Over the past three seasons, the Mets made numerous rotation changes. They’ve rostered Rick Porcello, Michael Wacha, Taijuan Walker, Carlos Carrasco, Chris Bassitt, and Max Scherzer, among others. They’ve dealt with Jacob deGrom’s injuries, Marcus Stroman’s injury, and Noah Syndergaard’s Tommy John surgery. Seth Lugo was moved to and from the bullpen, Steven Matz was traded, and the team traded for Rich Hill. Through it all, there’s been one constant, one man who continued to find his way back to that rotation time and time again—despite all the churn around him: David Peterson.
Peterson was called up for the COVID-shortened 2020 season, and he has since become a semi-regular member of the rotation. He has usually started spring training as one of many pitchers fighting for a rotation spot—or even ostensibly on the outside looking in. But after an injury or two, Peterson has always found himself back in the rotation, giving the Mets innings they very much need.
And typically, he’s been pretty good at it. Now, no one would mistake Peterson for an ace, especially not in a staff that has featured more than one multiple-time Cy Young winner. But over the course of his three seasons, Peterson has a 4.26 ERA with a 4.18 FIP, 9.5 K/9, and a 1.324 WHIP, all of which is good for a 94 ERA+. And those numbers are skewed by a 2021 campaign of highs and lows that came to an abrupt end with an oblique injury followed by a foot injury that required surgery, ending his season before he could attempt to right the ship.
Just looking at last season, Peterson had a career high in innings pitched with 105.2 in 28 appearances, 19 of which were starts. He had a 3.83 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 10.7 K/9 and a 1.334 WHIP, which was good for an ever so slightly above average 101 ERA+. He started when needed and gave the team lefty relief innings when it desperately needed a second lefty out of the bullpen—albeit with mixed results. But he was dependable, and that matters for a Mets team that doesn’t need him to be great so much as they need him to be good depth.
Peterson is projected to have a similar season this year. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections have him clocking in at a 4.08 ERA and a 4.00 FIP, with 9.79 K/9 and a 1.31 WHIP. This would all be largely in line with his seasons last year, and it would be better than his overall career line. It would be the exact output one could hope for from a depth rotation piece. He also might have already found an in for the rotation to start the season, as offseason acquisition José Quintana has been diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib that likely puts the beginning of his season in jeopardy.
David Peterson is not an ace, and on the Mets, he doesn’t need to be. He is very clearly a depth rotation starter, and he’ll likely see quite a bit of time in the minors this season. But he is perfectly suited to the role he is being asked to fill. As long as he does what he did last season, he’ll be in good shape to help the Mets towards their goal of postseason play and—hopefully—a World Series championship.