Potential Matt Harvey Replacements
The news that Matt Harvey may miss a significant amount of time due to the possibility that he may have thoracic outlet syndrom is devastating to not only Harvey himself, but also to the Mets rotation. While Harvey was struggling all year with a 4.86 ERA, he is also a pitcher who can rise up in big games. We have seen it time and time again with him whether it was him almost pitching a perfect game against the White Sox, being named the starter for the 2013 All Star Game, or his Game 5 of the World Series performance. He was an important part of the Mets, and if he has an extended absence, he is going to leave behind some pretty big shoes to fill.
As of right now, the Mets have not announced who will take Harvey’s spot in the rotation for Harvey’s next scheduled start. Fortunately, the Mets organization is fairly deep in major league capable starting pitching talent. Here is a list of the potential candidates:
Last year when the Mets were trying to manage Harvey’s innings, it was Verrett who temporarily took his place in the rotation. In Verrett’s four spot starts last year, he was a very respectable 1-1 with a 3.63 ERA. This included a brilliant performance Verrett had in Colorado limiting the Rockies to four hits and one earned run in eight innings. Unfortunately, Verrett has not had the same success as a spot starter this year. In his five spot starts, he is 1-3 with a 5.32 ERA. Part of those struggles may be attributed to the fact that Verrett has not been fully stretched out like he was when he took the ball for the Mets last year. Accordingly, if Verrett was stretched out and able to pitch every fifth day, it would be reasonable to assume he could pitch as well as he did as a spot starter last year – perhaps even better.
Verrett was picked over Gilmartin for the last spot in the Opening Day bullpen, and as a result, the Mets sent down Gilmartin to be a member of their AAA starting rotation. Last year, we saw that Gilmartin knows how to get major league hitters out. In 50 appearances, he was 3-2 with a 2.67 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, a 2.75 FIP, and a 143 ERA+. When he made multiple inning relief appearances last year, he was 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP. The only caution with Gilmartin is he has not been as successful this year as he was last year. In his 13 AAA starts, he is 9-3 with a 4.72 ERA and a 1.336 WHIP. In his five major league relief appearances, Gilmartin has a 7.00 ERA and a 1.556 WHIP. However, it should be noted Gilmartin’s struggles started when he was being jerked back and forth between Las Vegas and the Mets, between relieving and starting. Before his first call-up, Gilmartin was 4-1 with a 2.58 ERA in the very hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. Overall, Gilmartin has shown he can get major league hitters out and pitch well as a starter.
When Harvey was put on the disabled list, the Mets called-up Lugo who dazzled in his two inning relief appearance. In that outing, Lugo used all five out his pitches to get a potent Cubs lineup out. He featured a 94 MPH fastball and a wicked curveball. He curveball was working so well he was able to get Anthony Rizzo to swing at a pitch that moved so much it would hit him on his back foot. He certainly has the tools to be an effective starter even if he hasn’t had the results in AAA this year. Given his repetoire and the ability to work with pitching coach Dan Warthen, the Mets just might have a pitcher who could blossom on the major league level similar to how Jacob deGrom did when he was called-up to the Mets in 2014.
If the Mets are going to turn to their prospects for a solution, Ynoa deserves some consideration as well. By any measure, the 23 year old Ynoa has been the Las Vegas 51s’ best starting pitcher. In a hitter friendly league, the Pacific Coast League All Star is 9-3 with a 3.92 ERA and a 1.353 WHIP in 17 starts. The only questions with Ynoa is if the Mets believe he is ready to make the leap to the majors and whether his ability to enduce groundballs is a good fit for a Mets infield whose players have limited range.
If the Mets are inclined to take a risk with a Lugo or a Ynoa, they may be inclined to give Montero one last shot. However, as we have seen with Montero, it gets harder and harder to justify giving him another opportunity. When he was with the Mets this past year, he had an 11.57 ERA and a 2.571 WHIP in his two appearances thereby more than justifying Terry Collins‘ almost outright refusal to put him into a game. Down in AAA, Montero is 4-6 with a 7.88 ERA and a 1.888 WHIP in 16 starts. This isn’t the same guy the Mets once thought had a bright future. Keep in mind, the Mets thought he had a future as far back as last year when he made the Opening Day roster as a member of the bullpen. Maybe just maybe giving this guy one last shot could wake him up, and it could bring out the best in him. It’s possible working closely with Dan Warthen may allow him to fulfill the promise he had when the Mets valued him as a prospect.
Overall, the Mets have many directions they could go. Each of the aforementioned starters could step-up and hold the fort until either Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler is able to return from the disabled list to help lead the Mets back to the World Series. Ultimately, this is going to be an opportunity for one or more of these pitchers. It’s up to them to step up and stake a claim to a spot in the rotation. It’s up to them to make it hard for the Mets to remove them from the rotation much like deGrom did in 2014 when he won the Rookie of the Year Award. If one of these pitchers has a run like that, it would give the Mets six or seven terrific starters. That would be an amazing problem to have.
Editor’s Note: this was also published on metsmerizedonline.com