The Next Jacob deGrom Might’ve Just Seen His Baseball Career End
This past week, the New York Mets released 39 minor league players. They were far from the only team who took that action. Every MLB undertook the same process with the COVID19 shutdown, the ever increasingly likely cancellation of the minor league season, and the contraction of 42 minor league teams.
Make no mistake, every minor leaguer who was released was a talented baseball player. They had enough talent to get a contract to play professional baseball. The issue at the moment was teams like the Mets thought better to get rid of them so they wouldn’t have to pay them $400/week.
When you look at the players who were released, you really have to question whether the Mets would’ve released Jacob deGrom under similar circumstances. Don’t be so sure they wouldn’t have.
Going back a decade, deGrom was a ninth round draft pick out of Stetson University. While much has been made about his being a collegiate SS, truth be told deGrom had converted to a pitcher Junior year. That year, he pitched and played short. It was his pitching which caught the Mets attention.
Just because he caught the Mets attention, it doesn’t mean he was good right away.
As a 22 year old, deGrom was assigned to a Kingsport franchise which is in line to be contracted. Despite being over a full year older than the competition, he did not pitch well.
In the six starts deGrom made, he was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA, 1.577 WHIP, and a 7.6 K/9. Batters hit .324/.360/.472 off of him. At the end of the year, he underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL.
At that time, there was nothing which could give you any indication he was about to become a pitcher who would have a dominant 2015 postseason in addition to consecutive Cy Youngs.
No, he looked like an older prospect for his level who couldn’t beat younger batters, and worse yet, he had a busted elbow. If you’re looking to not pay players, and you’re looking to cut down the amount of people in your system to prepare for a loss of affiliates, deGrom was going to be in real danger of getting released.
If that happened, deGrom doesn’t get the chance to get healthy, learn a change-up from Johan Santana, and start on a path towards being a potential Hall of Famer. No, in all likelihood, his career would’ve been over.
Now, it’s very possible none of the 39 players released by the Mets could’ve done what deGrom did. Most and maybe all don’t even make it to the majors. However, that’s not the point.
The point is unless you give prospects real time to learn and develop you’re never going to find the next deGrom. The same can be said for Mike Piazza, Jeff McNeil, of Seth Lugo. For that matter, the Mets miss the 2016 postseason without undrafted free agent T.J. Rivera.
In the end, MLB franchises opted to end the dreams of minor leaguers over $400/week. In the process, they’re going to potentially miss out on the next diamond in the rough, or even that key player who gets them to the postseason thereby making the franchise millions of dollars.