The challenges Mets may face in Noah Syndergaard-less world
Replacing Noah Syndergaard in the Mets’ rotation might not be as difficult as finding substitutes for his replacement.
With Syndergaard scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery Thursday that will keep him sidelined into 2021, the Mets are minus a high-octane pitcher for this season (provided it eventually starts) but hardly in a crisis, according to National League talent evaluators.
“I think it’s more psychological than anything else,” a NL scout said Wednesday. “[Syndergaard] is such a physical presence, he gives you that intimidation factor and you do always have a sense that, ‘We have got a chance to win today.’ But if you look at him statistically he’s really not that overpowering.”
Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha arrived in the offseason as free agents and gave the Mets six starters for five spots. Before spring training was suspended two weeks ago due to the coronavirus outbreak, the perception was Wacha and Steven Matz were battling for the final rotation spot. Now the Mets will count on both, in addition to a former American League Cy Young Award winner in Porcello. But their rotation depth has dissipated, leaving a huge question mark once the Mets need another starter.
“In some respect replacing Syndergaard with Rick Porcello or Michael Wacha may not be as damaging as one would think,” the scout said. “But I would still like to have Syndergaard in my rotation. I love the guy. I don’t think he’s come close to reaching his full potential and I think the numbers bear that out.
“Also, you have got to have depth. If you don’t have depth you are flipping a coin or keeping your fingers crossed thinking you are going to get through a season with 25 guys and this is the concern I have with the Mets is the backup to the backup plan seems to not be there.”
A talent evaluator from an NL East club was asked how Syndergaard’s torn ulnar collateral ligament will affect the Mets’ chances of contending within the division. The talent evaluator still put the Mets on equal footing with the Braves and Nationals, with the Phillies close behind.
“If you took [Jacob] deGrom out of there, you could almost say the Mets are not a factor,” the talent evaluator said. “He brings a lot to the party that transcends being arguably one of the two or three best pitchers in the game.”
The NL scout saw Syndergaard pitch twice in spring training and saw nothing to indicate the right-hander was headed toward Tommy John surgery.
“He looked totally normal,” the scout said. “He was 97-99 [mph] with a nasty breaking ball and didn’t look like he was laboring at all. I saw him twice in one week. Either he was taking a lot of Advil or not feeling anything or doing a good job of faking it.”
The evaluator from a NL East club called Syndergaard the “poster child” for Tommy John surgery.
“It was an inevitability, because you watched him pitch, first pitch it was 99 on the black and he never throttled down,” the talent evaluator said. “The percentage of high-leverage pitches were incredible with him, and it just takes a toll.”
The Mets’ pitching depth options include David Peterson, Franklin Kilome, Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt. The left-hander Peterson, a former first-round draft pick, has the highest upside of the group, but still hasn’t pitched above the Double-A level.
Rotation options, regardless of health, could become essential if MLB resumes in June or July and begins playing a significant number of doubleheaders. A revised schedule could also eliminate many off days.
“To get through a major league season everybody thinks, ‘You have got to have a couple of starters as a backup,’ ” the NL scout said. “It’s almost like you need two dozen pitchers to get through a season. You don’t need a dozen, you need two dozen, because you need backups to the backups.”
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