This article is part of a regular series in which we profile a specific prospect, detailing his background, strengths, weaknesses, and future.
The Toronto Blue Jays have spent a number of high draft picks in recent years on pitchers. They have taken a pitcher with their first round pick in each of the past three seasons before this year and used one of their two first round selections this year on college right-hander Marcus Stroman. Of their 11 supplemental first round picks since 2009, eight have been used on pitchers.
With all of those high picks spent on pitchers, you would think the Blue Jays would have a stable of young arms on the way. But two of those selections did not sign with (Tyler Beede in 2011 and James Paxton in 2009), and first-rounders Chad Jenkins and Deck McGuire have developed into reliable strike-throwers, but not the kind of upper-eschelon talent to build a team around.
And while the jury is still out on many of the other pitchers drafted early in the Blue Jays past drafts, we're beginning to see the makings of something special from right-hander Noah Syndergaard.
Selected 38th overall in 2010 out of Legacy High School in Mansfield, TX, the 6'5" Syndergaard has given the Blue Jays something they can begin to plan around.
Poised with a big frame and a mid-90's fastball, the Blue Jays snapped Syndergaard up for $600,000 and got him into five games (13 1/3 innings) in the Gulf Coast League in his draft year, during which he held his own. Under the new regime of General Manager Alex Anthopoulos, the Blue Jays have taken a slow approach to developing pitchers. In his first season, rather than push a high school pitcher into a full-season league, the Jays sent Syndergaard to the short-season Appalachian League to begin his career after spending the spring in extended spring training.
Beginning play in late June, Syndergaard needed only 32 innings over the course of five weeks to show that he was too advanced for rookie ball, posting a 1.41 ERA and a 2.33 FIP while striking out 37 batters in 32 innings. His play in Bluefield got him a 15-day promotion to short-season Vancouver, where he made four starts, throwing 18 innings in four starts and allowing just four runs. His 2011 season ended with two August starts at full-season Lansing, allowing just three earned runs over nine innings.
All told, Syndergaard made 13 appearances in 2011, but thanks to the Blue Jays innings restrictions on young pitchers, he threw just 59 innings. When they let him pitch, however, Syndergaard dominated, posting a combined 1.03 ERA and 10.4 K/9, setting him up nicely for a return to Lansing in 2012.
There was no holding Syndergaard back in extended spring training this season, as he began the season in the Midwest League and hasn't looked back. The Blue Jays like to piggyback their starters (use two starters in the same game in shortened appearances) so Syndergaard has actually made seven relief appearances on the season, but he has been used as a starter all year.
His first taste of full-season ball has gone about as well as the Blue Jays could have hoped for. In 87 1/3 innings, Syndergaard has posted a 2.89 ERA and a 2.25 FIP while striking out 10.6 batters per nine innings. His control has been the most impressive aspect of his game, walking just 2.6 batters per nine.
The Blue Jays still have yet to take the reigns fully off of Syndergaard, as he's averaging less than four innings per outing, but those restrictions should end next season. Snydergaard has been able to dominate the low minors thanks to his electric fastball and command, but a promotion to the Florida State League next year will test his off-speed arsenal further.
Syndergaard has flashed a plus-curveball at times, but its consistency is what will determine the success of his development. His change-up is still very much a work in progress as well, but he should be able to pitch well in High-A ball without it if he can improve his curveball command. He will ultimately need it, however, as he progresses through the minors.
Syndergaard has done a great job thus far at establishing himself as a legitimate prospect within the Blue Jays farm system. His next step to take it further is to refine the off-speed offerings if he wants to have a chance in the upper levels of the minors or the major leagues.