Jacob deGrom is an All-Star again, and this time he isn’t surprising anybody.
When baseball’s best converge for the All-Star Game next week in Washington, he again will be the Mets’ lone representative, just like in 2015.
Last time, he was months removed from being named NL Rookie of the Year after a surprise breakout season as a 26-year-old. He pitched the sixth inning — and struck out all three of his batters swinging — in a debut of sorts on the national stage, a preview of what we would see that October.
Now deGrom is a bona fide ace, a Cy Young Award contender and one of the leading candidates to get the start for the National League. He’ll try to enjoy it all the same, though he hopes to spend less time making public appearances and more time with his family, including 2-year-old son Jaxon.
“It’s just a cool experience. You’re around the best of the best,” deGrom said. “It’s a couple of days you get to spend with them, get to know them . . . It’s just a fun time.”
DeGrom leads the majors with a 1.79 ERA and is eighth (second in the NL) in WHIP at 0.99. In the NL, he’s third in slugging percentage against (.297) and strikeout rate (31.2 percent).
The victim of poor run support and several blown saves, deGrom has a 5-4 record, but he has allowed three or fewer runs in 15 consecutive starts, the longest stretch by a Met in a season since Dwight Gooden’s run of 24 in 1985.
All that gives deGrom a shot at the start. His primary competition: the Nationals’ Max Scherzer, who will be pitching at his home ballpark. Scherzer has a 2.33 ERA and 0.89 WHIP and has struck out 35.4 percent of his batters.
Dave Roberts, manager of the 2017 National League champion Dodgers, will decide who will start. There is recent precedent for locale serving as a tiebreaker in determining the All-Star starter. In 2013, at Citi Field, Matt Harvey got the nod over Clayton Kershaw.
“It would be awesome,” deGrom said. “That’s I think the highest honor of being a pitcher in the All-Star Game, to be able to start it. We’ll just see what happens.”
Heading to a second All-Star Game is the latest chapter in deGrom’s underdog story. He was a light-hitting college shortstop, a mid-round draft pick, a Tommy John patient. He never was much of a prospect. Now he’s one of the best pitchers in the world.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “That’s the same mindset I take on the mound. As long as you’re giving 100 percent, you can look yourself in the mirror after that, you can be happy with what you gave out there.”
No Mets were among the top five (or top 15 for outfielders) in the fan vote. Brandon Nimmo, who wasn’t on the ballot, could be added as an injury replacement. His .901 OPS is second among NL outfielders behind the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp (.905).