The curious case of Jenrry Mejia

Maggie Wiggin, Contributor

Going into the 2014 season, Jenrry Mejia remains one of the most enticing question marks on the Mets roster. After being largely written off as yet another could-have-been prospect, he has re-emerged as the potential lynchpin of the rotation.

Mejia’s dreary start to his major league career in 2010 was marked by misuse, ineffectiveness and serious injury which triggered depressing memories of the hype and letdown of Generation K. After an ineffective “comeback” from Tommy John surgery in September 2012, he was seen as yet another unfulfilled promise, at best a future reliever. The numbers to that point supported that – in his limited time in the majors, his ERA as a starter was 7.03 and he had more walks than strikeouts…


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2013 started with Mejia’s by-now-customary stint on the 60-day DL, but when he pitched in Double-A, he again showed glimpses of the top prospect he’d once been. The timing couldn’t have been more opportune, as the team was in need of a spot starter for a doubleheader in Washington DC. The Mejia who showed up that day was a new man, one with such dominating stuff and powerful mound presence that a mystified Nationals fan turned to me and said “Who is this guy?” I asked if he wanted the long story or the longer story…

What changed for Mejia? Maybe nothing. He finished his season with a 2.30 ERA and a sparkling 6.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but he also finished with only five starts and yet another trip to the disabled list. It was a minor procedure compared to his Tommy John surgery, but it’s easy to see why the Mets made a point of building considerable rotation depth behind him during the offseason.

But maybe something did change. For one thing, Mejia showed up with a new and devastating slider that garnered a swing-and-miss 27 percent of the time (in a very small sample, this was almost double the rate of Matt Harvey’s notoriously filthy slider). His overall command improved significantly as well, throwing 67 percent of his pitches for strikes in 2013 up from 60 percent in 2010-2012. Fastball command, a nasty breaking ball, these are the hallmarks of the kind of pitcher Mejia was expected to become.

The rain on the 2013 Mejia parade is, as usual, the dreaded small sample size. Twenty-seven amazing innings are still just 27 innings, and while his season contained few if any of the standard red flags indicating a pitcher getting lucky, it’s not unusual for an otherwise-mediocre pitcher to have successful streaks that long or even longer. It’s also possible that the league will “figure him out” or that another round of elbow rehab will sap some of his velocity. That said, he’s just 24-years-old and has never looked better.

Mejia comes into camp with multiple experienced veterans ready to fill his rotation spot and some comments from the team suggest they may even have the inside track over Mejia to the Opening Day roster. However, if the Mejia we see at Spring Training is the Mejia who sent National after National back to the bench, shaking their heads that fateful July afternoon, it’s time for him to have a real opportunity to become the pitcher we’ve always wanted him to be.




78 comments
George Brezny
George Brezny

Over the past twenty years, Met's leadership and fans have always over valued  these 16 year old kids from S.A. hoping for one diamond in the rough, but most have never lived up to their potential.  There are many reasons as to why they mostly fail.

Smart businesses know their weaknesses and change strategies. What happened to the great balanced plan (farm/free agents and trades of proven talent) that led to the most sustained success in Mets history during the mid 80's.  The key is hiring smart baseball people to un all aspects of the talent search... We miss on prospect at an  alarming rate. For various reason...

Hoping this year's free agents crop is an improvement as opposed to appeasing the fan base until next year (as I believe it was).

Our pitching appears to be promising. Hope some of the old signed at 16 -  "younger" pitchers get a chance to prove they belong, or get rid of them once and for all... Mets leadership has to stop trying to save face with them. Looking athletic and throwing hard  doesn't equate to  success.

Saad Ahmed
Saad Ahmed

"some comments from the team suggest they may even have the inside track over Mejia" ----Why??? We have a young pitcher with tons of talent in a year we're not going anywhere and you want to play 90 year old slow pitching phenom over this kid. It's comments like these from Collins that just makes you wonder why he's still here.

