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Normally, when a Major League starter is pushed to the bullpen by a prospect getting the call, his value will tumble drastically. That’s not the case with Jenrry Mejia who, while having lost his starting job, could soon find himself the closer for the save-needy New York Mets. Meanwhile, Rafael Montero looks like he has the stuff to slide in and exceed Mejia’s production as a starter.
On Monday, Mejia made his first relief appearance of the season, pitching 1.1 scoreless innings and striking out two batters. This was a welcome sight after the hard-throwing righty gave up 16 runs over his previous 14.2 innings.
Mejia has always profiled better as a reliever. As a starter, Mejia owns a 4.75 ERA over 18 starts. As a reliever, he owns a 3.09 ERA over 33 appearances. That’s not to mention that Mejia gets injured an awful lot and is probably not cut out for a starter workload over a full season.
Not only could he very well be the Mets’ next closer (Kyle Farnsworth has a 5.87 ERA since April 23), he could be a good one. His mid-90s fastball, coupled with a strong 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings rate, could only improve in a single-inning role.
At the same time, highly regarded prospect Rafael Montero has beat out fellow prospects Noah Syndergaard and Jacob DeGrom in getting the call to the Bigs. That’s hardly a surprise as the 23-year-old has looked terrific in his rise through the minors.
Over 390 innings in his minor league career, Montero is 32-17 with a 2.63 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and a 8.5 K/2.0 BB rate. He keeps the ball in the park and doesn’t give out a lot of free passes despite posting strikeout rates of 8.7 or better in each of his last two seasons.
He brings two very good fastballs, with his four-seamer sitting in the low-90s, and is perfecting his slider which could be the real key to his strikeout success in the Bigs. He is also working on his changeup with is a peripheral pitch at best right now.
With strong strikeout numbers throughout his entire career, and low home run and walk rates, Montero makes for a terrific low-risk pickup. While I wouldn’t start him right away, his first start will be on Wednesday against a Yankee lineup that ranks third in the league in runs over the past week, but he will ultimately be helped by pitching in a poorly hitting division with a lot of big parks, including his own.
Mejia, meanwhile, is a must-buy since he appears to be on the fast track to Kyle Farnsworth’s closer job and could prove to be a strong fantasy producer, not unlike what Bobby Parnell had become last year prior to his season-ending injury early this year, with good numbers rather than just saves.
The Mets may be hitting like a minor league team but their farm system is overflowing with exceptional pitching talent. Mejia and Montero, along with Zack Wheeler, are just the tip of the iceberg. Expect Syndergaard and DeGrom to get some big league action before the year’s end as well.
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