie pitcher in baseball. Syndergaard should have been in my biased opinion Rookie of the Year, but that is another story for another day. Syndergaard had the highest average fastball velocity in the league last season at 97.1 mph, which was almost completely unhittable at times. It is conceivable that Syndergaard could suffer a sophomore slump this season, but with the velocity and command Thor showed it’s hard to see much regression. NL East teams had a combined average of .205 against Thor last year. The only team Syndergaard did not face was the Miami Marlins in the division. An area Thor could improve would be his home/road splits. Syndergaard pitched to a 2.46 ERA at Citi Field and a 4.23 ERA on the road. Opponents at home hit for a paltry average of .196 at home compared to a respectable .245 on the road. He had 12 starts each on the road and at home which means the numbers are fairly balanced. I believe if Syndergaard can improve those splits and take that next step like DeGrom did last year, the sky is the limit for Syndergaard. It doesn’t hurt that he has DeGrom and Harvey in the same dugout to help his growth.
Matz burst onto the scene last summer after absolutely dominating the Minor Leagues for the past couple of seasons. During the regular season Matz looked absolutely filthy on the mound after he was called up. Matz pitched to the tune of a 2.27 ERA in 6 games pitched. In his first 2 starts before the All Star Break he was untouchable as he had a .156 AVG. against and had a 14/5 strikeout to walk ratio. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Matz was the first pitcher in Mets history to allow two runs or fewer in each of his first five career starts. A Lat tear cost Matz a month of development after his dominant start and a blister cost him some time as well. Matz has had a history of injuries including a Tommy John operation back in 2010. If he can stay healthy, (which is the major key), Matz will provide a way above average fourth starter for the Mets. It doesn’t hurt that he pitched on the big stage last year. Matz is the youngest of the starters and he will have some bumps along the way, but he has shown when healthy he can be absolutely dominant. Matz will be a serious Rookie of the Year contender.
Colon is one of my all-time Mets favorites and I was beyond excited when he was resigned this offseason. Aside from his amazing at-bats, Colon will provide a solid bridge-gap to Zack Wheeler. Colon also provides great mentorship to the Mets young stable of pitchers. Colon is a great innings eater and has had solid consistent numbers his whole career. When Wheeler is healthy, Colon will likely slide to a long reliever role. It can’t be counted out that he would make spot-starts down the stretch to keep the other pitchers healthy for the postseason. Colon also proved he could pitch an inning or relief here or there last postseason. Colon is a strictly fastball pitcher but he has unbelievable command and movement on both his four-seamer and his two-seamer. Colon will have more balls hit in play than the other four starters, but the Mets are expecting a better defense this off-season behind their pitchers. One can hope this will lower balls in play behind him.
The often-forgot Zack Wheeler is expected to be back on the mound for the Mets on July 1st. Wheeler came up to the Majors back in 2013 and arrived with the same amount of hype that all of the other young 4 pitchers received. In 2013 Wheeler was ranked number 6 on the MLB Top 100 Prospect List and had well deserved high expectations surrounding him. Wheeler had issues with control, which overshadowed his performances and caused many to question his consistency. Wheeler has a fantastic repertoire of pitches and is still only 25 years old. Coming off surgery it is important to temper expectations but if Wheeler displays better command of his arsenal, Wheeler can be that top-flight starter many have projected him to become. We saw that potential on display in July, 2014 when I believe he had the best month of his career. Wheeler had started 5 games and had a 1.67 ERA. Hitters also had a .228 AVG against him. Don’t forget Wheeler also had a complete game shutout against Miami that month, which proved to Mets fans he has the weapons to be successful. Health and making sure Wheeler’s pitches return to form are the keys for Wheeler this season. If Wheeler shows improved command on top of those factors the Mets will have something historic on their hands.