In a move expected by most, the New York Mets re-assigned their top pitching prospect Noah Syndergaard to minor league camp. Considering how impressive he was during spring training, striking out 10 in 8.2 innings with opponents hitting .167 against him, it’d be tempting for the Mets to keep him in major league camp longer to see if he could win a spot in their opening day rotation. But the Mets are smart to be patient with him and start him in the minors in 2014.
By waiting to promote Syndergaard until the midway part of the season, the Mets will delay him reaching free agency by a year, which is a smart business decision. But sending Syndergaard to triple-A to begin the season will be beneficial for his development, especially since he hasn’t pitched at that level before.
Syndergaard has just a half season of experience at double-A, and so he needs more reps against experienced batters, which is something he’ll get in triple-A. Also, the Pacific Coast League is a league that favors hitters, so facing that challenge and having to make adjustments will help Syndergaard in the long run.
Moreover, Syndergaard doesn’t have the innings count to start the season in the big leagues. The Mets will have to cap his innings in 2014 around 150 or 160, which means that early in the season he may be limited to four or five innings per outing to ensure that he’ll be able to pitch late in the season. The Mets can’t afford to have him in the majors early in the season if he can’t throw more than five innings per start, and limiting his innings in the minors will open up the possibility of Syndergaard helping the Mets late in the season if they’re still in contention.
The Mets will likely wait until June or July before calling up Syndergaard for his big league debut, and he may not even be the first starter the Mets call up if they need someone early in the season. They’ve followed the same formula with Matt Harvey in 2012 and Zack Wheeler in 2013, and both experienced a good amount of success early in their big league careers; clearly the Mets hope the same will happen with Syndergaard. It’ll be tempting to put Syndergaard in the majors before then, but the Mets are right to show patience with their top prospect.