Friday, March 21, 2014

Enter The Hammer

For the third year in a row, the Mets are poised to add a prized pitching prospect to their starting rotation in the middle of the season, in spite of heavy debate as to whether or not said pitching prospect should be in the Minor Leagues at all. But so far, this has been the plan the regime has stuck to, and as such, Noah Syndergaard was sent down to Minor League camp earlier in the week. This was mere formality; in spite of the Mets need for some juice in the early going this coming season, it behooves them not to rush Syndergaard too much in the name of a team that's still not quite ready to contend. Plus, to this point, he hasn't pitched above AA, and, sure, while the Marlins shit a diamond with Jose Fernandez in this instance last season, the Marlins were grasping at straws (and given the Marlins state of affairs, he'll end up getting traded to Detroit that much sooner). The Mets appear to have a much more measured approach to this end.

That being said, we can expect to see Syndergaard dropping his hammer at Citi Field some time around June or July, and the Mets seem to be prepping for him to be able to extend himself once he gets called up. It's a bit of a bizarre plan that Paul DePodesta laid forth on Wednesday, but, hey, it might just work. The idea is that the Mets will potentially carry a 6-man starting rotation on their AAA team, in addition to a 5-inning/60-pitch limit until he's called up to the Majors. This isn't optimal when you take durability into consideration, but maybe the plan will be relaxed to give him more innings/more pitches just to get him stretched out shortly before he's recalled.

The hard cap on Syndergaard's innings this season is 150, which is certainly a low number for a guy who's going to be 22 at the end of August. But given his career path to this point, it's probably smart. Syndergaard, for all his hype, only threw 117.2 innings in the Minors last year, and in 2012 only 103. The thought process is to try to extend by about 20 or so innings each year, so it may yet be a few seasons before we really get to see just how durable Syndergaard can be. He's built in a similar mold to Mike Pelfrey, sort of a large (6'7"), loafy (240lb) type, and that certainly served Pelfrey well as an innings-eater for a few seasons until he fell victim to the dreaded elbow reconstruction. Of course, Pelfrey had large innings jumps early in his career with the Mets due to the team being in a pennant race and the lack of other options, and ended up with a 40+ inning jump between 2007 and 2008, which could have contributed to later troubles. But that theory only works if you really believe in it, and aren't convinced that elbow injuries are just random things that happen frequently if you repeatedly use your arm to continually repeat an action that the human arm isn't necessarily designed to do.

Point is, the Mets are once again being excessively cautious with a young arm, which is fine for now. We can expect a nice soupcon of Syndergaard some time this summer, and I'm sure it will be tantalizing, just as Harvey in '12 and Wheeler in '13. And it's nice that the Mets are sort of thinking that saving his innings for when he's called up will get the fans juiced up that much more. But in the larger scheme of things, it's not going to make much difference until these three guys are performing up to the expectations everyone has for them.

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