After trading Steven Matz to the Toronto Blue Jays, the New York Mets now have one less candidate for a spot in the starting rotation. As it stands, Jacob deGrom is the obvious no. 1, followed by Carlos Carrasco and Marcus Stroman. When Noah Syndergaard returns halfway through the season, he will likely bump one of, if not both of, Stroman and Carrasco down a spot. Likewise, if the Mets do end up signing Trevor Bauer, he will undoubtedly slot in right behind deGrom. This still leaves at least one open spot in the starting rotation. There are multiple major league ready pitchers on the roster right now who look to battle it out in Spring Training over the final spots.
The Promising Lefties
The first group consists of two lefties who have already shown great potential in their young careers: David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi. Peterson was a pleasant surprise with the team in 2020. After losing much of their rotation to pre-season injuries, the Mets looked to the 25-year-old rookie to step up. And that he did, posting a 3.44 ERA and 123 ERA+ in 10 appearances (nine starts). While his peripherals were merely okay (4.52 FIP, 1.208 WHIP, 4.3 BB/9), Peterson more than proved his worth.
That’s not to say Lucchesi, 27, is that far behind Peterson on the depth chart. In many regards he may even be the better of the two. Though a lost 2020 season (7.94 ERA in just 5.2 innings) dampened much of the hype surrounding him, his struggles can hopefully be chalked up to the general strangeness surrounding that whole season. In the two years before that, Lucchesi put up a solid 4.14 ERA across 56 starts. Combined with his superior experience, Lucchesi also sports a lower career FIP (4.21) and walk rate (3.0 BB/9) than Peterson. His strikeout rate is also two whole points higher at 9.3, making him a much bigger threat on the mound.
Overall, the final rotation spots are Peterson’s and Lucchesi’s to lose.
The Long Relievers
Similar to the Peterson situation, righties Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman both made their debuts in order to save an injury plagued rotation back in 2016. Though they’ve since transitioned to the bullpen, both had some success as starters.
Lugo, 31, has long made it clear that he wants to be a starter rather than a reliever. In 2016, he made eight starts and two relief appearances, compiling an impressive 2.67 ERA, 151 ERA+ and 1.094 WHIP. That would be as good as it ever got, however, as his next season saw a massive regression. In 2017, his ERA and WHIP ballooned to 4.71 and 1.372, respectively. After more mixed results in 2018, Lugo was fully made into a reliever later that season and thrived. Since then, he has arguably been one of the best relievers in baseball, much to his own chagrin. Lugo had a brief window to once again prove his worth in the rotation last year, but struggled to a 6.15 ERA in seven starts vs. a 2.61 ERA as a reliever.
Gsellman, 27, is very much in the same boat as Lugo. He peaked as a rookie (2.42 ERA, 167 ERA+), but struggled in 2017 (5.19 ERA, 80 ERA+). Unfortunately, Gsellman hasn’t fared much better as a reliever. From 2018-19, he owned a 4.45 ERA and 1.329 WHIP in 120 relief appearances. Like Lugo, he had a chance to step up as a starter again in 2020, but wound up with a disastrous 8.68 ERA in four starts.
Currently, both are more suited to relief roles, with Lugo in particular being the most valuable part of the Mets bullpen. Injuries could force them into a couple spot starts, but that would have to be a last case scenario.
The AAAA Option
This section is reserved for guys who don’t have anything left to prove in the minors, but have either failed to breakout in the majors or are at the tail end of their careers. For the latter, think veteran and 2019 Met Hector Santiago, who flamed out and was let go before making a single start for the team. For the former, think Corey Oswalt.
Oswalt, 27, was prematurely rushed to the majors in 2018 despite awful numbers in AAA that year. Sadly, the young righty wasn’t exactly the rookie savior that Peterson, Lugo and Gsellman were. In 12 starts, he recorded a 4.72 ERA and 1.319 WHIP while averaging less than five innings per outing. Oswalt wouldn’t make another start until 2020, lasting only 4.1 innings and giving up two runs on five hits in his lone appearance. There is still a slim chance that Oswalt may find things out and become a decent pitcher someday. But for now, if he throws a pitch as a starter in 2021, then something has already gone terribly wrong.
That’s it for the current major league options. Check back Monday for part two which will look at which prospects are in the starting rotation mix.
Featured Image Courtesy of Getty Images
‘From our Haus to yours’