Jacob deGrom: Buy or Sell?
Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom put together a Rookie of the Year-type campaign in 2014, much to the surprise of dynasty owners everywhere. The 26-year old started the season behind fellow righties Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero at Triple-A Las Vegas. After a mid-May call-up and a 9-6 record over 140.1 innings, deGrom now looks set to slot in behind Matt Harvey at the top of the Mets rotation in 2015. Has the former ninth-round pick shown enough to warrant such lofty expectations next season? Or are fantasy owners better off cashing in on a cheap investment?
Jacob deGrom missed the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery, but showed high-floor potential in the ensuing seasons despite being old for his level. As is to be expected, deGrom, a 23-year old college pitcher coming off TJ at Low-A in 2012, wasn’t on many fantasy owners’ radars until his recall this season. The combination of age relative to level and UCL replacement surgery appears to have tempered expectations for the Stetson product, but even then, his performance wasn’t enough to indicate ace-level output in the majors.
In the minors, armed with a mid-90s fastball, strong control, and developing off-speed pitches, deGrom fell into the “3-4 starter” categorization- safe but not elite. With some tweaks to the arsenal, deGrom currently takes the mound with a five-pitch mix, including one of the hardest thrown sliders in the game. The pitch selection results in his 73.19% fastball-plus-change-up rate, an encouraging sign for his long-term longevity. Rather than over-reliance on the slider or curveball, deGrom pitches primarily off the fastball.
The 2014 season saw Jacob deGrom post a 9.24 K/9 and 2.76 BB/9, both of which fit nicely within the ROTOscouting model for fantasy success (7+ K/9 and 3> BB/9). Additionally, deGrom’s GB rate sat at 45.4%, a by-product of his tendency to use the fastball up in the zone. The result was 3.0 WAR in 22 starts, well beyond the typical “3-4 starter” range. It’s difficult to tell when adding a pitch or simply distancing oneself from major injury will result in progress like deGrom — yet clearly the 26-year old is not the same pitcher from the minors.
How Much of a Dynasty Asset is Jacob deGrom?
Jacob deGrom produced at a per-start level on par with baseball’s best starters, including hitting on nearly all of the ROTOscouting checkboxes for sustainable fantasy success. On the other hand, there aren’t many 26-year old rookies with minimal elite-level production in the minors who turn into aces during their first tastes of the majors. Still, it’s tough to hold the late-blooming nature of deGrom’s talent against him.
Think of fellow 2014 breakout Garrett Richards. Before this season, few fantasy owners would consider giving up much for the Angels ace. Though we recommended selling the righty based on his slider usage and unusual fastball velocity spike, his age had nothing to do with his value. Coincidentally, Richards is a month older than deGrom.
Removing deGrom’s delayed debut, his production clearly shows him as a top-30 pitcher entering 2015. During the second half, deGrom accumulated the 13th-highest WAR in baseball along with 9.72 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, and a 50.0% groundball rate, showing improvement as the season wore on. Coupled with the pitch repertoire, the Mets righty could easily pitch at this level for the duration of his team control period (until 2020). Fantasy owners should buy Jacob deGrom if given the opportunity. If another owner is looking to cash in on a cheap initial investment, be ready to pounce and lift a front of the rotation fantasy starter.
3 Nov 2014 / Ben Flajole / 2
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