Jacob deGrom Paying It Forward
The changing point in Jacob deGrom‘s career as a pitcher was arguably at its darkest moment. No, that wasn’t the pep talks he received from Frank Viola in the minors or Terry Collins in the majors. It was when deGrom, a 23 year old ninth round draft pick out of Stetson University, was rehabbing from Tommy John.
deGrom was at an age when big time prospects are already pitching in the Major Leagues. To put it in perspective, his current teammate Noah Syndergaard was a 22 year old rookie pitching in the World Series. His other teammate, Marcus Stroman, who also went to college, was a 23 year old rookie for the Toronto Blue Jays.
But deGrom, well he was a 23 year old pitcher who had not thrown a pitch in even full season Single-A. His career was potentially over before it started with his needing Tommy John. However, during that rehab stint, he was there with Johan Santana, who was rehabbing from his own career threatening injury. It was during this time Santana taught deGrom how to throw the changeup. It is a pitch which has completely altered the trajectory of deGrom’s career.
Well, it is a nearly a full decade later, and deGrom is following Santana’s lead, and he is taking the next generation of Mets players under his wing.
Specifically, he has taken fellow Stetson alum Patrick Mazeika under his wing, and he has worked with Mets top pitching prospect Matthew Allan. That was work which began during the offseason, and it is something which has continued into Spring Training. It is genuine with deGrom with him not only providing pointed advice but also insisting Allan “wear him out with questions.”
For Mazeika, a player who is very much in the same shoes deGrom once did, this is an invaluable experience. He gets to further understand what Major League pitchers look for in their catchers. He gets to experience catching the best pitcher in the game, and he can learn how to better work with not just other Major League pitchers, but also he can help out his minor league teammates down in Syracuse.
For Allan, he is getting a master’s course in how to pitch. He is not just learning how to throw this pitch or that pitch. He is learning when you need to throw those pitches. He is learning how to better comport himself and get the most out of his ability, and Allan has immense ability. It is not even arguable he has better stuff coming out of the draft than deGrom did.
As with deGrom, the question is what he does with his natural ability, and how he continues to develop as a pitcher. For deGrom, working with Santana taught him not only how to throw the changeup. It also taught him about preparation and developing your pitches. For Allan, it can be so much more.
In some ways, we are seeing this link that should be the envy of every organization. Santana, who was once the best pitcher in baseball, helped mentor deGrom. We have seen deGrom take that experience and himself become the best pitcher in baseball. Perhaps, not too long into the future, we will one day talk about Allan as the best pitcher in baseball. Not only should we be excited about that happening, but we should also be excited to see the pitcher Allan may one day help become great.