- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The very different right arms for New York Mets Noah Syndergaard and Dillon Gee were each on display Wednesday, with Syndergaard embarrassing the woeful Philadelphia Phillies with 7 ⅓ shutout innings and also blasting a majestic home run in a 7-0 rout, while Gee, hurling on a rehab assignment for Double-A Binghamton against the Portland Sea Dogs, tossed 6 ⅓ reasonable frames in a 3-2 loss. What’s interesting is that the Mets organization, after months of conjecture, has made the decision not to choose between them for the big league club’s final rotation spot. They’re both in! Fantasy owners, of course, have opinions on this pending, unique six-man rotation because statistics will be affected, and they don’t appear pleased.
While the Mets’ ultimate reasoning for the rare move can be interpreted in myriad ways, and the entire situation could change any day anyway because of injury to one of the performers. The fact is I’m good with this as a fantasy owner, be it for 2014 purposes or beyond. Too often owners in roto or even head-to-head formats lose sight of the big picture when a player misses a game or two or a short disabled list stint is warranted: We crave good numbers, and quality over quantity is more coveted. Take a few days this week to heal so you can give us four great months of statistical goodness. The Mets seem to believe giving young starters Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Syndergaard, as well as older, less-exciting options Bartolo Colon, Jonathon Niese and Gee, more time between starts will keep them healthy for now and in the long term.
There’s little to no evidence suggesting that such a move will play any role in directly keeping them on the mound, by the way, but performance, in the short term at least, should rise. After all, wouldn’t your arm be stronger and feel better with an extra day off between 100-pitch outings? Mine would! So while the world could end up deprived of several Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard outings during the course of the next four months, I say it’s potentially worthwhile if these guys pitch better. In some cases, that might not be possible -- after watching in awe as Syndergaard, 22, plowed through a Phillies lineup likely weaker than some of those he saw in the minors, having delivered only one quality start in his first three -- but still, it all counts.
Harvey is the nominal ace, and those who invested in him for fantasy had to know -- we shared the info often -- that he would be on some kind of innings limit or perhaps get the full Stephen Strasburg September 2012 treatment and be shut down, coming off an entire missed 2014. Nothing drastic changes here for Harvey, and there’s not a thing wrong with this. After all, look at last year’s top fantasy pitchers. Quite a few did not make more than 30 starts, which is the kind of out-of-nowhere figure the Mets organization has picked as just enough for their young arms. Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw was fantasy’s top starter in 2014, and he made only 27 starts, not 33. Chicago White Sox lefty Chris Sale and Los Angeles Angels right-hander Garrett Richards were awesome, too, and made only 26 starts. We’ll live with Harvey and deGrom making fewer starts if the quality is raised. And by the way, there’s no guarantee of even that, just like keeping them healthy isn’t assured, either. Pitchers break, even when extra care is taken, and no, a deal like this probably doesn't change this. The point here is there’s no reason for mass hysteria if and when Harvey makes only 29 or 30 starts, or perhaps three fewer than, say, Felix Hernandez, because quality is key.
As for Syndergaard, who touched 100 mph with his fastball Wednesday, he’s walked nary a hitter in his past two starts, while whiffing 11. He not only toyed with Phillies hitters at the plate, but in addition to his home run he also singled twice. Syndergaard certainly doesn’t look overwhelmed by either the moment or opposing hitters. There’s little reason to fear him all of a sudden struggling, as the stuff is elite and the home ballpark is still large enough to overcome mistakes. Harvey, 10th among starting pitchers on the Player Rater, was torched by the Pittsburgh Pirates over the weekend but posted three scoreless outings earlier in the month. There’s hardly a sophomore slump for deGrom, 12th on the Rater. Colon, Niese and Gee don’t offer much upside but relative safety for leagues deeper than 10 and 12 teams, and an extra day for each is a positive, I believe. All this talk of six-man rotations could quickly be eradicated if someone’s injured, and I don’t expect if someone pulls a hammy we’ll see lefty prospect Steven Matz simply join in and the plan staying on track. But then again, who knows? The Mets are kind of making this up as they go along, which is their right. I kind of like it.
Trade report: The Angels picked up outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis from the Mets on Wednesday, but those in AL-only formats need not open up the free agent acquisition budgets. Still, with Matt Joyce not doing much and C.J. Cron already demoted, Nieuwenhuis, who could be a double-digit home run option, should play. … The Boston Red Sox picked up outfielder Carlos Peguero from the Texas Rangers, and while he doesn’t figure to be any more successful for the Sox, he does have power. He also strikes out a lot. Rusney Castillo doesn’t appear DL-bound for his sore shoulder, and if choosing, Nieuwenhuis over Peguero is wise.
NL report: Bad news for St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams, as he could be out the rest of the season with a quad strain. Drop him, even in deep leagues. Mark Reynolds will play more initially, which might or might not be worth it depending on your team’s collective batting average, but one would think the Cardinals find him some help. Hey, isn’t Ryan Howard from Missouri? It won’t cost much! … Still think Cincinnati Reds third baseman Todd Frazier can’t top last year’s 29 home runs? He mashed his 14th Wednesday. He's on pace for 49. Trade for him, still. … It was nice to see Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich homer off Gerrit Cole. Yelich is hitting better of late but at least looks healthy from his back woes. … Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Khris Davis can hold off losing playing time to Gerardo Parra if he keeps hitting. Davis homered twice Monday. On Wednesday he tripled twice, though he didn't score. There’s power and upside here. … Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers also has power and upside, in terms of strikeouts, but always seems to pitch worse than his peripherals. He was on short rest Wednesday but still, at some point he has to be consistent, right? I think he’ll improve, but I won’t use him in DFS or for spot-starting duties.
AL report: Cleveland Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco shined against the streaking Texas Rangers on Wednesday, throwing eight strong innings. Invest in Carrasco now while his ERA is above 4. It won’t be for long. … Don’t worry about White Sox closer David Robertson. A really good Josh Donaldson has homered off him on consecutive days, but Robertson remains elite and not in danger of demotion. … Tampa Bay Rays closer Brad Boxberger, however, has lost on consecutive days and lefty Jake McGee lurks. Don’t be surprised when right-hander Kevin Jepsen, who hasn’t allowed a base hit in his past four outings, figures in as well. … Those in leagues in which one game triggers new eligibility will notice Toronto Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin played second base Wednesday. It could matter. Perhaps the free-agent catcher pool in your league is deeper than at middle infield. … Oakland Athletics lefty Scott Kazmir left his Wednesday outing after three hitless frames with shoulder tightness. Don’t assume a DL stint or drop him yet, but be prepared. … Slumping Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles hit two home runs Wednesday, which is basically why cutting Davis is always risky. The power remains.