Finding the Next Jacob deGrom

Look at the leaderboards and love Jacob deGrom. Love his flowing locks, love his luscious command, love his top-ten ranking. Love the fastball velocity he added, love the full arsenal. Love the slider, the Warthen slider, and love the changeup, the Johan changeup. Love him.

But all your love won’t make him any better. You’ll have to pay for your love. Instead, maybe we could find another young man that you can love, and won’t cost as much. And don’t worry, for all this talk of love, we’re not talking about the kind that will get you arrested in some countries.

First we have to try and break down what he represents. The first is the hardest, because he added pitches while in the minor leagues and so therefore his minor league numbers don’t represent the best that he could be. We don’t have minor league PITCHf/x, but we can look at young pitchers that showed added confidence over the second part of the season. That works well because deGrom also hardened up that slider and used it more in the last five months of the season, so that would show up in our query as well.

The second part of this query is much more simple — Jacob deGrom added velocity. He added velocity to his fastball, and he added velocity to his slider. Velocity is almost always a good thing — even in changeups, if it comes with good movement, it’s fine. So let’s look at some young velocity gainers.

In the end, our new deGrom will hopefully be someone with less hype that has multiple pitches, decent command, and has shown a recent change to his pitching mix with more velocity. If we can’t find one pitcher that does all of these things, we shouldn’t get too sad. There hasn’t been a Jacob deGrom every year.

Let’s start with velocity gain because it will narrow the field for us.

The Velocity Gainers

22 pitchers added a full mph between the first month and the second half. The Yankees dominate the top of the list, for various reasons: Michael Pineda (+2.4 mph) got healthy, Adam Warren (+2) moved to the bullpen, Nathan Eovaldi (+1.8) enjoyed the warmer weather (?), and Masahiro Tanaka (+1.5) got healthy from an early injury.

Without role changes or health, the names that leap out from the top 30 in velocity gainers are still there, although health has a way to creep in. Like, for example, Carlos Martinez (+2) and James Paxton (+1.3). Did they gain because they got good, or did they gain then get hurt because of it?

But there are young players without much injury to their name that added velocity enough to make them more appealing. Chase Anderson (+1.3) was much better after returning from injury (there it is again). Jimmy Nelson (+1.2) is starting to get his footing. Yordano Ventura (+1) and Anthony Desclafani (+0.9) are a little bit closer to the regular bump you’d expect over the course of the season, but still interesting. Let’s make sure to mention Rubby de la Rosa (+0.8) here.

The Added Pitch Pitchers

Let’s take away the established young stars, because deGrom was not that. Now let’s sort the guys we found above for added pitches. We are left with 19 pitchers under the age of 27 that added velocity and also added more than 5% to one of their non-fastball pitches. Check them out, they are an interesting group:

Young Velocity and Pitch Adders
Name FBv SL% SLv CB% CH% BB% Diff SL Diff CB Diff CH 2H FB Velo
Mike Bolsinger 86.5 9% 80.3 36% 0% 8.7% -15% 4% -1% 87.1
Rubby de la Rosa 93.8 14% 83.2 0% 35% 4.7% -14% 0% 21% 94.6
Chris Bassitt 93.0 15% 87.1 10% 7% 11.1% -9% -6% -1% 93.2
Erasmo Ramirez 90.3 12% 83.7 1% 37% 11.9% -7% -6% 17% 91.4
Adam Warren 91.6 25% 85.5 6% 13% 9.1% -7% -10% -1% 93.6
Carlos Martinez 94.1 21% 83.0 3% 22% 9.8% -6% 1% 6% 96.1
Eddie Butler 93.4 13% 87.7 8% 18% 13.3% -6% -1% 6% 93.7
Kendall Graveman 90.5 5% 74.5 0% 0% 10.8% -5% 0% 0% 91.3
Yordano Ventura 95.7 0% 14% 13% 8.9% 0% -14% -1% 96.7
Jarred Cosart 93.7 0% 12% 8% 7.4% 0% -12% 3% 94.1
Trevor Bauer 91.8 25% 84.0 6% 14% 13.1% 5% -9% 8% 92.9
Anthony DeSclafani 92.0 23% 86.5 3% 11% 6.1% -2% -9% 6% 92.9
Daniel Norris 91.3 19% 81.9 7% 21% 11.7% 4% -5% 10% 92.4
Chase Anderson 91.1 0% 11% 23% 6.4% 0% -5% -2% 92.4
Nathan Eovaldi 96.1 34% 84.0 12% 5% 5.2% 17% 6% -26% 97.9
Roenis Elias 91.2 0% 38% 15% 11.5% 0% 10% -11% 92.3
Raisel Iglesias 91.5 34% 81.4 0% 5% 9.5% 3% 0% -9% 91.9
Nick Martinez 89.7 25% 81.8 6% 7% 7.6% 2% 1% -6% 89.9
Drew Smyly 90.2 0% 24% 0% 2.5% 0% -1% -4% 90.4
“Diff” means differential between first and second half, where negative means the pitcher added more of the pitch in the second half.

