Met fans are talking non-stop about a potential top three of Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, and Noah Syndergaard. While all three are extremely impressive, it may be time for those fans to include a 4th name to the group: Jenrry Mejia. He debuted in the minors as a 17-year old in 2007 and was the 44th best prospect in baseball after 2010 per Baseball America. Most of the questions revolved around whether Mejia would end up in the bullpen or the rotation and those questions continued to grow as Mejia underwent Tommy John surgery and dealt with other injuries in 2011 and 2012.
Mejia made 33 appearances for the Mets in that 2010 season and than another 5 for the team last season. In a combination of starts and relief appearances, Mejia showed some potential but nothing to make fans believe he was going to become the special player many had hoped he would become. However, this season Mejia has been a different pitcher. In just three starts, Mejia has a 1.96 ERA with a 2.96 FIP and a 2.40 xFIP. The more impressive numbers are likely his 8.84 K/9 and 1.47 BB/9, both numbers he has never come close to matching in his short career.
There seem to be some signs that these numbers are not fluky although it is important to remember the small sample size. Mejia’s O-Swing rate (pitches swung at outside of the strike zone) is 35.3%, significantly higher than his previous high of 26.5%. In addition, those pitches that are swung at are only getting hit 36.7% of the time, almost half of his previous low 66.3%. In summary, batters are chasing a lot more pitches outside of the strike zone and whiffing on a lot more of those swings. Normally, I might suggest these numbers are a bit fluky, but there is some evidence to suggest otherwise.
Mejia seems to have finally found a release point. This season, all of Mejia’s pitches have almost identical vertical release points. This is of huge importance when trying to fool hitters on breaking pitches. Before this season, Mejia’s release point had been nothing short of all other the place and completely inconsistent. In addition, Mejia has added a slider as an effective pitch to keep hitters off-balance that he only began to use in his appearances last season. Last September, Mejia used the slider 2.35% of the time in contrast to the 25% he has used it this season. Mejia added the slider to correct a serious reverse split issue he had shown in his early big league career. In 2010, Mejia had a strong reverse split as lefties hit .203 against while righties hit .337. In 2012, that continued as lefties hit .267 while righties hit .343. This year? Mejia has a .241 batting average against lefties and a .238 average against RIGHTIES! That’s right, this season Mejia has shown no reverse split what so ever. In addition, 78% of his strikeouts have come against righties this year. In his previous years, it had only represented 46% of his strikeouts. The big difference against righties this year has been Mejia’s slider which he has used over 35% of the time against righties and recorded a whiff rate against of 29%.
The Mets coaching staff continues to give us great confidence in their ability to develop starting pitchers as Wheeler, Harvey, and Syndergaardall took huge steps forward in the organization. This will be an extremely interesting story to follow as the season comes to a close. Mejia has plenty of potential to succeed in the majors and it seems the Mets pitching staff may have used its magic touch one more time.
Matt Schwimmer is a co-founder of RotoAnalysis. Look for his work all season long on RotoAnalysis.com & CBSPhilly.com and follow him on Twitter @Schwimingly!
Release point data courtesy of Brooks Baseball
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