The Mets signed right-handed reliever Wanel Mesa to a minor league contract. News of the agreement was first reported by Baseball America. The 25-year-old hurler has spent most of his time in the Nationals minor league organization (2006-2010), while playing the last two seasons for four different Independent League teams.
This is an interesting signing, mostly because everywhere Mesa has pitched within the last three seasons, he’s struggled mighitly. When the Nats promoted him to Single-A Hagerstown in 2010, he pitched to a 2-4 record, 7.00 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. That performance led the Nationals to release him; he found a home in Indy ball, but it just continued to get worse from there. He spent two years with four different teams (most recently with the Bridgeport Bluefish in the Atlantic League) and compiled an 0-2 record, 12.46 ERA, 2.58 WHIP, and 30 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched.
Now, that last stat line looks particularly atrocious. Why would the Mets take a flyer on this guy? Thankfully, I haven’t heard his contract including an invite to Big League Spring Training, and there’s no reason as to why there should be. This is a pitcher that not only hasn’t been in a minor league system since 2010, but also hasn’t pitched higher than A-ball. He’s going to have to prove himself. His only redeeming qualities are that he’s still young, and he can strike people out.
At the young age of 25, he has some upside for the future, and the organization may think that with proper coaching, they’ll be able to get the most they can out of Mesa. The ability is there, but it’s hard to see it in the numbers he posted while in Indy Ball. However, being released at the age of 23 after one poor season doesn’t help a young player’s confidence. Finding a team to hook on with in the Independent League is great, but he probably felt like a second-class citizen since he was resorting to that in his early 20s. It looks like the Mets wanted to take a chance with Mesa because of his ability to make opponents swing-and-miss. Throughout his professional career, there was only one season where Mesa’s K/9IP ratio was less than 9.4, and it was 5.3 in 2010 before the Nationals released him.
This certainly is a reclamation project, but you never know what can happen. I feel relievers are more apt to make comebacks from the lowest points in their careers to becoming dependable MLB-caliber players. Look at Tim Byrdak; he found himself stocking shelves during graveyard shifts before finding his way back to the Majors. So, crazier things have happened, but I wouldn’t expect to hear from Mesa until he proves himself in the lower levels of the minor leagues first.