When a young pitcher from DeLand first stepped foot on to the mound at Citi Field in New York on May 15, few were familiar with the name on the jersey.
Rookie Jacob deGrom was making an emergency start for the New York Mets, who were running low on healthy arms at the time. After the lanky, long-haired kid from Stetson tossed a four-hit, one-run game against the Yankees, people started paying attention.
Since that first start deGrom has been the most consistent starter in the Mets rotation. Although his record is just 6-5, that is deceptive. During his first few starts he was a victim of little run support from the woeful Mets offense. But since getting his first win on June 21 at Miami, deGrom has been on a roll and seems to be improving with each start.
He has earned a victory in five consecutive starts while posting a 2.33 ERA. Over his in his last 10 games he has struck out 62 batters while walking only 17. Through 15 starts in his career, deGrom has a 2.77 ERA in 94.1 innings of work with 90 strikeouts and, in addition to earning a National League Player of the Week award, deGrom was named NL Rookie of the Month for July and has vaulted himself into the conversation for Rookie of the Year.
The 6-4 righty hopes to continue pitching well in August, which started with a no-hit bid against Jake Peavy and the San Francisco Giants on Saturday. Chances are that his starts will be limited down the stretch by a Mets team looking to protect what may be a very valuable commodity for future seasons.
In Northeast Ohio, another former Stetson pitcher has been on fire as well. Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians has been spectacular in his past three starts, going the distance twice and allowing only two runs while striking out a whopping 25 batters. Kluber’s 2.55 ERA and 177 strikeouts are both good enough for the top 10 in the American League. Kluber is 12-6 this season and hasn’t recorded a loss since June 30th, posting a 4-0 mark in five July starts with a 1.54 ERA.
Down in the Southeast, former Stetson infielder Chris Johnson is beginning to heat up at the plate after a slow start to the 2014 season. Johnson, a career .287 hitter who almost won the NL batting title hitting an outstanding .321 in 2013, hit just .240 in the first month of the 2014 season. Since that slow start, he has been red-hot. hitting .360 in the past week and .286 since the All-Star break.
Johnson hopes to continue his hot streak down the stretch as the Braves are in the hunt to win the National League East for a record 13th time.
Other Hatters in the Minor leagues include: Jake Boyd for the Class A Inland Empire 66ers (Angels), Ben Carhart of the Kane County Cougars Class A (Cubs), Lindsey Caughel of the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Dodgers), Sam Kimmel of the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles), Nick Rickles of the Class A Beloit Snappers (A’s), Brian Bocock of the AAA Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals), and Kurt Schluter of the Normal Cornbelters of the Frontier League.
Boyd is 1-2 with a 4.63 ERA in 25 relief appearances this year with 31 strikeouts. Carhart is batting .276 for Kane County in 96 games while learning a new position, catcher. He has four homers and 40 RBI on the year. Caughel, who plays in the same league as Boyd, has an 8-2 record in 10 games, with eight starts. He has a 2.44 ERA and has 60 strikeouts in 62.2 innings of work.
Kimmel has played in just 18 games this year while playing for three different teams in the Orioles system. He is hitting .232 in 56 at bats. Rickles, who preceded Kimmel as the catcher for the Hatters, has missed the entire season with an injury.
Bocock has played a total of 83 games, mostly at AAA Omaha. He is hitting .264 on the year.
Schluter is the only member of the 2014 Hatters playing professionally. He has appeared in five games on the mound, posting an 0-2 record with an 8.23 ERA.