Welcome to my POS series. Since I’m talking about the starting rotation, POS stands for Position Of Strengh. However, POS will stand for something completely different when I get to things like, say, the outfield.
For now, I’ll address the Mets greatest strength. Even with the departure of R.A. Dickey, the team should be very good pitching wise.
First things first, we can’t replace Dickey. Johan Santana could put together a Cy Young season for us, but it isn’t likely. However, there was enough slack in last year’s rotation that I think we’ll pick up with this year’s model.
No. 1 Starter- Johan Santana. Man nobody is giving Santana credit. Most fans and pundits have taken a “I’ll believe it when I see it approach.” To be frank, if Santana is healthy, he’s our best pitcher. Last season he went almost step for step with Dickey for the first half. Since he hadn’t pitched anything resembling a full season since 2008, fatigue started to set in and they decided to shut him down early. I think we’ll get more even production from Santana. The first half will be good enough for a No. 1, but not Cy Young stuff, However, the back end will be no where near as bad. The demise of Santana last year was as much the cause of our decline last year as the lack of offensive production. This year I think Santana can hold a mid 3 ERA and nail down around 15 wins.
No. 2 Shaun Marcum– Yep Marcum. I’m a believer in this guy, but more importantly I’m a believer in staggering lefty and righty starters. A look at the stats would say Jon Niese goes in this slot, but I don’t want opposing lineups to get comfortable in three-game series. Plus Marcum, when healthy, throws down a mid 3 ERA and gets outs. He is a No. 2 is he’s pitching up to spec. Believe it.
No. 3 Jonathan Niese- Niese was quietly brilliant last season and really picked up the slack during Santana’s dissapearance at the end of the season. I like his stuff and it’s reasonable to think he’ll get better. This is a rotation where the top three could throw seasons of 3.50 ERA or better. What’s not to love?
No. 4 Matt Harvey– If this wasn’t his sophomore year after only 10 starts, I’d have put him No. 2. His stuff is electric and sticking him between the two lefties might do him wonders. However, he’s still basically a rookie. He’ll need to prove he can get outs when there’s a scouting report out on him. I think he can and he will. Imagine going four deep with mid 3 ERAs?
No. 5 Dillon Gee– Gee needs to be healthy, he’s looked good in limited action over the past two years. Not top of the rotation good, but more than serviceable for a back end guy. This spot is another space where the Mets can gain some wins this season. Do you remember how abysmal that one month was while we trotted out the Chris Schwindens and Miguel Batistas of the world after Mike Pelfrey went down? Ugh. Chris Young was a breath of fresh air after that. Jeremy Hefner and Collin McHugh developed later on when Santana needed more time Gee bowed out. But in that month alone, having Gee at No. 5 instead of trying to hold down the No. 4 slot might have saved a few wins. If he pitches to his career 4.06 average, that would be fine.
Spot Starters- I’ve already mentioned Hefner and McHugh, who I feel at least one will be on the roster as the long man on Opening Day. Jeurys Familia is being groomed for the bullpen (and after the spot starts he made last September it makes sense) while Jenrry Mejia will stretch out at Triple A. We will see Zach Wheeler this year as well. Everyone expects Santana or Marcum to be shipped out when Wheeler is ready, but they may have more luck sending someone like Gee or Mejia out in a trade. If we’re in the hunt I’d almost rather see those guys go and keep the veterans. Otherwise, it would be much better to keep the guys who are under contract.
So happy days are ahead for the Mets rotation. Even if Santana and Gee both go down, there are options. And it’s great starters at the top, and great depth at the back that marks the rotation of a playoff team. At least it seems we have that going for us.