#3 – RHP Jenrry Mejia

Bats/Throws: R/R

Height/Weight: 6’0”/170lbs

Acquired: NDFA

Born: 10/11/89 (Santo Domingo, DR)

2009 Rank: #5

Why Ranked Here: I love writing about young prospects, and introducing them to wide audience.  Wait, what?  Everyone already knows Jenrry Mejia’s name? And he’s a reliever?  Huh?  March is a weird month.

An experienced National League scout, who covers the Mets said simply of Mejia and the Mets in August, 2009: “He’s the best arm they have.”  Mejia stays at #3, instead of climbing higher, because he’s still primarily an arm with 1. Little success above advanced-A, and inconsistent secondary pitches.

As Mets fans know by now, Mejia has a great arm.  He has the potential to shine as a starter.  And yet, the Mets appear poised to just drop him into the bullpen as a middle reliever, gaining at most, if he’s wildly successful, a few runs over the course of the season.   The Mets are making such a decision not just because Mejia has oodles (that’s a technical term) of talent, but because every decision-maker is feeling the pressure to win now, long-term be damned.  I made the point Thursday night in  a phone interview that it could be in the Mets short-term and long-term interest to start Mejia in the minors.  Is anyone convinced that the Mets rotation is ready to win a division?  In that scenario, having Mejia stretched out and working on improving as a starter ready to step in by June when Oliver Perez goes bad Ollie, or John Maine’s shoulder goes “bad shoulder” would be significantly more valuable than Mejia for three batters at a time.

The two things to like most about Mejia are his fastballs and his head.  In the Arizona Fall League, his fastball sat at 93-95 mph and was a real weapon, generating swings and misses and weak contact.  Mejia can cut the four-seamer, or not.  It’s not clear that he knows how the pitch will react every time it leaves his hand, however.  His command appeared better in the spring, but his velocity will certainly serve to cover up many mistakes.  At the suggestion of the Mets staff, Mejia worked on his two-seamer in the desert; it had life at 92-93 mph as well.  As far as his head, coaches who have worked with him, rave about Mejia’s work ethic and intelligence.  One notable example of his intelligence is the speed with which he’s learned English.  In 2008, in his first year playing professionally on US soil, he was only comfortable doing an interview through an interpreter.  One year later, in the fall of 2009, he has become comfortable expressing himself, and his baseball development in English.

As hard as Mejia throws there are still a number of significant areas that he will need to work on to become a top of the rotation starter.  First, Mejia sometimes falls in love with his velocity and tries to throw every ball through the catcher.  Doing so robs his heater of its natural movement, makes it difficult to locate, and creates inconsistent mechanics.  Second, his off-speed pitchers lag far behind his fastball.  His changeup is his second pitch.  When it’s on, it has sink at 87-89 mph.  When it’s up, it’s a pitch that hitters can handle.  Mejia flashes a plus curveball, with hard biting action at 78-80 mph.  However, he really struggles with his release point with the offering and simply cannot consistently make it do what he wants.  He has trouble throwing it for a strike when he wants needs a get-me-over breaking ball or bury it when he needs to put a hitter away.

Part of the reason that it’s so easy to rank Mejia at the top of the Mets pitching heap, is that even if he never refines his off-speed stuff to the level that would make him an MLB starter, he could be an impact reliever instead just by commanding his fastball.

If anything, the moving Mejia to the ‘pen damages rather than hurts Mejia’s ranking here.  Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA’s weighted mean for Mejia is a 0.7 WARP, or a few runs above replacement.  That’s not valuable now, and it means Mejia will be forced to finish his development in the Majors where winning, not development is the priority.

2009: Mejia rolled through the FSL with Brad Holt on his way to AA by the first week of June.  In AA,  Mejia’s walk rate, which had always been strong, climbed to a frightening 4.7 BB/9 and his gb% dropped nearly 10 percentage points from his time in the FSL.  All of this indicates he’s ready for the big leagues.

Dr. Pangloss Says: Elite starter

Debbie Downer Says: Middle reliever

Projected 2010 Start: AA Binghamton rotation.  Wait a second, April Fool’s is past.  MLB bullpen.

MLB Arrival: Too soon

08 – GCL 2-0 0.60 3/3 15 9 1 1 0 3 15 1.8 9.0 5.0 65.1 0.60
08- NYP 3-2 3.49 11/11 56.2 42 22 22 4 23 52 3.7 8.3 2.3 60.1 3.52
09- A+ 4-1 1.97 9/9 50.1 41 18 11 0 16 44 2.9 7.9 2.8 65.4 3.23
09 – AA 0-5 4.47 10/10 44.1 44 28 22 2 23 47 4.7 9.6 2.0 56.3 5.71