MLB New York Mets

Top 6 Candidates For Empty Spot In New York Mets’ Rotation

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Top 6 Candidates For Empty Spot In New York Mets' Rotation

The Star-Ledger - USATODAY Sports

For a team that knows it’ll be without its ace this year, the New York Mets’ starting rotation is looking pretty solid heading into the 2014 season. Of course, after undergoing Tommy John Surgery last fall Matt Harvey, one of the best young pitchers in all of baseball, has been all but ruled out for the season. But even without Harvey, the Mets appear to be in good shape in their starting rotation, and they’ll need the staff to carry the team if they’re going to be competitive this season.

The group is led by last year’s opening day starter Jon Niese, who has taken major steps forward the past two seasons. The Mets also have Zack Wheeler, who like Harvey is one of the best young pitchers in the big leagues and was always considered a higher-ceiling pitcher than Harvey. New York also has the reliable Dillon Gee, who rebounded from a serious injury in 2012 to have a great 2013 season. Finally, the Mets added 40-year old Bartolo Colon in free agency to help make up for the absence of Harvey. This gives the Mets four quality starters they can rely on to pitch well just about every time out.

Of course, all that’s missing is a fifth starter for which the Mets have some options. The Mets have a wealth of pitching prospects, and several of them are finally ready to start competing for jobs in the majors. But the Mets have made sure to sign some veterans just in case their youngsters aren’t ready which should make for an interesting competition during spring training. Here are the candidates who will battle it out for the Mets' fifth starter job in spring training.

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6. Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard
Brad Penner - USATODAY Sports

Syndergaard is a long shot to make the team out of spring training, but as he Mets’ best prospect he’s at least going to get a chance to showcase his talents in spring training. There would have to be several injuries or dreadful performances by the other candidates on this list for the Mets to consider putting Syndergaard on the opening day roster even if he blows people away in spring training. In the end, Syndergaard will head to triple-A and prepare for a mid-season call-up in June or July, the same schedule the Mets have used with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler the past two seasons.

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5. Jacob de Grom

Jacob deGom

It’s unlikely that de Grom will win the fifth starter competition, but he does have a slight advantage over most of the other candidates in that he’s already on the Mets’ 40-man roster. But having that edge will only take him so far. The Mets will likely send him to triple-A to keep working on his secondary stuff and provide rotation depth for them. He could also find himself fighting for a spot in the Mets’ bullpen which may end up being his home long term.

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4. Rafael Montero

Rafael Montero
Brad Penner = USATODAY Sports

The Mets would prefer to give Montero more time in the minors as he’s traversed the top four levels of the minors in just two years, and that's why the team signed a couple of veterans. But Montero is all but ready for the majors, and since his ceiling is likely a No. 4 or 5 starter in the big leagues, if he pitches well in the spring there’s little reason to sent him back to triple-A if he’s the best candidate.

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3. John Lannan

John Lannan
Howard Smith - USATODAY Sports

Lannan has seen better days than what he’s done the past couple of seasons, but the Mets were smart to give him a chance on a minor league contract. The team could use a second lefty in their rotation, and that’s not something they’re going to be able to get from their farm system. Also, Lannan has spent his entire career in the NL East, so he knows the division and could be an asset with a good spring.

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2. Daisuke Matsuzaka

Daisuke Matsuzaka
Brad Penner - USATODAY Sports

The Mets signed Matsuzaka late last season, and after a few disastrous outings he got his act together to finish the season strong. Obviously, the Mets know him a little better after having him with the team last fall, so that could give him an edge. But with several other candidates, Matsuzaka can’t afford a slow start in spring training or he’ll get lost in the shuffle early.

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1. Jenrry Mejia

Jenrry Mejia
Christopher Hanewinckel - USATODAY Sports

Nothing would please the Mets more than to have Mejia win the fifth starter job in spring training. He has dynamite stuff, and after missing so much time following Tommy John Surgery he was sensational last September before getting shut down again due to bone chips in his elbow. If he’s healthy Mejia is the best candidate the Mets have to fill out their rotation, and if he can stay healthy he’ll give the Mets five quality starting pitchers in their rotation, not to mention solid depth in the minors.