After missing out on the Russell Martin sweepstakes earlier this Winter, the Cubs front office set their sights on Miguel Montero of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The two teams came to an agreement Tuesday sending Montero to the North Side in exchange for RHP Jeferson Mejia and RHP Zach Godley. Reports are saying that the Cubs will assume the rest of Montero's three year, $40M contract. Both pitchers acquired by the Diamondbacks are still in A ball but lets take a more in depth look at the pair.
Photo courtesy of Mike Janes/Four Seam Images
One of the Cubs top international free agent signings in 2013, Jeferson Mejia put his name on the dotted line for an $825,000 signing bonus out of the Dominican Republic as an 18 year old. Listed at 6'7 and 220 pounds, he made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League in August after signing. He made three starts spanning nine innings with six hits, three walks, and six strike outs.
The lanky right hander made his stateside debut this past season playing in the rookie level Arizona League. He was impressive in 12 appearances spanning 40 innings with a 2.48 ERA, 3.76 FIP, and 1.18 WHIP. Mejia struck out 45 (26%) with 17 walks (9.8%), 30 hits and one home run allowed with a nice .276 BABIP and brutal 53.4% strand rate. The opposition only managed a .204/.304/.265 line against him with just six extra base hits and a 1.53 GO:FO ratio. Right handed hitters in particular struggled to crack the Mendoza Line with a .192/.286/.269 triple slash in 121 plate appearances with 33 strike outs to just nine walks. Lefties were just as bad at .233/.346/.256 in a very short sample of 52 PA's.
Mejia has an absolutely electric arm with a fastball that sits in the mid 90's with sink, touching 97 mph with excellent plane from his massive frame. He uses a low 80's curve ball with late bite and a developing change up to round out his repertoire. Despite the amount of moving parts involved in a pitcher of his size's delivery, Mejia keeps them in sync well but still has bouts where his control deserts him. He's also still growing, putting on at least 25 pounds since signing with the Cubs. Mejia has the necessary pieces to move into the rotation if the Diamondbacks choose to develop him that way. He should be ready to move on to a short season squad like Missoula or Hillsboro for the upcoming season.
2014 Rookie stats
Photo courtesy of UT/247 Sports
Known only to the die hard Cubbie fans, Zach Godley was a 10th round selection by the Cubs in the 2013 draft as a senior sign from the University of Tennessee. He signed for $35,000 after serving as the ace of the Tennessee staff for two years. The Cubs moved him to the bullpen and he split 2013 between the rookie level Arizona League and Boise of the short season Northwest League. The 6'3, 235 pound right hander threw 26.2 innings with a 2.02 ERA, 1.81 FIP, and 1.01 WHIP with 28 strike outs (26.9%) to just five walks (4.8%) and 22 hits. The opposition hit .227/.262/.309 with a .310 BABIP and 74.1% strand rate. The then 23 year old generated ground balls at a 57.7% clip, about 10 percent better than league average, and a 1.72 ground out to fly out ratio. In the short sample size of his debut, he didn't show any platoon split, limiting both sides to an OPS below .580.
With his advanced age, the Cubs started him at Low A Kane County to begin 2014 where he made 11 appearances as their closer, pitching to a 1.80 ERA, 1.55 FIP, and 1.07 WHIP in 15 innings. He struck out 25 (41%) with seven walks (11.5%) and nine hits allowed, earning seven saves. Midwest League hitters only managed a .170/.267/.226 line against him with a .310 BABIP and 81.3% strand rate. In early May he was promoted to A+ Daytona in the Florida State League, making 29 more appearances to finish out the year covering 40.1 innings. He finished 21 of those games with eight saves and a 3.57 ERA, 3.19 FIP, and 1.41 WHIP while striking out 52 (28.9%) and walking 17 (9.4%). The opposition hit .253/.331/.342 off him as he dealt with a .349 BABIP and 69.3% strand rate. For the year he threw 55.1 innings with 15 saves, a 3.09 ERA, 2.75 FIP, and a 1.32 WHIP. He struck out a total of 77 batters (32%) with 24 walks (10%) and an opponents triple slash line of .232/.315/.313 with a .341 BABIP and 72% strand rate. Once again left and right handed hitters were kept to a similar OPS under .640 with no platoon split, and Godley also improved every month.
With a player as relatively obscure as Godley, not much recent information is out there on his scouting report. There are reports that he works with a low 90's fastball that reaches the mid 90's, a decent curve and below average change up. He's got an easy delivery with a high 3/4 arm slot, but from the video's I've seen he could use his lower half more. Working down in the zone has helped him generate an above average amount of ground balls, and just three home runs in 82 professional innings. He's shown a tick below average control for the most part. Joining the Diamondbacks, he should be able to move to AA Mobile's bullpen without much issue as he enters his age 25 season. He could wind up being a decent early innings reliever or mop up man in the big leagues. At worst he's organizational depth for a team specifically looking to add just that.