The New York Mets have many organizational shortcomings but they did phenomenally well in plucking Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in recent trades. While Wheeler got his feel wet with the big club Syndergaard dominated in his first year under the Mets banner. He moved up the prospect ranks and built excitement for a 2014 debut.
Syndergaard is a mountain of a pitcher, clocking in at 6’6” and 230 lbs. As expected his meal ticket is a blistering fastball. Baseball Prospectus gives it a straight 8 on the tools scale. He tore through hitters in both twelve High-A starts and eleven outings in Double-A. He struck out 10.2/9, following up a 10.6/9 mark in 2012 and 10.4/9 in 2011 at lower levels. He also exhibited great control, walking only 2.1/9 overall. His high walk rate as a professional at any level is just 3.1.
Considering his K/BB ratios, Syndergaard’s FIPs were unsurprisingly strong. He held a 2.60 mark in High-A and 3.24 in Double-A. Batted ball splits reveal how helpless hitters were against him. He gave up 32 line drives (10.36% of batted balls) while generating 20 popups (6.47%). Even factoring in some error, that is dominance.
Below the surface Syndergaard had some trouble after moving up to Double-A. His home run rate increased from under 0.50/9 to 1.33. He had some platoon split issues as well. He retired 94 right-handed batters, allowing two home runs, two walks, and striking out 48. He sat down 68 lefties, but six left the yard, ten walked, and only 21 struck out.
The prevailing theory is that Syndergaard’s breaking pitches are works in progress. Fangraphs noted he “needs to do a better job leveraging his height” and he “lack(s) … a consistent breaking ball.” That is not to say they are without potential, in fact Baseball America states his “secondary pitches flash above average if not better.” In his postseason evaluation John Sickles said “I think the concerns about his secondary pitches are a bit overblown.” After seeing Syndergaard deal in a scrimmage manager Terry Collins described his curveball as a “hook from hell.”
The Mets plan to limit Syndergaard’s innings in 2014, putting him on a tighter cap than Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler had in their debut seasons. They are considering a Wacha-like plan of working him out of the bullpen initially. Syndergaard needs seasoning, and even assuming good health and optimistic progress he may only get six weeks worth of starts with the Mets. That is not nearly enough for redraft leagues to consider unless they have reserve rosters. He is an exciting, but incomplete pitcher that smart owners will be keeping tabs on for 2015.