Back in December, as the Jays were about to “pry” R.A. Dickey away from the Mets, I wrote this, in an attempt to allay the fears of those fans who had swallowed so wholly on the Jays’ prospect-hoarding philosophy that had been officially placed in the dustbin a few weeks earlier when Alex Anthopoulos orchestrated his roster-reshaping deal with the Miami Marlins:
Cy Young-calibre talent becomes available to this franchise so incredibly rarely, and it can be such a difference-maker right now, given the career arcs of the Jays’ core players, that as much as it hurts to see them seemingly about to part with d’Arnaud– as much as we’d much prefer it if JP Arencibia could be “the cost of doing business” instead (again: he can’t, which is precisely why we’re here)– and as much as Dickey maybe isn’t quite a “Cy Young pitcher” in the Justin Verlander sense, this would be a tremendous, tremendous pick-up for the Jays, especially outside of the sometimes-too-cute vacuum of cost control, prospect fawning, and dollars-per-WAR.
Something about flags? Something about how they fly forever?
And, of course, the deal didn’t just include d’Arnaud– who I focused on in the piece– but Noah Syndergaard as well.
Though I suspect our feelings might be different about it if the fireballing Texan who started this year’s Futures Game at Citi Field had been included in the Marlins trade, with Justin Nicolino or Henderson Alvarez going instead to the Mets, the fact is, Syndergaard really feels like the one who got away. And in an utterly fucking futile pursuit of a forever-flying flag, no less.
All of that, I suspect, is what got so many– granted, mostly mouth-breathing– Jays fans’ underthings in some sort of a knot when last week Zach Mortimer of Baseball Prospectus made this bold statement on Twitter:
Ill take Noah Syndergaard’s career over Dylan Bundy’s.
— Zach Mortimer (@ZachMort) September 5, 2013
Bundy, is, of course the Orioles’ über prospect who was one of the biggest name September call-ups a year ago, though he has been slightly out of the public mind since mid-summer, when he underwent Tommy John surgery.
I am, of course, really in no position to answer this question– and not just because my crystal ball is in the shop [note: meuh!]– but what I can do is transcribe the discussion of the subject that took place between Mike Ferrin and Jason Parks on this week’s Fringe Average podcast at BP.
That is, if my tear-stained keyboard doesn’t short out halfway through…
Ferrin: If you missed the Twitter conversation, Mort had the audacity to say that he thought Noah Syndergaard was going to be a better Major Leaguer than Dylan Bundy. And that kind of set off a lot of Jays fans, in that. Do you think Noah Syndergaard is going to be a better Major Leaguer than Dylan Bundy?
Parks: Yeah, I mean, I think you can make the case that he is. I think, you know, it’s premature. You have to look at the level– I mean, Bundy, the injury is going to cloud a lot of things here, obviously, but I think that what Syndergaard is doing now is just as impressive as what Bundy did before the injury. Obviously, with Bundy being on the shelf, you’re going to forget about him– he’s not going to have the new car smell. And with the injury cloud, we just don’t know how he’s going to come back. But there were some questions about Bundy’s delivery, his size, his aggressive approach, the fact that he had to work up– he had to work aggressive. You look at Syndergaard and he’s bigger, he’s strong, the secondary stuff has really improved throughout the year, obviously the fastball is a true monster type of pitch. So I don’t think it’s outlandish to make that statement– and yeah, I think I could get on board with that. Yeah.
MF: I think one of the other things, and this isn’t meant to be a knock against Bundy at all, who obviously you’ve got to like if you’ve seen him– I mean, he’s electric. But one of the things– and I can’t remember if this was a conversation that you and I had, or a conversation I had with a scout, like, early in the season– was talking about him and projection. And there’s just not a whole lot of projection left with Bundy– either physically, because he’s built almost like a fire hydrant; he’s a little guy, but he’s like one giant muscle– or necessarily in the quality of his pitches. Now, his command can certainly improve, but he’s already got Major League quality pitches. Syndergaard is a complete opposite, in that he was really raw and he’s taken this huge step forward because the breaking ball has taken off this year. He still needs work on his changeup, but there’s physical projection, there’s still projection in some of the pitches, as to where they can get better, and maybe that’s where you could see a potential higher ceiling with Syndergaard than you would with Bundy. Because, I think, Bundy, when he gets back healthy, is going to be closer to a finished product.
JP: Yeah, I agree with that. I actually had a conversation with a scout about Syndergaard’s changeup– and I agree with this; this is something Jason Cole and I were even talking about during the futures game. We were like, ‘man, he has a lovely arm action.’ It’s just the way he throws the ball down, the way his fastball moves. We were talking about, how like, ‘man, I think that that his changeup is eventually going to become pretty damn good.’ It’s got a long way to go, but you have to like certain characteristics of the way he delivers a baseball, and how that could play into the changeup, especially off of the fastball that’s so powerful. I was talking to a scout about that, and he was like, ‘I never really do this, I never– or very rarely do I take a player and allow them a two grade jump for a future.’ He was just like, ‘you don’t see it all that often, you don’t see players at the Double-A level improve two full grades, so I’m careful to do that, but,’ he was like, ‘I put a 5 on Syndergaard’s changeup, and I think it’s going to be a 7.’
MF: [Laughs] Shit!
JP: And he says, ‘I think it’s going to be a 7, but it may take four or five years. Eventually this guy is going to have a monster, Verlander-esque type of arsenal.’ And Verlander’s an example of a guy who didn’t use that changeup a whole lot in college– we’ve talked about this before– his changeup really became a monster at the highest level. And I think that a guy like Taijuan Walker is going to have a good changeup at the highest level. These guys who have really long arms, really good fastballs, are able to keep their fingers on the ball a long time– shows some feel. It’s such a feel pitch that just because you don’t have it when you’re 19 or 20 doesn’t mean you can’t get it.
JP: And I think that when you look at Syndergaard’s delivery, when you look at how big and strong his hands are, how much natural movement he’s able to put on the ball, be it cut or sink, I think that he’s going to have a changeup some day that’s going to be able to stand up there with the rest of his arsenal, and that’s dangerous, because he could be an 8/7/7 guy.
I mean… it’s… I just…
. . .
So that was fun, huh? Well, at least we can end on a high-ish now, as I can inform you that it’s not all unrelentingly depressing news on the prospect front for the Jays. Over at Batting Leadoff (crotch grab in the direction of @birenball for the link) there’s a pretty damn glowing scouting report on Marcus Stroman.
So buck up and check out some of these kind words, then head to the site for the full report (which has many more words than what I’ll quote below):
Stroman attacks hitters with a 3-pitch mix and will occasionally show a 4th, with solid average potential in the curve. His delivery is fluid and he repeats it well. … Has stuff and confidence to pitch inside to both LHBs and RHBs. Small stature may be durability concern as starter, but has compact build and stuff to start. Should be given every opportunity to start. Has ceiling of 2-starter due to potential four above average pitches, plus command, pitchability, and makeup. If body cannot hold up to starting role, has tools to close. Ready to pitch in the Majors now as a starter.
OK, so maybe he’s not graded as a future 8/7/7 guy, but that’s still pretty OK, right? Right???