According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have interest in Los Angeles Angels right-hander Noah Syndergaard, especially if they’re not able to acquire one of the starters at the top of the market. The former longtime Met is pitching his first full season since 2019, and should be available with his team struggling mightily. While he’s having a pretty nice season so far, there are definitely red flags that his quality performance might not hold up through the end of the summer.
The artist known as Thor is quite a different pitcher than you may remember him as in his New York heyday. The overpowering fastball/slider combination and high velocity made him a big strikeout pitcher, but his K/9 rate this season is 7.20, by far the lowest of his career. While Baseball Savant has him still above league average in fastball velocity, he’s in the bottom third in strikeouts, whiffs, and fastball and curveball spin.
Nevertheless, Syndergaard has managed a 3.83 ERA this season, albeit with a higher expected ERA of 4.23. Still, that’s a serviceable bottom of the rotation pitcher. Perhaps as a result of his decreased velocity, Thor is throwing his four-seam fastball at close to the lowest rate of his career. Now, his sinker and changeup at his most used pitches. That sinker, in particular, has been a very effective pitch for him so far this year, especially against same-side batters.
As of now, Thor uses the sinker 26.2 percent of time. Opposing hitters are only hitting .179 against it and slugging .211. No batters have hit a home run off of it yet.
There are a few signs that Syndergaard has been lucky to get the results he has — his BABIP is an extremely low .276, for one. He also hasn’t been giving the Angels very many innings recently. He only threw 14.2 innings in the entire month of July. Any starting pitcher the Yankees acquire will have to take some pressure off the bullpen, not force them to work even harder. He’s also above league average (read: worse) in exit velocity and hard hit balls against him.
There’s also the specter of his long time off since throwing a full season, similar to Luis Severino’s. His time missed was due to Tommy John surgery, and he threw exactly two innings between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Losing effectiveness as the season wears on is definitely a possibility and a concern, and it could drive up his numbers, as the underlying stats say is already likely to happen.
Thor might be useful as a depth option the rotation — he’d probably do a little better than Domingo Germán at least, and maybe give Jameson Taillon a little time to get right — but he’s no longer the kind of pitcher that can push a club over the top. Last season, the inability of the team to trade for a true impact starting pitcher at the deadline loomed large and made every bad Andrew Heaney outing taste a little worse.
I don’t think Thor would be nearly as bad as Heaney was, but in terms of depth starting pitchers, JP Sears can probably put up a similar performance at this point, if not better. With the rotation going through some struggles lately, Syndergaard is probably not the difference maker the Yankees should set their sights on.