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Which Mets pitcher should start on Opening Day?

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The latest in spring training controversies that don't really matter.

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

In perhaps the most trivial of spring training debates, the Mets are not yet set on which of their starting pitchers will get the nod on Opening Day. We're all desperate for baseball to finally start, so let's break down the candidates to take the ball on April 6 in Washington.

Bartolo Colon

Pitching in his age-42 season, Colon will likely be the oldest starting pitcher in baseball this season. Despite his age, however, Colon was effective in 2014. His 4.09 ERA in 202.1 innings was backed up by a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio and earned him 2.1 fWAR. Still, for a team that is supposed to be built around exciting young pitching, countering Max Scherzer with the elder statesman of the pitching staff seems a lackluster choice. Time may or may not catch up with Colon this year, but the Mets have better options for the first game of  the season.

Jon Niese

The Mets' longest-tenured rotation member, Niese had a very typical year in 2014, with a low strikeout rate, an ERA in the mid 3s, and 1.6 fWAR in 187.2 innings. He's never had the ace-like breakout many fans hoped to see, and his shoulder is held together with glue and string at this point, but Niese is a useful rotation piece. That being said, Niese's only claim to the Opening Day start is his veteran status, as the young guns offer more upside and fan appeal.

Zack Wheeler

Wheeler's 2014 was undoubtedly a success for the developing power arm. He cut his walks, raised his strikeouts, and provided 185.1 innings in 32 starts. In brief flashes, Wheeler appeared as dominant as any pitcher in baseball, and his continued development could go a long way towards pushing the Mets into the playoffs in 2015. Wheeler, along with Colon, appears to be the early frontrunner for the Opening Day start. Though he's not the best option on either front, Wheeler offers the most complete combination of youthful upside and strong recent track record.

Matt Harvey

With the recent news that the Mets don't plan to limit Harvey's innings in a major way for 2015, the foregone conclusion that he would not get the opening day nod seem outdated. Harvey's 2013 was truly elite, and he was on track to pace all starters in WAR before going under the knife. The 6.0 fWAR he posted ranked 5th in the majors that year anyways.

That said, Harvey might be better used at the Mets home opener against the Phillies on April 13. Starting him on Opening Day would remove that possibility, barring some irritating rotation shuffling that Mets brass are unlikely to entertain. Harvey getting the nod would also snub the pitchers who performed well in 2014 while Harvey recovered from surgery.

Jacob deGrom

Coming off a dominant Rookie of the Year campaign, deGrom deserves more consideration for this start than he seems to be getting. deGrom blew away the competition for 140 innings in 2014, posting a 2.69 ERA, 3.0 fWAR, and more than a strikeout per inning. If any pitcher earned the chance to start the Mets' 2015 season with his 2014 performance, it was deGrom. The obvious counterargument is that deGrom lacks experience. He's thrown the fewest major league innings of the team's five projected starters, and there is something to be said for rewarding veteran performance.