While many Mets fans were in support of the R.A. Dickey trade to Toronto because it has huge potential benefits for the organization in the long-term, few can argue that the Mets will be able to replace Dickey in their 2013 pitching rotation.
And by replace, I don’t mean another 38 year-old that can throw his knuckleball 80-plus miles per hour, I’m talking a legitimate ace. There’s never been R.A. Dickey before in baseball, and it’s doubtful there ever will be again.
But looking at Mets’ starting pitchers from 2012, there are few candidates that can emerge as a front-of-the-rotation ace.
Johan Santana is a shadow of his former self. Despite throwing the only no-hitter in organization history last season, Santana had arguably the worst season of his professional career. His 6-9 record along with a 4.85 ERA and drastically slowed fastball leave little hope for brighter days. 2012 ended early for him, as arm, back and ankle problems ached him all year.
Jon Niese has developed nicely into a solid starting pitcher in the Majors, but he just doesn’t seem to have the makings of a Cy Young candidate. He had a strong 2012, going 13-9 with a 3.40 record and nearly eclipsed the 200 inning milestone, but his biggest question mark has been if he could stay healthy and last the full 162 game season. At 26 years old, he’s entering his prime now, but he’s still not one of the game’s elites.
Dillon Gee will be back in 2013, but his season was drastically reduced last year by a blood clot in his pitching hand. His 6-7 record with a 4.10 ERA plays incredibly accurate to who he is as a pitcher. He’s not overwhelmingly big and barely reaches 90 miles per hour, but he is a solid number four or five pitcher in a rotation that will eat innings and win about half the games he pitches in.
And while Mets fans wish Dillon Gee the speediest of recoveries, his injury paved the way for one of two young right-handers that could possibly replace Dickey.
Matt Harvey, the UNC product, was spectacular for the Mets after being called up in the second half. Though his 3-5 record may seem to echo different sentiments, there is no arguing with his 2.76 ERA or 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. He’s only 23 years old and armed with a fastball in the upper nineties. While it’s tough to rely on a kid that’s only appeared in 10 big league games, Harvey is the Mets best chance at finding a new ace.
Their only other true hope is a 22 year-old kid that has never once appeared in a Major League game. Zack Wheeler, the Mets best pitching prospect better known for his role in the Carlos Beltran to San Francisco trade, has all of the makings of a successful MLB pitcher. If you happened to watch him in the MLB Futures Game, you would have seen him paint a 98 mile per hour fastball down in the zone, throw a wicked curveball to buckle the batter’s knees, and then induce a lazy flyball on a change-up.
While you can’t judge a prospect by one batter, this is something fans should pay attention to. It proved he has the ability to locate his fastball, throw his breaking ball for strikes, and have another off-speed pitch to fool hitters.
Wheeler and Harvey still have a tremendous amount of learning to do and experience to gain, but looking at the 2013 roster they represent New York’s only hopes. And while a near triple-digit fastball is no knuckleball, a duo of power pitchers could be just what the Mets need.