Feb 25

Too Early To Name Opening Day Starter

Mike Puma of The New York Post recently wrote the Mets are strongly considering going with Zack Wheeler as their Opening Day starter. While I like Puma and don’t dispute his sources, naming Wheeler, or anybody else for that matter, as the Opening Day starter now is premature and a bad idea.

Of course the media wants to know. I want to know, but considering the make-up of the Mets’ rotation it serves no purpose announcing a starter this early.

WHEELER: No reason to name his Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

WHEELER: No reason to name him Opening Day starter now. (Getty)

The Mets already said it will not be Matt Harvey, but what if that changes? It already changed from him being the home opener starter to working in of the first five games.

With six weeks remaining until Opening Day and the Mets lacking a legitimate ace such as Johan Santana or even a healthy Harvey, simply too much can happen that could change Terry Collins’ mind:

* What if Harvey has a great spring training? Surely he then would get the nod.

* What if Wheeler has a lousy spring training, or worse, is injured?

* What if one of the other starters emerges strong this spring. What then?

The Opening Day starter should be based on two things: 1) experience, and 2) merit. Wheeler, despite showing promise last year and is a cornerstone of the future, doesn’t meet either.

If he’s healthy, it should be Harvey because of his brief window of success and what he means to the franchise. If not, the best choice should be Bartolo Colon.

It is highly improbable he won’t be traded this spring, so it has to be him. He’s best equipped to handle the distractions and pressure, and last year was the Mets’ most accomplished starter winning 15 games and working over 200 innings.

Wheeler is the sexy pick, but for the best results, it should go with Colon.

But, even so, the same rules apply. It is too early and every manager should know not to make a decision until absolutely has to … and Collins has not need to make an announcement now.

ON DECK TODAY: Mets’ Matters: Today’s notebook.

Feb 16

Mets Should Have No Rush To Trade Gee

Dillon Gee threw off the mound Monday, three days ahead of schedule, but how long will he remain with the Mets?

Gee is the Mets’ sixth-ranked starter, and that doesn’t include Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard, both of whom will be promoted from Triple-A Las Vegas this summer. Yes, the Mets are boast a glut of starting pitching, but exactly how deep is it?

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

GEE: Has value. (Getty)

Since I don’t believe the Mets will get immediate major-league help in exchange for Gee, the belief here is he has a higher value on the 40-man roster than as a trade chip. It’s realistic to say the Mets’ rotation isn’t without questions, beginning with health. Let’s forget for a moment the potential for any pitcher to develop arm problems at any time, and look at these issues:

Matt Harvey: He’s recovering from Tommy John and has only 12 career victories in parts of two seasons. Despite his confident statements to the contrary, nobody knows how Harvey will respond coming back from the knife.

Bartolo Colon: As they did with Gee, the Mets will listen to any and all offers for Colon. At 41, he threw 200 innings last season and would be a find for a contender. However, that’s a trade better suited for July.

Zack Wheeler: His command is an issue, and despite glimpses of being the real deal, he’s still largely unproven.

Jacob deGrom: The 2014 NL Rookie of the Year only has last year under his belt. He still has a lot to prove.

Jon Niese: His potential has always outweighed his production. The Mets were also willing to trade him over the winter.

Steven Matz: He’s unproven.

Rafael Montero: Glimpses, but nothing else.

Noah Syndergaard: He’s unproven.

The potential is great, but since there are no guarantees there could be enough chances for Gee to be slotted into the rotation. For now, the $5.3 million they’ll pay him this year represents a solid insurance policy, but for now will likely be used in long relief.

Just trading him for the sake of making a trade is foolish, especially considering the chance for something to go wrong and for him to fill a sudden void. And, if the rotation stays healthy for the first half of the season and Gee pitches well, there could be July interest in him that isn’t there now.

