Maggie Wiggin, ContributorIn the second half of the season, the Mets have had excellent starting pitching, ranking 8th in MLB. But, if you narrow it down to the pitchers that are most likely to form the 2014 rotation, the results are extraordinary.
As a group, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Jon Niese, Jenrry Mejia, and Dillon Gee are boasting a 2.41 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP since the All-Star break and are 10-6 in that span. That’s a better second half than any rotation in baseball has right now.
Perhaps most encouraging fact of all is that the average age of this group is less than 25. Gee, at a relatively seasoned 27 years old, is the elder statesman of the group, while Niese is the most experienced, having logged a whopping 5 years of major league play, and is also commanding the highest salary, earning $3 million in 2013. All are under team control until at least 2017, some even longer (including the ace Harvey who will not be a free agent until 2019 at the earliest). Not to mention that, given their youth, most of this group should be expected to continue to improve over that period. Since advancement through the playoffs is very much influenced by luck, having a long window for success is the best way to increase the odds of winning it all.
With this thrilling display right in front of us, it’s easy to forget how much we still have to look forward to.
Barring an offseason trade, it’s likely that Rafael Montero, sporting a 2.88 ERA and a 1.114 WHIP between Double- and Triple-A this year, might make his debut in 2014 at age 23. Even more highly anticipated (and largely considered to be an untouchable piece of the farm system) is Noah Syndergaard. Though he will be just 22 years old next year, if his Triple-A performance is anything close to the 1.59 ERA and 0.922 WHIP he put up in 10 Double-A starts, he will certainly don a Mets uniform before the year is out.
By the end of 2014, it’s not much of a stretch to envision a rotation featuring at least three elite power pitchers with plus-plus fastballs, a solid lefty with a nasty cutter and curve, and a four-pitch 5th starter that any team in baseball would be happy to pencil in as a No. 3.
Of course, there are a lot of obstacles to overcome before that point as the specters of injury and ineffectiveness are a very real concern for developing pitchers, but the depth of high-ceiling talent provides a safety net to keep the team on track even if one or two of these players don’t realize their potential. Behind Montero and Syndergaard are even more promising arms we may get to enjoy a few years down the line, including Jacob deGrom, Michael Fulmer (currently in High-A ball), Steven Matz, and Gabriel Ynoa (both in Single-A).
Under the patient watch of Sandy Alderson, the Mets are becoming rich with pitching prospects at a time when the free agent market for pitchers has never been weaker.
A rotation of this caliber is a remarkable gift for any team, and there is still much to look forward to. Considering their age and their low price tag, they represent a potential dynasty of elite pitching that could form the basis of this team for years to come. Bats are still needed to make the push to win, but we’re seeing the birth of a team rooted in the kind of topflight pitching that drove the 1969 and 1986 Mets to the ultimate prize. Stay tuned — this is going to be fun.