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Jason deGrom, Lightening in a Bottle

I heard about Jason deGrom last year and his rising star status.   He is a right handed pitcher for the New York Mets, age 27, former Rookie of the Year (2014) and National League All Star.  I think he gained nationwide notoriety in this years All Star game when he struck out the side with 10 pitches with pure smoke.  He was throwing fastballs with movement that made the hitters look like non-All Stars.

After watching the All-star performance,  I wanted to know more about this guy.  If he is twenty seven years and has only played two years in the pros, then he must spent years in college or the minors developing his craft.  The amazing part of his story he didn’t start pitching until the fall of 2009 and that was as a relief pitcher.  Up until then he was shortstop playing for Stetson College with a .263 batting average.

He was developing so fast that he soon became the closer for Stetson.  He was moved into the starting rotation where he picked up a curve and change up to add to his barn burner fastball.  It didn’t take long for the major league talent scouts to see his upside when they saw him pitch against the great Chris Sale of the White Sox in a game against Florida Gulf Coast University.  He pitched twelve games as a starter for Stetson that year and recorded a 4-5 win-loss record and a 4.48 ERA.

The Mets drafted him in the 9th round of 2010 draft and signed him with a bonus of $95,000.   He pitched for the Kingston Mets in the Rookie-Level Appalachian League, making six starts.  It was then it was discovered he had partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. After an unsuccessful attempt at rehabilitation, he had to proceed with a Tommy John surgery.  This put him on the shelf for the entire 2011 season.  During the down time, he was able to work with Johan Santana on his changeup.

In 2012, he started out with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Class A league and later moved to the Class A advanced league and pitched for San Lucie.  He was able to start 19 games and record an impressive 2.43 ERA.  2013 was a busy year for deGrom with rapid movement through the Met farm system.  He started with San Lucie, then was promoted to the Birmingham Mets of Class AA, and finally ended up in the Class AAA with the Las Vegas 51’s.  Some of these promotions where due to injuries to others and movement of other pitchers to the New York Mets.

The Mets were confident in deGrom and his rising status so he was placed on the 40 man roster for the 2014 season.  deGrom started the 2014 system in Las Vegas but got called up in May because of two injuries to the pitching staff.   He made his first start on May 15 but didn’t record his first win until July 8th when he pitched seven scoreless inning and struck out eleven.   He went on to become the National League pitcher of the month for July.   He finished the year with a 9-6 record and 2.69 era which earned him the National League Rookie of the Year honors.   On September 15th, he struck out the first eight batters in a game against the Miami Marlins, tying the MLB record.

This year has been a year where deGrom is considered in the top tier of pitchers to watch.  His pitches never come in straight or flat and have a tailing movement.  In addition, the arm speed of deGrom creates so much deception that he is a hitter’s nightmare.  I just find it so rare that player begins pitching in his twenties and within three years is Rookie of the Year.  He is a great athlete that has had the ability to learn and absorb faster than the majority of baseball players.  He appears to be a humble young man that he will be joy to watch for years to come.

Photo – Robert Sabo/New York Daily News