The New York Mets were dealt a major blow this week after losing Carlos Carrasco to a hamstring tear. Expected to miss six to eight weeks, Carrasco’s absence leaves a massive hole in what was supposed to be one of MLB’s best starting rotations. In previous years, this type of injury would have tanked any hopes the team had of making the playoffs. But the 2021 Mets aren’t like their predecessors. After adding several rotation candidates this offseason, the Mets are built to handle this exact situation.
The Top Three
Throughout Spring Training, David Peterson, Joey Lucchesi and Jordan Yamamoto were already competing for the fifth spot in rotation. Now, Carrasco’s injury all but guarantees that two of them will make the team this April. Though none of them projects to be as good as Carrasco, each one has performed well this spring and has shown decent upside in past major league outings.
The Breakout Rookie
Peterson arguably has the best odds of making the rotation. The lefty wowed the Mets last year after coming up from Double-A and pitching to a 3.44 ERA in 10 appearances (nine starts). Somewhat worrying, however, were his 4.52 FIP, 4.3 BB/9 and 4.39 xERA. Regardless, Peterson still held his own as the team’s second best starter in 2020.
In Spring Training, Peterson’s results have been mixed. He looked on top of things in his first Grapefruit League start, throwing two scoreless innings with no walks and one hit. He looked erratic in his second start, though, giving up three earned runs on five hits and two walks. All the while he has just one strikeout through six innings.
The Most Experienced
Another lefty, Lucchesi entered Spring Training as the biggest threat to Peterson’s rotation chances. On paper, the former Padre is the best pitcher of this group. He’s also the most experienced as he enters 2021 with 58 starts under his belt. While his 4.21 ERA lags behind Peterson, he more than makes up for it with superior marks in FIP (4.21), walk rate (3.0 BB/9) and strikeout rate (9.3 K/9).
Lucchesi currently has the edge in Grapefruit League play as well. Through five innings, he’s yet to give up a hit or a run. He also owns seven strikeouts vs. three walks.
Plus, he brings something no other pitcher in baseball has; the churve. A signitaure pitch of Lucchesi’s own creation, the churve is part change-up, part curveball and part slider. It’s unique movement and 10-inch vertical drop make it the perfect put away pitch.
The Dark Horse
Yamamoto was originally the least likely of this group to earn the final rotation spot. From 2019-20, he limped to a 6.20 ERA in 19 appearances (18 starts) with the Marlins. 2020 was particularly brutal as he gave up 23 earned runs in just 11.1 innings. That said, 12 of those runs came in a 29-9 blowout in which Yamamoto was hung out to dry in order to preserve the other pitchers. He was also the victim of an absurd .481 BABIP which greatly inflated his numbers.
Luckily, Yamamoto’s performance this spring offers hope that his 2020 stats are an anomaly. In 8.1 innings he’s given up just one earned run while recording five strikeouts and one walk. He has given up seven hits, but only one was for extra bases. Combine his strong showing this spring with his superior career strikeout rate (9.5 K/9) and fastball spin rate (2319 rpm) and suddenly Yamamoto’s odds of making the rotation look much better.
Ultimately, the final decision may come down to whether or not the Mets want to have two lefties in the rotation. Where Yamamoto’s status as a righty was previously a hinderance when there was just one spot up for grabs, now it might actually benefit him. If he continues to dominate while Peterson struggles, the Mets may go with him and Lucchesi to start the season.
If any of the above guys starts to really labor down the stretch, some of the non-roster invitees at camp may have slim chance of sneaking into the rotation.
Longtime Mets depth piece Corey Oswalt currently leads this group. While he’s struggled in the majors (6.19 ERA), he was excellent in his first outing this spring. In two innings, he didn’t allow a single base runner and struck out five. Unfortunately, a rough second outing quickly killed this hype. In 2.2 innings against the Cardinals, Oswalt gave up two home runs and a double, totaling five runs.
Also vying for a spot is journeyman Mike Montgomery. Though he’s been much better as a reliever (3.16 ERA) than as a starter (4.19 ERA), he still has plenty of experience with 70 career starts. Unlike Oswalt, Montgomery has a history of success in the majors and has been solid all spring. In 2.2 innings, he’s yet to give up an earned run and has racked up five strikeouts vs. two hits and a walk. The odds may be against him, but continued success may lead to a long relief role with the chance at a spot start or two.
Featured Image Courtesy of Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday
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