Three Potential Breakout Pitchers for Mets in 2014

zack wheeler

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler is going to be counted on heavily next season to help pick up the slack in the absence of Matt Harvey.

Something in me wonders if he’ll be able to handle that kind of pressure.  Wheeler’s laid back personality is on the complete opposite spectrum of Harvey’s bulldog mentality and I’m interested to see if that affects how he’ll handle the weight that will be put on his shoulders.

Fans witnessed something incredible last season in Matt Harvey and I think some are expecting more or less the same from Wheeler.  I, however, am more realistic and am tempering my expectations for anything close to that kind of jump in performance.  That does not mean that Wheeler cannot still improve on last seasons numbers.

In 17 starts last season, Wheeler ended up with a 7-5 record and a 3.42 ERA.  However is K:BB ratio (84:46) and WHIP (1.36) were less than impressive.  These somewhat mediocre statistics can be attributed to the poor control he displayed when he was first called up, however, he did show nice improvement in locating his fastball and breaking pitches.  I think those improvements were legitimate and will translate nicely into next season.

I hate to be a pessimist but I don’t think Wheeler will ever be as good as Harvey was last season but hopefully I’m wrong.  I do, however, expect Wheeler to be a great pitcher in his own right next season and beyond.

Jon Niese

I think I have higher expectations for Niese than the average Mets fan.  He reminds me a lot of Cliff Lee, whose success relies heavily on the placement of his pitches.

They both throw cutters with more or less the same velocity (89-92 mph) and both have a nice curveball and changeup as their secondary pitches.  The difference between them is that Cliff Lee has better control and has been able to stay healthy for a string of consecutive seasons.  But remember, Cliff Lee did not put it all together until his age 29 season.

Jon Niese is still just 27 years old and still has time to put it all together like Cliff Lee did.  He may never be as good as Lee but I think he can be comparable.  Interestingly enough, Jon Niese has actually put together better seasons so far in his career than Lee had in the similar years of his career.

It is very important that Niese, who is entering the prime years of his career, shows that his shoulder injury is behind him and he can put together a full season and be as effective as he was in 2012 where he threw 190.1 innings with a 3.40 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and a 155:49 K:BB ratio.  That will make Harvey’s injury that much easier to swallow.

I think he has it in him and we see Jon’s best season to date this year.

Jenrry Mejia

I really hope Mejia can overcome his injury issues and throw a sufficient amount of innings next season.  I think I watched every one of his 5 starts last season and was thoroughly impressed.  He looked like he had been a major league pitcher for at least 5 seasons.

In 27.1 innings, he showed solid location of a 92 mph fastball, a slider with more bite to it than a saltwater crocodile, and a nice changeup to boot.  Before he went down, he had a 2.30 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and a 27:4 K:BB ratio.

I am very excited to watch him pitch this season, regardless if he ends up in the bullpen or as a starter.  His elbow is a big question mark, however, as he has already underwent Tommy John surgery and an operation to remove a bone spur from his elbow.  The Mets may have been better off just getting the surgery over with when they knew it was necessary but if they hadn’t let him pitch, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of watching him in those 5 games.

Hopefully, the rest he was able to get after being shut down will do him some good going into next season so he’ll be able to wow me and the rest of the Mets fan base again.  He’s a bit of a risky pick for a breakout pitcher next season, but I’m going to play the optimist and take my chances.

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