Back in Spring Training, the script was that Mets top pitching prospects Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard would both be fixtures in the rotation as the team finally took that giant leap forward into the future they’ve been talking about since the Winter of 2010. Scratch that.
Both of the organization’s prized righthanders – one known for a blazing fastball and wicked curve, the other for impeccable pinpoint control – haven’t had the kinds of seasons anyone expected.
John Harper of the Daily News popped the question: So what happened to “97 and a hook from hell,” as Terry Collins rather famously described Noah Syndergaard’s eye-popping fastball-curveball combination in spring training?
Harper has learned that the expected mid-season call-up isn’t even close to happening.
Syndergaard is pitching to a 4.98 ERA in Las Vegas and the consensus is that he simply hasn’t demonstrated the command that he did last year in Double-A. Instead he’s pitched behind in the count far too often, making him more hittable.
“Triple-A hitters are savvier — a lot of them have major-league experience,” says one NL scout. “If you put them in hitter’s counts and become more predictable, they’re going to square up your fastball, no matter how good it is. That’s what I’ve seen with Syndergaard.”
A person in the Mets’ organization echoes that assessment, while noting that Syndergaard, who turns 22 in August, is younger than either Matt Harvey or Zack Wheeler when they were promoted to the big leagues.
“The great stuff is there,” the Mets’ person said. “But he’s still very young, he’s pitching in a hitter’s league, and he’s probably lost a little confidence. It’s really a pretty normal learning curve.”
Also in the Daily News, Andy Martino is reporting that the Mets are “livid and baffled” and are still searching for answers about why Rafael Montero spent much of his stint in the big leagues pitching like the exact opposite of his billing.
Martino says the the Mets were stunned at how poorly Montero performed after gaining a reputation for having elite command and being a guy who pounded the strike zone.
“We’re trying to figure out what the hell that was all about,” one Mets person said. “We were shocked.”
A rival evaluator, who saw Montero pitch in Philadelphia recently, noticed “bad body language. he was picking at his uniform pants. He looked uncomfortable.”
“It has not been a good year for the organization’s Triple-A phenoms,” writes Martino who also hears more strongly that Syndergaard will probably have to wait until at least August to debut in the big leagues.
As far as Syndergaard’s promotion goes and when it will happen, that kind of talk needs to stop. This isn’t some kind of race and there’s never been any need for the organization to rush him.
Quite frankly, I thought it was questionable for the Mets to leak all those June/July MLB debut timetables as far back as a year ago. Syndergaard has a lot of work to do and didn’t need that kind of pressure to live up to. No prospect does. He’ll need to string together 4-5 dominant starts before he can even be considered for a promotion and so far that hasn’t happened.
Montero’s situation is much more difficult to figure out and hopefully the team can get to the root of the problem and get him back on track. For now, you could say his trade value has taken a huge hit compared to a year ago when many thought he would be dealt as part of a deal for a power bat.