Yankees among 15 teams watching former Mets ace’s bullpen session

MLB: Cleveland Guardians at Toronto Blue Jays
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With the Yankees continuing the search for starting pitching, Jon Heyman of the New York Post is reporting that they were among a group of 15 teams at Noah Syndergaard’s bullpen showcase. It was reported that he sat in the mid-90s in this bullpen, with the former All-Star losing most of his velocity from his glory days with the New York Mets. Last season was an absolute disaster for the 31-year-old, who posted a 6.50 ERA and 14.3% strikeout rate across 18 starts with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Guardians.

Projections view Syndergaard unfavorably, and understandably so, given the skill regression he’s experienced over the last few seasons, and the level of interest from the Yankees’ end is unknown.

Yankees Could Have Interest in Noah Syndergaard

Jul 25, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard (34) throws a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to discuss the upside of Noah Syndergaard since the stuff and potential he flashed in the early days of his career have entirely diminished, and it’s not as if he’s worked with bad organizations, either. The Los Angeles Dodgers are considered one of if not the smartest organization in baseball, and the Cleveland Guardians are excellent at pitching development as well, but that’s not all in terms of the programs he’s worked with over the past few seasons.

Syndergaard has spent time working with both Driveline and Tread Athletics in previous seasons, which are considered the best pitching labs in the industry. If he isn’t going to solve it there, where exactly is he expected to find ‘it’? Jon Heyman did report an interesting nugget that he was sitting in the mid-90s, and perhaps that catches the eyes of the Yankees since you could reasonably argue that velocity is the biggest reason for his decline over the past two seasons.

Finding success can be hard when you don’t have a quality fastball, and Noah Syndergaard not only sports below-average velocity on his fastball but also possesses some of the worst Stuff+ numbers in baseball. Last season, he didn’t throw a single pitch with a Stuff+ above 95 or a Whiff Rate above 22%, and that immediately raises red flags. Unless Matt Blake is a miracle worker, it’s unlikely that we’ll see the right-hander return to being a productive MLB starter.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees Workouts
Feb 18, 2023; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake (77) during spring training practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This isn’t to say that Noah Syndergaard’s reported uptick in velocity couldn’t make him worth a Minor League contract, but rather a disclaimer that his name value will create more buzz about him than it likely should. There’s plenty of information that you can get at a bullpen that people outside of MLB organizations won’t get to see, and if he’s sitting in the mid-90s, it might correct some of the issues that Syndergaard is having in terms of having a playable pitch mix.

Projections don’t love Syndergaard much either, as Steamer projects him for a 5.23 ERA, and ZiPS has him at a 4.95 ERA, which are worse marks than the ones for various starters in the Yankees’ farm system. It wouldn’t make much sense to use a 40-man roster spot on him, but given his awful 2023 season, it’s possible that teams universally value him as a pitcher who would need to rebound on a MiLB deal.

You can never have too much pitching, however, and if it’s cheap, it could be worth the flier for the Yankees, but there’s a lot of work to be done just for Syndergaard to get back to being average.