Melky Mesa, 2013, and beyond

Scouting The Trade Market: Jason Kubel
Red Sox land Stephen Drew
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees have a full 40-man roster at the moment, and you’ll notice they’re carrying a lot of prospects who either qualify as fringy or are unlikely to contribute in 2013. Corban Joseph, Zoilo Almonte, and Francisco Rondon make up the former category while Jose Ramirez, Ramon Flores, and Nik Turley headline the latter. In the middle somewhere is outfielder Melky Mesa, who made his big league debut with New York as a September call-up this past season.

Mesa, 26 next month, is actually one of the longest-tenured players in the organization. The Yankees originally signed him as a 16-year-old way back in 2003, so his climb up the minor league ladder has been rather deliberate. Mesa broke out in 2010, when he won the High-A Florida State League MVP award by hitting .260/.338/.475 (133 wRC+) with 19 homers and 33 steals. He produced a .264/.325/.480 (~122 wRC+) batting line with 23 homers and 22 steals in 504 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A this summer before the cup o’ coffee.

The scouting report on Mesa is exciting, as he’s a tooled up center fielder who could put together a Yoenis Cespedes-esque workout video that would make fans drool. He’s got right-handed power, speed, a cannon arm, strong defense, durability … he just struggles to make contact. His career strikeout rate in the minors is a whopping 27.7%, and it’s 26.0% since his 2010 breakout. To his credit, he did cut that down to 23.4% in 2012. Contact is the most important of the five traditional tools, and it’s the one Mesa lacks.

The Yankees are currently seeking a right-handed hitter to pair with their all-left-handed hitting starting outfield, and Mesa is their only realistic internal option for the position. He’s only hit .216/.285/.357 (29. K%) against southpaws over the last two seasons (.271/.343/.465 and 25.6% against righties), but the sample is only 249 plate appearances. We should hardly take that as definitive proof he’s unable to hit lefties, but it’s not encouraging, especially when you’re talking about a team in hopes of contending. Still, the speed and outfield defense would be assets off the bench. The Yankees just need a little more offensive punch than Mesa could likely provide at this point.

Barring something unexpected, Mesa will begin the season in Triple-A, where he only has 133 career plate appearances. He’s obviously older that your typical prospect, but there’s enough tools here to remain interesting despite the lack of contact skills. Mesa’s a guy you dream on, which is something New York has been doing since they added him to the 40-man roster after the 2010 season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent. He only has one more option left, meaning he can go back to the minors in 2013 (but not 2014) without having to pass through waivers, so next season is his final chance to work things out in the minors before a decision has to be made about his long-term future in the organization.

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  • Bob Buttons

    Maybe he’ll be a righty-hitting version of Gardner, opting for power instead of contact. Rather optimistic but seems that he has great speed and his batting eye isn’t half bad.

    • jeff

      A lot of people said A-Jax struck out too much too. Took Austin a year at the big level before he figured it wondering if the Yanks have the patience for this Melky?

      • Robinson Tilapia

        To their credit, Melky’s been in the system an awful long time. They already have shown a good amount of patience.

      • Preston

        A-Jax is a day younger than Mesa. So when he was having K problems in the minor leagues (in 2009) he was at an age where they are still likely to be improved upon. That said I’m still a big fan of Melky Mesa and hope he can at least be a useful 4th OFer by next season. With our aging roster we need to have a strong bench and with the new cap, it’s important that we fill the bench for the minimum. Players like Mesa, Almonte, CoJo and Adams will need to step up.

      • dalelama

        The guy is 26 years old, I think they have displayed quite a bit of patience.

        • Jacob

          Prospects don’t stop being prospects until age 30, duhhh

  • Robinson Tilapia

    ThatsTheMelkyMesaWaysa in 3….2….

    • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

      I thank you for recognizing the niche I occupy here on RAB. In addition, I support the new Melk Man in each of his endeavors.

  • Bubba

    There has been a Melky shaped void on the team for a few years now. Maybe he is the Melky we are looking for.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Fooling my wife via yelling out, “Hey, Melky’s batting for the Yankees!” would be a welcome year-long activity at my house for sure.

    • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

      He is not the Melky we are looking for.

      • Bubba

        What are our options? Live in a Melky-less world. You’re mad… mad, I say. Don’t try your jedi mind tricks on me. Embrace the Melkyosity. Be one with the Melkyness.

  • entonces

    Mustelier is a better righty hitting option than Mesa. Far superior contact hitter: fewer Ks, much higher BA. And (if I recall correctly) hits lefties. Of course, he doesn’t have Mesa’s defensive skills. But if a right handed bat is what we need, there’s the guy. David Adams also incidentally has excellent numbers vs. lefties. Hopefully, we can hold on to these two until they’re at least 37or 38 and then give them a shot.

