Jenrry Mejia is Not Just a Deep Leaguer

The Mets tweeted something that at first seems really boring. But it *might* mean something very exciting for a young hurler in the organization. One that isn’t quite yet a national name.

At first glance, it’s a yawner. Except that Daisuke Matsuzaka is in a competition right now for the fifth starter spot in New York. In competition with Jenrry Mejia, who has so-so numbers in the minor leagues, can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been a top prospect for a while. That said, if Mejia wins the job with a good start this weekend in Montreal — that’s the final hurdle now that it’s easier for the Mets to retain Dice-K — he’s absolutely mixed-league relevant and a great final pitcher pickup.

Paying Matsuzaka $100k does not mean that Mejia has the job yet. But $100k is not nothing, and now the team knows it can keep the veteran for depth. Adam Rubin explained how this could be about the first week of the regular season, too:

But the $100,000 payment was not merely as simple as an opportunity to delay a rotation decision. It also can be viewed as an investment to carry an extra bench player for the first five games of the season.

If Jonathon Niese is unable to return from the disabled list for Game 6 of the season, the Mets would need both Mejia and Matsuzaka as starters. But Once Mejia is optioned to minor-league camp, he essentially cannot return the first 10 days of the season, so he could not step up and take that Niese start.

That seems to suggest the way is paved for the youngster if he keeps pitching well. It’s sort of silly that it’s coming to the last start of spring, considering how useless spring results are, but maybe the problem has been that Dice-K is pitching well (17 strikeouts, four walks in 18.2 innings) and the team could use depth.

Mejia has pitched well too, though. Well, maybe not *as* well. His ten strikeouts in 9.1 innings are great, but his five walks are a little troublesome. Especially since he walked 3.6 per nine across three minor league levels last year and has seen his walk rate oscillate. But ignore the small-sample stops at different levels, and his worst walk rates in the minors in a full year have been 3.6 last year and 3.7 when he was 19 and hit Double-A for the first time. A start with a walk or two may remind the team his command is not that terrible.

Part of the command problem might be that his fastball — the pitch that is thrown for strikes — has a lot of movement on it. The only real fastball he throws is a sinker, and it has seven inches of horizontal movement and almost four inches of vertical drop. His primary ‘fastball’ is his cutter, which has slider like drop — 4.5 inches is even a bigger drop than some sliders. That pitch hums along at 93 mph, and though it doesn’t get a ton of whiffs, it coaxes 61% of contact along the ground. His cutter is his sinker and, since his sinker got 17% whiffs last year, his sinker is his cutter. It’s okay, both pitches are good.

It’s the offspeed mix where Mejia has changed recently. He ditched his curve last year for a slider. The curve was almost exactly average (11% whiffs, 50% ground balls), but the slider has been revelatory (27% whiffs, 50% ground balls). That alone is a “sit up and take notice” moment, but in order to tell it like it is, you have to mention that his change-up was great all along (18% whiffs, 71% ground balls). For reference, the slider and the change normally get 15% whiffs and 50% ground balls. So, yeah.

Of course the problem with Mejia is obvious if you take a look at his minor league innings totals. Dude’s never managed more than the 108.2 innings he put together in 2012 across four levels. This is with five years of minor league play under his belt. Not even 110 innings. He had Tommy John surgery in 2011, he had elbow surgery this offsseason, and otherwise it’s just been a long list of ailing body parts.

So if you don’t have a ton of DL spots, he may end up back on your wire again. But when he’s in, he’s a man with four major league pitches — two of which seem superlative — pitching in a neutral park in a pitcher’s league. He’s got the upside to combine a strikeout per inning with a plus ground-ball rate, and that means he should be on your mixed league roster when he’s healthy and in the bigs. When he’s not, well, you banked what you got and you’ll have a hard choice to make.

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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

14 Responses to “Jenrry Mejia is Not Just a Deep Leaguer”

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  1. Daniel W says:

    And don’t forget that, among SPs with at least 20 IP last season, Mejia led the league in SIERA!

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  2. Yo says:

    Better than Skaggs?

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  3. Josh says:

    Buyer beware. Mejia hasn’t pitched over 108 IP in his career. The Mets are very tight about innings increases. Wouldn’t expect Mejia to get more than 130 IP. He might pitch decent but be prepared to have him shut down in August. $1 or $2 flyer at most in deep leagues IMO.

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    • Eno Sarris says:

      I say use him because he’s talented and don’t bank on August either way. I’m not going to pass on a talented pitcher in a mixed league because he has an IP limit.

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      • WilyMoMania says:

        In a league with K/BB, how do you see yourself ranking Mejia, Erasmo, and Gausman ? Mejia intrigues me most, Gausman would seem the safest if he had a rotationspot, and Ive been crushing on Erasmo since his 2nd half 2012. Im struggling to choose one for my final spot.

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  4. RIP Oderus Urungus says:

    I’ve already cut Mejia in a dynasty league that runs deep on pitching. I was excited to stash him at the end of last year, but without a guaranteed role, no point in keeping him. He also hasn’t been getting much love this offseason. He barely rates a mention in most deep league pitching articles and this is the only one I’ve seen devoted to him. (Nice article by the way.) He will be on my short list of streamer candidates.

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    • fWAR says:

      this is the only one I’ve seen devoted to him

      Our beloved Eno[s] is displacing his unrequited Duda love on another Met.

      (To be fair, the excellent analysis in the post shifted my opinion and I’ll add Mejia to my watch list.)

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  5. RotoworldModsAreNazis says:

    I still don’t see him winning the spot. I think he starts in AAA.

    Also, keep in mind Syndergaard is going to be called up eventually as well. Many think it will be as early as possible (June). I agree that Mejia is worth a $1-2 gamble, but not much more.

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  6. Nick says:

    I clicked on this article a moment after replacing picking up Mejia with my Kershaw-to-DL spot. Needless to say, I enjoyed the reading. I didn’t really know shit when I picked him up–just that he maybe won the spot and had a stellar K/BB last year–and now I’m thinking he’ll have to get hurt before I cut him.

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  7. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Another superlative article Eno!

    I think the sell here is the potential — there aren’t many FAs available this time of year, with potential k/9 above 9 and opportunity to start. His 5 starts in 2013 seem like a guide for what you could be getting here, and that’s a pretty attractive FA starter.

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  8. Matt says:

    Better than Martin Perez, Wily Peralta or Quintana?

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Base on SwStr% profile Eno laid out above, yes, Mejia’s stuff would appear to be better. Based on overall fantasy value for the 2014 season, likely no, due to the injury history and potential innings limit.

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  9. Nik says:

    The man can flat out pitch; he’ll never be allowed to get past 130 innings this year and his body is bascially glued together, but…

    He has better stuff and mound presence than Zack Wheeler; a total beast. I’ve seen every one of his starts and with Harvey out and Thor in AAA, this man is the Mets’ best pitcher without question.

    If he could ever stay healthy and if the MLB TJ bug stays away from the Mets for at least a year or two, you’re looking at a scary (all right handed)rotation in 2015 of Harvey, Mejia, Syndergaard, Wheeler and Colon with three #3 starters (Niese, Gee & Montero) all on reserve or in the pen. I’d assume Colon, Niese or Gee gets dealt for a closer along the way.

    The rest of the league can rest easy though as ownership will continue to field a terrible lineup and bullpen in their commitment to being merely competitive and gosh darn golly gee good sportsmen.

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