Checking in on Noah Syndergaard: Yes, He’s Better Than Wheeler

By: Brian Mangan

Many moons ago, on the eve of Zack Wheeler’s call-up to the Show, we here at the Read Zone took a look at Wheeler’s minor league statistics in an effort to compare him to Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey.  We concluded that, although one could not expect Wheeler to experience the same kind of MLB success as Harvey did initially (mostly because Harvey is such an outlier that that kind of performance can never truly be expected) that Wheeler and Harvey were statistical dead-ringers for each other while ascending through the Mets’ minor league system.

Here’s the good news for us long-suffering Mets fans: even though we also cannot expect fellow Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard to be as successful initially as Matt Harvey, he’s actually got the best minor league resume of the three and is probably as good as Zack Wheeler is today (and should end up even better than Wheeler).

After going through a discussion of Harvey and Wheeler’s physical attributes and scouting reports last year, we compiled the bottom-line minor league statistics for each player:

Harvey (Triple-A)(age 23): 3.68 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 3.93 BB/9, 9.16 K/9

Wheeler(Triple-A)(age 22-23): 3.84 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.84 BB/9, 9.09 K/9

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Harvey (246 innings): 3.48 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 3.48 BB/9, 9.80 K/9

Wheeler (386 innings): 3.84 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 4.06 BB/9, 9.63 K/9

It’s self-evident that these numbers were nearly identical.  Between the two, Wheeler’s Triple-A performance was in hitter-friendly Las Vegas rather than Buffalo, making his adjusted line slightly more impressive than Harvey.  Wheeler’s overall minor league resume is slightly worse than Harvey’s, but it must be noted that Wheeler entered the minor leagues one year younger than Harvey and had his worst season of all at that lowest level, Low-A Augusta, several years earlier.  Essentially, if you looked at stats alone, you could call the two close to comparable.

So, how’s Noah Syndergaard doing?

After last night’s performance at Tacoma (5.2 ip, 1e, 3bb, 8k), Syndergaard has posted a 3.58 ERA over 37.2 IP, surrendering 40 hits (3 HR) with 15 walks (3.6 BB/9) and 36 strikeouts (8.6 K/9).  Take a look at his overall minor league line (most recent at the bottom, obviously) compared to Wheeler.

Syndergaard:

Screenshot 2014-05-06 at 11.24.37 AM

Wheeler:

Screenshot 2014-05-06 at 11.23.36 AM

Although Syndergaard has a somewhat inflated WHIP (1.46 compared to Wheeler’s 1.28), Syndergaard is still getting his strikeouts and is merely suffering from pitching in Las Vegas (and an elevated BABIP of .341).

Despite the WHIP, Syndergaard has generally posted as-good or better numbers than Wheeler in Las Vegas.  For instance, Wheeler allowed more home runs (1.18 HR/9 compared to Syndergaard’s 0.7 HR/9) while Syndergaard has a maintained a better GB/FB ratio.  In fact, Syndergaard’s HR/9 and GB/FB looks a lot like… Harvey’s.  Almost identical in fact, both with a 0.7 HR/9 and with Harvey’s 1.28 GB/FB compared to Syndergaard’s 1.33 GB/FB.

Another point in Syndergaard’s favor is that he has had the vast majority of his starts at home in Las Vegas, which is a notorious hitters park.  In five starts at home, Syndergaard has a 4.00 ERA and a 23-10 K-BB ratio.  In his two starts on the road, he has a 2.53 ERA and 13-5 K-BB.

It is only 7 starts in Triple-A so far for Syndergaard, but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.  In fact, we still haven’t mentioned the best thing about the young Syndergaard’s performance: his relative youth compared to other prospects.  Syndergaard is doing all that he is doing in Triple-A at the age of 21, a year and a half younger than both Wheeler and Harvey.  When Wheeler was 22, he was pitching well in Double-A before pitching just okay in pitcher-friendly Triple-A Buffalo (his low ERA hid his poor peripherals, 33-16 K-BB).  Matt Harvey was in Single-A and Double-A, dominating, but doing so in a lower level of the minors.  Syndergaard is an astounding 5.9 years younger than the average player in the Pacific Coast League.  He should be a boy playing among men — but instead, he is Thor.

I know this is a lot of numbers to digest all at once, but the bottom line is that Syndergaard is the real deal.  He’s not doing it with smoke and mirrors either.  ESPN’s Keith Law, who has given Syndergaard rave reviews in the past, recently upgraded his view on Syndergaard and said that in addition to his plus fastball and changeup, Syndergaard has improved his curveball to the point where it will be “the weapon for him.”  Oh, and about that fastball?  Check out this report from Rising Apple on his second-to-last start:

With his fastball sitting between 96 and 98 MPH and touching 99, Syndergaard also mixed in his curveball and changeup to keep Reno off balance.

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With runners on first and second and two outs, Syndergaard pumped in fastballs that ranged between 97 and 99 MPH to jump ahead in the count. After he was ahead, he broke off a filthy curveball to induce a swinging strikeout that ended the frame and his night.

(emphasis added)

The scouting reports have said it (he’s a stud) the minor league numbers have said it (he’s been as good as Harvey and Wheeler and doing it at a younger age).  I can’t wait for him to join us in Flushing.  It’s okay, you can get excited.  I expect Syndergaard to slide into the rotation as Wheeler’s equal on day one, and be a formidable #2 behind Harvey for years to come.

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Brian Mangan is an attorney from Flushing, New York.  He currently resides in Astoria, New York and is debating whether to get a Harvey or Syndergaard jersey,                     

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