Who is the best choice to be the Mets fifth starter?

By Steven Inmanima

The Mets have collected a few intriguing arms to compete for the fifth starter spot as we hit spring training. The job a few weeks ago looked like a sure thing for young Jenrry Mejia. Well now the right-hander has a little competition. Sandy Alderson has brought in John Lannan and resigned Daisuke Matsuzaka to minor league deals with invitations to Spring Training. The two will compete with Mejia along with Jacob DeGrom for the last spot in the Mets rotation. So who deserves the job?

Matsuzaka, 33, was decent with the Mets last year in 38 innings. He went 3-3 with a 4.42 ERA in 7 starts with the Mets. He looked better as he went along but he just takes so darn long to pitch, sometimes it’s tough to watch. Matsuzaka will make $1.5 million if he makes the team and can earn a little more money in incentives.

Lannan, 29, badly struggled last year with the Phillies before going down with a knee injury. The left-hander went 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA last season in 74 innings. The issue with Lannan is he really doesn’t strike anyone out and he has been homer prone in the past. However he has had a lot of success in the N.L. East as a member of the Washington Nationals so he can’t be counted out in this race. He is young enough to bounce back. Plus getting out of Citizens Bank Park to spacious Citi Field would benefit the pitcher a lot. Lannan will also make $1.5 million if he makes the team plus incentives. It would be nice to add a second lefty to the Mets rotation.

Jenrry Mejia has spent a lot of time on the sidelines over the past few years

Jenrry Mejia has spent a lot of time on the sidelines over the past few years

Mejia, 24, has the most upside by far of anyone in the Mets 5th starter race. The problem with Mejia is he just can’t stay healthy. He pitched just 27 innings with the Mets in 2013 before going down for the year with elbow problems. Mejia’s delivery is just so violent that it would be a surprise if he didn’t continue to have arm problems. I believe his best chance of success as a pitcher is to become a full time reliever. That doesn’t appear to be the plan however and as long as Mejia is healthy I believe he is the best man for the job. If he could just stay healthy he could easily be a #2 starter for the Mets going forward according to many scout and analysts.

If Mejia does not have a good spring training the Mets can send him down he has an option remaining.

The last candidate is probably the least likely to start the year in the rotation and that is Jacob DeGrom. DeGrom, 25, has moved through the minors very quickly and looks like he will make his major league debut in 2014 with the Mets. However he still has some work to do at the Triple A level so it looks like barring injury he will start the year in the minors.

Those are the four candidates for the job. It really will come down to performance and health in spring training and will be one of the top story lines to watch this March besides who wins the first base job.

 

2 Comments

Steve – As the Mets get closer to ST there are several questions that will need to be answered before opening day. Who will be the Mets 5th starter is one of those questions. The voters on your blog article indicate that Mejia is the overwhelming favorite. I can understand why because Mets fans want to see the Mets contend with home grown young stars with each of them stringing at least 6 straight years of having good to great seasons as Mets. Mejia needs to demonstrate command and to stay healthy. If he can do both then I am all for him. If he can’t or doesn’t do both then I am betting on Dice K who finished strong in 2013. I have always liked John Lannan but coming off a knee injury makes him a dark horse unless he can demonstrate he can still pitch effectively. As for the other to be resolved questions they are who’s at first, SS and who will pitch the 8th and 9th innings when the Mets have a three run or less lead? The young arms we have in the BP all need to demonstrate command by being able to work ahead with two strikes and then to put the hitter away with an out of the strike zone secondary pitch. Which says that I think they all have great stuff but need to show that they all know how to pitch. Of course, Parnell needs to return strong and capable of returning to the form he established in 2012. Oh and Tejada for better or worse has the SS job in hand or its his job to lose – for now any way. Finally, I am hoping to see Ike return to a 30 HR per season form in 2014. Otherwise, his career may be over in 2014. Mike

Mike all of your points are spot on. If Ike doesn’t win the first base job he could start bouncing from team to team in a Rusell Brayan type of career. Tejada looks like the shortstop for now but the thing I am very interested in seeing is which young arms step up for the Mets in their bullpen. Other than Scott Rice this is a very very young bullpen so I’m interested in seeing if that is a worthwhile strategy.

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