Jeffrey Theodore
Jeffrey Theodore

Marlins let Jose Fernandez pitch but mets won't let their studs pitch because they want that extra year of free agency smfh.

dabo
dabo

Mejia, Familia, Syndergaard, Montero and Wheeler are so exciting to Met fans.  I wonder if any of these guys could be used to get a "great" SS?  I know pitching depth is important but the Mets have the potential to have an excess of riches and maybe it would be smart to deal some "potential" for some proven stars.

gloveman
gloveman

When I saw Jeremy Hefner's several game streak, I wondered how he was doing it. His stuff just had nothing special looking about it. When I saw Mejia last year, I thought this kids stuff looks as good or better than Harvey's. He didn't just get batters out, he made them look silly, with many walking from the plate shaking their heads wondering where this guy came from! This is no wait till the league catches up with him situation. It is an if he can stay on the mound and healthy we have another potential ace on our staff.

Zach Goeringer
Zach Goeringer

Ever since he's grown the late 90's Pedro hair he's been a new man.

collegept9
collegept9

Didn't he change his arm slot or something like that last year? Now it's back to where it was before the surgeries, and his cutter has that great movement back. I thought I read that somewhere last season.

I was at that game, he was unbelievable.  The offense was too, even Ike got into it.


amazagain
amazagain

He is much more suited to be a RP. His motion is inconsistent and he doesnt have 200 innings per year in that arm. Mets need to put him in the pen or he'll be our version of hughes/chamberlin

xplr
xplr

We might have the best young pitchers in the league. You never know who will eventually work out, but it's nice to have 10-12 legitimate options.

cver
cver

Maggie, that was clever, how it ended up, writing the part about "wanting the long or longer story" and then, it says "To read more of this story, click here".

iwamofo
iwamofo

Mejia arguable has the best stuff in the 2014 rotation...assuming he will be the 5th starter.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

I'm not sure I'd call Mejia the lynchpin of the starting rotation. If he goes down there's three plus options ready for a shot in Thor, Montero or DeGrom..

metfanjack
metfanjack

Fantastic article Maggie! I really do hope Mejia wins the 5th spot. I honestly think he will be amazing if healthy. My buddy Lance who is a Rangers fan went to a Mets and Dodgers game in L.A and saw Mejia pitch and he was like this guy is a stud!

Macacawitz
Macacawitz

I want to know how Maggie is doing.  Was it a boy or a girl?  These are the things that are really important. 

philoso
philoso

With Mejia, I have been disappointed so many times, I have to reserve my enthusiasm. I will believe it when I see it.

He has the tools but his delivery is so jerky and violent that I have doubts about his ability to put up 180+ innings annually. I hope he proves me wrong and puts up top of the rotation numbers for the Mets.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@Saad Ahmed I HOPE it's just the way to motivate the kid, keep him hungry and at worst make him feel like he's not being rushed to be ready post surgery.

paqza
paqza

@Jeffrey Theodore  José Fernandez was also not coming off of season-ending surgery. If Mejía's healthy, there's no doubt he'll start over Daisuke and Lannan, although I would be 100% for Lannan on the 25 man as the swing-guy out of the bullpen.

paqza
paqza

@collegept9  A couple of things happened - the arm slot leading to recovering his movement on the cutter was one of them. He smoothed out his delivery, looking a lot less herky-jerky than he had before, and he developed his changer and slider. The changeup he threw in 2013 had filthy, almost screwball like movement and caused players a lot of problems. There's a video of his start against the Rockies where Tulo just shakes his head and looks back at the mound after striking out on that pitch, totally overmatched.


The other point, that Metsblog doesn't like to focus on, since most of the people on here are anti-TC/DW/Sandy, is that Warthen taught Mejía the same slider he taught to Harvey. Mejía's gone on the record (as has Harvey) talking about how Warthen's slider has totally transformed his respective arsenal.


So smoother delivery leading to better control and less stress on arm, recovery of cutter movement, and development on change and slider. He's got a pretty effective slow curve in there somewhere, too.


If Mejía can pitch up to his potential this year while staying healthy, we could squarely be in the Wild Card hunt.

gloveman
gloveman

@collegept9  I remember Keith and Ron talking about his different arm slot last year in the booth. They said it would take stews off of the elbow. I hope it hasn't changed back.


