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.
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.
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’.