Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jenrry Mejia Lands at #44 on Baseball America's Top Prospect List

When it comes to Mets prospects, I usually have a hard time understanding why the public perceives them the way that they do. Usually, scouting organizations and the media always find a way to frame the Mets farm system as one SUPERSTAR prospect and a bunch of bums.

But perception doesn't always match reality -- and when it comes to an organization like the Mets, for whom baseball's schadenfreude seems limitless -- things get blown grossly out of proportion. At this point, you can almost field an entire team out of failed Mets super-prospects from the last fifteen years - Isringhausen, Wilson, Pulsipher, Escobar, Ochoa, Heilman, Gomez, Martinez, Milledge.

However, the fact of the matter is, the Mets farm system might have been a little below average in the last decade or so, but it has had no problem churning out good major leaguers. Aside from David Wright and Jose Reyes, the Mets have developed Scott Kazmir, Ty Wigginton, Melvin Mora, Heath Bell, Jon Niese, Josh Thole, Matt Lindstrom, Bobby Parnell, and others.

Unfortunately for those who would like to cultivate that story, the Mets no longer have a top prospect who is destined for superstardom. As such, the remainder of the Mets prospects are downplayed, as usual. I'd like to demonstrate this by comparing one of our very own, Jenrry Mejia, to a player who has seen almost universal acclaim from prospect evaluators, Neftali Feliz. Mejia landed at #44 on this year's Baseball America top prospect list.

Entering last season, Neftali Feliz was an enormously hyped prospect. According to Baseball America, he was the #9 prospect in all of baseball. According to John Sickels, he was the #2 pitching prospect in the game, behind only Stephen Strasburg.

What had he done to earn all that hype? And don't get me wrong - he deserved it. Neftali Feliz's minor league career looks something like this:

2008 - A+ - 20 - 2.52 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.63 K/9 (as starter)
2008 - AA - 20 - 2.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 9.33 K/9 (as starter)
2009 - AAA - 21 - 3.49 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 8.73 K/9 (mixed starting and relieving)
2009 - MLB - 21 - 1.74 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 11.32 K/9 (as reliever)

He was young, and he dominated each league he played in. From a scouting perspective, Feliz is listed as 6'3" 180 lbs and throws fire - a fastball averagine 96.3 mph over 80% of the time, along with a great curveball.

Mejia, on the other hand, has remained stagnant in most baseball prospect lists. He was the #56 prospect in baseball entering 2010, and only increased his standing to #44 in the most recent Baseball America list. But why such a little jump, when he did this the last two seasons?

2009 - A+ - 19 - 1.97 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 7.87 K/9
2009 - AA - 19 - 4.47 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 9.54 K/9
2010 - AA - 20 - 1.32 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 8.58 K/9
2010 - MLB - 4.62 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 5.08 K/9

The numbers for Mejia are not as encouraging on the surface as they are for Feliz, and he did finish out the year with a rhomboid strain - but you have to remember, these are professional scouting organizations and should not be basing their decisions on superficial information. That's what we bloggers do.

So from a scouting perspective, Mejia is 6'0" and 162 lbs, so tall but wiry like Feliz. He gets by with a blazing sinking fastball averaging 94.6 mph and an above average changeup. He also throws a curveball, like Feliz. He also tackled each of the above levels (plus one dominating start at AAA) a year younger than Feliz did.

So what separates last year's #9 best prospect in baseball (Feliz) from this year's #44 prospect (Mejia)? I have no idea[1].

[1] And for the record, the players immediately surrounding Mejia in the rankings:

#43 Dellin Betances, a 22 year old who spent the year dominating in A+ ball, then pitching 14 great innings in AA. He posted a 0.91 WHIP and 12.56 K/9 in AA, which is great, but it was only 14 innings and he's already two full years older than Mejia.

#45 Aaron Hicks is a toolsy 20 year old outfielder who repeated low-A after an unsuccessful 2009 season where he posted a 735 OPS. In his second tour of Beloit, in the Midwest League, he posted a line of .279/.401/.428. However, he's still all projection at this point and hasn't shown any ability to hit for power. He's very athletic, and has shown good plate discipline, but right now he's at least a year and a half away.

No comments: