2012 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Jonathon Niese and the New York Mets Starting Rotation


There is little reason for Mets fans to be excited about the 2012 season, and fantasy owners are in the same boat when it comes to filling your rotation with their starting pitching options.  To almost throw salt in the wound, early indication is CITI Field will be much more hitter friendly than in the previous years.  So not only do all five starters in the projected rotation have question marks when it comes to their expected performance in 2012, they will also be pitching in a different atmosphere than what they have previously been used to.

The return to the mound of Johan Santana seems very likely this year after missing the entire 2011 season with complications in his surgically repaired right shoulder.  The second biggest question surrounding Johan – behind if he will still be healthy enough to pitch come April – is what kind of pitcher will he be?   So far the good news is he has successfully thrown off the mound this spring without discomfort, he is expected to make a spring start against the Cardinals on March 6th, and if he is able to avoid any setbacks will be the Mets opening day starter.  The bad news for fantasy owners is all of the unknowns.  If you are able to invest little, and let him prove himself without hurting your team, he is definitely draftable because of his upside, but not worthy of a real investment.

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Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey may deceive fantasy owners to the same degree as the hitters that face him.  Written off by most heading into 2011, following his breakout 2010 performance, Dickey went ahead and put in another solid season with a 3.28 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 134 strikeouts in 208.2 innings pitched.  The strikeout total isn’t what you want out of a front line starter, but you don’t have to pay a front line starter salary to get him.  The only statistic that is worrisome is his low HR/FB rate of 8.5% and 8.3% the past two seasons now that fences are getting closer at CITI, but he still should provide good return if drafted at the right time.

Jonathon Niese carries the high hopes of Mets fans and fantasy owners alike in 2012.  He has shown growth over the past two seasons as a starter, increasing his strikeout rate and improving his walk rate, which makes his 4.40 ERA in 2011 misleading considering his 3.60 FIP.  The fences moving in should affect the 25 year-old lefty minimally because of his high ground ball rate, which is also a positive as long as the defense behind him doesn’t let him down.  Out of the five starters, Niese is by far the most desirable to own and may reward owners nicely that reach a little on him.

2011 fantasy darling (at least for a few weeks) Dillon Gee and Mike Pelfrey round out the rotation, and besides in the deepest of leagues there is little reason to want to own either heading into the season.  Outside the month of June, Gee was a very mediocre pitcher last season and Pelfrey has done little more than eat innings over the past few years.

A pitching prospect worth keeping an eye on in the Mets organization, which could have an impact on the 2012 season, is Jenrry Mejia.   Before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2011, Mejia was regarded as the Mets top prospect heading into the 2010 and 2011 seasons.  Even though some still consider him a starting pitcher prospect, it is more likely he will be the team’s future closer.   

Written by Nate Springfield exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Check back weekly for Nate's NL-Only expertise, and follow him on his journey for a title of the State House League in 2012.

Follow Nate on Twitter @NateSpringfield

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