Syndergaard, selected with the 38th pick in the 2010 draft out of Mansfield, Texas, earned the promotion ahead of fellow first-rounder Aaron Sanchez who was taken four spots prior.
"Noah went to Bluefield, did what he had to do and dominated the league," said Czajkowski. "And that's what you want when you bring up another guy, you want him to dominate that league and show everybody he does not belong there."
Dominate he did.
In seven games totaling 32 innings, the six-foot-five, 200-pound right-hander struck out 37 while holding opponents to a .198 average and posting a sparkling 1.41 ERA.
Syndergaard, who doesn't turn 19 until the end of August, picked up right where he left off in his Canadians debut. He used his high-90s fastball and well-placed changeup to toss five scoreless frames with six strikeouts and one walk against Spokane.
"He threw kind of what we expected," Czajkowski said of his pitcher's debut. "Sometimes when you go from an atmosphere of 50 fans to a couple thousand, emotions are a little bit different. But he held himself together."
His second start was equally impressive, albeit shorter due to a limited pitch count. He struck out six and walked one, this time giving up a pair of runs.
Czajkowski draws a comparison between the physically-imposing Syndergaard and the ultra-slender Nicolino. Both pitched briefly in the Gulf Coast League last season after signing with Toronto. But it was the lanky lefty – taken 42 spots after Syndergaard – who started the year a level ahead in Vancouver, and has baffled hitters all season.
Now it is the hard throwing right-hander with pure stuff who has thrust himself onto center stage. He's done it using not only his raw ability, but also his mental toughness. It's the same mental toughness that both Czajkowski and Canadians' manager John Schneider have been praising Nicolino for all season long.
"Mental strength is big," said Czajkowski, who closed out 122 games over a 12-year minor league career. "Noah came in and kept doing what he was doing. Blocked everything else out and went about his business very well.
"If you remember the movie 'For the Love of the Game," he said, referring to the 1999 film in which Kevin Costner played the aging ace of a floundering Detroit Tiger team, "when he says 'clear the mechanism,' that's what these guys have to do to be successful. They've got to clear all those distractions no matter if there are 50 fans or 5,000. It's do your job, one pitch at a time."
The ability to bounce back in an inning after a bad call or miscue is something that Nicolino has been doing all year. The inability to do that same thing is often mentioned in the same sentence with right-hander Kyle Drabek who is now in Triple-A Las Vegas trying to harness his both his stuff as well as himself.
"I just block it out," said Syndergaard. "Throughout my career my mom would always yell at me in games and she would always ask me after the game if I heard her and I didn't recognize her. I'm able to tune it out pretty well."
The transition to professional baseball isn't always an easy one, even for a lofty pick like Syndergaard. Handling the increased number of games and travel presents its own challenges in addition to the higher competition. The promotion to Vancouver was another new experience to deal with all the while trying to maintain focus, but Syndergaard is relishing the ability to perform on a bigger stage.
"The Gulf Coast League is pretty self-explanatory. It's not really all that fun. You don't really have any fans, [there are mostly] day games, it's miserable and kind of a grind," he said of his small sample last year during which he threw just 13 innings.
"Bluefield was quite a bit of a change. Night games, there are not as many fans but you get the same atmosphere of playing in stadiums. But here [Vancouver], it's quite a change playing in front of 3,000 fans. You get a nice little adrenaline rush when you have lots of fans cheering behind you."
When he tunes it out he's able to dial it up. Depending on who you believe, Syndergaard has touched as high as 97 on the radar gun this year. Czajkowski calls his fastball "95 plus" and the potential for it to gain a few miles as he continues to grows certainly exists. It's extremely advanced in a league where the fastballs of the masses are topping out around 90.
"We knew at Extended that he was a power guy. The changeup is okay but maybe a little bit hard for this level. We've got guys that throw their fastball as hard as he throws his changeup. So that's kind of hitting speed for these guys maybe.
"But at Double-A and Triple-A it's the right speed. So he may get hit around with the changeup once in a while but when he gets to the higher levels, it's going to be the right speed because guys are going to have to give for his fastball and they're not going to be able to do it.
"They're not going to be able to hit his fastball here, they may foul it off and that's where his curveball development comes into play. That's a pitch that he can throw and guys will swing and miss."
For now, the organization is just letting the product of Legacy High School go out and do what he does best without any major adjustments.
"My orders were keep Noah happy and he will keep you happy," laughed Czajkowski.
In his first full season of professional baseball, the prized prospect is buying into the simple plan.
"I'm really working on the changeup and the curveball. I've always had a changeup, I'm just working on fine-tuning that here."
Though he does throw high-octane, Syndergaard [much like Jays rookie Henderson Alvarez] doesn't call himself a strikeout pitcher, preferring to induce grounders and let his defense do the rest. It's an approach the Jays have been taking with all of their young arms under general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"Getting strikeouts is kind selfish but I have the utmost confidence in the defense behind me. I love throwing inside and hearing the bat break."
His velocity will allow him to get away with throwing up in the zone more than most, but Czajkowski still envisions Syndergaard jamming hitters with inside fastballs rather than setting them down with it.
"At the higher levels, it may not be so many [strikeouts] but he's got an overpowering fastball and will force guys to put pitches in play that they didn't really want to swing at, or couldn't get the fat part of the bat on. So he's going to be able to do a lot of things."
Right now, Syndergaard will take outs and worry about how he got them later. He's already on the fast-track and he knows it.
"I was thinking I was going to finish the season in Bluefield and then just progress, get better and hopefully work for a starting spot in Lansing the following year," said the reserved Texan, with the slightest hint of an accent.
He pauses briefly before answering the final question, although he's absolutely certain of the response.
"I guess next year I'm really shooting to not go to Extended Spring Training and hopefully have a starting spot in Lansing."
If the numbers are any indication, Noah Seth Syndergaard is definitely on his way.
Vancouver Canadians pitching coach Jim Czajkowski knew that it was only a matter of time before the brightest young arms in the Blue Jays organization began to pass through his rotation. A staff which already boasted the Northwest League leader in both strikeouts and ERA in 19-year-old Justin Nicolino, got even younger with the promotion of fellow teen-sensation Noah Syndergaard from Bluefield.
Syndergaard On Fast Track
Noah Syndergaard, still only 18 years old, seems to be on the lower level fast track at this point.
Vancouver Beat Writer
Syndergaard has 12 K's in his first two outings
Aug 10, 2011