One of the more polarizing on-the-field storylines of spring training reached its likely conclusion last night, as the Mets made a series of cuts that all but guaranteed that 20-year-old right-hander Jenrry Mejia will make the team’s Opening Day roster.
Mejia, ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s No. 1 prospect, has tallied an impressive 1.59 ERA and a 9/3 K/BB ratio over 17 innings this spring. He was originally expected to open the season at Double-A Binghamton as a starting pitcher, but it became pretty clear by manager Jerry Manuel’s rather pavlovian response to Mejia’s efforts that the youngster would be coming north.
Mejia’s talent is undeniable, but if true, I’m afraid that this could very well end up as one of the more short-sighted and irresponsible decisions in the team’s recent history. Remember, the Mets haven’t developed a legitimate homegrown starting pitcher since Dwight Gooden over 20 years ago. I’m just not sure why pitching in the seventh inning should suddenly trump that.
Of course, the jury is still out whether Mejia can actually be a starting pitcher in the major leagues, as his secondary pitches need some work, but that’s exactly why he should be in the minor leagues right now. I can’t wait for the irony of seeing him pitch in a game in which the Mets are getting pounded because their starting pitching has let them down once again.
With this decision, Omar Minaya and Manuel are officially “Thelma and Louise,” as far as I’m concerned, tying their short-term fate to the organization’s most promising right arm. Let’s just hope that Mejia isn’t the car.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Trout courted another all-time record, and on Saturday, he found himself in elite company with his 25th and 26th home runs of the season. He put the Angels on the board with a 429-foot blast in the first inning, depositing an 0-1 fastball from the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman into the left field bleachers:
In the third inning, with the Angels up 2-1, Trout returned to tack on another insurance run. He targeted Gausman’s slider for his second solo shot of the evening and cleared the center field fence with a 418-footer to bring his total to 26 home runs on the year.
Trout has mashed at a staggering .339/.471/.596 clip since his return from the disabled list last month, and Saturday’s totals helped mark his sixth consecutive season with at least 25 home runs. That’s a record few have matched before their age-26 season; in fact, only Hall of Fame sluggers Eddie Mathews and Frank Robinson have ever pulled it off.
Assuming he continues to rake in hits and plate appearances over the last six weeks of the regular season — and there’s nothing to indicate that he won’t — Trout is in line to join elite company of a different kind. The 26-year-old entered Saturday’s game with a 206 OPS+ (park-adjusted on-base plus slugging). According to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly, that means Trout’s hitting at a better clip than the average Major League player by a full 106 percent. Should he finish the year with a 200 OPS+ and 502 plate appearances or better, he’ll be the first player to do so since Barry Bonds obliterated the competition with his 263 OPS+ in 2004.
The Blue Jays acquired right-hander Tom Koehler from the Marlins in exchange for minor league right-hander Osman Gutierrez and cash considerations, the clubs announced Saturday. Koehler is in his sixth year with the Marlins and stands to make $5.75 million in 2017. He’ll be arbitration eligible in 2018 and is set to enter free agency by 2019.
The 31-year-old right-hander struggled to a 7.92 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 55 2/3 innings with Miami in 2017. He was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans in late July, where he rebounded with a 1-1 record in seven starts and whittled his ERA down to a 1.67 mark. The Blue Jays have yet to establish Koehler’s role within their organization, but are hoping to see a turnaround from the righty when he breaks back into the big leagues.
Gutierrez, 22, was assigned to Single-A Greensboro on Saturday. He has yet to find his footing in the minors, and exited a 78-inning stint with Single-A Lansing after racking up a career-worst 7.85 ERA and 8.2 SO/9. His lack of control is particularly alarming, with a 6.2 BB/9 that dwarfs the 2.0+ BB/9 of seasons past, but he still has plenty of time to figure out his mechanics before reaching the Show.