The significance of Jenrry Mejia’s spot start

All the major media outlets expect the Mets to promote Jenrry Mejia to start one of the games Friday in the day/night doubleheader against the Nationals. Mejia has been slowed this year by an elbow injury but has made six appearances in the minors, with the last two being strong starts in Double-A. For Binghamton he has gone 11 innings, allowed 1 ER and notched 9 Ks.

Several years ago, Mejia was the club’s top prospect. However, the combination of being forced into a relief role by a manager and general manager trying to save their jobs, along with injury issues, have slowed his development and kept him from making any kind of impact in the majors. Yet Mejia is still only 23 years old and a long career is still a possibility.

So, let’s dream for a minute. Let’s say that Mejia pitches well in what is supposed to be a spot start. Just to throw some numbers out there for illustration, pretend that he delivers five scoreless innings, fans four and does not allow a walk. What do the Mets do then?

After getting pounded in back-to-back starts after the All-Star break, is Jeremy Hefner’s spot in the rotation in jeopardy? And if it is, is he still a candidate for the bullpen or do the Mets use up an option on him and send him to the minors?

Let’s say this is exactly what happens. And let’s also imagine that Mejia pitches well for the rest of the year. For grins and giggles, give Mejia a final record this year of 5-3 with a 3.60 ERA, with peripherals that generally support those numbers. Then where does Mejia stand in the overall scheme of things with the Mets?

Does the front office consider him a building block for the future? Before Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey were in the system, it seemed a given that a healthy Mejia would be a top of the rotation starter. But the current brain trust was not part of that hype and not responsible for bringing in Mejia in the first place. Would it be easier for Alderson to part with Mejia then a player he and his staff acquired and developed?

We all know Harvey (also an Omar Minaya pick) is not going anywhere. The overwhelmingly strong preference would be not to let Wheeler, Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard leave, either. But if the long-discussed trade for an impact bat is to happen, odds are that Cory Mazzoni is not going to get a deal done as the primary piece.

No, the Mets are going to have to include someone who could be a top-of-the-rotation guy in the deal. And that’s why Mejia’s ability to come back strong this year is a big thing for the Mets. Everyone loves how well Carlos Torres has pitched this year for New York but he’s also a 30 year old with not much previous in his record to support his fantastic start. It’s unlikely anyone wants to trade for him as a key piece and unlikely his presence makes dealing, say, Syndergaard a palatable idea.

But if Mejia comes back and pitches well for the Mets, that’s a whole different ball game. His youth, stuff – he gets lots of strikeouts and grounders – and contract status make him potentially a desirable piece for a bunch of teams. Or his presence makes parting with Montero to get a big bat no longer a deal breaker.

In the immediate sense, it’s wonderful that Mejia is getting the call so we do not have to watch another mediocre or worse effort from Chris Schwinden. But in the big picture, we get a chance to see how far along Mejia is in his road back from injury. A healthy, productive spot start on Friday could set the wheels in motion for a big move this offseason.

17 comments for “The significance of Jenrry Mejia’s spot start

  1. Name
    July 25, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Meija is one of those Met pitchers that cannot find the strikezone at the MLB level. He has a career mid 3’s walk rate in the minors and ad walk rate 50% more in the major leagues. Someone needs to show him that the distance from the mound to the plate is the same as in the majors as in the minors.

    Until he figures this out, all he will be is a big ball of wasted potential.

    • July 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

      Aaaah, but the sample size is Lilliputian…

    • July 25, 2013 at 11:15 am

      What you say is true. It’s also something that happens with the vast majority of rookie pitchers and it’s been fewer than 60 IP in the majors for Mejia.

      In Greg Maddux’ first full season in the majors, he had a 4.3 BB/9. He went on to have 19 consecutive years with a walk rate under 2.4, with the vast majority of those being under 2.0

      It’s not to say that Mejia=Maddux. But if a pitcher as great as Greg Maddux suffered with his control when he first came up then I’m not going to be too alarmed when Mejia does it. We’ve all been spoiled by Matt Harvey.

