The Lansing Lugnuts 2012 season might have ended in early September, but for many players, that did not mean their year was over. While each off-season gives players the opportunity to spend some time catching up with friends and family, many players have admitted that while there are no games being played, it does not mean it is time for rest and relaxation. As RHP Noah Syndergaard has admitted, there is still plenty of work to be done during the off-season to prepare for the season ahead.
“My off-season will consist of taking a week off and then hitting the weight room immediately,” Syndergaard told JaysProspects. “I do a lot of working out and yoga to maintain flexibility and gain overall strength. I’m prepared to work hard this off-season to get better for 2013.”
Improvement was something Syndergaard saw a lot during this past season. After Spring Training 2012, Syndergaard joined a group of great young pitchers with the Lansing Lugnuts, the low-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. Two years after being drafted by the Blue Jays in the 1st round (38th overall) out of Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas, Syndergaard continued to find success.
In the first half of the season, Syndergaard held a 3.92 ERA, going 3-2 with one save in 14 games (seven starts). Piggybacking many of his starts, the young Texan recorded 57 strikeouts and walked 15. His performance would enable him to be named a Midwest League All Star in June. “The piggyback system thought me a great deal about adversity,” Syndergaard stated. “To be honest, I didn’t have the greatest results in the piggyback system coming out of the bullpen. Having a great year in 2011 I didn’t have a lot of adversity or failure, but coming out of the bullpen was a real struggle for me, but it made me a better pitcher.”
The piggyback system would end after the All Star break, enabling Syndergaard to become even more focused and find even more success. In the second half of the season, he started 12 of his 13 games and went 5-3 with a 1.65 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 16 walks. He would finish 2012 with a 8-5 record and a 2.60 ERA, recording 122 strikeouts and 31 walks in over 103 innings of work. His 122 strikeouts led all Lugnuts pitchers and was third in the Midwest League.
The star prospect credits a lot of his success to his pitch repertoire, “I use a fastball, change-up, curveball, and I’m working on a slider,” he said. “My fastball is going really well, I am able to command it on both sides of the plate. I feel my change-up is my second best pitch. I throw that whenever I need to get back into a pitchers count. My curveball is coming out nicely. The addition of my slider is maintaining the velocity on my curveball. My curveball was lacking velocity and arm strength before adding the slider.”
He added, “I think I have topped my fastball out at 99 mph, but it usually sits around 94-95 mph.”
Lansing Lugnuts Pitching Coach Vince Horsman added, “Noah is an ugly son of a buck. The maturation of Noah Syndergaard from a thrower to a pitcher has far exceeded my expectations for this year. He’s starting to fully understand how to be successful and not one dimensional. This was definitely witnessed in his last start. In fact, it was probably the most dominating start by any of our pitchers [all] year.
“At the beginning of the season, Noah was a fastball, change-up guy. We implemented the curveball into his game and that was okay, but then around the halfway point we added a slider and the slider helped his curveball. So developing one pitch turned into two pitches so now he has a very good curveball and a very good slider to compliment his change-up.
“Thus, he has now gone from a two-pitch pitcher to a four-pitch pitcher. This was unexpected. I can’t wait to see what else the future has in store for him.”
Horsman is not the only excited for Syndergaard’s future.