    • Ted Nelson

      Yeah, Adams taking so long has nothing to do with his massive ankle injury that basically cost him two years and Mustelier is a stud!

      • Yankees Insider

        Didn’t just cost him two years but he was suppose to be Part of the cliff lee trade and he kept us from acquiring lee from mariners. He hurt his ankle so they didn’t want to make the trade and instead lee went to Texas. It also cost us ALCS wins lee beat us in.

      • entonces

        Master Nasty speaks. Thank you, Ted.

    • MannyGeee

      “Of course, he doesn’t have Mesa’s defensive skills. ”

      Mustelier doesn’t have Ibanez’s defensive skills. Don’t fall in love with the fall league numbers, dude can’t field the ball.

      • Jacob

        “BUT HE CAN HIT”

      • Dropped Third

        Agreed… His only real value is a platoon DH… think he should defintely get a look in ST but hes not a great fit.

  • Yankees Insider

    I think the comparison to cespedes was good because it is like him. But if the yanks trade GRANDY I think he should be our CF. I know CF should be gardners position but Gardner has really developed in LF and plays the position very well. Also if Gardner gets moved to center and not him then he can be a platoon with Dickerson in left. To go with that what about Zoilo almonte I mean he’s a switch hitting OF and is actually almost a 5 tool player but needs to develope a better LH contact swing. Then there’s the ichiro deal which I don’t understand why he got two years but Tyler Austin could be up by 2014 if he has another breakout season.

  • Hikker

    turn him into a left/right fielder?

  • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

    What are the odds that the Yankees organization has now had 2 players with the name “Melky”

    I had never heard that name before these two guys.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      The first time I saw him was at a Cyclones/SI game (and Adams and Joseph [I think] and other notables like Taylor F’ng Grote). I nearly spit my beer out when I saw another Melky on the field.

      • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

        I saw Taylor Grote play for SI too. I remember him being fairly highly regarded. Too bad he turned out to be a big steaming pile of crap, but heh, that’s what prospects do.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          TRADE THEM ALL!

          *looks a watch*

          KEEP THEM ALL!

          • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

            Just trade the busts.

            Keep the good ones.

            • Bob Buttons

              Trade them all and let the baseball gods sort them out.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    We read a lot of reports about him cutting down on the K’s. He’ll have the spring to show if that’s for real. I’d love for this kid to succeed after years of hearing about him.

    • Travis L.

      My wife is cheering for him ever since she saw him get his first hit. When they showed him smiling ear to ear while standing on first base, she said “awwwwwwwww, he’s cute!”. Since then, she keeps asking me if he is still with the team, making sure he hasnt been traded (she wont watch them if he leaves…sooo dramatic).

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Funny how my wife can’t stand him because he’s not Melky Cabrera…

        • MannyGeee

          My wife isn’t giving a shit because he’s not on “The Voice” or in a Twilight book…

          I shoulda married for money.

          • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

            First time is for love, the 2nd is for money

            • Travis L.

              My first was for love, my second was for the kid she was carrying…stupid is as stupid does.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Mine couldn’t get past the second “Twilight” book. I managed to get through all four, but not more than one movie.

            We both gave up on music reality shows when we realized the winners just win the right to get chewed up and spat out by the industry. Also, hearing “Against All Odds” sung badly one too many times.

            • I am not the droids you’re looking for…

              My audition song of choice growing up.

              • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

                I see that you’re in touch with your feminine side

            • MannyGeee

              Just can’t get it up to watch anything American Idol adjacent…

              And those vampire books and movies suck the life out of me… (pun was certainly intended)

        • Travis L.

          My wife has never heard of Melky Cabrera.

  • FLYER7

    Why must a AAAA OF like Dickerson constantly come up as a subject here?

    • Travis L.

      Unless I missed something…which is possible…who brought up Dickerson??

      • MannyGeee

        oh, just everyone always. and Jorge Vazquez before him, and Shelly Duncan before him…

        Its a vicious cycle.

        • Preston

          And now future HOFer Ronnie Mustelier.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Submitted for new meme possibility. Judges?

            • Cris Pengiucci

              Aye!

            • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

              I think there’s a better chance he’ll be BIGGIE sizing my Wendys’ order rather than going to the HOF but what the heck, I’ll give it a thumbs up.

            • MannyGeee

              aye!!!!

            • Jacob

              I approve, I mean he can mash.

            • Travis L.

              +1, I’m in.

            • LitFig

              Got my vote!

    • pat

      Why must content on a free website constantly be complained about. It’s freaking December, what else do you want?

