Having run support to back up a sterling performance on the mound is key to any pitcher’s success, regardless of they start or come in out of the bullpen. While the New York Mets enjoyed a resurgent season from their starting rotation, their offense decided not to join the party, making Jacob deGrom and company fight for every out and winning decision.
The 2018 National League Cy Young award winner put up a sparkling 1.70 ERA across 32 starts and 34 total appearances but finished the season with an 11-win, 10-loss campaign. This is not a typical record that usually comes associated with an award-winning hurler, but then again the 2018 version of the Mets was no ordinary team.
How allergic the Mets came to scoring runs when deGrom toed the rubber was quite alarming, as they failed time and time again to even put any runs on the board, at times requiring deGrom to support himself by driving in runs. While not putting up the kinds of numbers that Blake Snell did to win the AL Cy Young last season, deGrom can be looked at as a better starting pitching option, both now and down the road.
Even with the lack of run support provided to him, deGrom is in the running to repeat as Cy Young winner in 2019, and he should have more offensive firepower backing him this upcoming season. Bringing in Robinson Cano in the offseason was a big step in the right direction, and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz was also acquired with Cano in the deal with the Seattle Mariners, which was the proverbial first shoe dropping to announce that the offseason had begun.
Having Diaz behind him in the bullpen should help shore up the relief efforts that can come in after deGrom and shut teams down, helping keep deGrom’s ERA low. Including deGrom, here are five likely candidates to factor into the decision for the 2019 NL Cy Young award.
Jacob deGrom, RHP, New York Mets
Having already added the 2018 version of the Cy Young to his mantle, deGrom is at the front and center of the award race for this season. Repeating with this award is tough, especially with how tough the NL is in terms of their arms race.
With more of an offense supporting him this season, deGrom has everything at his disposal to become a two-time winner. Provided Cano and company remain healthy throughout the season and experience near-playoff levels of success, deGrom should see his overall record get a boost while his ERA should hover right around 2.00.
Having the best WAR for pitchers and for every single player in the NL last year at 10.5, deGrom is far and away one of the best pitchers in the entire MLB. For the Mets to lock him up, they will need to rent out a few Brinks trucks and make sure they are backed up directly to deGrom’s house sometime soon.
Max Scherzer, RHP, Washington Nationals
A regular factor on this award list, Max Scherzer now has lefty Patrick Corbin to look to for support in the Nationals starting rotation, added to Stephen Strasburg and company. Scherzer again put up great numbers in 2018, earning 18 wins and pitching to a 2.53 ERA, the third-lowest in the NL.
Even with Bryce Harper having left the nation’s capital, the Nationals’ offense has a lot of returning tools that will be strong options for 2019. Anthony Rendon, young sensation Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman and others will be looked to once again to power the offense and take some pressure off of the pitching staff.
Rumors of looking at adding Craig Kimbrel would be a cherry on the top of an impressive offseason, even with losing Harper. If Kimbrel was to sign, he would immediately make Washington rise up a rung in the National League East, which is looking to become one of the better NL divisions this season.
Scherzer will be right up there with deGrom in this award race, but Scherzer could benefit from having improved rotational mates and put together an otherworldly season.
Chris Archer, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Acquired in a final deadline push by the Pirates, Chris Archer has all the tools to make his success in the AL translate into success in the NL. Facing off against his NL Central foes will not help his stats, but once he gets settled into his current team and role, he can definitely get into a groove and begin to mow teams down.
Having pitched in a small market for his entire MLB career, which started in Tampa Bay, Archer is the clear cut favorite to be the Pirates’ ace of their starting rotation, the reason he was acquired for top prospects Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows on the final day of the regular season before the trade deadline.
The Pirates, who will be forced to fight an uphill battle in a tough division, will look to Archer to stabilize their pitching while their offense gets going. In a season that can represent competing but should represent retooling, the Pirates will need to add pieces around Archer to keep him in town once his current deal runs out.
One of the more unlikely options to win the Cy Young from this list, Archer is the epitome of an underdog in this award race, but he can definitely shock some people.
Aaron Nola, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The LSU product has become the stalwart of the Phillies’ starting rotation, and with Philly running the gamut this offseason with trades and signings, he will need to be on top of his game in 2019.
The team focused on boosting its offense this offseason, as J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and some guy with the last name of Harper were brought in to shore up their lineup at the plate, pushing all their chips to the middle of the table this season.
Nola is a highly effective, developed arm who has the potential to become the best pitcher in the NL in a few seasons. When he was drafted, he had developed a lot of his arsenal in school, thus making his transition into the professional game much easier than for most.
Nola is a sneaky good selection for this award, and it may come down to how the team performs this season.
Dallas Keuchel, LHP, Milwaukee Brewers
More of a fortunate prediction than a foregone conclusion, Dallas Keuchel would be a superb addition to the Brewers staff, who is relying on Jimmy Nelson returning from injury to become their ace again. Having been tied to Keuchel over a rumored (but not 100% confirmed) report that the Brewers, along with the Atlanta Braves, offered Keuchel contracts this offseason, Milwaukee is constantly looking for team upgrades.
Having already blown through their franchise record of guaranteed salaries for a season but with an OK with adding more, the Brewers would be a great second team for Keuchel. Having pitched in the AL for his entire career, Keuchel would be a solid addition to a team that is seemingly one solid starter away from being a World Series competitor.
If Keuchel were not to sign in Brewtown, he should still be considered a favorite for a Cy Young award, regardless of which league he would be in.
Overall winner: Aaron Nola