When Mets fans and baseball analysts speak of the team’s future, they almost immediately refer to the stable of young and talented arms that will be leading the team for, hopefully, many years to come. Names like Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom are at the top of this list along with a pitcher or two further down the line like Steven Matz.
The interesting thing about this frequent occurrence is the absence of Jenrry Mejia’s name. Mejia is only 24 years of age right now and has shown flashes of brilliance in his stints in the big leagues. He has truly electric stuff and has returned from Tommy John surgery in 2012 and a procedure to remove bone chips from his elbow at the end of last season.
His most recent return has been magnificent as he has started out the season with three wins in his first four starts and has an ERA of just 1.05 in 22.2 innings pitched. He’s averaging a little over six strikeouts per start and a staggering 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings this season.
Not bad for a guy who seemed somewhat lucky to beat out Daisuke Matsuzaka for the fifth and final spot in the rotation to start the year.
The key point in Terry Collins and, most likely, the front office making that decision was looking ahead to the future and not just the start of this season. It was more of a long-term decision than a short-term one and Mejia certainly fits those plans better than Dice-K does.
Mejia has been given a golden opportunity and he has taken full advantage of it and then some with his excellent start to the season.
Now, the only problem you can really find with placing Mejia alongside those talented, young pitchers that are expected to lead this team to many wins in the near future is his injury history. Of course, it will make you cautious to see such a young player have so much arm trouble this early in his career, but what is also noticeable is the foresight by Collins, Alderson and the front office to understand how valuable their future is with these pitchers.
Harvey’s injury seemed to be a bit of a fluke because he wasn’t exactly overworked, but he was so dominant and hard-working each start with his flame-throwing style that he wore himself out. He struck out a number of batters, but as Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling mentioned during St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha’s start on Wednesday night, if you strike out a lot of guys, you become too focused on the strikeouts and you can wear yourself out very quickly. Wacha struck out 9 in the first three innings, but was out of the game in the fifth inning due to command problems and a high pitch count.
Since Harvey’s injury, the Mets have taken precautions to make sure Wheeler did not have any problems at the end of last season. Syndergaard is on a strict innings count this year and Mejia almost certainly will be also. There has been a scenario thrown around in which Mejia moves to the bullpen or alternates starts with Syndergaard around mid-season to keep their pitches and innings down. Montero has been injury free so far so he is not on a specific innings count, but if any trouble were to arise, he would be shut down immediately for rest.
So when you think of the Mets’ bright future with all these young arms, and how highly the team’s officials value them, basically as the next Generation K, you cannot discount Mejia with the star-studded names you often hear. As I said, he’s only 24, has an electric arsenal of pitches and has shown he can do it at the major league level. We’ll need to see a more sustained period of success to officially throw him up there alongside Harvey and Wheeler, but don’t these early signs look very promising?