Written by: Brendan Ripley-Barasch (@BBarasch_5)
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One of the biggest story lines in Major League Baseball right now is the youth and dominance that the New York Mets starting rotation possesses. The pitchers that make up the club's intimidating rotation include Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon. With the exception of Colon who is 42, each one of these pitchers are under 30 years old. Starting in 2013, the Mets have seen "ace" qualities in three of these starting pitchers.
In 2013, Matt Harvey emerged as the leader of the staff turning in an ERA of 2.27 and earning the starting nod in the All-Star game later in the year. Unfortunately at the end of 2013, Harvey suffered a partial tear of the ulnar ligament in his right arm causing him to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2014 season. In Harvey's absence, Jacob deGrom shined in 2014 and 2015 with an ERA of 2.69 and 2.54, allowing him to be named the NL Rookie of the Year in 2014. He also earned a spot on the NL All-Star team in 2015 as well as playing a major role in his club’s run to the World Series.
Bartolo Colon also deserves to be mentioned mainly because he is seen by many as the "glue" of the rotation. The veteran has consistently produced for his team while also serving as a mentor for the young pitchers. But the player who many are now claiming to be the best pitcher of the staff is none other than Noah Syndergaard, A.K.A. "Thor."
In 2010, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Syndergaard with the 38th overall pick in the MLB Draft straight out of high school. In 2011, Noah played for the Blue Jays Rookie-level and Class A affiliates alongside highly touted prospects Justin Nicolino and Aaron Sanchez, the three pitchers came to be known as "The Vancouver Trio." But in 2012, the player was surprised to learn he had been traded to the New York Mets along with fellow top prospect Travis d'Arnaud, in a package for reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. The towering prospect measuring at 6'6 and weighing around 240 lbs began the 2013 season with the Class A affiliate St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League. And later in the year was promoted to AA while also being selected to the 2013 All-Star Futures Game.
The following season was not too kind to "Thor" where he began at the AAA level and carried an unattractive ERA of 4.60. However, the 2015 season was a different story. Syndergaard once again began the season in AAA, but unlike the previous year, he had an eye-popping earned run average of 1.82. This fantastic start to the year earned Noah a promotion to the majors, where he was finally going to play with the big boys. On May 12, 2015, for the first time in his young life, Syndergaard toed the rubber for a major league team when the New York Mets faced the Chicago Cubs. One thing that caught Mets fans attention from the start and something that has been consistent throughout Noah's young career was his velocity. Exceeding 100 MPH on his pitches regularly, he finished his rookie campaign with a 9-7 record while sporting a pretty impressive ERA of 3.24.
So how is this young man who had an ERA of 4.60 at one point in his minor league career seen as the best and most talented pitcher on a loaded staff? Simply put, so far in 2016, Noah Syndergaard has been almost untouchable. For example, with his long blond hair waving in the wind, Syndergaard gave his club their first win in his first start of the year against Kansas City (reigning World Series champs) where he struck out nine and only allowed three hits. With this performance, the former first-round pick dazzled not only the opponent but also fans and media nationwide. Now everyone was paying attention. Currently Noah Syndergaard in this young season has a 2-0 record to go along with an ERA of 1.69 and 38 strikeouts through 28.2 innings.
One thing that has been instrumental for the right-hander to get off to this kind of start is something that was briefly discussed earlier, his velocity. One statistic that caught my attention regarding how hard Syndergaard throws is that no other pitcher in MLB has thrown a pitch in triple digits this season. "Thor" has thrown 23, including some even touching 101 MPH. It's not just his fastball either, the 23 year-old's slider has been clocked at 95 MPH four times this year. How's that for untouchable?
In an article from si.com titled “Noah Syndergaard is either a physical freak—or a threat to himself,” writer Tom Verducci provides a quote from a rival general manager discussing Syndergaard and his velocity. The GM is quoted as saying, “Right now, he stands alone with his stuff. Nobody sits at 99 mph and throws a slider 93. Nobody.” This just goes to show that what this player is doing right now is nothing short of incredible.
New York Mets manager Terry Collins has to be one of the happiest guys in professional baseball. I mean, what other manager has the luxury of possessing three pitchers who could be the ace for almost any team in the league? On a different note, one organization that is probably watching every game Syndergaard starts with disgust are the Toronto Blue Jays. I am sure that many of the people in that front office have thought about what could have been if they had not pulled the trigger on a deal that sent one of the most dominant pitcher's in the league to New York only to receive a 40 year-old knuckleballer who has yet to tally an ERA under 3.50 in Toronto.
Baseball fans will have to wait patiently to see if Syndergaard can keep up this excellent level of play, but at the rate he is going now, Noah will log a ton of innings this season. This is both a good and bad thing. Good because the Mets will have their best pitcher going six or seven innings each start, which in turn allows the bullpen to rest. Bad because the more innings “Thor” pitches, the better chance he has in hurting himself. Many baseball analysts have voiced their concerns about this, most of them claiming no pitcher will be able to consistently throw as hard as Noah does without eventually running into trouble. But for right now, Syndergaard looks like he feels great.
This young man, whose numbers and physical prowess resemble that of a video game character, still has a long way to go until he is mentioned in the same breath as such elite pitchers like Clayton Kershaw or Jake Arrieta. But the sky is the limit for this kid and if he can manage to stay healthy, he will be one of the top pitchers in the league for years to come.