Pitching wise, 2020 was one of the worst years in New York Mets history. From season ending injuries to some downright awful performances, the Mets were out of most games by the fifth inning. Jump ahead to today and things couldn’t be more different. Now featuring one of the best rotations in MLB, the Mets look like legitimate postseason threats once again. While things look good on paper, the real test will come when this new group has to remain productive and durable over 162 games. With that out of the way, here is a look at the Mets projected 2021 pitching rotation.
1.) Jacob deGrom
The undisputed greatest pitcher on earth, Jacob deGrom shows no signs of slowing down. If anything, the 32-year-old is just getting warmed up as he continues to defy age and throw harder each season. Last year he raised his average fastball velocity to 99 mph, two points higher than in 2019. This paid off big time as he set a career high strikeout rate with a ridiculous 13.8 K/9. While a minor hamstring injury deprived him of a third-straight NL Cy Young, it’s hard to deny that had 2020 been a full season he may have ultimately outlasted the rest of the pack. Regardless, deGrom is still in the middle of one of the greatest stretches by any pitcher in baseball history.
The closest thing to a concern is that deGrom saw noticeable increases in barrel rate (4.6% to 9.6%) and hard hit rate (30.9% to 33.6%) from 2019 to 2020. Luckily, considering how abnormal these numbers are for him, they’re likely just an anomaly resulting from the shortened season. Overall, nothing short of another Cy Young would be considered adequate for 2021. While that may seem bullish, when you’re as perfect as deGrom there’s really no other metric for success.
2.) Carlos Carrasco
The sleeper hit of the blockbuster trade that also netted Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco should not be overlooked. Since 2014, he’s quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball, rivaling aces like Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg. In that span, he owns a 3.41 ERA, 3.16 FIP and 1.118 WHIP. Even after beating leukemia, Carrasco came right back and dominated in 2020 to the tune of a 2.91 ERA.
Despite approaching his 34th birthday, Carrasco doesn’t appear to be losing a step at all. Not only was his average velocity roughly the same, if not higher in 2020, his spin rate remained elite. With his fastball, slider and curveball averaging 2470 rpm, 2807 rpm and 2958 rpm, respectively, he left most batters dumbfounded at the plate. If Carrasco can replicate this success again, he and deGrom could form the best one-two-punch in baseball.
3.) Marcus Stroman
While there’s still a chance that Marcus Stroman can earn the no. 2 spot with a strong spring, missing all of 2020 makes that role Carrasco’s to lose. That’s not to say Stroman doesn’t have high expectations this year. If anything, as he enters his final year before free agency, he will have more to prove than ever. The most confident man in baseball certainly thinks he can beat the expectations. After all, he’s only a couple years removed from a great 2019 campaign (3.22 ERA).
Giving more reason to be hopeful this year is that Stroman spent all winter developing a new split changeup. This will serve as a nice compliment to his sinker and slider heavy style and can keep batters flat footed at the plate. With this pitch, Stroman should be able to build on his career-high 9.1 K/9 in 2019. While he already does a great job of creating weak contact and lots of groundballs, add in deadly strikeout stuff and Stroman looks poised to be a bona fide ace in 2021.
4.) Taijuan Walker
The biggest question mark right now in the rotation is Taijuan Walker. After missing almost all of 2018-19 with Tommy John Surgery, Walker looked effective through 11 starts last year, producing a 2.70 ERA. Nothing is guaranteed with him, however, especially since he’s never pitched a full season due to constant injuries. There’s also the complicated relationship between Walker’s success and expected success as highlighted by his inability to perform like the analytics say he should. With such a huge gap between his 2.70 ERA and 4.87 xERA in 2020, it’s almost impossible to get a proper grasp of how he’ll do this year. That said, for a team that has struggled to find consistency from the back end of its rotation, Walker doesn’t have to do much in order to impress.
5.) David Peterson
The final spot is a tossup as the Mets have multiple young arms competing for a starting role. While Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto both have strong potential, it’s David Peterson who gets the edge right now. Peterson did a lot to prove he deserves a shot at starting again after a solid rookie season. He stepped up big time to be the Mets’ second best starter in 2020, producing a 3.44 ERA through nine starts and one relief appearance.
However, there are genuine concerns about his 2021 outlook. Not only did Peterson pitch just 49 innings last year, but his peripherals left a lot to be desired. This includes a 4.52 FIP, 4.3 BB/9 and an average spin rate that ranks in the bottom 15% of the league. Combine this with a likely innings limit and Peterson looks the most probable to be booted from the rotation once Noah Syndergaard returns in July.
Featured Image Courtesy of the New York Times.
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