With all the attention focused on the 2016 MLB Draft last week, the major league debut of Oakland Athletics right-hander Daniel Mengden ended up on the backburner. Let's correct that.
Mengden as originally an Astros prospect, drafted in 2014, then traded to Oakland last summer in the Scott Kazmir deal.
The pre-season viewpoint from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Daniel Mengden, RHP, Oakland Athletics
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 190 DOB: February 19, 1993
2015: Grade C+
The Astros drafted Mengden out of Texas A&M in the fourth round in 2014; the Athletics got him last summer in the Scott Kazmir trade. Pitching for three teams at two levels breaks up his stat line and makes it easy to miss, but overall he posted a fine 125/36 K/BB in 131 innings. Mengden is respected for his command and he throws the standard four-pitch fastball/curve/slider/change arsenal for strikes. Velocity readings can be inconsistent: he hit 95 in college but has been more upper-80s, low-90s in pro ball. It works though, thanks to his strike-throwing regularity, and he is ready for a Double-A trial. He looks like a plausible fourth starter with some chance he could get beyond that under the right conditions. Grade C+.
Mengden opened 2016 at Double-A Midland and posted a 0.78 ERA in 23 innings over four starts, earning a quick promotion to Triple-A Nashville. He remained excellent there, with a 1.35 ERA in 45 innings over seven starts. Overall he made 11 starts in the high minors posting a combined 1.19 ERA in 68.1 innings, allowing a mere 43 hits with a 67/22 K/BB. He held his own in his first major league start against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing two runs in 5.2 innings on six hits and four walks, but fanning five.
Scouting reports from 2016 show a fastball peaking at 95 and averaging 92. This is a slight tick up from last year, when he generally peaked at 93 and worked at 90. He still has the full arsenal backing up the heat, with a slider in the mid/upper 80s, a change-up in the low-80s, and a curve in the 70s. Triple-A sources also indicate use of a new cutter to go with the fastball and slider.
He relies mainly on the harder pitches but the lower velocity bands are available to him and he'll need to make greater use of them going forward. The four walks in his first big league start are atypical and solid command is usually one of his best attributes, but it can take time to make an adjustment in the majors.
Overall, the outlook for Mengden has improved a bit from an already decent base. With the strong start to the season and the improved fastball velocity, moving him up to a Grade B- is appropriate and a good case for a full Grade B can be made.