I'm really, really excited about Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndegaard. But, when I think of them together, I get flashbacks of "Generation K," Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson and Bill Pulsipher.
I know, I know, one has nothing to do with the other. In fact, I'm constantly reassured by people outside the organization that Sandy Alderson and his staff are handling their pitching prospects the right way. I'm told Alderson is methodical in how his crew tracks innings, amp up workouts, manage stress and promotions, and assign tasks.
"Those kids weren't close to ready, mentally or physically, for what they were being asked to do for that team," a former Mets executive, now with another team, once told me about Generation K, indicating they were rushed to compete with what was happening in the Bronx during the late 90s. "That's not going to be an issue for Sandy," he concluded.
Syndergaard is looking like a special pitcher, as Terry Collins put it. He's right. I talked to a handful of smart, experienced, baseball people while I was in St. Lucie and they all essentially said the same thing: Noah is solid, strong and focused like Harvey. He's level-headed, poised and he repeats his delivery like a veteran.
"He hammers like [Dwight] Gooden," one talent evaluator said, which I assume was referring to Syndergaard's 80 mph curve ball and how he uses it alongside his 97 mph fastball.
Every expert concluded by telling me to always be cautious of pitching prospects, pointing to Harvey's recent elbow surgery as an example. Harvey will be fine, I assume, but no one will know for sure until 2015, when he may suffer a bit of a dip in his velocity before gaining full strength in 2016.
In other words, “There is no such thing as a pitching prospect,” as baseball people like to say, often using the shorter TINSTAAPP.
This is not always the case, of course. Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and David Price, among countless others, were all highly touted minor leaguers. However, so were Luke Hochevar, Clint Everts, Todd Van Poppel and Ben McDonald, not to mention Scott Kazmir, Isringhausen, Pulsipher and Wilson. And that’s the point, you never really know how a pitcher will translate to the big leagues, and anything can happen — from burn out to injury — along the way.