During the Mets telecast yesterday, roving reporter Kevin Burkhardt reported that Double-A pitcher Noah Syndergaard, could be making landfall in the big leagues by as soon as July of 2014 at the rate he’s going, according to Mets VP of Player Development Paul DePodesta.
This would be similar to the track the team took in promoting Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler - finishing strong at Double-A, starting the new season at Triple-A, and a promotion to the bigs by mid-season. Considering how that recipe has worked with Harvey and Wheeler, why stop now… As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
There have been a lot of questions as to whether or not Syndergaard will make the jump to Triple-A before this season is through. He’s only spent seven starts and 36 innings with the B-Mets, but has manhandled Eastern League competition. Since getting promoted after the Florida State League All-Star game, Thor is 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, eight walks, and 46 strikeouts. Based on production, is he ready for Triple-A competition? You bet he is. However, with 99.2 innings pitched between Binghamton and St. Lucie this year, he’s only four innings away from a new career high in workload. He threw 103.2 innings for Dunedin in 2012 for the Blue Jays organization. A shutdown due to an innings limit is looming, so he’s better off staying in Binghamton. Burkhardt guessed that the Mets would cap Syndergaard at around 130 innings.
The hope is that Syndergaard will finish his year strong in Double-A with the B-Mets (and there’s no indication he won’t), start 2014 in Triple-A with the 51s for some final seasoning, then make his way to the big league rotation with Harvey, Wheeler, and friends.
To see the similar tracks these top pitching prospects have taken, let’s start with Harvey. He started his professional career in 2011 with St. Lucie, and tore up FSL competition with an 8-2 record and a 2.37 ERA. He struck out 92 in 76 innings pitched, leading to a mid-year promotion to Binghamton. He threw 59.2 more innings, compiling a 5-3 record, 4.53 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 64 strikeouts in the Eastern League.
While he didn’t dominate like he did in High-A, the Mets promoted him to Buffalo to start 2012 anyway. Prior to getting promoted to the big leagues last July, he went 7-5 for the Bisons with a 3.68 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 112 strikeouts, and 48 walks in 110 innings pitched. His control was still somewhat of an issue, but he adjusted well once he made his debut against the Diamondbacks, going 3-5 with a 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 70 strikeouts in 59.1 innings pitched (10 starts). This year? Well, you know how that’s going.
As for Wheeler, his trajectory is similar to his fellow rotation member. When Sandy Alderson traded Carlos Beltran for him prior to the 2011 trade deadline, Zack reported to High-A St. Lucie. He started six games (27 innings pitched) and compiled a 2-2 record, 2.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 31 strikeouts. Before shuffling off to Buffalo, he finished 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 117 strikeouts in 116 innings pitched with the B-Mets.
While plenty of people noted the Super-Two cutoff and the extra year of team control to keep Wheeler in the minors until his mid-June debut, he also had to prove he could control his pitches consistently, especially after walking 16 in 33 innings to finish 2012. He had his ups and downs in Vegas, but made some big strides before making being promoted and making his big league debut against the Atlanta Braves. Through 45.2 innings pitched in the majors thus far, he has struggled with consistency a bit, but has shown improvement with each appearance. It also doesn’t hurt that he has a 4-1 record and 3.55 ERA during that time.
So, while it would be fun to see Syndergaard make the jump to Triple-A or even get a September call-up, there is no need for him to be rushed along for now. It’ll be good to allow him to finish this season on a high note going into the winter without uprooting him to the next affiliate. Next season, he’ll probably be in big league camp with the rest of the starting rotation before heading to Vegas for some final touches. If all goes well, we could be anticipating the debut of yet another potential top tier pitcher in the middle of the 2014 season. That’s exciting.
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(Photo Credit: Gordon Donovan)