The Angels were the most obvious -- or at least among the most obvious -- team to make an addition to their rotation, and were mentioned to be in the mix for arms like Max Scherzer, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman and the other big-name hurlers on the market.
While Los Angeles wasn’t able to come up with one of those arms before the owner’s lockout, they did come to agreement on an arm who has pitched at the level of those pitchers in Noah Syndergaard. Syndergaard signed a one-year, $21 million deal with the Angels back in November. It comes after the right-hander had declined the $18.4 million qualifying offer from the Mets after he had spent his first six seasons with New York.
Simply put, when Syndergaard has been healthy, there have been spurts of dominance; enough so that he was accurately called one of the best pitchers in baseball from 2015-2018. In that timeframe, the 2010 supplemental-round draft pick registered a 2.93 ERA with a 9.9 K/9 ratio and just a 2.0 BB/9 ratio over 86 starts and 518 1/3 innings accumulated. With a fastball that touched the high 90s and a slider that at the time was at a velocity that was faster than most hurlers threw, Syndergaard had ace-level stuff with the ability to locate it for strikes.
Since 2018, however, things haven’t gone nearly as well for Syndergaard. After posting a disappointing 4.28 ERA in 2019 -- a number that the metrics say he was better than, but still easily his worst full professional season -- the man they call “Thor” missed all of the 2020 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and only threw two frames with the Mets in as short of a farewell campaign as you can have.
So what can fantasy managers expect from Syndergaard in 2022? The simple answer is we don’t know, and that makes him one of the riskiest potential draft picks or salary cap additions for the season. That being said, there are things to like here. The Angels still need to add a starting pitcher or two to be true contenders in the AL West, but he’s going to have chances for wins if he’s healthy with support from superstars like reigning Most Valuable Player Shohei Ohtani, perennial MVP candidate Mike Trout and a (hopefully) healthy return for Anthony Rendon.
And again, when Syndergaard has been at his best, this is a hurler who can miss bats, limit hard contact and throw strikes at an elite level. The question mark is can Syndergaard get in a full workload after essentially missing two seasons, and if we’ll see the same level of stuff from the 29-year-old when he’s on the bump.
It’d be a mistake for fantasy players to expect Syndergaard to be the same pitcher he was in the previous decade, as the long layoff and a likelihood that he’s going to be treated with kid gloves to make sure he’s healthy down the stretch. Keeping that in mind, if he’s the pitcher we saw prior to the injury -- or even close to it -- he’s a pitcher that is going to provide plenty of fantasy relevance in his first (and possibly last) season with the Angels. Just remember that it’s better to be too early than too late with these types of players.
Quick Hits: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association are scheduled to meet on Monday in Manhattan … Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A … According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays' plan to split their seasons between Tampa Bay and Montreal "has been killed by Major League Baseball officials." … Nationals signed OF Rusney Castillo to a minor league contract. Castillo spent last year with the Rakuten Golden Eagles of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball.