There is little certainty about when the 2020 Major League Baseball season will begin, but the New York Mets have already taken a major hit.
The National League East team announced Tuesday that starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard suffered a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in his throwing arm and needs Tommy John surgery.
Syndergaard pitched in a spring training contest against the Houston Astros on March 8 before games were suspended because of concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.
"Noah is an incredibly hard worker and a tremendous talent," Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said. "While this is unfortunate, we have no doubt that Noah will be able to return to full strength and continue to be an integral part of our championship pursuits in the future."
There is now even more pressure on the rest of the staff if New York is to make a legitimate run at a title in 2020 without the 2016 All-Star, who finished last season with a 4.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 202 strikeouts in 197.2 innings.
Here is what that group will look like.
Projected Starting Rotation
- Jacob deGrom
- Marcus Stroman
- Rick Porcello
- Steven Matz
- Michael Wacha
Few teams in the league can trot out an ace like Jacob deGrom. He has pitched six seasons at the major league level and already has two National League Cy Young Awards, a National League Rookie of the Year, an ERA title and three All-Star appearances. The right-hander is coming off one of the most dominant two-season stretches in recent history and will once again anchor the Mets rotation.
The back-to-back Cy Young winner finished the 2018 campaign with a 1.70 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 269 strikeouts in 217 innings and then followed it up with a 2.43 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 255 strikeouts in 204 innings last year.
DeGrom will need some help to keep the Mets competitive in the National League East, which makes their acquisition of Marcus Stroman via trade last season all the more important.
The 2019 All-Star was solid but unspectacular with a 3.77 ERA in 11 games for New York last year, but he hinted at his ceiling with a 2.96 ERA in 21 starts for the Toronto Blue Jays before they traded him. He also isn't far removed from the 3.09 ERA he finished with in 2017, although that number ballooned to 5.54 in 2018.
Stroman has been inconsistent for much of his career and will need to resemble the version of himself who pitched in Toronto last year if the Mets are going to overcome Syndergaard's setback.
Rick Porcello is another testament to inconsistency, as he won the 2016 American League Cy Young with the Boston Red Sox but finished with an ERA of 4.28 or higher in each of the last three years.
For the Mets to contend, the 5.52 ERA Porcello recorded last season is not sustainable.
Syndergaard's injury also means Steven Matz and Michael Wacha will both be in the starting rotation instead of competing for the final spot with the loser likely heading to the bullpen. Wacha was an All-Star in 2015 for the St. Louis Cardinals, while Matz is a 28-year-old who has flashed potential at times for the Mets.
Still, neither was particularly impressive last year.
Matz finished with a 4.21 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, while Wacha turned in a 4.76 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.
They, along with Stroman and Porcello, will need to be better behind deGrom as the Mets look to improve on last year's third-place finish and challenge for a playoff spot despite being without one of their key pieces.