Our series about each Sterling Award winner continues today with AA, after Rafael Montero and AAA yesterday, and the overall system winners last week. At AA, the Mets have the award to two right-handers on pace to make their MLB debuts in 2014, RHP Noah Syndergaard and RHP Jeff Walters.
In Syndergaard, the Mets rewarded their pitching prospect with the highest-ceiling, who had a big time season.
His 2013 Numbers
Syndergaard actually lowered his walk rate from the Midwest League in the Florida State League and then improved on that even further when he was promoted to AA. That does not happen very often. Oh, and he struck out over 30% of his opponents in AA.
How was he doing it? By throwing hard. He was in the mid-upper 90s regularly. His curve continued to progress. If it’s not plus right now, it has a chance to get there soon. His changeup is a distant third pitch. While I was told at one point that his slider had promise, he succeeded on his fastball and curveball.
He will head to AAA to begin 2014. He will be challenged to throw his changeup more in games and make it a more useful pitch. He should be in the big leagues by the middle of July at the latest.
In Walters, the Mets rewarded a guy who had a breakout season who will likely get his first shot in the big leagues in 2014.
His 2013 numbers
Walters is a fastball/slider guy who was mostly 92-93 in Savannah a few years ago. This year, he was 92-94, touching 95 and 96. That matters. He’s up to a comfortably plus fastball.
HIs slider at 82-86 can be a big league pitch.
Walters was drafted five times, out of high school, St. Petersburg College (2x) and Georgia (2x). He was ok as a starter in Brooklyn in 2011, outstanding as a reliever in Savannah in 2012 and then ordinary in St. Lucie in the second half.
He’ll start 2014 in AAA, but depending on performance (his own and others) I expect him to get a big league look by mid-summer.
Other (Good) Choices:
In fact, the Mets gave four different guys who played for the Binghamton Mets in 2013 a piece of the Sterling Awards as 1B Allan Dykstra won the full organization award and AAA Rafael Montero began the year in AA.
The only argument against Syndergaard is that he “only” made 11 starts for Binghamton. However, the full-season AA starters Cory Mazzoni (12 starts, 4.36 ERA and an injury), Erik Goeddel (25 starts; 4.37 ERA), Mark Cohoon (21 starts; 3.99 ERA) and Logan Verrett (24 starts; 4.25) did not pitch well enough for an MVP Award. Darin Gorski was lights out in his time in AA (13 starts, 1.83 ERA, 78.2 IP, 46 H, 68 K/29 BB) but that came after a failure in AA and as a repeat performer in AA, he’s a much less sexy/fun pick than Thor.
On the position side, Cesar Puello (.326/.403/.547 – 91 games) out-performed Dykstra on a rate basis (.950 OPS to .938) while adding value defensively and on the base paths. However, he was suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis probe. Politically, he would have been a controversial choice for the award, even though I believe he was playing clean in 2013. Anyway, his reward will be a trip to Las Vegas in 2014, with a likely MLB debut later in the summer.