The 18 year old from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic did not disappoint on Friday night. Manager Edgar Alfonzo said of his righty, “He’s getting better in every outing.” Just 6’0”, Meji pumped fastballs that sat at 94 or 95 mph. He’s touched 97 this season. Friday, Mejia gave up a triple on the game’s first pitch to Yankees leadoff man Ray Kruml. An infield groundout scored Kruml and put the Yanks up 1-0 two pitches into the game. However, Staten Island barely made clean hard contact again against Mejia again. He lasted five innings, giving up just that one run on three hits. He fanned four and walked two.
Mejia pointed out that he made an important adjustment in game. Early, he felt himself flying open, but was able to correct and stay “more closed with my front side.” Staying closed, Mejia explained, made throwing his fastball and curveball for strikes “much easier.”
In discussing Mejia, one must start with his number one, the fastball. His manager, Edgar Alfonzo, in a bit of understatement noted that it “was good” on Friday. Beyond the velocity, Mejia was able to locate the offering to both sides of the plate down in the zone. Note that in the videos below, he throws his fastball effectively to both sides of the plate.
Mejia Throws a Strike to his Glove Side
Mejia Throws a Strike to his Arm Side
Mejia’s second-best pitch is a hard, tumbling circle changeup that comes in at 87 mph. Brooklyn pitching Coach Hector Berrios called it a “plus pitch.” No joke, his circle change, is as hard as some of his teammate’s fastballs. According to Berrios, “some of the guys make fun of that.” Perhaps they’re just jealous. Mejia threw nine changeups Friday, an effort that both his manager and pitching coach were pleased with. Alfonzo noted that “he mixed his pitches well.”
After his fastball and changeup, Mejia used a hard breaking curveball sparingly, throwing only a handful. At 75 or 76 miles and hour, the pitch is his softest offering, but shows real promise. On an 0-2 count, he snapped off a gorgeous curve to the Yankees’ catcher leading off the fifth that had the poor batter shaking his head in disbelief after watching it dance across his knees for strike three. Alfonzo described the offering as having “good bite.” Mejia is a little inconsistent in his release point with his curve, but Berrios is confident that as the season rolls along “he’ll be throwing that pitch more and throwing it for strikes and that will kinda balance out his repertoire.”
Mejia ran into trouble in his first two NYP league outings. He walked five in his first four inning performance and then gave up four runs on five hits in his second four inning outing. The reason, his pitching coach explains, is common among young players. “These kids, when they go up a level, they think they have to change certain things. He changed the ranking of his pitches…He flip-flopped his second and third best pitches. He tried to pitch with his curveball where he doesn’t have the type of command he has with his changeup. That got him into trouble, falling behind in counts and walking some guys.”
Mejia earned high praise for his work off the field as well. Berrios said, “He’s a very mature kid for his age.” The evidence his coach says, is that, “We have a specific routine in the bullpen. He can nail that routine better than the average guy … His preparation is just second-to-none. He’s very keen and sharp in taking those little things [we work on in the bullpen] and applying it to his game.”
Surely some of that maturity is borne of an appreciation for the game. Before signing, Mejia worked selling snow cones and arepas.
While his teammates have been honing their craft for years, Mejia claims that he didn’t start playing baseball until age 15. He told a story, translated by Berrios, that his friends had to convince him to start playing ball, “come to the park” a friend would tell him, “you’re not doing anything. Come play.” He resisted, but eventually joined his friends’ softball games. While playing softball, some noticed that he threw well overhand. The change to throwing overhand induced a minor pain behind his elbow, so he stopped throwing. In that time, he iced and ran a lot, Mejia explained. When he returned, pain-free, he became serious about the game.
How new is this game to Mejia? Before coming to Brooklyn, he’d never played a game in front of fans. After pitching in the Dominican Summer League in 2007 and then the Gulf Coast League in 2008, Brooklyn’s atmosphere, represented a “a big change” from his previous experiences. In the GCL, Mejia explains, the only yelling he heard was from his pitching coach Robert Ellis. In Keyspan Park on the other hand, when “the fans are clapping, I feel that energy,” he says.
That he jumped to Keyspan Park in his second professional season and in his fourth year playing the game proves he’s a quick study and a big-time talent. Armed with those two attributes, he should get a chance to energize many future crowds right back.
Mejia's Delivery from the Side
Mejia's Final Pitch Friday at 93 MPH