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Max Rosenfeld

The Mets’ Forgotten Man

It’s no secret that starting pitching is the backbone of the New York Mets. After all, the team comes equipped with some of the best young arms in baseball, including flamethrower Noah Syndergaard, ace Jacob deGrom, All-Star Matt Harvey, and southpaw Steven Matz. The success of the Mets hinges on the performance of their starting pitchers, but still, there are question marks.

Matt Harvey, the Dark Knight of Gotham, must return to form after a disappointing 2016 season. Harvey went 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA before his campaign was cut short after receiving surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, a rare injury that caused Harvey to lose feeling in his fingertips.

Jacob deGrom missed the end of 2016 due to ulnar nerve damage in his pitching arm. deGrom was the Mets most reliable pitcher during their 2015 World Series run.

Steven Matz’s season ended abruptly after receiving surgery to remove bone spurs from his pitching arm. The left hander has been an extremely effective pitcher when healthy, but has struggled to remain on the field for the Mets.

And Zack Wheeler, who has missed the last two seasons after receiving Tommy John surgery, is set to return this year. When last seen, Wheeler was an electric right hander who was expected to headline the Mets pitching staff for years to come.

So, with all of these concerns, how are the Mets supposed to continue their recent success in 2017? Who can the team call on to provide solid production on the mound?

Robert Gsellman’s performance last season gave a glimpse into his potential moving forward. Due to the litany of injuries Mets pitchers endured, Gsellman was forced into a starting role. His play was admirable.

Gsellman went 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 7 games started down the stretch, keeping the Mets in the thick of the playoff race.

The shaggy haired pitcher’s arrival to the big leagues was surprising in and of itself, as Gsellman recorded a 5.73 ERA in AAA Las Vegas prior to making his way into the Mets rotation.

As aforementioned, the Mets appear to be set with starting pitching. The team has four obvious starters in Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz, and Wheeler has always been a starter. But as General Manager Sandy Alderson has alluded, the Mets are not opposed to having Wheeler enter a bullpen role.

“He throws hard. Command’s always been a little bit of an issue. Coming out of the ‘pen, take advantage of the power arm and try to minimize whatever lack of control may exist either fundamentally because that’s who he is or because of the layoff,” Alderson told reporters at the Winter Meetings.

“There’s no reason for us to say, ‘Oh he’s got to be a starter,'” he added. “Now, he may feel that way himself. But it may be that coming back after two years, he’s better off pitching out of the ‘pen. He might have to be careful. He might not be able to pitch back-to-back. It might have to be two innings at a time. These are all hypothetical at the moment, but I don’t see any reason to just eliminate the possibility.”

Wheeler has clearly missed significant time to injury and might benefit from a lesser workload. Furthermore, closer Jeurys Familia will most likely be suspended due to a domestic violence incident, leaving the Mets in need of a power arm at the back end of the bullpen. If Wheeler is moved out of the rotation, Gsellman is the obvious choice to fill that spot.

Even if Wheeler remains in the rotation, the club has learned that their starting pitchers are vulnerable to injury. Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, and Matz all dealt with injury woes in 2016, meaning that the likelihood that all of these pitchers stay healthy for an entire season are extremely slim. And if one man goes down for the Mets, it means that Gsellman would find his way into the rotation.

Despite his struggles in AAA, Gsellman improved his stuff on the fly in the major leagues. His fastball sits between 93-95 mph and Gsellman has the ability to locate it precisely. Gsellman utilizes a slider to generate swings and misses, a pitch that garnered him a worthy 8.5 K/9, a marked improvement over is 6.5 K/9 in the minor leagues. When necessary, Gsellman uses a power sinker to produce ground balls.

Alderson definitely has an appreciation for Gsellman, whom he told Adam Rubin of ESPN that he will not trade, despite the fact that his stock is as high now as it may ever be. Gsellman will provide some much needed depth for the Mets. He will look to build off a successful 2016 that has earned him a spot on the Major League roster. And if he performs anything like he did a year ago, Gsellman is poised for a breakout season.

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Max is a student at Saint Joseph's University where he is a Communication Studies major. He is a contributing writer for Baseknock MLB and the host of the Payoff Pitch Podcast, which airs every Tuesday morning.

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