TD Top Prospects: #7 Adalberto Mejia
Age: 23 (DOB: 6/20/93)
2016 Stats (AA/AAA): 132 IP, 3.00 ERA, 126/30 K/BB, 1.12 WHIP
2016 Ranking: N/A
National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NR | MLB: NR | ESPN: NR | BP: NR
The Twins acquired Mejia last year when they traded Eduardo Nunez to the San Francisco Giants. Mejia signed with the Giants in 2011 out of the Dominican Republic, was in Low-A ball by 2012 and has basically climbed a level per year. The exception was a repeat of AA in 2015, which was likely the result of a 50-game suspension for using a banned stimulant.
He’s had decent overall success – his career ERA in the minors is 3.70 – and was well-regarded but the southpaw with the low to mid 90s fastball never posted eye-popping numbers. That changed a bit last year for the 23-year-old as his strikeout rate in AAA climbed to more than one per inning and his walk rate plummeted to 1.9 BB/9. The prevailing theory was that the hefty Mejia’s improvement was at least partly due to losing some weight and gaining some conditioning in 2016.
What’s To Like
He checks a lot of boxes. He’s left-handed. He’s had success and been fairly durable. He’s just 23 years old. Last year he had an awfully good strikeout and walk rate despite moving up to AAA. He has a decent fastball and a slider that he can use effectively versus left-handers (who had just a .548 OPS against him last year) and a changeup for right-handers (.694 OPS against). Finally, he’s very close to major-league ready right now, if he’s not already there.
What’s Left To Work On
What you see is what you get. There isn’t a lot of upside here; Mejia's fastball isn’t likely to get any faster and the other pitches, while good, aren’t great. There will always be concerns about his conditioning. His walk rate and strikeout rate in AA in 2014 and 2015 were both pretty pedestrian, so it's essential he carry 2016 forward. His stuff suggests he’s unlikely to make an immediate positive impact in the majors; there are probably going to be some additional growing pains.
Mejia has an outside chance to break camp with the Twins, but he’s arguably eighth in the pecking order for the rotation’s five spots. Instead, it is far more likely that he’ll return to Rochester as a starting pitcher and compete for a chance to fill in a rotation spot when it becomes available. I’ll be surprised if Twins fans don’t see him at some point this year.
There really is no hurry here. Mejia is just 23 years old and he has two option years left. Development is still the priority for Mejia, unless the Twins end up with a far more competitive team than we expect.
Long-term, his upside is that of a durable and effective mid-rotation left-handed starting pitcher, which would have enormous value for the Twins. At the very least, a career as an effective left-handed reliever appears within reach, especially if he can pump up that fastball a bit in shorter stints.