The baseball world has been taken by storm by one of the most unique players in MLB history: Angels’ two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. Despite an illustrious history dating back to 1901, the sport has seen few players that have moved the dial like Ohtani. Fans of the New York Mets, like all other fanbases, have watched this early-season breakout in amazement.
The Ohtani Standard
The budding star has posted an incredible .270 batting average, 24 home runs (the third most in MLB), and 51 RBI. In a vacuum, this would make him one of the most dangerous power hitters in the league.
However, seemingly impossibly, he also holds a sparkling 2.58 ERA and a 3-1 record in 59.1 innings as a starting pitcher. This ERA mark would rank in the top 20 in baseball.
Babe Ruth became a legend by achieving similar feats as a two-way player. His work, which was done in the 1920s and 1930s, was thought to be unmatchable. That is until Ohtani burst onto the scene.
It seems as though there is no notable player comp for Ohtani in the modern era. But could there have been? Could a player in today’s game have had a path toward matching his dual abilities?
I say yes. I also say this player is currently a member of the Mets. Ladies and gentlemen… I give you Jacob deGrom!
We’re all familiar with deGrom’s dominance as a starting pitcher. The back-to-back Cy Young award winner seems well on his way to receiving the honor for an illustrious third time. He is also poised to challenge for his best career season. And possibly one of the best seasons in history.
The ace currently boasts a 7-2 record, an unreal .069 ERA, and 122 strikeouts. He is simply one of the best to ever do what he does. Even a player like Ohtani pales in comparison as a pitcher.
deGrom’s accomplishments as a pitcher are not a surprise. However, his work with a bat has been a bit of a revelation. Despite being one of the better hitting pitchers in recent memory, the three-time All-Star has raised his game to a whole new level.
Prior to this season, the Mets’ superstar held an average annual batting average of .187. Quite respectable for a player at a position famous for this hitting incompetence. However, during the 2021 campaign, deGrom has hit a blistering .414. He also has six RBI.
Some of this can be attributed to the small sample size. Nearing the All-Star break, the National League ace has recorded 29 at-bats. This compares to 252 ABs from Ohtani.
However, deGrom does have a good track record as a hitter. He has always been above average for a major league pitcher. He is also a converted colligate shortstop at Stetson University where he hit .258 during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
The Potential of the Mets Ace
It’s clear that deGrom edges out Ohtani in pitching while falling well short as a hitter. However, his 2021 offensive success, combined with his pedigree, beg the question: Could deGrom have flourished as a hitter if he had been allowed to focus on an Ohtani-typed role?
Imagine a scenario where deGrom was given the opportunities and expectations of a professional hitter. After years of developing what is an already solid foundation, it’s reasonable to think he could have found success. After all, look at how far his hard work has brought him as a pitcher!
Do I think deGrom could match Ohtani’s incredible power production? Likely not.
Do I think that deGrom could have developed into a hitter capable of posting an average in the neighborhood of .240 with 12-15 home runs? With a healthy number of at-bats during his off days (through playing an on-field position, pitch hitting, or through a hypothetical DH scenario), I do!
While this would cause him to fall well short of the Ohtani standard, it would allow deGrom to approach a level of production similar to players like Freddie Galvis, Kike Hernandez, or Kevin Newman.
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Posting these hitting stats, in combination with historic pitching, would assuredly gain deGrom a level of attention that could match the Angels stud.