Going to the experts on Mejia

So Adam Rubin — who is usually spot-on about stuff like this — reports that Jenrry Mejia will work as a reliever in big-league camp for the remainder of Spring Training and, even if he is sent back to the Minors to start the season, will not be stretched out to start games by Opening Day.

Fantastic.

I’ve said my piece about why I think using Jenrry Mejia in a Major League bullpen role is a bad idea (twice, actually), but I figured I should consult some people who know more than I do about prospects and player development before I continue beating this drum.

John Sickels writes the excellent MinorLeagueBall.com for SB Nation. Back in January, he ranked Mejia tops among Mets prospects, and wrote:

He needs to refine his breaking ball and a full year of Double-A/Triple-A is necessary in my view, but he also has number one starter potential. I hope they don’t rush him.

I followed up with him earlier this week to see what he thought about Jerry Manuel’s Major League bullpen idea and all that. I e-mailed John a general overview of my thoughts on the matter, and he responded:

I agree with your take on it. He had just 10 starts in Double-A last year with spotty results, and I think he needs more work with his command before being pushed into a major league role, even in the bullpen. He’s only 20 and I think he needs at least another 10 starts in Double-A and 20 more in Triple-A before being fully ready for major league action, for the reasons you mentioned.

Cool. Good to know I’m not crazy.

Next I e-mailed my colleague Toby Hyde, who you might know from MetsMinorLeagueBlog.com. Toby’s obviously been following the situation pretty closely, and he wrote me this:

Look, if he’s clearly one of the six best relievers in camp, he should be on the big league roster.  The Mets’ first goal is to win games at the MLB level, and if the staff decides that Mejia is decidedly better than the final guys competing for bullpen spots like Kiko Calero and Clint Everts, then Mejia should break camp with the team. Otherwise, he should go back to the minors to refine his craft.  I don’t think he’s at a point yet where he’s ready to contribute, and bringing him up as a reliever now will at best delay, and at worst halt the development of his secondary offerings that he’d need to be a successful MLB starter, or even elite reliever and realize more value down the line.

There’s no question his fastball is awesome.  It lives in the mid-90s and has wicked movement.  He can cut it or sink it.  In the fall, he often could not command it.  His command looks better this spring, but what will happen when batters start really getting their timing down and learn he’s really a one-trick pony with a damn good trick?  For every good curveball he throws, there are a few bad ones.  This is why the minors exist.

Oh yeah, he’s 20.  How many 20-year olds have been really good big leaguers?

So Toby’s mostly on board, and I might even quibble with his first point a bit.  Certainly the Mets’ goal should be to win games at the big-league level, but I wonder exactly how many more games they can expect to win with Mejia in the bullpen over one of the men he would replace.

Even if Mejia would legitimately post better numbers in the bullpen than one of the Mets’ other options, do the few extra runs the team will save by carrying him in the bullpen make it worth hindering his development as a starting pitcher, not to mention starting his arbitration clock early?

I’d say no. There’s a ton of uncertainty, of course, and I recognize the argument that says all young pitchers are a safe bet to get hurt and so teams should cull the most possible value out of them as soon as they can. But if Mejia’s got the potential to be a frontline starter, the team should do everything in its power to let him achieve that potential.

The Mets’ history of organizational myopia is what weakened their farm system in the first place. Now, when it looks like they may finally be crawling their way out from all that, they appear to be considering a quick-fix decision with the best prospect in their organization. Amazin’.

14 thoughts on “Going to the experts on Mejia

  1. I agree Ted, if he is on the opening day roster working out of the bullpen, the Mets will have seriously #$%#% this up. of the 30 teams in MLB, how many would have this guy working out of the pen rather than working to be a dominant starter at AA and continuing to progress?

  2. “I agree Ted, if he is on the opening day roster working out of the bullpen, the Mets will have seriously #$%#% this up”

    Isn’t this what the Mets do best?

    I really hope that they decide to leave him in the minors to develop and then decide to call him up (lord knows i hope that they don’t need to) in the summer to put in some time before the inevitable call up that he and davis get in 2011.

    I was not old enough to experience some of the hype surrounding a starter possibly this good (i am thinking specifically of Generation K–hopefully not Mejia’s career track) and of Doc K. When i hear the buzz around this kid is like Doc, I get excited, queezy and angry all at the same time. Excited because of what it could mean to have an heir apparent to Santana a year or two away (precisely the time that Santana might become a 2 or 3 starter according to his stuff). I get queezy and angry because so few mets prospects take and then there are the ones that the mets manage to destroy.

    SIGH

    Why am I a mets fan sometimes?

  3. sounds a bit like Joba Chamberlain….

