A 9th round selection by the Mets in the 2010 Entry Draft, Jacob deGrom injured his arm almost immediately and needed Tommy John surgery to fix his wonky elbow causing him to miss the 2011 season. The 6'4”, 185 righty rebounded strongly the following two minor league seasons, and after a solid start to his 2014 season at Triple-A the Mets called him up and gave him a shot in the bigs. The upshot of that decision is that deGrom has pitched like one of the better hurlers in baseball the last month plus (6-1, 1.52 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 9.45 K/9 over 53.1 innings). Is this the burgeoning of a fantasy star or merely an amazing run from a talented guy?

THE MINORS

Not an elite prospect, deGrom was still the 10th best Mets prospect coming into the 2014 season according to Baseball America. Let's take a look at his minor league work by year.

2010: Six starts at Rookie Ball with a 5.19 ERA, 1.58 WIHP over 26 innings.

2011: Missed season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

2012: 19 total starts at A-Ball and High-A. Looked extremely impressive with a 2.43 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and nearly a 5 to 1 K/BB ratio. 

2013: High-A for two starts, 10 outings at Double-A and then 14 starts in Triple-A in a rip through it year for deGrom. All told he made 26 starts covering 147.2 innings. He struck out 7.3 batters per nine and walked 2.8, but his ERA soared to 4.51 while his WHIP was way up at 1.45.

2014: In seven starts in the minors he was very effective with a 4-0 record, 2.58 ERA, 1.28 WHIP an a 2.9 K/BB ratio. 

THE MAJORS

As I noted above, his work the last month has been Cy Young worthy. Overall deGrom's made 15 starts for the Mets. Check out the numbers.

2.74 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.9 K/9

Wait, those are the numbers of Garrett Richards. Here are deGrom's numbers.

2.77 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 8.6 K/9

Yes, deGrom has pitched very, very well. Period.
 

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THE SKILLS

“He's a little goofy, a little quiet, but when he gets on the mound you can tell that he means business,” said Matt Harvey. Well aren't we all in our own way.

If we were just looking at the overall numbers from deGrom with the Mets this season there is no way you wouldn't be impressed.

2.77 ERA
8.59 K/9
His last eight starts (numbers above).

That's all good, and there is no disputing that since really picking up how to effectively spot his changeup, that deGrom has shown himself to be quite the pitcher. The question we have to address is are the current results likely to continue, and are they indicative of the talent he possesses?

deGrom has good stuff, but it's not elite (most predicted he would be a #4 big league starter with #3 upside. No one thought he could develop into a top of the rotation type of guy). Keep that in mind.

It's a bit, well more than a bit, surprising that a guy who struck out 7.4 batters per nine in the minors has jacked that mark up to 8.6 in the big leagues. Developing change up or not, does it seem fair to conclude he will hold on to that growth?

deGrom walked 2.3 batters per nine in the minors. This year with the Mets that mark is 3.05. How many guys are walking 3.05 batters per nine this season with an ERA under 2.75? Of the 18 men with an ERA under 2.75 only one is walking 3.05 batters or more – Tyson Ross (2.62 and 3.14). 

deGrom has a 44 percent ground ball rate. Solid number, but pretty much the league average. Given that fact, it's rather surprising that his HR/9 mark this season is 0.48. Now his minor league mark was 0.53 so his current rate is right in line with that, but it's still a low number for a guy that doesn't generate more grounders. Part of the reason the number isn't higher this year is the fact that he just doesn't give up many fly balls. His fly ball rate of 32 percent is slightly below the league average (34-35 percent). Those of that think quickly will note that must mean his line drive rate is high. It is. Though his BABIP is .302 his batting average against is only .237, an extremely low number for a guy who has a line drive rate of 24.5 percent. Put that number in perspective. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 90 innings this season deGrom's line drive rate is third worst in baseball. More perspective. The two men with worse marks are Mike Minor and Edwin Jackson. The BABIP of those two men are .354 and .349. Of the six men who have a line drive rate of 24 percent none has a BABIP lower than deGrom (next closest is Ryan Vogelsong at .314). All of that should let you in on a secret – there is some pullback coming with deGrom.

I should also note that deGrom has a 79.8 percent left on base percentage. That's an elite number that is the 14th best in baseball (minimum 90 innings). It's simply not a sustainable pace long term. It might normalize the last two months this season, it might take until next year, but the fact is that it will be coming down eventually. 

Finally, simply, even as well as he has pitched both SIERA (3.55) and xFIP (3.37) suggest his ERA should be appreciably higher than it actually is (2.77). If a few parts of his performance normalize, that ERA could be in for a tumble. 

PLAYING TIME CONSIDERATIONS

 deGrom, and yes the “d” is lower case, is on an innings pitched limit of 185 this season. Through 15 big league starts he's at 94.1 innings. Add in his seven minor league starts (38.1 innings) and we're at 132.2 innings. That leaves deGrom with 52.1 innings with about 10 starts left for the 2014 season. Are they going to cut his outings short? That seems unlikely. Are they going to skip a start or just use him until his innings run out and then shut him down? “So I think we have a couple of different ways of approaching that,” GM Sandy Alderson said. “Now, I don’t think we want to interrupt the flow that he has going, the success he’s had.” Sounds like they might just run him out there until the innings dry up.

CONCLUSION

10 team lg: I say it all the time. When a guy is hot in a 10 team league you ride him hard. Not many are pitching like deGrom right now. Ride the long haired wonder.

12 team lg: Well, if you're for sure starting him in 10 team leagues then, duh, he starts in 12 teamers too.

15 team lg: Ride away. Might consider dealing him in this format or ANY format in which you have H2H playoffs. Would really suck to get to your finals and have deGrom suddenly shutdown leaving you empty handed.

NL-only: Fantabulistic option. He cost nothing and is producing like an All-Star. Championships are made from additions like this. 




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About Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.

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