After six straight losing seasons, the Mets may finally have the potential to take over the Yankees as the best baseball team in New York.
The Mets’ biggest strength is its starting pitching. Aside from 17-year veteran Bartolo Colon, the rotation is full of young, quality starters. Last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom will look to continue his success; Zack Wheeler, 24, and Jon Niese, 28, are each coming off sub-4.00 ERA seasons.
But most importantly, ace Matt Harvey, who has a 2.39 career ERA, is set to return after spending all of 2014 on the disabled list recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Harvey’s return pushes Dillon Gee, who has been a fixture in the rotation for four seasons, into the bullpen. And with top prospects Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Matz and Rafael Montero in the minor leagues, the Mets have ample depth if the rotation is hit with injuries.
Across town, only uncertainty surrounds the Yankees’ starting rotation. Ace Masahiro Tanaka had a partially torn ligament in his pitching elbow in 2014 and opted for rehabilitation over surgery, making him a big injury risk this season. Former ace CC Sabathia has struggled with both staying healthy and his on-field performance since 2013, posting a 4.87 ERA over that period. Michael Pineda has also missed a large amount of time, only playing 13 major league games in the last three seasons. CAS junior Austin Coury, a Rockies fan, is skeptical of the Bronx Bombers.
“Honestly the only sure thing I can see in that whole rotation is Nathan Eovaldi, and he’s decent at best,” Coury said.
The Yankees’ injury concerns are not just in its starting pitchers. First baseman Mark Teixeira has missed 225 games in the past three seasons and outfielder Carlos Beltrán, who will turn 38 this year, struggled with elbow problems throughout 2014.
And then there’s Alex Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was suspended for all of 2014 for violating the MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy. The year before, Rodriguez played in only 44 games after undergoing hip surgery and dealing with leg injuries. He will also be the oldest player on the team at age 39. Senior Sam Quinn, a sports management major in SPS, thinks the Yankees’ season may spiral out of control this season.
“The Yankees need a health miracle,” Quinn said.
But the Yankees still have a strong lineup — with Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner at the top of the order, its offense should be above-average, and likely stronger than that of the Mets.
The Mets have many injury and performance concerns surrounding its lineup. David Wright is coming off his worst season, likely a result of a shoulder injury he dealt with for most of 2014. Wilmer Flores, who will likely open the season as the starting shortstop, still has to prove that he can hit in the big leagues. Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who struggled mightily in the first half of 2014 before breaking out with a .787 OPS in the second half, will have to prove that he can build off of his late-season success.
Coury, who watched recently signed Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer play for the Rockies for the past three seasons, has questions of his own.
“What if Cuddyer has another injury-filled season, or his age starts catching up with him?” Coury said.
Coury is referencing the 206 games the 35-year-old has missed during his Colorado years.
“I believe the Mets will be slightly better than the Yankees this season,” Coury said. “But much closer to a playoff berth due to the relative strength of the AL as opposed to the NL.”
The Mets play in a weak division in the NL East. But while the Washington Nationals are the favorites to win the division after going 96-66 in 2014, the Mets still have a good chance at winning a wild card spot. With the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves now rebuilding, the Mets should be able to post a winning record against NL East opponents.
The Yankees play in the toughest division in the majors, and will likely have trouble competing with the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, each of which is a legitimate contender for the AL East title.
The Yankees and Mets both will open their seasons on April 6, and can expect tough competition in the coming season.
“Neither will make the playoffs, and the Yankees are headed for a nightmare year,” Quinn said.
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