Gee has always been a gamer, and two years ago threw nearly 200 innings. The Mets have control over him for two more years, so there shouldn’t be any rush to trade him. Gee’s preference is to be a starter with the Mets, but that’s not happening right now. He told reporters in Port St. Lucie he’s willing to work out of the pen.

“If I’m asked to be a reliever, then I’m going to do the best I can. … I have no doubt that I can be successful,’’ he said.

And, I have no doubt if they keep Gee, he’ll be of value to the Mets.

Feb 13

Wheeler Must-See Watch In 2015

Of all the Mets, Zack Wheeler is the one I am most curious to watch this summer. Wheeler made a strong first impression in 2013 and improved last season to 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA while working 185.1 innings in 32 starts.

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

WHEELER: High expectations. (AP)

His durability last year indicates 200-plus innings is within reach. We don’t know Wheeler’s ceiling, but our expectations are realistically high.

Wheeler averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings, but also just over four walks which is  red-flag worthy.

There’s no doubting his stuff, but his command must improve. It’s not just the walks, but consistently running deep into the count. Consequently, he only worked into the seventh just 13 times. By comparison, 41-year-old Bartolo Colon pitched into the seventh or longer 18 times.

When looking at the development of a young pitcher, innings pitched might be most important as it indicates an ability to work out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.That’s why 200 innings was important to Colon last year and to Dillon Gee the previous season.

If Wheeler can cut the four walks he gave up in half and convert them into outs, that could have pushed him into the seventh nine more times last year if not longer because it would have reduced his pitch count. As it was, he threw over 100 pitches 24 times and at least 110 in 13 games.

This is the step Wheeler must take this summer. If he can, a lot of good things can happen.

 

Feb 09

Niese Faces Pivotal Season

Every spring there is that singular player whose career might hang in the balance as is Jonathon Niese’s with the New York Mets.

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

NIESE: Will it ever happen for him?

It was in 2012 when the Mets signed him to a long-term contract through 2016. They signed him for all the right reasons. He threw hard; is left-handed; the contract provided cost certainty; he had some degree of major league success; and at the time was relatively healthy.

In the three years since, he’s won just 30 games, hadn’t pitched 200 innings in any season, and sustained one form of injury or another every year.

With Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz waiting in the wings – and let’s not forget Bartolo Colon and Dillon Gee remain on the 40-man roster – it doesn’t take much to figure Niese’s value to the Mets is rapidly diminishing, especially since they put him on the block over the winter.

All the reasons why the Mets signed Niese, and why he was coveted by other teams in trade talks, aren’t as prevalent. If 2015 is anything like the last three seasons, next year at this time we might not even be talking about him in the rotation as Matz could supplant him.

Of all the Mets who need a big and healthy season, Niese ranks at the top of my list.

 

Jan 27

Mets Rotation: A Difference Between Depth And Potential

There’s a distinct difference between depth and potential when it comes to the Mets’ rotation. There’s a lot to like about their potential, but you should be careful not to equate the names with depth.

Matt Harvey, Bartolo Colon, Zack Wheeler, Jacob deGrom, Dillon Gee, Jon Niese, Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz give you nine names, but also nine questions.

Harvey: How will he respond from elbow surgery?

Colon: He’s 41 and the Mets are trying to trade him. If they do, will anybody give them the 200 innings he gave the Mets last year?

Wheeler: Will he improve his command and thereby increase his innings?

deGrom: Can he encore his Rookie of the Year season?

Gee: Will he be gone by Opening Day?

Niese: Will he live up to his expectations and stay healthy?

Montero: Can he improve what has been keeping him back, which is his control?

Syndergaard: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Matz: Can you count on anybody who hasn’t pitched in the major leagues?

Sure, the best-case scenario is to have all these answered in the positive, but that rarely happens. Hopefully, these issues can be resolved and the Mets can count on these guys to be moved in the depth category.

I asked nine questions about potential Mets’ starters for 2015. Let me ask one more: Who among you haven’t wondered the same?