We've heard all about the headliner coming back from Toronto in the Dickey trade: catcher Travis d'Arnaud. Noah Syndergaard, however, is another impact prospect that was almost universally regarded as the Blue Jays' second-best minor-league player. In each of their recent 2013 pieces, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, and SB Nation's own John Sickels tabbed the long, power righty in the second position in the Toronto system at the time of the trade.
Before we go any further on Syndergaard, though, let's recognize a very important fact that his inclusion in this deal tells us: Sandy Alderson stuck to his guns with the stipulation that he'd only trade Dickey for another club's top two prospects.
The idea surfaced following the short-lived Dickey-to-Boston rumors for a pair of top prospects. Boston quickly balked at the steep asking price, and many commentators opined that the Mets might need to back off their demands to get a deal done. It would have been easy to do so, especially as extension talks seemed to be growing more sour by the minute. So give credit to Alderson for rolling up his sleeves and making some lemonades with this one.
Career Statistics, via Baseball-Reference.com (click image to embiggen):
20-year-old Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) — pronounced SIN-der-guard — is a native of Mansfield, Texas. He was drafted by the Blue Jays in the supplemental round (38th overall) of the 2010 draft out of Legacy High School. Interestingly, the pick was viewed as something of an upside-reach by Toronto as many scouting services did not project Syndergaard in the top 100. Regardless, he climbed up draft boards late that spring based on a perfect pitcher's build — 6-5, 200 pounds — as well as a fastball that was suddenly pushing into the mid-90s. At $600,000, Syndergaard's signing bonus was closer to that of a fourth- or fifth-rounder.
Syndergaard signed right away, which allowed him to get his feet wet later that summer. However, even before his 13-inning professional debut, Syndergaard was already on the periphery of numerous Blue Jays top ten lists based on his burgeoning power stuff. Things snowballed in 2011 when he emerged from extended spring training on fire, posting a 1.41 ERA and over 10 K/9 in his first seven starts in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. By year's end he had forced a couple of promotions, ending up in the full-season Midwest League — quite a feat for an 18-year-old.
At this point Syndergaard was universally viewed as a top ten prospect in the Blue Jays system, with most outlets placing him in their top three. And that was before his outstanding 2012 campaign. Headed back for a full season at Class-A Lansing, Syndergaard posted a 2.60 ERA along with another 10+ strikeout rate and, perhaps most impressively, a sub-3 BB/9 mark; Syndergaard was the only starter in all of Low-A* to do that. As impressive as current Mets' top prospect Michael Fulmer's 2012 season was in Low-A at 19, Syndergaard posted a FIP over a full run lower (2.21) at the same level, also at age 19.
What I'm trying to say is that Noah Syndergaard is really good. What makes him so tough is a power repertoire on par with almost anyone in a system suddenly flush with power arms, but the kind of command that isn't common among flamethrowers. In fact, in terms of his repertoire it's fair to think of Syndergaard as a more polished version of Jenrry Mejia.
First and foremost, he utilizes a mid-90s, hard-sinking, two-seam fastball — a la Domingo Tapia or Mejia — with likely the best command of the pitch of the three. Syndergaard's groundball tendencies come more from an overhand delivery that leverages his good size to create excellent downward tilt. He pairs the fastball with a straighter, four-seam fastball that hits 98-99 mph. Additionally, he has a more consistent curve, which scouts think is already average, a developing change-up and he's picked up a slider. The development of that change-up is likely the key to how quickly Syndergaard will move up.
I've said in this space before that Michael Fulmer would be my odds-on favorite to take Zack Wheeler's number one ranking at this time next year, assuming Wheeler has graduated. Well, I think we have a new favorite. There's a chance that by late 2014 we're talking about Snydergaard slotting in between Wheeler and Harvey to give the Mets a top three as electric and exciting as they are young and cheap.
*with at least 80 innings pitched