TDG’S TRIPLE PLAY: NEW YORK METS!
The Triple Play is back for a third season! This regular feature is broken down by staff writers Bob Osgood and Paul Monte and a rotating panel of third writers. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure! Follow Tyler (@ty_burg), Paul (@3cardmonte13), and Greg Gibbons (@midsports10) on twitter and read their analysis here at the site!
Pitcher: Jacob deGrom, Age: 32, Position: SP
Analysis by: Tyler Burgess
Jacob deGrom, Where Ya From
Initially a shortstop during his first two seasons at Stetson University, Jacob deGrom started to receive pressure to make the transition to pitching. A light-hitting batter with a strong throwing arm, deGrom was invited to play collegiate summer baseball in 2009 but declined after manager Davey Johnson discussed the intent to have deGrom pitch. Later that same year, deGrom began to split time between batting and pitching in relief for Stetson. Many coaches and scouts had taken notice of his natural throwing motion despite his lack of experience on the mound. The Mets scouts hoped that not many others would notice deGrom before the draft so they could use a later pick to snatch him up.
The Mets ultimately got their prospect in the 9th round of the 2010 draft and sent him to rookie ball with the Kingsport Mets. After making only 6 starts, deGrom went down with an injury in his throwing arm that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. A blessing and a curse, deGrom missed all of the 2011 season but utilized his time recovering to work on his changeup with Changeup King Johan Santana. Between 2012 and 2014, deGrom consistently displayed a knack for excellent control and getting outs. He finally got his shot in the big leagues in May of 2014 and immediately made an impact.
Jake The Snake
During his stint in the minor leagues, deGrom found success not by the strikeout, but by commanding the strike zone which would make his transition to the big league club a smooth one. Right out of the gate, deGrom’s strikeout numbers increased noticeably over his minor league rate. In 2014, deGrom posted a strikeout rate of 9.24 K/9 – a leap from his minor league rate of about 7.5K/9.
Since making the jump to the majors, deGrom continued to improve his arsenal of pitches. He’s gradually reduced the usage of his mid-90’s fastball while increasing the usage of his slider. To boot, the average velocity of his slider has increased from 87 MPH in 2014 to 92.5 MPH in 2019. Pairing this improved slider with an already dominant fastball has buoyed deGrom’s strikeout numbers even further.
Many hitters will look for an “eye” when deciphering between a fastball and slider. Unfortunately for deGrom’s opponents, deGrom’s version of the slider doesn’t always reveal itself to the batter via the “eye.” With his fastball and slider coming in so fast, the batter has only a few precious milliseconds to decide where they think the pitch will land. The bite on his slider combined with his impeccable control makes this a lose-lose situation for the batter more often than not.
Climbing Jacob’s Ladder
At 32 years of age, some pitchers may start slowing down. Jacob deGrom seems to just keep getting better. After posting very strong WAR values between 2.9-4.9 in his first 4 seasons with the Mets, he’s won back-to-back Cy Young awards bolstered by WARs of 9.0 and 7.0. To boot, deGrom has been good for over 200 innings pitched for 3 years in a row now. In an age where pitching injuries are so common (and the Mets, in particular, are going to be missing Noah Syndergaard for a while), deGrom’s health and dominance have proven to be a constant for the Mets.
Although we don’t truly know how the 2020 season will play out, we can be certain of one thing: whenever Jacob deGrom is on the mound, he’ll put the team on his back and give them an excellent chance at winning.
Hitter: Jeff McNeil, Age: 28, Position: OF/3B/2B
Analysis by: Paul Monte
Christmas in July?
We are just about a week away from Opening Day 2020. We might get some baseball. Only a few of my dynasty leagues are running this year and even though I told myself I would pass on redraft, I didn’t. I am going to end up with ten or so redraft leagues and one player continues to pop up in a range where I’m not sure if I am getting good value or if I am drafting him too high. That player is Mets Outfielder/Third Baseman/Second Basemen, Jeff McNeil.
With one of the more interesting backgrounds, McNeil did not take the conventional path to the Majors. As a teen growing up in Southern California he was focused on another spring sport. Golf was his main sport, he competed on the local circuit with now PGA stars Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay. As a 17-year-old getting ready to enter his senior year of High School McNeil qualified for the 2009 US Junior Amateur. The tournament did not go well, he missed the cut as a 15-year-old named Jordan Spieth took home the title. No offers for scholarships came in for golf, which was shocking, but he did get an offer from Long Beach State to play baseball. Even though he had never played a high school baseball game he did play on the travel circuit and that was enough to get a D1 scholarship.
