Ah, Spring Training! The time when managers, scouts and fans get to see prospects and veterans compete in an exhibition season. As Mets fans, we know the future is bright when looking at prospects the team will call up in the next couple of years. Michael Conforto had a great game against the Atlanta Braves, going 3 for 4 and driving in three runs. Jacob deGrom also put together a nice start in the game, going three innings and allowing one run. Even with these performances, there has been a lot of focus placed on Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard. Although there is not currently a spot open in the starting rotation, it is exciting to see what the Mets have in their system.
The current rotation seems to consist of Bartolo Colon, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler. With a surplus of starting pitchers, Dillon Gee will most likely serve as a long reliever, and Rafael Montero may join the bullpen or be sent to Triple-A Las Vegas. If there is a point in the season where the pitching staff gets spread thin, there may be debate within the organization (and amongst fans) of who to call up first. Who do the Mets call up first in the 2015 season if the options are between Matz and Syndergaard?
After performing nicely for Single-A St. Lucie last season, Matz got called up to Double-A Binghamton, where he made 12 starts, posting a 2.28 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 71 innings. He capped a solid season with an unbelievable start, pitching 7.1 innings, striking out 11 and allowing a run in the Double-A Championship game. With this performance under his belt, it made Dan Warthen’s comparison of Matz to Clayton Kershaw somewhat realistic. Frank Viola told John Harper (of the Daily News) that Matz reminds him of Madison Bumgarner. When pitching coaches are comparing a pitcher to Bumgarner and Kershaw, it has to mean something special.
Rated as one of the top prospects in baseball, Syndergaard projects to be a 1A or 1B type of pitcher. With an intimidating presence on the mound, a mid to high 90’s fastball, and a decent curveball, the projections do not seem too farfetched. This may not have been transparent last season, as he pitched to a 4.60 ERA and had a WHIP of 1.481 over 133 innings, but his stuff was apparent, as he struck out 145 batters. Recently, Noah has made headlines because he was eating lunch during an intrasquad game, and was not sitting on the bench during the game. This should not be a problem going forward, and it should allow everyone to focus on his pitching. During Spring Training, he has pitched two innings and allowed two runs, while striking out two. There is undoubtedly pressure placed on Syndergaard to become the next ace for the Mets, and Terry Collins’ strategy this Spring Training (as John Harper reported for the Daily News) of pairing Syndergaard with Matt Harvey should help the top prospect improve on his poise throughout the spring and the season.
It seems that both of these pitchers could warrant big league call-ups sometime this season, but as of now, it seems that Matz is on the fast track to Queens. With Syndergaard starting in Triple-A Las Vegas, the head start will most likely put him first in line to get promoted over Matz. The past three seasons have been fortunate to the Mets’ starting rotation, as we saw Matt Harvey in 2012, then Zack Wheeler in 2013, and Jacob deGrom last season, and this season should be no different.