Projecting the New York Mets Starting Rotation for 2014

Stephen SmithContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2014

Projecting the New York Mets Starting Rotation for 2014

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    The Mets have a new ace in Bartolo Colon
    The Mets have a new ace in Bartolo ColonEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    Now that we're in the dead of winter, it's time to project what the starting rotation will be for the New York Mets once the 2014 MLB season commences in late March.

    That's really not that far away.

    New York's starting rotation looks pretty solid and should be the strength of manager Terry Collins' club.

    Without any further ado, let's take a look at the Mets' projected 2014 starting rotation.

    *All statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.

No.1: Bartolo Colon

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    With Matt Harvey on the shelf following Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, the Mets welcome their new ace in veteran right-hander Bartolo Colon.

    The 16-year veteran may be portly, but he sure can still pitch. Colon fashioned a brilliant 18-6 record for the Oakland A's last season. Not only that, but he also posted a 2.65 ERA (second in the American League) and a 1.116 WHIP.

    Not too shabby.

    Colon was selected to his third All-Star game in 2013 and also led the junior circuit in shutouts with three.

    Not only does he give the Mets a veteran presence on the mound, but Colon is also very durable for his "advanced" age of 40. He should give New York between 30-32 starts this coming season. 

    Colon started 30 games for Oakland last year, and he'll help take some pressure off of the other members of New York's starting rotation. The 2005 American League Cy Young Award winner was signed to a two-year contract by general manager Sandy Alderson, so the Mets don't have to be concerned about a long-term commitment due to Colon's age.

    The way he continues to pitch, however, makes Colon seem ageless.

No. 2: Jonathon Niese

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    Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

    This is a very important season for Jonathon Niese.

    The talented southpaw started the season opener last year for the Mets but faltered in his role as ace of the staff before Matt Harvey's ascension into All-Star Game starter.

    In the first half of 2013, Niese struggled to a 3-6 ledger with a 4.32 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in 14 starts. Not only that, but he also was placed on the disabled list with a partially torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder.

    His 2013 season was starting to look like a disaster.

    However, after missing nearly two months, Niese returned to the mound on Aug. 11 and fashioned a very effective second half. In 10 second-half starts, the lefty compiled a 5-2 record with a 3.00 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.

    All in all, Niese went 8-8 with a 3.71 ERA last season. His strong post-All-Star performance should give him a boost of confidence heading into the 2014 campaign. More importantly, he's healthy again.

    The Mets are counting on him.

No. 3: Zack Wheeler

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    Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

    The lanky right-hander struggled with some command issues but for the most part looked like the real deal in his rookie campaign in 2013.

    Wheeler made his long-awaited MLB debut last June 18 in his home state of Georgia against Atlanta and held the Braves to four hits in six innings to garner his first victory. From there we went on to post a very respectable 7-5 record with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts for the Mets.

    A former first-round pick by the San Francisco Giants in the 2009 amateur draft, Wheeler displayed an above-average fastball and a wicked curveball. He still has issues locating his breaking pitches effectively, as his 4.1 BB/9 IP ratio would attest.

    However, Wheeler averaged 7.6 SO/9 IP and that ratio should only improve as he continues to mature and learn the National League better. There is no doubt he has excellent stuff, and once he gets his command issues under control, look out.

    Wheeler should fit in nicely in the No. 3 slot in New York's rotation for now, but he has ace potential written all over him.

    It's just a matter of time.

No. 4: Dillon Gee

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    May 30, 2013.

    That was the date of Gee's start against the New York Yankees that turned his 2013 season around.

    Up to that point, the right-hander looked like he was going to be banished to the bullpen as a long reliever/spot starter. Gee was floundering with a 2-6 ledger and a brutal 6.34 ERA.

    Things looked bleak.

    Then came his start against the Bronx Bombers at Yankee Stadium.

    Gee never looked better, allowing just four hits and one earned run in 7.1 innings while striking out a career-high 12 to lead the Mets to a 3-1 victory. The University of Texas product won 10 of his last 15 decisions and posted an impressive 2.74 ERA after the All-Star break in 13 starts.

    The 27-year-old Gee still gave up too many hits (208, fourth worst in the National League), but his 32 starts and 199 innings pitched led his team. Gee does not have dominant stuff, but he'll fit in nicely in the fourth slot in the rotation because of his dependability and ability to log innings for manager Terry Collins.

    He should continue to improve once the new season begins.

No. 5: Jenrry Mejia

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The oft-injured right-hander appears to be the favorite to man the No. 5 spot in New York's rotation until either Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard is ready to ascend to the majors.

    Mejia went 1-2 with a 2.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in just five starts for the Mets last season. It's a small sample size, but the 24-year-old showed promise. What was especially impressive was his 27 strikeouts in 27.1 innings of work.

    The Achilles' heel for Mejia is his propensity for being hurt. He had surgery to repair a torn medial collateral ligament in 2011 and underwent surgery in late August last year to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. He is expected to be ready for spring training, though.

    Mejia is always a risk due to his injury history but should be good to go once the new season commences.

    Still, it's easy to get the feeling that Mets management will be keeping its fingers crossed all spring training long.