The lack of experience showed in college as he struggled his first two seasons before putting up a .348/.398/.443 slash line in his Junior season. Drafted by the Mets in the 12th round of the 2013 MLB Draft the scouting report on McNeil was that he had great contact skills and the defensive versatility to play almost anywhere on the diamond. He was destined to be a utility man in the majors. For the first five seasons in the minors, McNeil looked like organizational depth, slowly climbing the ladder, hitting for a high average but not much else. It was 2018 that McNeil took a large step forward, not only did he maintain his average, batting .342 in Double-A and Triple-A combined, he added 19 home runs and earned a callup to the Mets. He continued to hit, posting a .329 average and tossing in three HR’s and 7 steals just 225 at-bats.
Entering 2019 with a spot on the roster but not a set position, he continued to provide value to both his team in real-life and fantasy owners that rostered him. The home run surge from 2018 stuck, he hit 23 in 2019 with a .318/.384/.531 triple slash. That scouting report way back in 2013 came true, he played all over the diamond. 71 games in LF, 42 in RF, 37 at 2B, and 31 at 3B. He is expected to see most of his time at 3B in 2020 which means he may lose the positional versatility that he will possess this season.
Being able to slot a guy into multiple positions is valuable in any season, but none more than 2020. There will be guys dropping from your lineup with mandatory 14-day quarantines left and right. The waiver wire will be barren and Injury List slots will be full. Having a guy that can fill the gap in multiple positions will be very helpful for lineup construction, especially in daily lineup leagues. McNeil has continued to impress after popping on the season in 2018. I was skeptical last year but ended up with him in a few leagues anyway, I was not disappointed. I expect more of the same from McNeil moving forward, a very high average/OBP with enough HR’s to not hurt you and possibly some SB thrown in. He’ll bat at the top of the order behind Nimmo and in front of Pete Alonso so he should continue to see pitches.
Prospect: Thomas Szapucki, Age: 24, Position: SP, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Dillon Vita
Choo Choo, All Aboard the Szapucki Train
It’s about that time we got that hype train rolling for Szapucki. I’m still not convinced that I can pronounce his name correctly [“za-PUCK-ee”, per the Mets Media Guide- Ed.], but boy do I love his fastball-curve combo. If not for his injury history, I’d be confident of his floor as a three in the rotation. But, sadly, said injury history does exist. But, the good news is that because of that fastball-curve combination, his floor is a filthy, late-inning reliever.
I’m convinced that he is the only Mets pitcher in their current crop of prospects who has the upside to be a front of the rotation starter. But, I am admittedly high on him. The reason I am so high on him is that 1) he has never really struggled in the minors 2) he is a high strikeout pitcher 3) he has two plus pitches already with a changeup that is promising as well. The best part about the changeup is that it has a similar movement to his sinker, making both play up a bit.
Honestly, I think this is the best time to buy as he is only getting farther from his Tommy John surgery. If he continues to show that he can stay healthy, it will do a lot to eliminate the only real knock against him. On top of this, he had a brief cameo in Double-A in which he performed well so he could very well debut out of the pen this year in the shortened season. If he puts up some good numbers in the MLB, his price will skyrocket as he will be one of the few candidates to fill in the vacancy Stroman leaves this offseason as well as the one that Rick Porcello leaves. If he wins one of these jobs I’m 100% taking the chance on him in 2021. But, I would much rather pay the price for him now. Which, by the way, is next to nothing.
The one thing I would like to see from Szapucki, besides health, is a decreased BB/9. It tends to be above 3 which isn’t ideal. He has a high enough K/9 that I’m still interested, and it’s not so bad that he is destined for the ‘pen, but I like to see more control than that. I’m hoping this improves as he gets farther from his surgery.
In summary, I like Szapucki as a buy-low in deep leagues. I have no doubt he will succeed as, at least, a high leverage reliever and has significant upside if he can stay in a rotation. This hinges on his staying healthy and continuing to get his stuff and control back after his TJ, but the price for him is so low that it’s worth a shot.
|NL WEST||NL CENTRAL||NL EAST|