Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard said he is excited to see Japanese two-way free agent Shohei Ohtani come to the MLB and set a precedent for an elite starting pitcher to also be a position player.
If given the chance to be a position player, Syndergaard said he would prefer to play right field.
"I would love to show off the arm," Syndergaard told WOR 710 AM's Pete MacCarthy during Thursday's team holiday party. "I'd like to think I'm more athletic than some or most right fielders. And I feel like if I put as much work in to hitting as I do pitching that I would be alright."
In 130 career plate appearances over three seasons, Syndergaard is batting .200 with a .273 on-base percentage, four home runs, four doubles and a 1.4 WAR as a hitter.
"I get bored as hell in the dugout," Syndergaard said. "I just want to go out there and do something active sometimes. I think Jacob deGrom would second that opinion, as well."
According to Syndergaard, deGrom repeatedly jokes with the team's coaching staff about putting him at shortstop, which is the position he had been playing when the Mets drafted him in 2014. DeGrom hit .211 with one home run, six runs scored and a stolen base during his 32 starts in 2017.
Obviously, Syndergaard realizes this is never going to happen. In the case of a pitcher like Syndergaard, who is 25 years old and hasn't hit consistently in more nearly a decade, it would be ludicrous to force this level switch and ask the ace to spend less time on his pitching.
That said, Syndergaard is right, if any pitcher could do it, it would probably be him. He has a legit baseball swing. He knows it. The coaches know it. His teammates know it. Just based on his stature and his swing in batting practice, it wouldn't be crazy to think he would be one of the better hitters on the team.
May 26, 2017; DeGrom (48) singles at PNC Park. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Syndergaard truly believes he has the size and talent to improve upon what he's done in past seasons. In talking with him in 2016, he discussed his stance, pitch selection, pitches per at-bat and swing-and-miss rate, and explained how he needed to improve his load -- when a batter gathers momentum and pivots to create a more explosive swing.
(Granted, I never expected any of this to manifest in significantly better production, but it's impressive he's taking this approach and thinking deeply about what he does each at-bat.)
Spring, 2016: Matz watches Syndergaard work with Kevin Long. Credit: Matthew Cerrone, SNY.TV
Steven Matz is no slouch either, by the way. He is just as attentive, aggressive and curious during batting practice as Syndergaard and deGrom. As a group, this trio of starting pitchers has the ability to be one of the better groups of hitting-pitchers in baseball, so long as they remain healthy and get their work in every five or days.
If nothing else, they have all said hitting provides a nice distraction from the responsibilities and expectations they put on themselves when on the mound.