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Healthy rotation key to Mets' success in 2018

deGrom, Syndergaard lead projected group of starters
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

NEW YORK -- It may sound strange, especially for a team that finished near the bottom in baseball in preventing runs, but the Mets remain a club built around pitching.

Barring injury, they expect to contend behind a rotation of still-young, still-controllable power arms, a group still with the ability to wow on any given night. The importance of this nucleus remains paramount to success in Flushing.

NEW YORK -- It may sound strange, especially for a team that finished near the bottom in baseball in preventing runs, but the Mets remain a club built around pitching.

Barring injury, they expect to contend behind a rotation of still-young, still-controllable power arms, a group still with the ability to wow on any given night. The importance of this nucleus remains paramount to success in Flushing.

In 2015, these arms backed a World Series run. In '17, with so many struggling or injured or both, the team sputtered out of contention. If October baseball returns to Queens, it'll be because this rotation stands tall until then.

Young talent headlines Mets' projected lineup

MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's a look at the Mets':

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY

Jacob deGrom, RHP
Noah Syndergaard, RHP
Matt Harvey, RHP
Steven Matz, LHP
Zack Wheeler, RHP

STRENGTH

When healthy, deGrom and Syndergaard make up one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. And there is no reason to think Syndergaard's right lat muscle isn't in good shape after he returned for a strong cameo last September, or that deGrom will regress following what was, in many ways, a career year.

Video: deGrom's strong 2017 campaign

Those two will likely be the only starters expected to pitch deep into games in 2018 as the Mets seek to limit the exposure of their back-of-the-rotation arms. deGrom and Syndergaard will be asked to carry the innings load -- an added responsibility the team believes its co-aces can handle.

QUESTION MARK

The same questions surround this staff that always have -- questions of health.

Of their first five starters, only deGrom pitched a full season in 2017. None of the rotation's other four projected Opening Day members managed 100 innings. The Mets couldn't withstand the injury onslaught, a threat that doesn't really go away with pitchers, especially the year after it happens. Is Syndergaard healed? Can Matz and/or Wheeler shrug their injury-prone reputations? What can the club reasonably expect from Harvey? The Mets hope a revamped training staff quells these concerns.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE

No team expects to use only five starters throughout an entire season. The Mets are no different -- though they'd like to avoid needing 12, like last year. That said, they're not expected to add a major rotation piece before Spring Training, and they eye camp with their top five options more or less written in pen.

But once the season starts, expect names to filter in and out of the rotation, and for the rotation to possibly expand for short periods of time.

The Mets plan on limiting Harvey, Matz and Wheeler to two times through the lineup, then supplementing those innings with hybrid types such as Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero. They could easily reverse those roles, since that trio actually combined to start more games last season than Wheeler, Matz and Harvey.

If, say, Harvey struggles to complete five innings and Gsellmen proves adept at blazing through two, perhaps their roles flip. The same can be said for Matz/Montero or Wheeler/Lugo, or any of the other potential permutations.

As the lines continue to blur between starter and reliever, starting rotations have barriers less rigid than ever. The Mets plan to use that to their advantage.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

New York Mets