It’s been three years since either David Wright or Zack Wheeler played a full season of baseball. Both have tremendous talent and have worked really hard to rehabilitate from significant injuries, overcome adversity, and maintain confidence. They deserve a lot of credit and we’re all rooting for them. But, while it would be wonderful if either of them played a significant role on the team this coming season, it’s not likely. And that is okay.
In the best case scenario for Wright, he’ll spend three hours stretching before games and manage to play through the discomfort and stiffness brought on by spinal stenosis. He’ll regain enough flexibility and strength to play a decent third base and reclaim a spot in the batting order. Even then, the front office and coaches will err on the side of caution and only play him three or four games a week so as to not put to much strain on his back. Realistically, even if Wright should manage to play a passable third base and hit for a decent average, at least against lefties, he’s not likely to possess any home run power, and will often be limited to DH or pinch hitting duties. Should he miss significant time, Jose Reyes can become the regular third baseman, while batting lead off. Backing up Reyes is Wilmer Flores and TJ Rivera. Asdrubal Cabrera and Neil Walker could both play third if necessary and there’s always Matt Reynolds as well The team, like its fans, is rooting for the captain, but it can survive without him.
Similarly, Wheeler, while he appears healthy at the moment, will be watched very closely in spring training to make sure he’s more or less back to the pitcher he showed he can be back in 2014. It’s been so long since we’ve seen Wheeler on the mound that it’s easy to forget just how electric his stuff is – the moving fastball, the wipeout slider, and occasional curves, changeups and two-seamers mixed in when hitters least expect it. Again, all fans and teammates are rooting for him, but even in the best case scenario, Wheeler will be held to a very strict innings limit of about 100 innings, which amounts to him either being shut down in the summer, or else being used as a five-inning starter who requires a piggy back long reliever for every start. Should Wheeler prove unable to pitch most of the season, or else relegated to the bullpen, we’re all pretty confident that Robert Gsellman can step in and be a solid fifth arm in the rotation. Seth Lugo, who also proved himself capable last season, provides nice depth.
The truth is that the heath of these two is very much up in the air, but how it plays out might not really matter. The success of this team mostly hinges on four players – Yoenis Cespedes, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey. If those four are healthy and put up All-Star numbers, this team is going deep in the playoffs. There’s quality depth behind everyone else from the field, to the lineup, rotation, and bullpen .As Cespedes and the big three righties go, so do the 2017 Mets.