The Hot Seat

Jenrry Mejia (Ownership rates: Yahoo 9%, 3.5% ESPN, 34% CBS)

The 23-year-old Mejia used to be considered one of the top prospects in the game. In 2010, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 56 prospect in baseball, before bumping him up to No. 44 in 2011. Unfortunately, Mejia was bitten hard by the injury bug after that.

In 2010, Mejia was called up by the Mets and added to the bullpen, only to develop elbow issues. He eventually went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in May of 2011. When he returned in 2012, the Mets seemed to have little to no plan for him, yanking him back and forth between starting and relieving. He ended up starting 17 games and pitching 18 times out of the bullpen across four levels, and his numbers were less than impressive.

This spring, Mejia’s elbow became a problem again as he developed tendinitis and a bone chip. It was looking like another lost season for Mejia and the continuation of a troubling pattern that seemed like it could derail his career. He returned to minor league action at the end of June, deciding to try to pitch through the bone chip and have surgery after the season.

Mejia finally got another chance with the major league club in late July, called up to join the starting rotation. His three starts have been extremely impressive, especially when you consider that he is intentionally throwing with decreased velocity to avoid excess stress on his elbow.

In 18.1 innings in the majors this season, Mejia has 18 strikeouts against just two walks. He’s allowing less than a hit per inning on his way to a sparkling 1.96 ERA and 2.99 FIP. One reason for his success, other than his health, is the development of his slider, which he learned how to throw in September and spent the offseason focusing on intently. The slider, which hadn’t been part of his arsenal before, is now his best pitch according to PITCHf/x.

There’s obviously the chance that Mejia’s elbow could give out on him at any time. After all, we’re talking about a guy who has been dealing with elbow injuries for over two years and has never thrown 100 innings in a season. This late in the year, however, his long-term health isn’t nearly as much a concern for fantasy players as his immediate impact.

With the Mets demoting Jeremy Hefner, who is now dealing with elbow issues of his own, Mejia’s spot in the rotation is secure as long as he stays healthy. He seems like a bit of a forgotten commodity in fantasy circles, as his ownership rates are still very low despite his former blue-chip prospect status and current success.

Perhaps Mejia is being overshadowed by his teammates Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Maybe no one pays attention to the Mets this late in the season, which is perfectly understandable. Regardless of the reason, Mejia is drastically under-owned in Yahoo and ESPN leagues right now. I’m rostering him in deep mixed leagues and all NL-only formats.

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Comments

  1. Scott Strandberg said...

    It really is a great story; many people had written him off due to the myriad injuries, and I think that’s why he’s still so sparsely owned in fantasy. It’s impossible to project what he could give the Mets in 2014 and beyond for that very reason, but it’s great to see him finally taste success as a big-league starter.

  2. Scott Strandberg said...

    I should also note that he pitched last night after I had submitted this and was quite good again: 6 IP, 6 H, 3 R (2 ER), 0 BB, 4 K

  3. FeslenR said...

    Already picked him up when he became available, couldn’t be happier with his stunning turn around both as a Mets fan and a fantasy owner.

  4. Scott Strandberg said...

    That’s a tough one, Larry. They’re very close for me. I’ll give the slight edge to Mejia, partially because of the schedules. As Scott Spratt pointed out in this week’s Waiver Wire column (http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/fantasy/article/fantasy-waiver-wire-week-20-vol.-i/), the schedule down the stretch for Gray is pretty rough after his next two cushy starts against Houston and Seattle, with the Orioles, Rangers (twice) and Rays coming up.

    It looks like Mejia will have @SD, DET, PHI, @ATL, @CLE, MIA, SF coming up. At home against Detroit and Atlanta/Cleveland on the road are tough, but the rest of that schedule is a cakewalk. San Diego, Philly, Miami and San Fran are four of the bottom ten offenses in baseball in runs scored and OPS.

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