When the New York Mets traded NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey this offseason, many pundits were talking about the top catching prospect in that package, Travis d’Arnaud. But lost in that deal is a young pitching prospect who may become an ace for the Mets one day: Noah Syndergaard.
Syndergaard is a daunting specimen, as the 20-year-old is already 6’5” and 200 pounds. He is by no means lanky either, as he has very good control of his long frame.
Baseball Prospectus already has Syndergaard ranked as the No. 28 prospect in baseball, despite his young age.
Syndergaard has a mid-90s fastball that he can easily push up to the high-90s. He combines that with an excellent changeup, and both can be strikeout pitches.
The main concern against Syndergaard has always been his lack of a breaking pitch.
Indeed, his curveball used to barely hit 70 on the gun. Interestingly, in a recent interview Syndergaard spoke about how he was taught a slider last season that has worked well. But the slider also taught him to speed up his arm and now his curveball is much tighter and hits almost 80 mph.
Scouts are taking note and saying his curveball looked much better and is underrated.
But Syndergaard must learn to maintain his arm speed when he throws his changeup, which is displayed in the embedded video.
As you can also see in the video, Syndergaard utilizes his long body effectively. He takes a big stride and has a high release point. This makes it even tougher for batters to pick up the baseball, especially when it is upwards of 98 mph and coming out of the hands of a 6'5" man.
Syndergaard also has an incredibly smooth and natural delivery which adds almost no strain to his arm.
That should translate to a long and healthy career for Syndergaard's prized right arm.
It is worth noting that this video is from April of last season, which is long before Syndergaard made the vast improvements to his curveball and slider.
Syndergaard already has great confidence in his fastball and changeup, but developing a third strikeout pitch would make him even more untouchable when he does hit the majors.
And if he keeps pitching the way he has to begin his professional career, that time may come within the next few years.
Syndergaard has never had an ERA higher than 3.00, including last season in Class-A.
In 2012, Syndergaard went 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA and an incredible 122 strikeouts in 103.2 innings. He also gave up only 81 hits and 31 walks last season. Even more, as a starter his stats got even better: 5-4 with a 1.47 ERA, 52 hits and a 90/19 K/BB ratio in 79.2 innings. That translates to an unbelievable 0.89 WHIP.
Opposing batters also hit a mere .182 against him as a starter without a single home run.
Syndergaard has the potential to dominate major league batters with that high strikeout rate, but what sets him apart from the other top Mets prospects is his ability to limit his walks.
The other two young power pitchers for the Mets are Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.
Harvey had a phenomenal debut for the Mets last season, finishing with a 2.70 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings. But Harvey also gave up 26 walks, five home runs and 18 extra base hits in the majors, and he must work to lower those numbers drastically.
Wheeler is currently electrifying in spring training, and he has been tearing through the minors his whole career.
Last season, Wheeler finished in Triple-A with almost identical numbers to his Double-A output. His end-of-season numbers were 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 116 innings.
But much like Harvey, Wheeler must improve his command as he had 59 walks last season, too.
On the other hand, as a starter Syndergaard averaged a walk every 4.19 innings, while Harvey and Wheeler averaged a walk every 2.28 and 1.97 innings, respectively.
Syndergaard also had the highest strikeout rate of the three pitchers. But Syndergaard was in Class-A while the other two were in much higher levels. Syndergaard’s ratios should dip slightly as he moves up each level, but there is no reason he can’t keep up something close to this kind of command.
Even more, Syndergaard is only 20 while Harvey is 23 and Wheeler is 22.
That is not too far apart, but Syndergaard already has more control and command than the other two pitchers despite the difference in both age and experience.
Syndergaard already has a top-level fastball and a bigger body than both Wheeler and Harvey. But when you consider that Syndergaard's fastball comes from a much higher vantage point, the advantage must go to him for that pitch.
If Syndergaard improves his stamina and develops a third quality pitch, he could quickly move up the farm system and become one of the top starters on the Mets, and perhaps the entire league, for years to come.
Stats via milb.com and ESPN.com
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