Latin Market Bargain: Jenrry Mejia

The international free agent market opened yesterday with a number of high-profile signings of 16-year-old prospects out of Latin America. Many of the players signed on Thursday received six- to seven-figure bonuses bases on their tools and future projections. One of the most fascinating parts of scouting and development is that there are always diamonds in the rough to be found.

The New York Mets club is having a frustrating season at the Major League level, but the organization has to be pretty excited about one of its international free agent acquisitions from the 2007 signing period. Right-hander Jenrry Mejia, just 19 years old, has risen to double-A in just his first full season in North America. The best part is that the Mets organization signed Mejia for less than $20,000.

Mejia possesses a mid-90s fastball that is still adding velocity and a very good, deceptive changeup. His breaking ball – a curveball – is still developing. Mejia has shown good control for a young pitcher with limited professional pitching experience.

The Dominican hurler made his North American debut in the rookie league in 2008 after spending one season in the Dominican Summer League. Before the 2008 season was over, though, Mejia was pitching against college graduates in the short-season New York Penn League.

Despite jumping over low-A to begin 2009, Mejia had few problems in high-A ball, where he posted a 1.97 ERA and allowed just 41 hits in 50.1 innings of work. He had a walk rate of just 2.86 BB/9 and racked up a strikeout rate of 7.87. Mejia also induced ground balls at the rate of 65.4%, while allowing a line-drive rate of just 9.8%. Promoted to double-A as a teenager, he has actually had to work a little bit. In four starts, Mejia’s given up 23 hits in 21.2 innings, while posting rates of 3.74 BB/9 and 9.97 K/9. His ground-ball rate has remained solid at 53.6%, while his line-drive rate is still low at 10.1%.

Mejia is an exciting prospect – and not just because he’s holding his own as a teenager in double-A. He’s dominating with a good repertoire that promises to get even better as he fills out his frame and gains more experience spinning his curveball. As well, he works down in the zone better than most young pitchers (thanks in part to that changeup) and he’s allowed just two home runs this season in 72 innings of work combined between high-A and double-A.

If he can stay healthy, Mejia has the chance to be a No. 1 or 2 starter and his Major League career will very likely begin before his 21st birthday.



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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.


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Pat Andriola
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Pat Andriola
6 years 11 months ago

Thank you, Marc, for shining some light on a promising young talent in Binghamton. Mets fans are extremely excited about Mejia, and I think, as you highlighted, there’s good reason to be. They are also holding Mejia back on his innings a little bit as well. Here’s a link on it: http://www.metsminorleagueblog.com/2009/07/03/mejia-and-thole-update/

Also, it’s nice to see something positive written about the Mets farm system, which has repeatedly been put down despite some exciting prospects apart from Mejia (i.e. Wilmer Flores, Brad Holt, Ike Davis, Josh Thole, and Reese Havens, just to name a few).

big baby
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6 years 11 months ago

mejia makes me happy.

he’s currently given a couple of starts off as he’s just about to pitch as many innings as he did all of last year.

he also reportedly hit 102 on the stadium gun in his last start.

PhDBrian
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PhDBrian
6 years 11 months ago

Maybe his is 21 and not 19?

BlackOps
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BlackOps
6 years 11 months ago

Or maybe he’s good.

megamets
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6 years 11 months ago

If Oliver Perez is allowed to pitch in the Majors then so should Mejia.

Mike
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Mike
6 years 11 months ago

Saw this kid pitch in his AA debut this year. Very very composed pitcher when in trouble. His changeup is a plus pitch at 86-88, a bit fast but I heard he throws it like a two seamer but with a changeup grip. His fastball that day sat at 94 and hit 97 a few time. His curveball showed plus potential and IMO had more break than Tim Alderson’s curveball which is the best in the Giants organization, but needs to control that pitch. I very well have talked to the scout that was quoted in the NY Times last month. Raved big time about this kid and said that Brad Holt is nowhere in his league as terms of a prospect.

big baby
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6 years 11 months ago

it looks like the mets were thinking about calling up him to the bigs, as he strained his middle finger.

Mike
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Mike
6 years 11 months ago

Really? I heard they were trying to keep his innings down this year to 100 or so.

Mike
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Mike
6 years 11 months ago

Oh now I get the joke hahahaah

acerimusdux
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acerimusdux
6 years 11 months ago

I’ve seen him pitch three times this year at A+ St. Lucie.
I like him a bit better than Holt, though I could understand preferring Holt. Holt has the size, mechanics, where you might bet on him in the long run. Whereas Mejia is under 6 foot (though well built), and hasn’t yet shown he can keep this up for 150+ innings in a season. Mejia will probably only throw about 110 this year. But Mejia’s secondary offering are currently ahead of where Holt’s are (and Holt’s are pretty good as well).

Mejia also normally throws a tick harder than Holt, though Holt’s FB is equally effective when he keeps it down. A 94 mph FB from the taller pitcher is probably as effective as 95 from Mejia just to the release being closer to the plate.

Mejia when I’ve seen him has sat 92-95 with the FB, and has usually touching 96 or 97 at some point. I saw one pitch hit 99. He has outstanding FB command and can move it to both sides of the plate. Very effective running it down and away to LH batters.

The change up is a two seam variation that he is taking a lot off and getting a lot of sink. An ordinary two-seamer from Mejia sits around 91-92 mph, but he’s getting a lot of sink and movement and throwing this around 87 mph. You could think of it almost as a plus slow sinker that he uses as a change of pace. And he’s up around 94-95 enough with the four-seamer that the change of velocity is enough when combined with the movement.

With the curve he is very inconsistent in his command. The first time I saw him, he was throwing it a lot, with some very nice break and movement, but having trouble at times getting strikes with it. The second time, he had trouble throwing a decent curve at all, and didn’t break off a decent one until the fourth inning. But he was actually more effective that day just because he went to the FB and CU more and was able to throw more strikes. By the third time, shortly before his promotion to AA, he had become more consistent with the break on the CB, was throwing it more consistently at 79-80 mph, and was throwing more strikes with it, though still sometimes locating poorly in the zone (leaving it up). I would call the CB above average, the quality was good enough that he was getting away with some poor location on it at this level.

He also throws a slider, which I haven’t seen many comment on. It has the same velocity as his change up, but a distinct sharp late break away from RH hitters. It may actually be a cutter variation of that pitch, but it’s a distinct pitch which he gets some swings and misses on, as well as some weak ground balls.

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