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Jacob deGrom to Rangers - Fantasy Baseball Impact

Jacob deGrom - Fantasy Baseball Rankings, MLB Injury News, DFS Picks

The biggest news of the young offseason hit last Friday night, as the Rangers signed Jacob deGrom to a five-year contract. deGrom was right there with Aaron Judge in terms of the biggest names available on free agency, and it did not take him all that long to find a new home.

deGrom is inarguably the game's best starting pitcher when he's on the hill. The problem is that we always have to add that "when he's on the hill" qualifier. All of this makes him a bit of a lightning rod for fantasy baseball purposes. He is one of those league-winning types of players if he can stay off the IL for long enough, but there are few (if any) players with more perceived injury risk.

Let's talk about deGrom and what to make of him for fantasy baseball leagues in 2023.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including Best MLB Series, NFL Series, NBA Writer, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

The Dominance of Jacob deGrom

deGrom had been a very good pitcher prior to the 2018 season, posting an ERA right around 3.00 with a WHIP just above 1.0 over his first four seasons with the Mets. After the 2017 season wrapped up, he took his game to a new level, and it's been improving even more seemingly every year. Here are the sparkling numbers we have seen from deGrom since that 2018 season.

Year GS IP ERA WHIP K% BB%
2018 32 217 1.70 .91 32.2% 5.5%
2019 32 204 2.43 .97 31.7% 5.5%
2020 12 68 2.38 .96 38.8% 6.7%
2021 15 92 1.08 .55 45.1% 3.4%
2022 11 64 3.08 .75 42.7% 3.3%

We throw out the term "video game numbers" a lot, but it's never more true than with deGrom. I would have a ton of trouble believing that a WHIP below 0.7 over 150+ innings was even physically possible if deGrom hadn't done that over the last two years.

Among qualified pitchers since 2018, deGrom leads the world in ERA (2.05) and K%-BB% (30.3%), and is second in WHIP (0.87).

Since 2020, he leads the pack in K% by nearly nine points (42.4% to Carlos Rodon's 33.5%), ERA by almost half of a run (2.05 to Tony Gonsolin's 2.44), and WHIP by 0.23 points (0.73 to Clayton Kershaw's 0.95). Nobody is even in the same zip code as this man.

What is most tantalizing about deGrom is what he's done with his velocity.

 

Since 2021 began, only two pitchers have thrown more pitches over 99 miles per hour than deGrom:

# of Pitches Thrown Above 99mph (2021-2022)

Pitcher # of Pitches
Emmanuel Clase 1,090
Jose Alvarado 929
Jacob deGrom 662
Hunter Greene 625
Brusdar Graterol 555

The best way to describe deGrom is that he has the talent of an elite closer, and he can maintain it for 90+ pitches. There really aren't any fair comparisons to deGrom, he is truly in a league of his own.

 

The Jacob deGrom Injury Problem

Everybody is aware of the situation with deGrom. We saw above that he has failed to clear even 100 innings since way back in that 2019 season. Now that's a bit misleading since he did not even have the opportunity to do so with the shortened 2020 season, but over the last two seasons, he just has not been able to stay on the field. The most alarming part about it is that all of these injuries have to do with his throwing arm.

If we look at the injury history, we see issues with his elbow, shoulder, and forearm. Injuries are a big part of the careers of most professional pitchers, it's just a really hard thing to do to your body without going through some breakdowns. With deGrom, however, it's really been about as bad as you can find in terms of the frequency and types of injuries we have seen.

The good news is that right now, he's healthy. He started with game action on July 3rd and got to the Majors on August 2nd, and once he got that Mets jersey back on he made eleven straight starts on time with no issues. Whoever was going to sign deGrom was certainly aware that they were taking on an enormous amount of risk, but nonetheless - it is a point in deGrom's favor that a team was willing to commit this much money to him, they must think there's at least some reasonable chance that they can get something like 700 innings out of him over the next five seasons.

 

The Jacob deGrom Team Change

I haven't even mentioned the Texas Rangers since the opening paragraphs of this post, and that's because the landing spot is hardly relevant with deGrom. With a strikeout rate above 40%, the ballpark and defense behind a guy hardly matter - he does most of the work just by striking so many hitters out. The league change also doesn't make a big difference anymore with the universal DH, although it's true that deGrom has never faced a full season without the benefit of a pitcher hitting, but again - he's so dominant that even the best hitter's in the league are going to really struggle to have any kind of success against him.

One thing I do wonder about is what kind of long-term approach a new team might take with deGrom. Correlation doesn't prove causation, but it is true that deGrom's arm issues happened after he really ramped up the velocity. It is a possibility that the Rangers will have him calm down on that a little bit with the hopes that it keeps him off the IL. Losing a couple of miles per hour off of his fastball and slider will make a difference.

At that point, you would probably be looking at a strikeout rate that comes down into the low-thirties and consequently, you'd see more runs scored off of him just by virtue of more balls being put in play. We are almost surely still talking about a K%-BB% well above 20% which would still make him easily one of the game's best pitchers, but the point is that he might just be "one of the best" rather than "the best by far".

 

The Fantasy Baseball Conclusion

It's a pretty clear picture with deGrom in terms of how to view him for fantasy purposes. The upside is that he throws 180 innings and is far and away the game's best pitcher. He alone could give your fantasy team strong pitching ratios for the season without even a thought about who else is on your team. My view is that if we somehow knew for sure that deGrom would make 30 starts next year, he should be the number one overall pick - he's (probably/potentially) THAT much better than the next best set of pitchers.

But, of course, we can't know how many innings he will throw, and it's probably fair to say that 80 is a more realistic guess than 180 right now.

It's a high-risk, high-reward play. If you're in a head-to-head league where a quarter of the league makes the playoffs and you go from there, I would advise fading deGrom in favor of safer options (he will go in the top 30 picks of your draft, there is almost no doubt about that). If you're in an NFBC-style league where you're competing against dozens or hundreds of other teams in search of one grand prize, then yeah - deGrom in the second round makes a lot of sense.

That's a quick and easy analysis of deGrom, but I really don't think there's a ton more to say on the matter. As baseball fans, we all hope he can give us at least one complete season just to see what kind of absurd numbers he's capable of. Thanks for reading!



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