Familia spent the entire year in the Bisons’ rotation where he struggled to throw good strikes with his fastball all year on his way to 73 walks and 128 strikeouts in 137 innings as a 22-year old. However, he finished the year on a relative high note as he matched a season-high with nine strikeouts in his final start. In his last four starts Familia ran an ERA of 3.60 and a K/BB of 4 in 25 IP, yielding 27 hits and 11 runs, 10 earned to go along with a homer, a hit by pitch and seven walks and 28 strikeouts for an opponents’ batting average of .270. In the first half, Familia walked 14% of the batters he saw in the first half, and cut that down to 8.1% in the second half. For reference, this year, the National League average is a shade under 8%. Familia really struggled to repeat his delivery early in the year, but settled down as the year went on.
Familia’s fastball was regularly mid-upper 90s and he has held his velocity deep into ball games. His second pitch is a hard curve in the mid-80s that can be vicious.
Age is funny for pitchers, who do not follow as well-defined a career path as hitters. However, to put Familia’s age in context, he was younger than 10 of the 15 pitchers on the St. Lucie Mets’ roster in advanced-A.
Nearly regardless of what Familia does in a few big league appearances this September, he belongs back in AAA in the rotation to begin the 2013 season.
Mejia, who is almost exactly a year older than Familia has did not finish strongly in his final two Bisons starts: 12 IP, 15 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 4 BB, 8 K. The Mets still have not made up their mind about what to do with Mejia. Jerry Manuel famously and foolishly pushed him to the big league bullpen in 2010. Following Tommy John Surgery in 2010, after a series of rehab starts at advanced-A, AA and then three in AAA this year, the Mets again looking for a short-term payoff, moved Mejia to the bullpen in the middle of June. Again, the move did not work. The results, over 16 outings, were ugly: 21.1 IP, 27 H, 15 R, 2 HR, 9 BB, 10 K. He seemed to overthrow out of the bullpen and his control disintegrated.
Compare Mejia’s work as a starter to that as a reliever.
Mejia was simply a better pitcher as a starter. He still throws hard and his ball has great life. It looks like he’s throwing a two-seamer more too, with movement in to right-handed hitters. In fact, over the weekend, he told Adam Rubin at ESPNNY that improving the two-seamer was a point of emphasis during his rehab work. Having watched his starts online, I think the release point on his curveball looks much more consistent than it ever did pre-TJ. However, he is not missing enough bats to be a viable big league option.
Mejia has simply not thrown very many innings. He had very, very little amateur experience, and he has never surpassed 100 innings as a professional. He is sitting on 92.2 innings this year, two off a career-high from 2009 which was split between advanced-A and AA. He needs the innings as a starter in the Mets rotation at the end of this year.
It appears that because he burned his third option before his fifth full season as a professional, the Mets will have a fourth option on Mejia in 2013. Like Familia, barring complete dominance in the next few weeks, Mejia should return to the AAA rotation to begin the 2013 season. Even if his future is in the bullpen, he needs the innings and keeping both starting will give the Mets more choices next year.
This September is about introducing Familia to the big leagues, and re-introducing Mejia so the pair is more ready to contribute next year.