The New York Mets won’t take the field again in Flushing until March 31st, 2014. In the lull between the conclusion of the playoffs and free agency, club news is essentially non-existent. The offset in content spurs hypothetical situations that all fans enjoy partaking in: Armchair general managing, scouring feverishly through statistics, counting the days until spring training, and checking the latest news and rumors in hopes that the Mets will somehow acquire enough resources to upgrade the entire team without restrictions.
The Oakland Athletics and rookie starter Sonny Gray seek to avoid a second consecutive elimination at home against the Detroit Tigers and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander tonight in what must feel like an antagonizing case of deja vu for Oakland fans. It was nearly one year ago to the day, October 12th, 2012, that Verlander pitched a completed game shutout at the Oakland Coliseum in the series clincher. Verlander followed up his complete game shutout with eight scoreless innings in game two of this year’s series on October 5th. He’s the logical choice for Detroit in a ballpark that he has historically flourished in.
Oakland running with 23-year-old rookie Sonny Gray is the far more interesting story. Gray is the epitome of a blue chip prospect with an explosive fastball, outstanding secondaries, and maturity beyond his years. He matched Verlander’s scoreless effort in game two and allowed his club the opportunity to walk-off with a crucial victory before the club packed their bags for Detroit.
If the Mets were to find themselves in a position where they faced a one-game Wild Card playoff or a series-clinching opportunity in 2014, which starting pitcher that is projected to be available (Sorry, Matt Harvey) would be the best choice to start? The following represent the options available to the club (In no particular order):
RHP Zack Wheeler
LHP Jonathon Niese
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Jenry Mejia
RHP Carlos Torres
RHP Rafael Montero
RHP Jacob DeGrom
RHP Noah Syndergaard
LHP Darin Gorski
Of the pitchers with major league experience, only Jon Niese has thrown more than 600 big league innings and represents a sturdy veteran presence. Zack Wheeler represents the most “explosive” option with tremendous upside, but control issues could let one game slip away instantaneously. Dillon Gee would be an interesting candidate depending on the opposing lineup and ballpark the game was situated in.
The most interesting options are two who have yet to debut: Highly touted prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard and Montero were ranked the 3rd and 50th best pitching prospects in Major League Baseball according to John Sickels following the conclusion of the 2013 season. Syndergaard split 2013 between Port St. Lucie and Binghamton and produced better numbers in Binghamton against stiffer competition and saw his peripherals strike in the right directions. Montero dominated Binghamton and although struggled initially in Las Vegas, he rebounded to post a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts. Both project to join the starting rotation at some point in 2014 barring injuries or roster transactions and could be intriguing options in a year’s time.
Since neither has a a major league sample size to base a decision on, Zack Wheeler would be the logical choice in a series-clinching game. Despite the potential for control issues, the 23-year-old represents the pitcher with the most explosive arsenal and the highest upside. If Wheeler were to face control issues, Niese would be readily available out of the bullpen to try to slither out of potential trouble on the base paths.
Before the sarcastic comments flow in, we’re well aware that this a hypothetical scenario and are choosing this topic as a platform for discussion, not criticism. If the 2014 club found itself in a series clinching game, which internal option would you like to see take the mound? Chime in below!
Photo Credit: Michael Baron