Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Dark Horse For The 5th Spot

Coming into spring training, the Minnesota Twins had no less than three of the five starting rotation spots claimed. Ervin Santana was a lock, Kyle Gibson wasn't going anywhere, and Phil Hughes was expected to be healthy enough to claim his role. With two openings left, Hector Santiago was presumably given another one, That left just one spot and a lot of competition for the Twins down in Fort Myers.

My expectation from the onset is that Trevor May would be given every opportunity to move back into the starting rotation. Thus far, that looks to be the plan of action that Minnesota has employed as well. May has started games as opposed to coming in second, and has been included among the group of five previously mentioned. However, as he transitions his way back from the bullpen, there could continue to be some growing pains.

As a starter, May's velocity will likely dip some from where he was at a year ago, and his strikeout numbers shouldn't be nearly as high. He looked like a natural fit in the role initially, and in time, the rotation seems like the best fit. What's up for debate is whether or not Opening Day represents that correct timing.

If it's not Trevor May, there's more than a handful of possible candidates. It would be great if Jose Berrios was dominant this spring and ran away with the role, but it appears his command is still coming into form. Veteran Ryan Vogelsong was brought in as a likely bridge guy, and there's not much reason to block prospects by sending him to Rochester. Could Rule 5 pick Justin Haley get some run in the rotation? Even former Texas Rangers starter Nick Tepesch figures to make things interesting. Of all the possible outcomes though, it may be the guy that Minnesota nabbed for Eduardo Nunez from the San Francisco Giants.

Enter Adalberto Mejia.

Mejia was Baseball Prospectus' 86th prospect prior to the 2015 season. He has top 100 prospect notoriety from a couple of other outlets as well. The 6'3" hurler would give the Twins flexibility with a second lefty in the rotation, and he should be viewed as having a relatively safe floor. Although he doesn't necessarily possess the ceiling of prospects like Jose Berrios, Stephen Gonsalves, or even Fernando Romero, as a 5th starter, there's reason to be excited.

In 2016, Mejia posted a 3.00 ERA between Double and Triple-A in the Giants and Twins organizations. He owned a respectable 8.6 K/9 while issuing just 2.0 free passes per nine innings. For the most part, Mejia has kept the ball in the yard, and his 132 innings a season ago represent a sizeable workload.

With just over two innings of big league experience under his belt, you can't draw anything from Mejia's exposure with Minnesota a season ago. His fastball sits low 90's while he also utilizes a four pitch mix including a slider, curve, and chanegup. There's no reason to think that Mejia would be incredibly out of his element when called upon to pitch at the highest level.

Thus far this spring, and it's early, Mejia has shown well. He's done nothing to set himself back, and he's taken advantage of the opportunities presented to him. It's going to take some combination of May faltering to bump Mejia up the ladder, but it's far from being out of the question. If it's Mejia that the Twins give the ball to when the 5th turn comes around, buckle in and enjoy the ride.

No comments:

Post a Comment