    I never liked the whole joba rules and the way they’ve tried to develop him….and i hope the mets won’t do the same with Mejia…

    • Meh, I think it’s entirely different with Joba, his arsenal was pretty well developed from the time he was drafted. His pitches likely weren’t going to improve by continuing to face minor league hitters but because of his injury/conditioning concerns he wasn’t near ready to handle a full starter work load. So putting him in the bullpen where he could face higher talent and continue to improve his arsenal while they could also slowly stretch him out and monitor his workload made sense. With someone like Meija’s who’s arsenal is way less refined if you put him in the bullpen he’s going to almost exclusively use his fastball, because his secondary pitches are no where near major league ready, and development of his off-speed pitches will basically be halted.

  4. When you have GMs/Managers with their jobs on the line, this is the kind of short-sighted decision making you get. Manuel, especially, should not be trusted to break in a young potential stud out of the bullpen considering he rode Parnell into the ground by late June last season.

    And this is why it’s dangerous to have lame ducks on your staff Wilpons. Take note.

  5. I think as usual we need to actually see what happens before we complain and over analyze a move. I know Ted and I joked once about how many man hours were spent complaining about the Mets signing of Benjie Molina, a move that never actually happened.

    At the end of the day, as long as he ends up in the minors starting at the begining of the year, nothing else matters. The ideal that letting him stay with the Big club through the spring will hurt the guy is kinda lame IMO.

    Think about it, even if hes only pitching 2 innings at a time through the spring, hes getting experience facing better hitters, and being around the pro players and staff, which can only help.

    And so what if hes not ready to enter the B-Mets rotation on opening day. The guy pitched 100 innings last year, the most hes ever done. Hes going to be on strict pitch counts and innings limits all year. He’ll likely to only throw 4-5 innings per start in the minors, otherwise he’d blow past his previouls highs, which I’m sure the Mets wont let him do. 25 starts at a modest 5 IP per is 125 innings, already alot more than hes ever thrown.

    I dont really think it will take him long to re strtech himself out from a 2 inning pitcher to a 5 inning pitcher. Maybe a couple weeks, at most.

      • This organization hasn’t earned the benefit of the doubt.

        Most of my workday is spent freaking out over Mejia in MLB pen and Jacobs over Carter on MLB roster.

        Mejia needs to get roughed up a bit in his next outing.

  6. I would have to think that this is partially about Ticket sales. Mets fans are pumped about Ike and Mejia, and the ticket sales are [reportedly] well below expectations. Since there are no more big free agents to bring in to excite the fanbase, how about bringing up the #1 prospect to start the season?

    I agree with just about everyone that this is a bad idea, particularly on Toby’s point that he needs to develop his secondary pitches in a less pressure-filled place then Queens. This fan base is on edge: ready to get behind this team, or ready to tear Jeff & Omar a new one every day until a major change is made. Its playing with fire to put this kid in that situation, especially considering that you could wait 4-6 weeks into the season, and buy yourself another year of organizational control (I believe). Then in mid-may, see where we’re at, take the temperature of the fan base, and make sure that we’re setting him up for success.

  7. Given the lack of major league ready arms in the minors, losing the serviceable arms of players who are out of minor league options (Figueroa, Nieve, Misch, etc.) would in my opinion be silly. Rarely does a team make it through a season without needing to dip into the minors for a replacement start and with a number of guys coming off injuries last year it is foolish to think they will all stay healthy this year. The object isn’t to win individual games, the goal is to win a championship or at least as many games as you can over the course of the year. In my opinion starting Mejia in the minors is best for both him and the organization in the long run.

    • Doubt it, I don’t think anyone is buying tickets because Mejia may come in to pitch the 7th or 8th inning. If they were talking about using him as a starter in the majors maybe you’d have something.

  8. Toby’s blog is great, but his assertion that “the Mets’ first goal is to win games at the MLB level” ignores that the Mets’ goal should be to win games this year, next year, and the year after…. While having Mejia in the pen might further the goal of winning games this year, it could very well be at the cost of compromising their ability to win games in the future. Good relievers are a dime a dozen. Ace starters are a rare commodity, and having a cheap, young ace under team control for years is absolutely invaluable to a franchise. Lets just hope they are not so short-sighted with this kid. Compare this proposed stupidity with the Red Sox’s handling of Clay Bucholz. That kid throws a no-hitter in the majors, and then spends the better part of two more seasons developing in the minors because Theo is smart enough to think big picture.

    A compromise solution is pretty clear to me. Send Mejia to AA and bring him up to pitch out of the pen in mid-august (after he hits 120/130 innings) if they are in the pennant race and need bullpen help. And if all goes well, he’s our fifth starter next year without any major innings limitations.

  9. If the mets first goal is to win ball games in 2010 then they should have taken the flyers on guys like Branyan, Byrnes, Lopez etc or come over the top of other offers to get Sheets and Piniero. It boggles my mind that they’ll go into the season with a line up and rotation full of question marks and then rush one of our prospects with the highest upside for the sake of winning ball games? Is there any kind of organization philosophy or plan going on in the front office?

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