Noah Syndergaard has steamrolled through the minor leagues. His worst ERA at any level of the minors is a still-impressive 3.11 in 12 starts with St. Lucie. He doesn’t walk many batters and he strikes out more than one per inning. The excitement surrounding the enormous 6’6, 240 pound right-hander has grown since being traded to the Mets in December, and now he’s getting national recognition as one of baseball’s most promising young pitching prospects. What’s all the excitement about? Let’s take a statistical look at Syndergaard and how he compares to some other top prospects to find out.
The three pitchers we’ll use for comparison are Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker. All three are strikeout pitchers who were top-rated right-handed prospects with plus fastballs. Wheeler and Harvey have both reached the majors already, while Walker is pitching for the Mariners’ Tripe-A affiliate, and is the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball. For Harvey and Wheeler we will use their Double-A stats, because it’s only fair to compare pitchers like this at the same point in their development. For Walker and Syndergard, we will use their totals from this year, with Syndergaard pitching between Advanced-A and Double-A and Walker pitching between Double-A and Triple-A.
First, let’s look at general results. Syndergaard has pitched better than Harvey, Wheeler, and Walker, both through traditional and sabermetric statistics.
Just looking at something as simple as the percentage of batters who strike out against him, Syndergaard is up there with the best as well. His minor league strikeout numbers are on par (and better at points) with Walker, and significantly better than Harvey and Wheeler were.
The last category we’ll look at is swinging strikeouts, or KS%. This is the percentage of batters that strike out swinging. Pitchers with the best “stuff” are able to put away batters deep in counts even when they are protecting the plate, swinging defensively.
Syndergaard’s exact mark this season is 20.3% through 99.2 innings. To put that in perspective, that would be third in the majors (among qualified pitchers), behind only Yu Darvish, Harvey, and Max Sherzer. Since Syndergaard joined Binghamton, his KS% has been an astounding 26.2%, albeit in only 36 innings.
On the national stage, despite being a consensus top 20 prospect, Syndergaard may actually be underrated. He has had as much or more success than any pitching prospect out there, not to mention the fact that he’s still only 20 years old. If he can develop his secondary pitches just a little bit more, he will join Harvey and Wheeler at the top of the Mets rotation and stay there for a long time.