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Jenrry Mejia Comment

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Here is the rough draft of my 2011 Baseball Prospect Book comment about Jenrry Mejia. Most comments are not this long, but I thought this would interest some of you. Note that the real comment will include his statistics, which don't replicate properly when I try to post them here.

Jenrry Mejia, RHP, New York Mets

Bats: R    Throws: R     HT: 6-0      WT: 175   DOB: October 11, 1989

2009: Grade C+; 2010: Grade B+

 First of all, Jenrry Mejia is not a technical rookie since he exceeded the service time requirement last year. However, he is still under the 50-inning limit, and I've decided to include him in the book since I get lots of questions about him.

When I first started out as an analyst, I enjoyed pointing out the stupid player development decisions often made by major league organizations. As I got to know more baseball people in the game, I became more and more reluctant to do this. The amount of pressure inside farm system organizations is immense; the decision-makers usually have a lot more information than outside observers do; there are all kinds of factors that must be considered: roster status, player personalities, injuries, etc. It is human nature to focus on the bad while ignoring the good; it is very, very easy for outside analysts to pick out the mistakes and attack them, but harder, it seems, for us to give proper credit for the good decisions, which are often less obvious than the mistakes. So, as I've gotten older, I've gotten more mellow in my approach and more empathetic, less willing to criticize.    

All that said, sometimes a decision is so boneheaded that it just can't be ignored: case in point, the handling of Jenrry Mejia last year.

First, here is the report I wrote on him in the 2010 book:

Jenrry Mejia blew away the Florida State League early last year, on the strength of his 90-95 MPH sinking fastball. He was clocked as high as 97-98 at times. He also has a decent changeup, and the combination of the two pitches was more than FSL hitters could handle. The same was not true in Double-A. He continued to strike people out and pick up grounders (2.95 GO/AO), but his ineffective slider was a big problem and he had issues with his command and control. A stint in the Arizona Fall League was a disaster: 12.56 ERA, 25 hits and 21 runs in 14.1 innings, with 13 walks allowed. Observers I spoke with commented that his breaking stuff was weak and that his fastball didn't have the same movement that had been reported earlier in the year. On the other hand, even in Arizona he posted a 3.50 GO/AO ratio, so they weren't exactly lofting the ball against him. Assuming there is not an underlying health issue, I think the only thing wrong with Mejia is that the Mets pushed him too fast last year. He was just 19, and struggling in Double-A and in the AFL should have been expected given his below average breaking ball. That said, Mejia is still a premium prospect due to the quality of his fastball, his youth, and the combination of a high strikeout rate with plenty of grounders. I think he needs a full year of Double-A to refine his secondary pitches, but his ceiling remains that of a number one starter. He just needs more time. Grade B+.

 Does this really sound like a guy who should have begun the year in the major league bullpen? Mejia should have been in Double-A last year working on his slider. It is to his credit that he wasn't totally overmatched in the majors, although his rough K/BB ratio shows that he wasn't ready for the competition. I fail to see what the Mets gained by having him in the Show last year. His numbers could have been easily replicated by picking up some Quadruple-A guy hanging around the minors, which wouldn't have cost any more money, wouldn't have burned service time, and wouldn't have put Mejia's development at risk.

Where does Mejia stand now? I still like him; if he stays healthy I think he's going to be a very good, possibly excellent pitcher. But health IS a question; his season ended early with a rhomboid strain in his shoulder blade. We will have to see how the new regime handles him. I'm reducing his rating a notch to Grade B, but that's more due to the health question than any doubts about his talent.