Yesterday afternoon, Sandy Alderson joined Mike Francesa for a lengthy interview on WFAN. Alderson went through a host of different topics, but one of his answers stood out. When he was asked if Matt Harvey‘s injury (and potential absence for most, if not all of 2014) would speed up the arrival of the Mets’ top pitching prospects, Alderson had the following to say:
"I think ideally going into next season, if Harvey had not been injured, you’d be looking at [Matt] Harvey, [Dillon] Gee, [Jonathon] Niese, [Zack] Wheeler as a solid four. Maybe looking for somebody to fill that fifth spot…and then all the potential that we have in [Rafael] Montero, [Jacob] deGrom, just as two guys that are fairly close. Together with [Noah] Syndergaard who’s not that far away. We felt that we had the kind of depth that could get you down to maybe eight or nine as possible starters sometime during next season. With Harvey out of the picture, you’re down one – but you’re down one at the top. Which probably means we’ve gotta go out and get somebody else for the rotation. And then hope that somebody can step up – deGrom or Montero maybe even out of spring training. By and large we’re very happy with where our depth is."
It may have been a momentary lapse on Alderson’s part, but one name that he didn’t mention was Jenrry Mejia. What makes me think it wasn’t a momentary lapse, is the fact that he went through what the scenario would be if Harvey is out. Alderson noted that Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese, and Dillon Gee are locks for the rotation. He then said that he would likely add a starting pitcher (likely a free agent from outside the organization). He concluded his answer by stating that one of Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero might be the answer to round out the rotation coming out of spring training.
August 12, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets relief pitcher Jenrry Mejia (58) pitches during the second inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
If Harvey is able to avoid surgery and the Mets are in need of only one starter, it would be understandable (with Montero and Syndergaard waiting in the wings), if the Mets weren’t ready to hand a starting job to Mejia. However, the Mets will likely need two starters. Leaving Mejia out of the conversation is ridiculous.
Mejia was yanked back and forth by the Mets in 2010, hampering his development. In 2011, he missed the majority of the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He started to round back into form in 2012, putting up a 3.54 ERA in AAA but struggling in a cameo with the Mets. This season, Mejia burst back on the scene and reminded everyone why he was once viewed as the Mets’ top pitching prospect.
Even though he was pitching with bone chips in his elbow (a minor injury that he just had repaired), Mejia was tremendous in the five starts he made for the Mets, utilizing his electric stuff to baffle hitters. In his first start of the season, he opened eyes by dominating Washington over 7 scoreless innings during which he struck out 7. In total, Mejia tossed 27.1 innings for the Mets this season as a starter before the bone chips ended his season prematurely. He allowed 28 hits, walked only 4, and struck out 27. He had a 2.30 ERA and 1.17 WHIP.
It should be noted that even though Mejia made his debut with the Mets in 2010, he’s still only 23 years old – younger than Matt Harvey.
So, why is Mejia being ignored? He’s a young, high upside arm, who appears to have finally found “it.” The Mets are likely in need of two starters, and Mejia will be fully healthy way before spring training.
One thing that keeps getting repeated, is the fact that Mejia is small in stature. There have always been some who have stated that Mejia would be better off as a reliever. The problem, is that his stature is the only reason cited. Frankly, that’s a foolish reason.
There have been lots of pitchers of non traditional size who have had tremendous careers – Pedro Martinez, Tim Hudson, and Greg Maddux to name a few. This isn’t to say that Mejia is in any of those pitchers’ leagues. Rather, it’s an example being used to dispel the notion that Mejia should be banished to the bullpen because he isn’t 6′ 3″.
Mejia showed this season that he may finally have harnessed his immense potential. If Mejia eventually ends up in the pen, so be it. However, he should be given the opportunity to prove that he can make it in the rotation. Unless he proves that he can’t hack it, the starting rotation is where he belongs.