2016 Minnesota Twins Report Card: Adalberto Mejia

This is a series of evaluations that will be done this offseason on every player that closed the season on the 40-man roster for the Minnesota Twins, with one appearing every weekday from now until each player has been evaluated. The plan is to start with Mr. Albers and move all the way through the pitchers, then to the catchers, infielders, outfielders and finally those listed as designated hitters on the club’s official roster. That means we’ll wrap it up with Miguel Sano sometime in the first week of December.

  • Name: Adalberto Mejia
  • 2016 Role: Started at Double-A Richmond in the Giants organization, got promoted to Triple-A Sacramento and made 18 starts before being traded to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez. Made an appearance in relief with Twins mixed around four starts at Triple-A Rochester.
  • Expected 2017 Role: Likely headed back to hold down a spot in the rotation at Rochester, but probably isn’t far from getting a look in the rotation that was MLB’s worst in 2016.
  • MLB Stats: One appearance with the Twins, 2.1 innings, two earned runs, no strikeouts and one walk.
  • MiLB Stats: 3.00 ERA in 132 innings between two levels, 8.6 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 1.12 WHIP.
  • Contract Status: Contract purchased prior to 2016, so would appear he has two option years left.

2016 Lowdown:

Given what we knew about Nunez at the time, it felt like a huge coup for interim general manager Rob Antony to not only get a legitimate prospect back for the shortstop but a top-100 one at that. Mejia isn’t going to make anyone forget about the last left-handed pitching prospect the Twins plucked from that organization — the artist formerly known as Francisco Liriano — but he has solid stuff from the left side to go with a build and the intellect to be a difference-making starter moving forward. He was No. 86 on Baseball Prospectus’ top-100 prospects prior to 2015 and was also the Giants’ top prospect that season on their list. They saw him as a future No. 3 or 4 starter — which is better than it sounds — with a “loss and easy arm” and “big and sturdy frame” to go with a good low-90s fastball, low- to mid-80s slider and a changeup that has some fade reminiscent of a screwball. They also said all three pitches are good within the zone, and that he’s comfortable mixing pitches in all counts — a claim corroborated by a later report from Fangraphs evaluator Eric Longenhagen.

Prospectus named Mejia the Giants’ No. 1 prospect even despite knowing he’d miss 50 games due to a suspension for Sibutramine — a cursory Google search says it’s an obesity drug that the FDA does not recommend using — which makes some sense. Mejia is only listed at 195 lbs. which is pretty ordinary for someone who is 6-foot-3, but in earlier pictures he does appear to be a little on the portly side. Ultimately, 2015 was a fairly good season for Mejia — 2.45 ERA in 51.1 Double-A innings with 6.7 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 1.09 WHIP — but it took him off the prospect radar a bit, as he moved off the top-101 for Prospectus and dropped to 10th on the organization’s list of top prospects.

This time, Prospectus said the stuff took a step backward, suggesting his slider became “slurvy” — aka not as sharp with more of a curve-like break — while the fastball still touched 94 mph, but he struggled to throw strikes overall. That all makes sense in light of his K/9 and BB/9 marks, and also questions again propped up about his weight. Ultimately, the Prospectus evaluators suggested his 2015 Arizona Fall League stint was positive, and that he could get back on the radar in 2016 if he could parlay that AFL success into the next season.

Since Mejia was just 22 to start this past season, the Giants sent him back to a third go-round at Double-A, and he responded with 11 tremendous starts, including a 1.94 ERA (3.16 FIP), 8.0 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 — which was getting him back to the rates when he was really solid and well-regarded in prospect circles. The Giants gave him until mid-June at Sacramento before sending him to Triple-A, where he made four starts before being sent to the Futures Game in San Diego, where he threw a scoreless ninth inning with a strikeout.

Mejia made three more starts with the River Cats before he was traded to the Twins, and to that point, here’s how his numbers looked across two levels:

2.81 ERA, 101-27 K/BB ratio in 105.2 IP, .614 OPS against

Additionally, Mejia has shown at times to be a good groundball pitcher. Before joining the Twins organization, he was at 44 percent, though that was a bit higher at Double-A (47 percent) than Triple-A (40 percent) prior to the trade. Being able to be groundball-heavy in the big leagues would be pretty beneficial to Mejia — like it would any pitcher, really. The grounders further tumbled in the Twins organization — 33 percent in sporadic and limited usage — so it’ll be worth monitoring if that’s something he can channel as he spends a bit more time down on the farm. It’s almost a certainty he’ll spend a large-ish chunk at Triple-A Rochester next year barring a relatively big upset.

…there’s just still so much to learn about him at the game’s highest level or even at the advanced levels in the Twins organization. There’s a lot to like about his results so far, however.

Midseason was sort of a big time for Mejia. Not only did he pitch in the Futures Game and get traded, but he also got back on the prospect radar, as Baseball America listed him as their No. 91 prospect on the list that was released on July 11. “The Giants now have a lot of upper-level pitching prospect depth,” BA said. “…with Mejia leading the way among big league-ready arms.”

Not quite three weeks later, Longenhagen said Mejia “doesn’t have the fire-breathing stuff many of his fellow Futures Game participants do” but a deep repertoire combined with “advanced sequencing” made him an intriguing prospect, as well as perhaps the “most advanced arm” in the AFL in 2015. Longenhagen also had Mejia as high as 94, but mostly in the upper 80s and low 90s with sink — which is where the grounders come into play. Longenhagen also adds that Mejia throws a curve, but that it’s only his fourth pitch and isn’t likely to ever be more than average. Sometimes, Longenhagen adds, Mejia can struggle with his arm slot as well, which undermines the utility of the curve.

Ultimately, Longenhagen concluded that he sees Mejia as a league-average fourth starter — which is a good return on Nunez. After hitting .296/.325/.439 and making the All-Star Game in the first half — where these players’ paths might have crossed, it’s worth wondering — Nunez’s production dipped after he was moved to the Bay Area, as he hit just .269/.327/.418 in 50 games with the Giants as he battled hamstring issues down the stretch. Even with a year of team control left on Nunez’s deal, it looks like the Twins did pretty well here.  

Grade: Incomplete. While the move to get Mejia for Nunez looked good at the moment — and frankly still does — there’s just still so much to learn about him at the game’s highest level or even at the advanced levels in the Twins organization. There’s a lot to like about his results so far, however.  

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