Keury Mella has never been advertised as one of baseball’s top prospects, but he was one of the best minor leaguers in the San Francisco Giants system when he was traded at the 2015 trade deadline.
Prior to that season, John ranked him a hair outside his Top 100 at number 104 overall. Third in the system behind Andrew Susac and Kyle Crick, Mella was signed as an 18-year old out of the Dominican Republic in 2011.
He headlined a two-player package to the Cincinnati Reds that also included first baseman/corner outfielder Adam Duvall, sending veteran righty starter Mike Leake to the Giants.
Duvall, to his credit, has defied the questions about his defense and lack of contact ability to become the Reds everyday left-fielder and was a National League All-Star in 2016.
Mella, now 24 years old, was called up at the end of the 2017 season and made two relief appearances for the Reds in late September. A member of the 40-man roster, he was called up directly from Double-A Pensacola to make his major league debut.
This season, after graduating last season, he is back at Pensacola for the Blue Wahoos. In fact, he has only thrown one start at the Triple-A level, and a beauty it was, allowing just three hits and a run over seven innings.
That was in 2016 in a predestined short stay, and he is destined to return to Triple-A by mid-summer, as long as he wraps things up productively at Double-A.
So far this season, that has certainly been the plan. In five starts so far, he has nearly been untouchable. In 27 innings, he has allowed just three runs, five walks, 19 hits and struck out 25 opposing hitters.
The tally to date: 1.00 ERA with a .0889 WHIP.
Still just 24, Mella arrived in Cincinnati with plenty of hype and expectation after the trade, and has largely fallen off the radar due to his slower progress than other Reds pitching prospects who have developed a little quicker. Like Luis Castillo, also acquired via trade and thus similarly judged.
Mella pitched in the Dominican Winter League in 2017 as well, and appeared five times as a reliever to great success. He allowed just five hits and two walks in 7.1 innings for a sub-one WHIP.
A combination of things bode very well for the right-hander. He dipped his toes in the majors at the end of last season, he is on the 40-man roster, and he has started the year in style. It looks good for him, and is highly probable that he arrives in the Cincinnati bullpen later on this season with a shot at a spot start or more.