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2016 Mets season preview: Noah Syndergaard

The popular pitcher looks to improve upon a great rookie season.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Given his performance last year, particularly in the postseason, it wouldn’t have taken much of anything for Noah Syndergaard to become a fan favorite. But the 23-year-old started the offseason with a staycation in New York City and spent his time away from sports mastering the art of the tweet.

Syndergaard has been in the Mets’ organization since December 17, 2012, when the team acquired him alongside Travis d’Arnaud, John Buck, and Wuilmer Becerra for R.A. Dickey, Josh Thole, and Mike Nickeas. A highly-touted prospect at the time, Syndergaard split the 2013 season between High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton before moving up to Triple-A Las Vegas to begin the 2014 season. That year didn’t go so well for Syndergaard—at least as far as his ERA was concerned—but he dominated the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League when he returned there to begin last season. After just five starts at the level, he earned his call-up to the big leagues. As has been the case with his peers in the Mets’ rotation, he didn’t go back to the minors after his promotion.

While the results didn’t quite put Syndergaard on the level of Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, they were plenty good. In 150 innings in the regular season, he had a 3.24 ERA and 3.25 FIP with 9.86 strikeouts and 1.89 walks per nine innings. What’s been so amazing about the Mets’ rotation has been its ability to limit walks and strike out opposing batters at such a high rate.

To top off the very good regular season, Syndergaard was impressive in the Mets’ run to a National League championship. In 19.0 innings, one of which came in relief in the team’s decisive Game 5 win over the Dodgers in the NLDS, he had a 3.32 ERA and 26 strikeouts.

In the early going at spring training, Syndergaard is reportedly looking very good, and—oh, by the way—is working on mastering the vaunted Warthen Slider. Per the pitch classifications at Brooks Baseball, Syndergaard dabbled with the pitch last year, but the idea that he could add another plus pitch to his arsenal is pretty exciting.

For the upcoming season, the major projection systems aren’t forecasting a drastic departure from Syndergaard’s results last year, but they all have him putting up a better ERA in his second season than he did in his first. As was the case last year, it would be difficult to leapfrog Harvey and deGrom in the pecking order of the Mets’ rotation, but it doesn’t seem impossible that Syndergaard could be the best of the bunch. Considering how high the bar for that distinction is, that’s pretty incredible.