Although the trio of Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard gets all the hype when discussing the New York Mets pitching staff, another pitcher quietly made a name for himself during his brief stint last season. Jenrry Mejia, once a heralded prospect himself, really opened some eyes last season and put his name back in the discussion of talented, young Mets pitchers.
After being called up to fill a rotation slot at the end of July, Mejia dazzled with a cutter and curveball that looked like he was throwing something out of a video game. Another surprising development for the Mets was that Mejia, whose control had never been one of his strong suits, was suddenly throwing strikes consistently for the first time in his career.
Walks had plagued Mejia in his prior two stints in the big leagues as he walked 4.6 and 5.1 batters per nine innings respectively. Mejia, known as more of a groundball pitcher than someone who could consistently miss bats, suddenly saw his K/9 vault from 5 to 9. As a result, a pitcher who had barely cracked a 1.00 K/BB ratio at the major league level (abysmal, to be sure), suddenly found his ratio approaching 7.00. For reference, teammate Harvey’s K/BB ratio last season, before he got hurt, was 6.16.
Now, it’s important to remember that these numbers are based off of an incredibly small sample size. Mejia is also coming off an operation to remove bone chips from his elbow, which was the reason his season ended after only five starts with the Mets. The surgery isn’t supposed to hamper Mejia going forward as he’s already in camp and throwing at full strength, but it’ll be interesting to see whether he can continue the momentum he was building before his year was cut short.
So long as he’s healthy, it’s a foregone conclusion that Mejia will play a role for the 2014 Mets. Whether or not that’s at the back of the rotation or the back of the bullpen is anyone’s guess, but with a repertoire as filthy as his, he can succeed in either role.
Two key things to watch this spring will be whether Mejia’s arm looks fully healthy coming off a rash of injuries in prior years, as well as whether or not he can continue to keep his walks to a minimum. If both of these things check out, you could soon be hearing not just about the Mets’ trio of young pitchers, but rather a quartet, including Mejia.