Prospect Prizefight: Noah Syndergaard vs Carlos Rodon
In an effort to pay homage to one of the most
exciting hyped sporting events in recent history, “Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao”, I have pitted two top prospects against one another in prizefight style. In one corner is seasoned minor league veteran Noah Syndergaard and in the other corner we have three year college super athlete Carlos Rodon. I am here to tell you how they stack up vs one another in a dynasty league.
Tale of the Tape:
Both guys here have many physical gifts from the gods giving them traits that any pitcher would be envious of. Syndergaard comes in at an impressive 6’6”, 240lb with height that allows him to generate an impressive downward plane on his already elite fastball. This right handed flame thrower leaves little to be desired in the physicality department truly earning the nick name a “Thor”.
Rodon on the other hand comes in with one big advantage right off the bat—he is left handed. We all know how desirable lefties are never mind lefties who have had the success and possess the raw stuff that Rodon has. While he isn’t as big as Syndergaard, Rodon’s 6’ 3”, 235lb frame leaves little doubt that he will be able to remain on the field with plus durability and ample size to minimize effort and create a downward plane on his pitches.
Advantage: Its close but the left-handed arm of Rodon gets the nod by a nose
Syndergaard attacks you with three main offerings the fastball, curveball, and changeup. He throw both a four-seam fastball and a sinker relying far more on the speed of his four-seamer which can hit triple digits. On any given night he sits in the high 90’s with his heater while mixing in an 82 MPH curveball with ample drop on it. His changeup remains a work in progress, it comes in at 87 mph right in that range of where you want it relative to the fastball however, command remains very loose on the pitch. Syndergaard is very fastball heavy throwing the pitch around 70% (55% FS/ 14% sinker) of the time but he remains very comfortable throwing the plus curveball in any situation especially when he needs a whiff. The curveball is his only pitch generating whiffs more that 10% of the time at 14%.
Rodon’s fastball attack is a bit more balanced than Syndergaard’s throwing a four-seam fastball 36% of the time and a sinker 32% of the time. The pitch comes in typically between 93-96 MPH however he can rear back and hit the high 90’s when he needs too. The real weapon that he possesses is his slider which is more a gift from the gods than anything that “Thor” has in his arsenal. This pitch is already generating whiffs 19% of the time and is a true out pitch that he throws 30% of the time. Right handed batters rarely ever even have a chance vs the offering. His last pitch is a changeup that is a true work in progress right now throwing it only 2% of the time vs 9% for Syndergaard.
Advantage: Syndergaard by a hair, Rodon’s slider is the best weapon but Syndergaard’s changeup is further along and he has the better fastball.
Both of these players took radically different roads to make it to the major leagues at right about the same time. For Syndergaard he was take 38th overall by the Blue Jays in the 2010 player draft directly out of high school in Texas. Since then he has pitched in 456.1 IP in the minors from rookie ball all the way up to AAA. His command profile has tightened up over the years as he has had to face better competition and his K-BB rate at AAA went from 17.5% in 2014 to an impressive 23% this year before he got the call. More importantly for Syndergaard he has been able to keep his walk rate below 10% for most of his career.
Rodon wasn’t selected in the first year player draft until last June when he was taken 3rd overall by the Chicago White Sox. Unlike Syndergaard, Rodon opted to go to college attending NC State where he helped them win a super regional and make it to the College World Series tournament in 2013 for the first time since 1968. They ended up losing to eventual champions UCLA. He was the unquestioned ace of the staff posing ERA’s of 1.57, 2.99, and 2.01 over his three seasons in college. Rodon needed just 34.2 IP before Chicago had seen enough to bring him up to the big leagues. His K-BB rate at AAA ranged from 18.9% in 2014 to 20.9% when he got the call up this year however unlike Syndergaard his walk rate was frequently above 10%.
Advantage: Syndergaard, the competition in the minor leagues is better than what it is in college and I would like to think that the quality of the coaching is better too. I think Syndergaard has been more battle tested than Rodon.
I have watched nearly all of these players innings since they have come up to the show and I have come away impressed both times. Since I follow the minor leagues closely it may affect my judgement since I am more familiar with Syndergaard and have seen him in person but I do get the sense that Syndergaard can get overwhelmed by the moment at times. When the pressure is highest I have seen Syndergaard crumble just as often as I have seen him succeed and his body language tends to change when things don’t go his way. This was evidenced during his first pro start vs the Cubs right after Bryant hit a triple off of him and he walked the next batter. He is also very quick to abandon the changeup if he doesn’t have a “feel” for the pitch that day.
For Rodon when I have watched him he has looked the part of the “Bulldog” on the mound where he is frequently challenging batters and daring them to hit his best stuff. The problem is that he is no longer facing college competition and this strategy to come back to bite him from time to time. The biggest thing he needs to work on is his fastball command which sometimes suffers so much that he struggles to find the zone. I do get the sense at the end of the day that Rodon has more moxie and confidence on the mound than Syndergaard though and had some time to mature in college.
Overall the victory here goes to Carlos Rodon by a nose. Rodon certainly has work to do to become a true ace but I think with the help of Don Cooper in Chicago he will get his command dialed in and make the most of his ability. If I had to bet on one of these guys becoming a true front line starter I would give the edge to Rodon due to the best single pitch and his mentality. Both pitchers have that potential and you should be happy to own them in any dynasty league.