"I was short and pudgy," he said. "It was the same sophomore year."
Then, the transformation came. Syndergaard had a growth spurt and lost weight. The growing continued into his senior year, to a point where he towered over his classmates at 6-foot-5.
"I'd say I was a late bloomer," said Syndergaard, who now pitches for the Class A Lansing Lugnuts. What also blossomed for Syndergaard was his fastball. His velocity went from mid-80s to lighting up radar guns during the last two months of his senior season. Even during games, his velocity bloomed.
"My senior year, I'd start a game at 89, 90, and then work my way up to the sixth or seventh inning, and that's when I'd start hitting 96, 97, 98," Syndergaard said. "It just took a while for my arm to get loose."
Syndergaard reveled in the new weapon.
"That was a lot of fun," said Syndergaard. "I didn't really understand it. I didn't know how I could I jump that many miles per hour in a short time. I came on pretty fast the last two months of my senior season."
Scouts took notice. The Mansfield, Texas, native was a surprise supplemental first-round pick (No. 38 overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Syndergaard, who turns 20 on Aug. 29, couldn't wait to get his pro career started as a 17 year old. He signed for $600,000, which is less than Major League Baseball's slot recommendation of $858,600 for a player drafted that high.
"I didn't expect to be a first-round pick," Syndergaard said. "It was a shocker. Going into my senior year of high school, I was pretty content on going to Dallas Baptist University. I thought I was a college prospect. I was working hard in the offseason, and going into my senior year of high school, in-season, I long-tossed a lot and worked out quite a bit. I think that's what really got my velocity up."
Syndergaard feels that he has control of his fastball. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.62 ERA and has struck out 49 and walked 12 in 37 innings.
"I feel like I can command my fastball real well now," he said. "It's a lot different throwing to high school hitters. You can throw it right down the middle and be OK with it, but [in pro baseball] you have to be able to locate on both sides of the plate at the knees. I feel that I've made the transition pretty well."
Lansing pitching coach Vince Horsman said Syndergaard's focus now needs to be developing offspeed pitches.
"He's just a young power pitcher learning things about himself and all of the nuances of pitching at the professional level, and developing his pitches so he's not just one-dimensional with the power fastball," Horsman said. "His changeup is coming a long way, and he's working on a breaking ball to round out his whole repertoire.
"With Noah, what surprises me is the command that he has with that velocity," he added. "He works over the ball well, and he can move the ball in and out pretty well for such a young guy, and for such a young power arm. That's what makes him successful and very exciting to watch."
Toronto is very protective of Syndergaard, who pitches in a piggy-back format.
"It's kind of frustrating, but at the same time, I know there's a goal, there's a plan that the Blue Jays have for me," Syndergaard said of alternating starts and relief outings. "I'm OK with it, but I definitely feel more comfortable starting. I still haven't figured out the relieving role. It would be a lot easier to acclimate to my routine if I was a starter every five days. The first few relief appearances, it was tough to get my arm loose, but I feel that I have a set routine going and get my arm loose."
Double star: Peoria's Kyler Burke is a star among stars in the Midwest League. The Cubs prospect has been named to the Midwest League All-Star Game for a second time, which is rare in itself, but he's accomplished the feat at different positions. Burke was a 2009 All-Star as an outfielder, and now he's an All-Star as a pitcher. Acquired by the Cubs in a 2007 trade that sent Michael Barrett to the Padres, Burke hit .303 with 43 doubles, three triples, 15 homers and 89 RBIs and was named Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in 2009. He's 1-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 13 games.
A new start: Dan Reynolds is back in baseball after a 50-game suspension for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Program. The Angels assigned Reynolds to Cedar Rapids, where he gave up two runs in his two-inning debut Friday. Reynolds, who was limited to 45 pitches, walked the bases loaded and hit a batter, but also struck out four. His fastball was clocked at 93 mph.
Jenkins sidelined: Quad Cities pitcher Tyrell Jenkins may be sidelined for the rest of the first half with shoulder soreness. A supplemental first-round pick of the Cardinals in 2010, Jenkins is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA in nine games.