Section 518

Where we endeavor to stay positive about the 2011 Mets…

I Call It Messin’ with the Kid(s)

Posted by JD on March 5, 2010

Jenrry Mejia had a great outing today, throwing 19 pitches (17 for strikes) and striking out four of the seven batters he faced. Mejia, still just 20, is a tantalizing talent who’s had a nice Spring Training so far. This is one of my favorite parts of any spring: a prospect comes in a meets or exceeds our expectations, and we can all let ourselves get excited about his potential. Mejia looked like the real deal today and it’s a safe bet that he’ll be a part of the pitching staff for a long time to come.

That being said, let’s hope  the Mets exercise some restraint with him. There seems to be a growing sentiment towards using Mejia in an eighth inning roll. David Lennon of Newsday tweeted this after today’s game: “(Jerry) Manuel compares Mejia’s fastball to the great Rivera. Warthen says composure like Gooden. Adds Jerry, “Got to get him on the team!” And Adam Rubin of the Daily News echoed the sentiment: “Jerry, Warthen praise Mejia. Bullpen is crowded, but he could force his way on with outings like today’s”. Looks to me like the Mejia-bandwagon is getting cranked up.

That’s nice and all, but not at the cost of his development. As I mentioned, he still can’t legally buy himself a beer. He’s never pitched above the AA level and only threw 44 1/3 innings there. He’s never been subjected to late-inning pressure, having started all but seven of the 47 games he’s appeared in. Heck, he’s only pitched a total of 210 innings of any kind in pro-ball.

IMHO he’s better off starting the season in Binghamton as a starter, building his durability and learning how to deal with more advanced hitters in all type of situations. If that goes well, the Mets should give the fine folks of Buffalo a chance to see him pitch. This will allow him to steadily build innings against more experienced opponents while mitigating the Verducci Effect. While I’m not entirely sold on the theory, I think he needs to build on the 94 2/3 innings he threw in 2009, something which almost certainly wouldn’t happen if he is given the eighth inning roll with the big club. And, it’s better to let him hone his secondary and tertiary pitches in a steady progression rather than limiting him to his (apparently awesome) fastball.

Monetarily, the Mets should also be leery of starting Mejia’s service-time clock. Every day spent in the minors pushes out his arbitration eligibility and saves them money down the road. And there’s another factor to consider: the value of The Unknown. Remember “The Teenage Hitting Machine”? Fernando Martinez was an uber-prospect, a five-tool stud who could anchor a franchise (and he still may be). But his brief exposure to Major League Baseball showed that he wasn’t quite seasoned enough, which in turn may have lowered his trade value. Why risk that with Mejia? Last I checked, there was a pretty good catcher in Minnesota and a decent first baseman in San Diego who have yet to re-sign with their franchises. Why risk devaluing an asset that might be used to acquire them?

The same arguments can be applied to Ike Davis, though admittedly to a lesser degree. Davis is older and starred for Arizona State University, a major college program. But he only has 727 professional plate appearances, none of which has come at the AAA level. There’s probably less downside to letting him break camp with the big club, but there’s risk nonetheless. The Mets should proceed carefully with him as well.

Listen, I want these kids to force management to consider keeping them: there’s nothing better than watching home-grown players succeed. But even more than that, I want management to place the long-term benefits to the players and the franchise ahead of the three or four wins these kids will bring this year. Unfortunately, Omar Minaya has been on shaky ground this past year (and he knows it) and Jerry Manuel is surrounded by potential replacements up and down the organization. Hopefully, they can the resist the temptation to save their own skins, but I wouldn’t bet on it. They’re focus is probably going to remain set on winning today, future benefits be damned.

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4 Responses to “I Call It Messin’ with the Kid(s)”

  1. Paul said

    Mejia looks like he does have a great fastball, but I don’t think that’s a reason to rush him. I’d also like to give him every chance to become a starter. He’s the best pitching prospect in the Mets’ system, and you seriously want to turn him into a middle reliever? I don’t get it.

    • JD said

      I don’t want to turn him into a reliever…Manuel does. That’s the point of the post: he’s going to try to use him now, when he should be allowed to grow in the minors as a starter. I’m AGAINST it…he should be a starter in AA.

  2. Nice post, man. Unfortunately, I think you are right. The Mets “leadership” cannot be trusted at this point to do anything other than try to save their own skin. None of the kids will be safe until this organization gets its act together.
    Bill

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