For the first time since David Wright and Jose Reyes arrived on the scene, I am very excited about the Mets farm system. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading more about them, or maybe it’s actually the talent pool, but for some reason it seems like the Mets have some intriguing prospects at every level of their organization. Fresh Kauffy will take a look at some of those prospects, some of whom have already seem limited big league action. First on the burner: Jenrry Mejia.
Signed as an amateur free agent by Omar Minaya in 2007, Mejia made the team as a reliever out of spring training last year (which I still believe was a huge mistake and limited his growth in 2010). In his 30 appearances out of the pen, Mejia allowed 10 earned runs on 29 hits and 15 walks in 27 2/3 innings, while striking out 17 in mainly low pressure situations. Mejia’s average leverage index, a measure of how much pressure is on a reliever when he enters the game, was .813, where anything above 1.0 is high pressure and anything below 1.0 is low pressure. He was sent down to the minors in June to be stretched out, returning in September where he made three starts. In the rotation, Mejia’s starts lasted five, four and two and one-third innings (he left that game due to injury concern), and he allowed 10 earned runs on 17 hits and four walks, while striking out five. In total, Mejia’s first taste of the majors wound up as such: 39 IP, 4.62 ERA (4.98 xFIP), 46 hits, 20 walks, 22 strikeouts and opposing batting line of .289/.377/.396.
So Mejia was not the phenom the moment he arrived in Queens, but it is important to remember two things. The first is that Mejia was only 20 last season, and the second is that his sample size in the majors is small. To examine him further (as with all Met prospects who have seem little actions in the majors), we must look as his minor league numbers. Those stats paint a different picture.
Mejia has appeared in 56 minor league games, with all but seven coming as a starter. In 252 1/3 minor league innings, Mejia has compiled a 2.64 ERA, 1.117 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 2.31 K/BB. That last number is important, because while his control wasn’t exactly stellar in the minors (he walked 3.9 batters per nine innings as opposed to 4.6 in the majors), his strikeouts were far better than at the major league level, where he averaged just 5.1 per nine innings. Furthermore, batters have hit just seven minor league homers off Mejia, so the question becomes, how can he bring his success to the major league level?
The answer is twofold. First, Mejia has to throw strikes. Consistently hitting the mid 90s on the gun is great, but it doesn’t mean much of the pitch is a ball most of the time. In his first major league start, Mejia thew 64 of 96 pitches for strikes-roughly 67%, which was great. However, in his second start, he thew just 47 of 81 pitches for strikes-about 58%. In his final start, he was on a similar pace, throwing 22 of 40 pitches for strikes (55%). Not coincidentally, his first start was his most successful.
The other thing Mejia has to do is work in his secondary pitches. Everyone knows his fastball is electric, but he also features a twelve to six curve in the high 70s to low 80s that can be devastating when paired with the heater. The change still needs some work, which he throws in the mid 80s, but is necessary if he wants to be effective against lefties. While in the majors last season, Mejia used his fastball just over than 76% of the time-way too often. To have success, he’ll have to be able to throw his other pitches more consistently.
Mejia’s upside is incredible, but he still has lots of work and growing to do. Seeing him in the majors last year was exciting, but starting him (and hopefully keeping him) at Buffalo this season is the right move. Once he develops properly, Mejia should be a fixture at the top of the Mets rotation for years to come.