May 9, 2015
The situation: The Mets sit in first place in large part due to their quality staring pitching, but have placed Dillon Gee on the 15-day disabled list with a groin sprain. To replace him in the rotation, the Mets will call up their top pitching prospect, Syndergaard.
Background: Syndergaard was a somewhat surprising sandwich-round selection by the Blue Jays in the 2010 draft out of Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas. The right-hander quickly established himself as one of the better pitching prospects in the Blue Jays system, but was considered the “other” prospect in the deal that saw R.A. Dickey move to Toronto; Travid D’Arnaud headlined the deal. It didn’t take long for the man they call “Thor” to become one of the best right-handed pitching prospects in baseball, as he missed bats at a much higher rate than he had in his time with the Blue Jays. He ranked at the top of BP's top 10 Mets prospects this winter, and came in ninth on the BP 101 in February.
Scouting report: Syndergaard’s best pitch is his fastball, a mid-90s offering that will get up to 98 with some life. He’s not just a hard thrower, as the young Texan has two above-average offerings to keep hitters off his plus-plus heater. The best of these is his change; it's a pitch that offers excellent deception from both a velocity difference (typically in the high 70s as compared to the 94-96 mph fastball) and his ability to keep that difference without losing much arm speed. His curveball—a well below-average offering when Syndergaard first entered the big leagues—now flashes plus with hard spin and some depth, and he can either bury the pitch out of the zone or throw it for strikes. It’s the least consistent of the three offerings, and there are times when he’ll “overthrow” the pitch and it will end up in the middle of the zone.
And while the stuff alone makes Syndergaard an upper-echelon pitching prospect, what makes him one of the best in baseball is his ability to throw all three of his pitches for strikes. There isn’t much effort to his delivery, which allows him to repeat it on a consistent basis, and though the command isn’t Pedro-esque by any stretch of the imagination, he’s generally within the margin of error and does a good job keeping the ball below the belt.
Immediate big-league future: As you can likely tell from this scouting report, I’m a big fan of Syndergaard. Guys who throw three pitches that flash plus with plus command don’t grow on trees, and that’s what Syndergaard is capable of. Scouts rave about his feel for pitching and poise, so assuming he shows the same delivery and a semblance of the same stuff, he should be a competent starter at the big-league level. The upside here is a durable top-of-the-rotation starter, with one of the higher floors of any pitching prospect because of his ability to throw strikes. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: As far as starting pitchers primed to make an impact this year in fantasy leagues, Syndergaard sits at the top of the list. With the impediment of a full rotation in Queens now temporarily behind him, he'll set out to prove why he entered this year as the top fantasy pitching prospect in baseball. However, with Dillon Gee only scheduled to miss the minimum for right now, Syndergaard is going to have to make a strong first impression in order to put himself in a good position to make 15-17 starts.High praise and pedigree aside, fantasy owners are going to have to be a little realistic about what the 2015 version may look like, as opposed to the peak version that makes him so well regarded. At peak, Syndergaard is a full four-category contributor—able to provide strikeouts in the 180-200 range, strong ratios and the ability to pitch deep into games and rack up wins. Right now, the question is this: How many bats will he miss in the near term? There's a non-zero chance that he can step in and strike out a batter per inning, but expectations should be closer to around seven strikeouts per nine. And as with almost any rookie pitcher, his WHIP could be a risk, even though his command profile is strong. If he throws 120 innings the rest of the way, a 3.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 90 strikeouts seem reasonable.
In redraft leagues, Syndergaard should be owned across the board because of the chance he can stick even when Dillon Gee comes off the disabled list. In the extreme near term, he makes for a really strong two-start pitcher next week, with his debut coming in Chicago against a strikeout-heavy Cubs team and a Sunday start at home against a struggling Brewers team. For NL-only formats, Syndergaard is one to open up the wallet for. A modest offering isn't likely to get him, if he's unowned, and a $45-$50 price feels about right given the combination of upside and potential innings impact. In keeper leagues, it's a tough call as to whether to use a top priority waiver, as a few high-profile hitters have chances to see the majors later this year, including Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and possibly even Byron Buxton. If you really need pitching, it's defensible (given the uncertainty of the others' arrivals), but he's a worse long-term fantasy prospect than all three. In dynasty leagues, he's been owned for quite a while, so if you are fortunate enough to have him, enjoy the fruits of your stashing labor. —Bret Sayre
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @CVCrawfordBP