When Jacob deGrom was drafted by the New York Mets out of Stetson University in the ninth round of the 2010 draft, he was a 21-year-old (just days from turning 22) light-hitting shortstop who had flashed a plus fastball as a closer then starting pitcher for the Hatters. He proceeded to pitch only 26 unimpressive Rookie League innings that summer before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Just months from the draft, he already seemed to be a wasted pick.
That's maybe how those outside the organization viewed him, but it's not what the Mets felt. When deGrom arrived back in camp in 2012, he was a blank slate, and the Mets made him a distinct product of their organization. He already had the plus fastball, but their system helped develop his curveball, slider and changeup. When that enhancement was combined with a slight tweak that added even more velocity and a general improvement in his command, it turned deGrom into a pitcher who, well, finished sixth among qualified starting pitchers in ERA and is starting the deciding game of a playoff series on the road against a Cy Young Award candidate.
The Mets got a clean slate to work with, and they treated it like a Frankenstein project. A pitcher is only as good as the sum of his parts, and in this case, each part is as impressive as the whole. In the spirit of that development, let's compare deGrom's pitches to the models of yesterday's game, and the best of today's game.
While deGrom was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, a pitching legend known for his changeup visited minor league camp. The Mets' minor leaguer immediately started talking shop with that legend, Johan Santana, and came away with a new changeup grip and a better sense of pitching.