Fantasy Baseball: Stop teasing us, Noah Syndergaard

Noah Syndergaard #34 of the New York Mets

In the middle of the 2010s, many imagined Cy Young Awards flowing to the Mets. People just thought Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard would be the ones winning them.

It’s a good thing Jacob deGrom turned into what he did.

Harvey, of course, is yesterday’s news, long gone, hoping to latch on somewhere. His baseball relevance is likely over. But we still have to solve Syndergaard, who’s turned into one of MLB’s biggest conundrums.

In Syndergaard’s last three seasons of note — we can ignore his seven-start 2017 campaign — his real-life ERA has been much worse than his peripherally-suggested one. Last year he gave us an ugly 4.28 ERA, while the estimators spit out something in the mid-to-high 3s.

Syndergaard did make a career-high 32 starts in 2019, though he’s yet to reach 200 innings. His strikeout rate has been around one per inning for the last two seasons, a curiously low number for someone blessed with his raw stuff. His fastball is still around 98 mph, one of the snappiest in baseball.

Does Syndergaard mess around with too many pitches? He throws two fastballs, a slider, a change, and a curve. In different years, he’s had peak command of different pitches.

Or maybe it’s the hidden stuff that’s holding Syndergaard back. The Mets defense was a nightmare last year, ranking 26th in defensive WAR. That starts to explain the .325 BABIP Thor has yielded the last four years. Opposing baserunners typically have a field day on Syndergaard — they stole 42 bags in 45 attempts last year.

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For the first time in a while, Syndergaard is priced at a tantalizing number. His early NFBC ADP is a modest 73, making him the 24th pitcher off the board. You don’t have to pay for his full potential this spring, and he can turn a profit with a good, not great, season.

I don’t have a clean answer as to why Syndergaard has been a tease for so long. And to be fair, his career ERA was 2.93 before last year’s collapse. Maybe it’s a matter of becoming more effective from the stretch. Maybe he needs to accept he doesn’t have an airtight defense behind him. His ERA was 5.02 at Citi Field last year, a stone fluke. For his career, he doesn’t have any discernible home/road bias.

The modest strikeout rate (given his arsenal) still concerns me, but I’ll admit the discount in ADP piques my interest. I went into this project thinking I’d be advocating a hard pass on Thor, but so often this game is about the prices as much as the players.

In the sixth or seventh round, you have to think about pulling the trigger. Maybe we can pull a tidy profit in Syndergaard’s age-27 season. You might be able to land him as a SP2 or SP3, where he can merely support your pitching staff — not be expected to carry it.

I can’t fully explain Noah’s arc. But I’m just looking for plausible upside in reasonable areas. This could be a time to capitalize. Share your Syndergaard stance in the comments.

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