When I first started writing this article, the focus was on the fifth starter spot. Everyone was assuming that the role would go to Steven Matz or Zack Wheeler. But now, with the minor Jason Vargas injury, there are two spots in the rotation to fill. So, no need to discuss who gets these spots, right?
If you're nodding your head yes, I think you're wrong.
I have seen a lot of people talking about how we're going to see the "dream rotation" this season -- a rotation that we have been waiting to for quite a few seasons now, made up of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Matz, and Wheeler.
But, what about Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo? Many people have seemingly forgotten about the two of them.
Yes, it is likely that it'll be Matz and Wheeler in the rotation. But neither of them has been both reliable and effective in quite some time.
Matz appeared in 13 games last season, going 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA (5.05 FIP) and 1.530 WHIP. Ouch.
His struggles began before the season even started, as he missed one of his starts during spring training. He then began the season on the DL with a flexor strain (we all remember that bout of miscommunication). Matz went on to miss the first two months of the season, and as you can see from the above stats, he struggled when he came back as he pitched while still feeling the effects of his elbow issue. He underwent season-ending surgery on his left elbow in August, and that was that.
At only 26 years old, all of these injuries are quite the concern for Matz and his reliability to the team. Can he stay healthy this season? Or, will he struggle again, just like he did when he came back from his first round of injuries last season?
Speaking of injuries, let's chat about Wheeler.
2017 was the first year we saw him back on a major league mound since 2014. Despite him coming out somewhat strong last season, it ended quickly. In 17 games, Wheeler went 3-7 with a 5.21 ERA (5.03 FIP) and 1.587 WHIP. Looks pretty similar to Matz's numbers, right?
Like Matz, Wheeler failed to make it through last season healthy, as he was placed on the 10-day DL in June due to biceps tendinitis, and then landed back on the DL in July with a "stress reaction" in his right arm. He was shut down for the season in August.
From a numbers and injury perspective, Matz and Wheeler had pretty similar 2017 seasons. Can they be relied on in 2018? I can't help but want to advocate for Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman, who have been there these past few seasons and have worked hard to prove themselves.
Yes, Lugo started the 2017 due to injury after pitching in the World Baseball Classic. He didn't make his debut until June and wound up pitching in 19 games. He went 7-5 with a 4.71 ERA (3.95 FIP) and 1.372 WHIP. His partially torn UCL could still be a bit of a concern, but he contributed last year once he got back on the mound, and that shouldn't go unnoticed.
Gsellman took a major step back in 2017 after his strong debut in 2016. In 25 games, Gsellman went 8-7 with a 5.19 ERA (4.89 FIP), -0.5 fWAR (eek), and a 1.504 WHIP. Not pretty, but if you look at 2016 (2.42 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 1.276 WHIP), you know that the potential is there. And he's been healthier than Matz or Wheeler.
No, Gsellman cannot be considered a sure thing, but he and Lugo shouldn't be counted out either.
Matz and Wheeler seem to be the ones who will round out the rotation, with Gsellman and Lugo potentially in the bullpen. In retrospect, this is a good problem to have -- an influx of pitchers who can fill the rotation. And, (knock on wood) having the extra depth there to fill in when needed is huge.
Michelle Ioannou, MetsBlog | Twitter | Between growing up just ten minutes away from Shea Stadium and her entire family being at the 1986 World Series, Michelle's favorite team was set in stone from birth. When she's not tweeting about the Mets, Michelle is likely taking a coffee break, eating yet another cheeseburger, or has escaped to somewhere tropical.