Three Up, Three Down: Jacob deGrom Throws Up Zeroes
Jacob deGrom, RHP, Mets
Matt Harvey pitched his way out of town. Noah Syndergaard battled injuries. Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz have pitched well in spurts but struggled with health and inconsistency. Through it all, deGrom has been a reliable, top-of-the-rotation pitcher. The 2014 Rookie of the Year has taken a step forward in his fifth season, posting a miniscule 1.83 ERA that is third-best in the National League. He’s been at his best recently, pitching 19.1 consecutive scoreless innings over his last four starts. deGrom’s strikeout rate (11.4/9) is at a career high, his hits allowed (6.5/9) and home runs allowed (0.4/9) rates are at career lows, and his stuff has ticked up. According to Brooks Baseball, deGrom is throwing his fastball, slider and changeup as hard or harder than ever. He missed one start with a hyperextended left elbow and left after one inning in his last start, but he is scheduled to make his next start this weekend against Arizona.
Jeimer Candelario, 3B , Tigers
As the Tigers look to the future, they can feel rest assured they have their long-term third baseman. Candelario has proven to be a steal for the Tigers in last summer’s trade that sent Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Cubs. Wilson has a 4.36 ERA since the trade, Avila is now a member of the D-backs, and Candelario is one of the best young players in the American League Central. Candelario, who ranked as the Cubs' No. 7 prospect at the time of the deal, has hit .295/.377/.485 in 64 games with the Tigers. He is tied for the team lead with five home runs and leads the team with 16 RBIs, and has emerged as one of the faces of Detroit’s youth movement. The only negative to Candelario’s season came Monday, when he was placed on the disabled list with left wrist tendinitis.
J.D. Martinez, OF/DH, Red Sox
Mookie Betts is rightfully soaking up the adoration, but Martinez is solidifying his case as the best signing of the offseason. Martinez has given Boston the power jolt it desperately needed, hitting 10 doubles and 11 home runs in 39 games while posting a .346/.396/.641 slash line. His 95.6 mph average exit velocity is second in the majors behind only Aaron Judge, and his hard-hit percentage (95 mph+) is highest in the majors, per Baseball Savant. Though it took time to complete, the early return on Martinez’s five-year, $110 million contract with the Red Sox is it was money well-spent.
THREE DOWN 👎
Chris Davis, 1B, Orioles
Slowly and painfully, Davis is descending in Pablo Sandoval and Melvin Upton territory of horrible long-term contracts. Davis has declined every season since signing his seven-year, $161-million contract after the 2015 season, and this year is worst of all. Out of 170 eligible batters, Davis is tied for 167th in batting average (.170), 165th in on-base percentage (.253) and, worst of all, 167th in slugging percentage (.274). Simply put, Davis has devolved into one of the five worst hitters in baseball, and he still has four years and $92 million remaining on his contract after this season.
Reader's Choice: The MLB Team Of The 2010s
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Matt Moore, LHP, Rangers
Moore gave up the most runs in the National League last year despite pitching his home games at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Inexplicably, the Rangers acquired him to move him into the more offensive league and one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the majors. The results have been predictably terrible. Moore is 1-5, 7.82, has given up 58 hits in 38 innings and has all-around been one of the worst pitchers in baseball. Since his Tommy John surgery, Moore simply isn’t the same pitcher who was once a top pitching prospect and an all-star at age 24. Moore was 29-17, 3.53 pre-surgery. Since his return he is 23-36, 5.09, with each year getting worse and worse.
Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds
The Reds keep waiting for Hamilton to hit, and it keeps increasing to appear that day will never come. The four-time Top 100 Prospect is now in his fifth season and is batting .215/.316/.320. It’s early, but it’s also who he is at this point. In nearly 2,500 career plate appearances, Hamilton is a .246/.299/.333 hitter. When he does make contact, there is nothing behind it. Hamilton's 76.1 mph average exit velocity is the lowest in baseball, and four mph lower than the second-worst, Ichiro. Hamilton's speed and defense keep him in the lineup, but with his offense steadily declining every year, he won’t be playable on an everyday basis for much longer if he keeps going the way he is.