    • Za
      July 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      So….did you check out the game today? I’m getting out of work and just checked his line. Very sexy. 7 innings, 7 hits, 7 Ks, 0 BB. Will check the video highlights on the ride home.

      • Jerry Grote
        July 26, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        I watched practically every pitch. He has a diving splitter that the Nats couldn’t even get close to hitting. The seven singles were all off fastballs up, and I would say that there were a total of four well hit balls off of him.

        That said, the Nats missed a TON of balls out of the strike zone. Swing and misses dominated the game.

        It was definitely a fun game to watch. He totally was in control.

        PS: For what its worth, Lagares was all that and a bag of chips. At least three plays that could have changed the game in the outfield, a walk against a legit control pitcher … at this point, his numbers against RHP and LHP are almost exactly the same.

        Goodbye Kirk.

        • Jerry Grote
          July 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

          correction, I meant to write sinker/fastball not splitter. It had just the most wikked movement late that I’ve seen since … well, since Mike Scott.

          But it looked an awful lot like that, but not as fast.

  2. blastingzone
    July 25, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Lets say Mejia pitches a great game and the mets don’t find excuses to send him back to the
    minors(still needs work,not ready, etc) and they leave him in the rotation they would in all
    likely hood move Torres back into the bull pen and leave Hefner in the rotation!(there not giving up on Hefner after two bad starts in a row)Then lets say Mejia pitches well the rest of the year and stays healthy and goes 8-4 the mets would be crazy to trade him! I would rather trade Montero and any of our other prospects except SYNDERGAARD and keep Mejia who
    was tabbed to be our next Harvey or Wheeler three years ago before Manuel screwed him up!
    I wouldn’t have a problem with trading Hefner or Gee with Mejia to replace one of them and
    keeping Torres in the rotation till Niese is ready!!

    • July 25, 2013 at 11:17 am

      You won’t find many bigger Hefner supporters than me – I just used him as an example. I could have just as easily picked Torres.

  3. Joe Vasile
    July 25, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I just don’t know about Mejia ever being a top of the rotation guy Brian. Sure the cutter/fastball is a good pitch, but the curve will be an average offering at best, and he doesn’t really have a ML caliber third pitch. I see Mejia as a nice setup man/closer ceiling, but I do agree that this spot start is huge to showcase to other teams what he can do so perhaps he can be included in a trade.

    • July 25, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Mejia also throws a changeup. According to TexasLeaguers, he had an 18.2% swing-and-miss rate with his change last year in the majors.

  4. Jerry Grote
    July 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    It’s all a nice pipe dream, but completely a fantasy … starting off with the idea that Mejia will ever get through a start with 0 BB.

    Control – even this year – continues to be a problem for him and I think it always will. 4 BB/9 in the minor leagues doesn’t hack it, and I can bet that Rendon, Harper, Zim, Laroche are the types of hitters to make him put in the middle of the plate.

    We MIGHT get lucky on Friday afternoon, but my odds say he is included in a trade. As a toss in, not as a featured player.

  5. Metsense
    July 26, 2013 at 8:44 am

    The Mets have three young power pitchers who should not be traded: Harvey, Wheeler and Syndergard.
    Niese, Gee, Heffner, Montero and deGrom comprise the next group of pitchers that should be 2014 starters. It is this group of “tradeable” pitchers when packaged with some position players that will determine the quality of the “impact” bat the Mets obtain. It is time for Mejia to step up and be part of the this secondary group and Friday would be a good time to do this.

  6. Marcus
    July 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

    You guys called it! What a game. Anyone else dreaming of a rotation full of aces?

    • July 27, 2013 at 11:03 am

      Thanks Marcus. Now news is out that the Mets are going to a six-man rotation. And this is with Niese still on the DL and Montero/Syndergaard still in the minors. The ace rotation is a fun thing to dream about!

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