In the Scout’s Eye: Syndergaard, Plawecki, Reynolds (Updated)

An article by posted on June 29, 2014 0 Comments

For some who misunderstood some of the comments about Thor, including him, it seems as he read the column.

The greater concern about his breaking his hands, was, as I mentioned, that I had not seen it before.  When combined with the action on his pitches, it had me, shall we say, interested, as to whether the recent few injuries had caused a change in his delivery.  As many of you know, that is always problematic for a pitcher because you never know what tiny change to try and reduce pain, or soreness, can lead to other injuries.  Or, whether that was something that the coaching staff had taught him.  If the latter, I’d love to hear why, but I’m sure Frankie V, as good as it gets, has great reasons for it that I don’t know right now.

Next, as I ALSO wrote in the article, Syndergaard is still a relative kid. He certainly looks like a man as he has a dominating presence on the mound, but it takes immensely talented guys like him, who have always dominated, a while to learn that they need to slow bats down sometimes, or just alter their arsenal one time through the lineup to keep good hitters off balance.

The hallmark of good major league hitters is that they can cover anyone’s fastball given a chance to get their timing.  It’s the reason you use the 2 seamer, and off speed stuff, in addition to trying to induce weak contact, obviously.

An MMO Fan Shot by Steve L.

A bit about me, and what I hope to do here. Over the years, before I retired from baseball, I worked in almost every part of the business in both the minor and major leagues for almost 20 years. From stadium operations, PR, legal, and what I hope to cover a bit of in these columns, scouting and coaching.

So, if you have any questions that you’d like me to write about, feel free to let me know.

I am certainly a fan of modern statistical analysis (I’m a full member of SABR), but in my view, many of the new stats are a) improperly understood; b) frequently misused; and, c) they reflect past performance, which is not the job of a scout whose goal is to try and predict future performance.

I am more than aware that opinions even among the best scouts differ, so I have no problems with disagreements, even extreme ones, but I do blanch at those whose first replies are personal insults.

I’ve already had some wonderful exchanges with members here, most recently posting pictures of Matt Harvey‘s delivery to try and explain what I felt led, in part, to his injury and why some of us were able to predict it. I will reprint that here after the first few columns.

Noah_Syndergaard

To start today, I wanted to give a few quick impressions based on being able to watch the 51′s game on Thursday night on the CBS Sports Network.

First, to Noah Syndergaard. Obviously, most of us, myself included, have not seen much of him, and what we did, came from spring training. During the spring, I noted what scouts term a “free and easy” delivery. What that means is fairly straightforward. No obvious hitches, proper trunk alignment and rotation, full extension during the delivery, etc.

It’s a critical point because, as I’m sure you’ve heard during Mets broadcasts, Ron Darling and Bobby Ojeda have frequently referred to Jenrry Mejia as a “max effort” guy. It’s those types of guys that scouts feel are more likely to get hurt, or even lose their stuff. Having a free and easy motion means that these things are less likely, and that you can probably dial it up, when necessary. Think Bartolo Colon, who looks as if he’s pitching in a weekend league, and I don’t mean because of his stomach!

However, I was quite disturbed by what I saw from “Thor” that night.

The first thing that was immediately apparent was that he was breaking his hands very early in his delivery, particularly from the windup. Why is this important? Simple, any third base coach worth his salt can easily see his grip on the ball and call the pitches. The only advantage to Thor here is that he is so fastball dominant, it might not be as bad as for others. However, it may be part of the reason for his struggles.

I did not notice this during my very limited viewing of him during the spring so I can’t say if his motion has changed, or if it was changed due to his recent injuries or even due to coaching suggestions.

The next thing I saw was that his fastball was extremely flat. Frankly, I did not see him throw a 2 seamer, the pitch you use typically ahead in the count that from a righthander should break down and in to right-handed hitters and away from lefties.

That in itself was worrisome. Again, I don’t know if he didn’t throw it because of the previous elbow strain, but more worrisome, as I said, was the total lack of movement, and relative lack of command of his 4 seamer, the bread and butter of any power pitcher’s arsenal.

When he got into his inevitable trouble, he repeatedly waived off his new catcher Kevin Plawecki (more on him below) and just pumped more and more 4 seamers, which the Sacramento team had no trouble hitting once they got his timing.

This was less worrisome to me as he should be able to change this just from age and experience. We’ve all forgotten just how young Thor is, and typically, a kid like this, who has dominated everyone he’s played against, and always been able to rely on velocity to get out of trouble, takes a while to figure out that he needs location, change of speeds and different pitches to get big league hitters out consistently.

Finally, on his breaking stuff, he seemed to not be able to get on top, with a few exceptions (a nice K to end an inning for example). Again, with limited exposure to him, I don’t know if this is a regular problem or just last night. The flat fastball and the rather dull breaking balls may have been the result of the same problem, and again, may be a result of the forearm strain that he felt and so he is a bit cautious with his wrist action right now.

Let’s hope he’s not covering up some residual soreness from the team.

I have to say that I agree with the organization in quelling talk of a promotion as he clearly needs additional work.

kevin-plawecki-2

Next, are the new Vegas promotees, Matt Reynolds, and Kevin Plawecki.

I had not seen Reynolds before, so quickly, what I saw was a nice compact swing, with a good approach at the plate. It didn’t appear that he tries to do too much up there. He hits from a firm front leg and follows through nicely. I was impressed.

A little less so in the field. He looked to be a competent shortstop, with a decent first step, but limited range. I think he probably projects as a big league second baseman, but I did not see nearly enough plays to make anything else but a snap judgment.

As for Plawecki, I had seen him a bit in the spring as well, and he impressed me then. I have heard what some others have heard, i.e. that he was a bat with deficient defense.

I did not see that during the spring, and last night, catching a guy pumping 95-98, he looked fully in control.

His footwork and lateral movement behind the plate, was, for me, far superior to d’Arnaud’s. His weakness and where he is not as good as Travis, was in his setting a target, where d’Arnaud is excellent, and in ‘framing’, which many of TDA’s supporters overemphasize because it is a strength of his.

At the plate, I like what I had seen. Much like Reynolds he showed a nice, compact swing, with a firm front leg and excellent plate coverage. I happened to tune in just in time to see his homerun, and what was so key there was that it was a line drive, reflective of that even, flat swing.

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