Not all of these guys can be deGrom, though. If you take away the guys with subpar velocity (91.5 or less) and then also take away the guys with bad command (measured here by walk rates 10% or worse), the list drops to nine guys.

The easy answer is Carlos Martinez. He added velocity and also added a pitch in that awesome changeup he’s now dangling. But we could have taken him away as an established young star based on how great he was in relief and that great first year, couldn’t we have? You’ll at least be paying top shelf prices if he’s healthy. Then again, if we’re talking Jacob deGrom as he was headed into last year — an exciting young pitcher that people weren’t yet paying ace prices for — then the answer is Carlos Martinez.

But let’s not ignore the rest of the list. While Adam Warren may have added velocity only because he moved to the bullpen, it’s nice to see him using that fastball less often. His secondary pitches are the key to his success, and throwing them more could lead to him taking the fifth starter’s role away from Jason Hammel. He couldn’t be any different than the incumbent, who has two pitches and does his best to go five innings, so it’ll be a fascinating position battle in the spring.

Raisel Iglesias is my super-sleeper for the next year. Not only did he add velocity on a game-by-game basis, but he added velocity on an inning-by-inning basis by working on his stamina. One year out of Cuba is a big deal, given the body changes we’ve seen on past Cubans, and the emphasis we have here on nutrition and body development. I like seeing him play with his pitching mix, but I still see three above-average pitches. Let’s see if he finds the plus one and takes off.

Yordano Ventura is interesting now that he’s throwing his fastball harder and his curveball more. That’s focusing on what makes him great. This could be a breakout year for him.

If Jarred Cosart is actually only going to walk 7-8% of the guys he sees, then he’ll be good. He walked more guys than he struck out in his last three starts, though, so I’m not listing him as a sleeper. In a similar way, we’ve been waiting forever for Nathan Eovaldi to be good, and as soon as he figured out that throwing his splitter half the time would make him good, he got hurt. I’m about to throw my hands up in the air unless there’s good news in the spring.

You know I love the last three names on the list: Chase Anderson, Anthony DeSclafani, and Rubby de la Rosa. I’ve been writing about them for years. Chase added velocity, and was better by strikeouts and walks late in the year, but he’s probably a back-end pitcher in most formats. DeSclafani has more upside, as evidenced by his K-BB% in August and September (20%) based on improved command of his slider and new curveball. I like him in all leagues, and a little more than last year, when he was more of a $1 pitcher.

But de la Rosa may be the most deGromesque of the bunch, or at least 2014 deGrom. You won’t have to spend much money on him, but if you don’t, you’ll miss out on notcing that he changed over the course of last year. He put on almost a full tick on the gun, and he finally trusted that slider. Which is great because the velocity readings on the slider look almost exactly like the velocity readings on deGrom in 2014.

Brooksbaseball-Chart-5

You won’t give Rubby de la Rosa the command that deGrom has. But you can give him similar fastball and slider velocities. And de la Rosa might have the better changeup. Now that he has three legit pitches, we may be spending this time next year looking for the next Rubby.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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@OutfieldGrass24
6 years ago

My issue with Rubby is that he just can’t get lefties out. His changeup and two-seamer have been bad and he’s been brutalized by opposite-handed hitters. Unless something changes, I don’t project any kind of big breakthrough. As a reliever, however, I think he could be pretty special.

Eno Sarris
6 years ago

I still like the changeup! Still gets 18% whiffs against lefties, so I’m hoping the balls in play piece is just early issues.