In 2012, Matt Harvey came up and announced his presence with authority. Last year Zack Wheeler came up, dominated the Braves and by the end of the year had established himself as ready for prime time. These two may have created some unrealistic expectations for future rookies that the Mets promote. Right now we are eagerly, and likely unrealistically, awaiting the major league debuts of Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard.
For years, my go-to example was Greg Maddux. Everyone knows Maddux, 300-game winner and one of the greatest pitchers of his – or any other – generation. In his major league debut he had a 5.52 ERA in 31 IP and his first full season in the majors he posted a 5.61 ERA in 155.2 IP. Whenever someone got excited about a rookie pitcher, my reply was always – how much better is he than Maddux?
Despite what Harvey and Wheeler have done the past two seasons, it’s still wise to keep the lesson of Maddux in mind. It’s very common for young pitchers to struggle in their initial exposure to the majors.
But as fans, it’s nearly impossible to do that. We see the numbers about how both Montero and Syndergaard toyed with hitters last year in the high minors. We read the glowing scouting reports, especially about Syndergaard, and even think about how they should open the season in the majors, much like Dwight Gooden 30 years ago. And then they get off to strong starts in Spring Training and it appears the sky’s the limit.
So, will we be cautious in our expectations of these rookies or do we expect the next version of Harvey? Here are our MLB predictions in 2014 for the Mets’ two hot prospects, starting with Montero, including if we think he’ll be in the Mets’ rotation in September:
So much for caution. No one expects him to have an ERA over 4.20 while Mike Koehler and Julian McCarthy think he’ll end up with an ERA in the twos, although Mike thinks it will be in a much-shorter span. We all expect Montero to retain his excellent command, although some of think he will have trouble with the gopher ball, especially Charlie Hangley.
Most fans think Syndergaard is the better prospect. Do we think he’ll have as successful of a debut as Montero? Here are our projections for the younger of the two hot prospects:
Here we see even less caution. No one predicts Sydergaard will end up with an ERA in the fours. Everyone besides me expects him to have a K/BB ratio of 3.0 or greater. Scott Ferguson and Joe Vasile both predict Syndergaard to finish with tripe digits innings pitched totals. All in all these are some heavy expectations.
Here’s what the group as a whole expects from Montero and Syndergaard this year:
Perhaps most interestingly is that we expect Montero to have a superior FIP yet we expect Syndergaard’s actual ERA to be 20 points better. Essentially, we expect both pitchers to hurl a similar number of innings, with Montero being slightly more “unlucky.” If there’s a dotted line for us to sign to get 146.1 IP of a roughly 3.60 ERA from these two, we should all sign it immediately.
I am as guilty as the next guy for having unrealistic expectations for Montero and Syndergaard. All of us should make a promise not to jump off the bandwagon if these two pitchers end up more like Maddux than Harvey in their MLB debuts.
But wouldn’t it be great if they were stars from the moment they first pitched in the majors?