Toronto Blue Jays’ prospect Noah Syndergaard is an imposing figure on the mound. Naturally, this was the first thing that I noticed when I got the chance to catch a start from the big Texan.
Syndergaard stands at 6’5” and is built like a man, not looking the part of a kid that won’t turn 20 until the end of August. Syndergaard, who recently vaulted up to 40th, up 27 spots, on John Sickels’ midseason top 120 prospects list, throws gas to match his mammoth size.
Syndergaard averages 95 MPH on his fastball, and has been known to touch 98. Even more impressive is the fact that he locates his fastball well with the ability to paint the corners – certainly not what you would expect out of a young flamethrower. Syndergaard keeps the ball down in the zone, and with his height, creates an excellent downward plane on the ball, making it very difficult for batters to square up. Unlike a typical flamethrower, Syndergaard has a very easy delivery. He doesn’t utilize a high leg kick nor does he exaggeratedly fall off the mound, which leaves him in optimal position for fielding. His easy delivery eases the injury concerns usually associated with a kid throwing so hard. Without a question, Syndergaard has very easy velocity. Sometimes the fastball can straighten out a bit much and get hit, but this is undoubtedly his best pitch, and it will only get better.
Syndergaard also throws a changeup that flashes potential to be a plus pitch. While he can leave it up in the zone at times, he gets great arm action on the pitch and the velocity gap between the change and his fastball is enough to make it an incredibly difficult pitch to square up. When he throws a nice changeup, though, the pitch has nice depth and a little bit of arm-side break.
The refined portion of his repertoire ends there for Syndergaard, but his breaking pitches are coming along. Recently, Syndergaard has added a slider, which has generated a couple of swing-and-miss strikeouts. When I watched him pitch, he threw a curveball that was very inconsistent. At times, it broke very little and remained up in the zone. Other times, it had loopy break and could be seen from the moment it left his arm. Only once or twice did he manage tight spin on the pitch, but in these instances the pitch did look impressive. Syndergaard will have to play with the pitch until he can get a consistent spin, but it does appear that the slider might become a solid breaking pitch for him if the curveball does not work out.
Syndergaard has run into trouble this year when coming out of the bullpen on the back end of his piggybacking assignment with Anthony DeSclafani. However, he has been dominant since being assigned his own spot in the rotation. In 24 innings, including a perfect start that was cut short by a rainy evening, he has allowed just 12 hits and 3 walks, resulting in 3 runs. In those 24 innings, he has fanned a staggering 27 batters.
It certainly seems that Syndergaard has settled into a comfort zone. In addition to his excellent strikeout totals, Syndergaard, with the downward plane that he produces on his pitches, does an outstanding job of keeping the ball on the ground. He has given up just 3 home runs on the year and consistently gets far more outs on the ground than in the air.
Just recently was Syndergaard allowed to pitch the 6th inning. This was, of course, a substantial development, as the Jays have begun to loosen the reigns on their star power pitching prospect. As he continues to refine his breaking pitches, we could see Syndergaard rise through the Blue Jays’ system quite quickly.
With his maturity on the mound and excellent control, don’t be surprised if the Blue Jays decide to allow Syndergaard to finish the year in Dunedin of the Advanced-A Florida State League. He isn’t ready to be pushed too aggressively, but could use a challenge greater than that posed to him in low-A ball. Syndergaard will continue to refine his breaking pitches, and should begin next year with Dunedin. After that, his success will determine how fast he progresses through the system.
Syndergaard is the optimal result of the Blue Jays‘ philosophy with young pitchers. First, they require that their pitchers learn to locate their fastball. Second, they require that their young starters refine their changeup. This is a fruitful strategy, as this combination makes a major league pitcher. After that, the development of breaking pitches will determine just how good a pitcher can become. The breaking pitches are coming along, and if they reach their full potential, Noah Syndergaard could eventually become a #1 starter in a major league rotation.
Prospect Power is a weekly column that will analyze the Toronto Blue Jays’ top prospects. The scouting reports found in this column are based on a combination of personal observation and outside reports.
Charles Davis is a baseball writer for RantSports.com with a specific focus on the Toronto Blue Jays, their prospects, and prospects league-wide. Read his articles here and follow him on Twitter @CPDavis90.