Gland1
Gland1

@eric88 What does that have to do with this article?

stemog
stemog

@eric88 The Mets probably wouldn't even do Montero straight up for Franklin, let alone include Leathersich. That's ridiculous using two prospects on a shortstop who may not be suited for shortstop. Save them for a bigger deal.

dabo
dabo

@mikesml  If Travis showed anything last year yes, but he really has not shown any of what made him the best catching prospect.  As of now he has only been the guy traded for cy young award winners.

metsaholic
metsaholic

Are you kidding? If S.A. did that, he should not only be fired, but drug tested and banned from MLB,

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

No way. Catching is so valuable right now to have a potential other top prospect at the position may come in handy in case TdA flames out from injury.

cver
cver

@Macacawitz I didn't realize that she's expecting.  Hey Maggie - all the best!!!

Richard Alicea
Richard Alicea

@mikesml you're absolutely right...these guys would have to perform incredibly well; no way the Mets send Dice K or Lannan to the minors...it's all talk and no action with TC and SA...Flores is ready for the big leagues and yet he will be sent back to AAA. Spring Training is suppose to be about competition, but it's not...they now use it to evaluate development.

cver
cver

@mikesml Yeah, that will suck!  It just seems to me that there is a lot of kicking the can down the road with this team, whether it has to do with money or just a belief that 2 in the bush is better than 1 in the hand:)  You never know what you are going to get out of guys like Montero, Syndergaard, Mejia until you let em rip.  And talking about innings limits and burning up all of those innings in the minors or risking the stunting of potential or injury by putting them in the bullpen sounds horrible - and a lot of this is to keep the Super 2 away.  And hate to repeat myself, but Reyes.  I think he's available, considering all the money he is owed.  The Mets have the chips to have a championship team this year and years forward.  There, I said it.  But, the team is only concentrating on forward and yes, sometimes forward means going back and getting not only a fan favorite, but a true talent, still having a lot left like Reyes.  He would get some of that money back in attendance right off the bat and, if he is again the sparkplug for our offense, with our pitching, it could be sick - really!  

Trading a prospect of two for Nick Franklin is not going to solve the leadoff problem and he is more of an unknown on the ML level.  We'd have Reyes for 4 more years locked up and after that, we could either re-sign him or the young prospects will hopefully be ready at SS.  Trade Niese and then, you've got Wheeler, Colon, Gee, Mejia and Montero and if one of them falters or gets hurt, Syndergaard can come up or stall a bit to preserve his Super Two status and bring somebody else up.  If they are all doing well, Syndergaard can come up and Colon can be traded, I guess.  I don't think Franklin will have as big of an immediate impact as Reyes.  I just have a bad feeling that Niese will need surgery.  Surprised everyone is ignoring his injury.  Is it really not a concern?

collegept9
collegept9

I think that answers Maggie's question "What changed for Mejia?" I hope he doesn't change back also.

Maggie Wiggin
Maggie Wiggin

Thanks, guys! It's a boy, due in June. Not enough time to teach him shortstop for this season, unfortunately, but maybe for 2015. :-)

Joshua Shapiro
Joshua Shapiro

@Richard Alicea He hit .230 his rookie season.  He's not a .230 hitter.  He has a plus hit tool.  We could have ourselves a .275/15HR/15SB SS with an acceptable glove for the next 4 years at very little money.  Then we can put those $$ into 1B and OF next season.  And Gee is nice, but what the heck do we need him for?  We've got plenty of guys just waiting to take his spot.  I'd strongly consider trading any youngsters but Black, Thor, Montero, d'arnarud, Plawecki.  If they want DeGrom or Gee or Lagares or Parnell or Wilmer, be my guest. We've got players ready to take their places.  

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@Richard Alicea @mikesml @metsaholic Huh...Franklin is a ".230 batter" because he had a bad month after being red hot when he was called up?

Gee has done nothing in his career - outside of the fantastic last 3 months of the season he put up.

BringBackDaveTelghe
BringBackDaveTelghe

@mikesml Not saying you're right - not saying you're wrong, I just hope at the end of April the guy has 10 homers and we don't have to play the what if game anymore.

Richard Alicea
Richard Alicea

@mikesml @metsaholic absolutely it's too much...Franklin is a 230 batter why would I give up Gee who is a top notch 3 or 4th starter and Lagares who's up and coming for this kid...no way.  Maybe I can give them Tejada and a pitching prospect like Mejia or Degrom but that's it...no way I give them anything else.  Personally I would rather sign Drew if possible.  The trade options suggested on this blog are outrageously over the top...again this kid is not some up and coming superstar like Reyes.