The SI.com Debate Series will pit two of our writers against one another on opposing sides of a decision many fantasy owners will face during their drafts. In this installment, Michael Beller and Gabriel Baumgaertner debate Carlos Carrasco and Jacob deGrom.
Michael Beller makes the case for Carrasco over deGrom…
If you love baseball and dominant starting pitching, you’ve likely had a moment like the one I’m about to describe at some point over the last four years. For me, it happened way back on September 7, 2014. I had moved back to my native Chicago from Washington, D.C., a couple months earlier, and being able to get the local Chicago broadcasts on my TV still activated the nostalgia receptors in my synapses. I threw on an Indians-White Sox game that day, with no particular investment beyond that.
Neither team was especially good that season. The Indians would end the year a solid, though not spectacular, 85-77, while the White Sox slogged their way to a 73-89 campaign. The Indians were still mathematically alive on September 7, but realistically the writing was on the wall. There wasn’t really anything at stake. I was just looking for a baseball game.
What I ended up getting was a dominant performance that would launch an untold number of columns on the pages of SI.com over the next four years that continue to this day. You’re reading one right now, in fact. September 7, 2014, was the day I fell in love with Carlos Carrasco’s game.
Carrasco was dominant that day, striking out eight batters and walking none while allowing just four hits in 8 2/3 scoreless innings. He would come up one out short of the first shutout of his career, but that didn’t matter. I was hooked. Two starts later, he would get that elusive shutout, fanning 12 batters in another stellar outing against the Astros. In the three seasons since, I have done whatever I could to get Carrasco on all my fantasy teams. That won’t change this year. Jacob deGrom will not stand in my way.
Aggressively targeting Carrasco has worked out pretty well for me and anyone else who has followed suit. He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last three seasons, totaling a 3.41 ERA, 3.06 xFIP, 1.10 WHIP and 592 strikeouts in 530 innings. Carrasco is one of six pitches in that time to whiff at least 10 batters per inning across at least 500 frames. The other five, you ask? Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Archer and Corey Kluber.
Let’s have some more fun with combined stats from the last three seasons. Carrasco ranks 10th in strikeout rate, seventh in strikeout-minus-walk rate, and 10th in WHIP. He’s fifth in xFIP and seventh in SIERA, again rubbing elbows with Scherzer, Sale, Kershaw, Kluber and Stephen Strasburg.
These multi-season numbers are great, but all that matters for Carrasco drafters this year is what he’s capable of in a single season. Well, he grades out pretty well in that regard, too. Carrasco is one of two pitchers to hit thresholds of a 25% strikeout rate, 6% walk rate, 3.65 ERA, 119 ERA+ (at least 19% better than league average) and 1.15 WHIP in all of the last three years. The other is Kershaw. While threshold-based groups can be manipulated to make a certain player look better than he is by the company he keeps, it’s safe to say that’s not happening with Carrasco here. Not only has he been one of the best pitchers over the last three years collectively, he has been one of the best in each of those three individual seasons. I am a big fan of deGrom’s, and if I miss out on Carrasco I’ll be happy to take him to anchor my staff. But this is now a four-season love affair that has yet to steer me wrong. I’m sticking with Carrasco.
Gabriel Baumgaertner makes the case for deGrom over Carrasco…
If you’re looking for one of the most dependable arms in fantasy, it might be imperative that you draft Jacob deGrom. He won’t cost you a first-round pick the way Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer will. He’s not the injury risk that Noah Syndergaard or Stephen Strasburg is. All deGrom will do for you is make 30 starts, strike out roughly 10 batters per nine innings and end the season with an ERA of 3.50 or better.
Long the quietest of the Mets’ talented arms—he lacks the power of Syndergaard and the celebrity of Matt Harvey—deGrom is a model of consistency on a team that always seems to be wracked by injuries and filled with drama. Entering his age-30 season, deGrom set career highs in strikeouts (239), K/9 (10.7) and starts (31) in 2017. His home run rate shot up (28 total, 1.29 homers per nine innings, 16.1% HR/FB ratio), but the increase was commensurate with the rise in home runs across baseball in 2017. Otherwise, deGrom is a model fantasy pitcher: his walk rate is low, his strikeout rate is high and he keeps his WHIP nice and low even when he surrenders home runs.
Beller talks about year-to-year consistency in his argument for Carrasco, huh? Well, how about this for year-to-year consistency. Two seasons ago, deGrom was limited to 24 starts because of injury. He still posted a 3.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 143 strikeouts in 148 innings that year, and that’s by far the worst season of his career. From 2014 through 2015, he had a 2.61 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 349 strikeouts in 331 1/3 innings. His ERA jumped to 3.53 last year because of the homers, but you can stomach that when it comes with nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings and a WHIP south of 1.20 across 200-plus frames. Year-to-year consistency? This guy is the very model of it.
To win a fantasy league, your pitching staff needs low-risk, high-upside options. Of the pitchers outside of the top tier—Kershaw, Scherzer, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale—deGrom is the most trustworthy.