      • jim p

        Wait a minute. You’re not paying for this? Who else here doesn’t send a check to Mike every week?

        And yes, it is much much more fun to speculate on positive potentials from young players than to dwell on the negative. Some people seem to think that kids can never learn anything, and where they are is where they’ll be forever.

        • Grumpy Old Luddite

          Screw’em kids, they’ll never learn nuthin’

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Melky has been my favorite prospect for years (non Melvin Croussett Division, of course). After his promotion to AAA he hit with a bit more power than AA, but he also struck out at a higher percentage. But luckily, he has a shown (much like the argument Brett Gardner supporters waved around) that he hits much better his 2nd go around at a level. He probably doesn’t make the club out of ST, but I hope his is able to hit his way to the Bronx by May or June.

    Fun Fact: On April 22, 2009, both Melky Cabrera and Melky Mesa hit 2 home runs in a game for their respective teams (Cabrera for NYY, Mesa for Charleston).

    • Robinson Tilapia

      First person to say “Mevin Who?!?!” gets…..

      • Havok9120

        A link to the Melvin Croussett post?

  • Ted Nelson

    I’d take CoJo over Mesa as a prospect, personally. I would not consider CoJo fringy. Not a top prospect, but has a chance to be an average MLB starter at a premium position.

    • Preston

      I would probaby take CoJo too, even though I’m a big Mesa fan. I think the difference is that Melky can stick on a big league team without hitting all that well because of speed/defense plus the ability to punish a softball down the middle with his power. If CoJo doesn’t hit, he really has no value, but I think there is a much better chance of CoJo someday getting a starting 2B job then Melky getting a starting OF job.

  • LitFig

    I wonder if Melky could thrive (relatively speaking) as the 4th OF.

    He’s cheap, is past serious prospect status, and might be able to play 1 out of every 4 or 5 games against LHP. Obviously you look for other options, but I would be willing to give him a shot. It’s almost a use it or lose it type of scenario. You have him in the system and he’s in AAA, so you either play him or get rid of him.

    • Ted Nelson

      He just got to AAA, so it’s not like they’ve been holding him back from getting a chance (actually gave him the September call-up). And there is value to having depth in AAA.

      He’s definitely an option, but I don’t see it as a rush. If you don’t use it in April, there’s always July or 2014.

      • LitFig

        Oh, there is no need to rush him or any prospect. I agree.

        I suppose my point of view is: What type of prospect do you see the player as?

        It’s one thing to baby a Heathcott or Sanchez or Banuelos (for example), as you see them as high ceiling, starting caliber players down the line. But if Mesa or Almonte, or whoever is seen as fringy players, why not get something (in limited doses) out of them? He’s basically past “prospect” status. Maybe he can be good in the specialized, 4th OF role that the team needs filled at this stage.

        • Ted Nelson

          I have my doubts that he’ll be any good as a 4th OF right now, so I’d rather make him show me he can be in AAA. A 4th OF can still be a valuable contributor to your team. (And I see at least a bit more opportunity for playing time with Ichiro in RF than Swisher, maybe a lot more. Though it also wouldn’t surprise me to see him play 155+ games.)

          So, to me it’s not just about developing prospects… but about fielding the best team. You’ve hedged your bets. If the 4th OF you acquire stinks and Mesa is killing AAA, call him up. If Mesa stinks, though, you’ve got the 4th OF you’ve brought in.

          I’m not really much for prospects development being so contingent on how they are treated by the organization. Certainly it plays a role, but mostly I think that some guys will figure it out and some guys won’t.

          I don’t see any of the three you mentioned being babied, by the way. Manny and Sanchez have been the youngest players at their levels, while Heathcott has been injured an awful lot. The Yankees are actually pretty aggressive with promotions in general. I think that people fixate on the fringe guys they’re keeping in AAA (almost none of whom go on to do anything later), and draw the conclusion they hate promoting young players because Juan Miranda or JoVa is stuck in AAA in perpetuity. As I remember, the Yankees had the youngest player or close in like 3 of the leagues their farm plays in.

  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    I was once told by a wise man that one can never have too many Melkys. Melkies?

    • MannyGeee

      Melki… like “Melk-eye”

      • LitFig

        +1

        “Melki in the Outfield”

  • Rich in NJ

    Mesa makes more sense than Vernon Wells…

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona

      Mostly because he makes less cents.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        ietc

      • Preston

        iaetc

      • Rich in NJ

        Hal has plenty of cents though, so money aside, I would like him to spend more and more of it, but on players that have a chance to get better over time, or don’t suck, like Wells.

  • dalelama

    “The scouting report on Mesa is exciting, as he’s a tooled up center fielder who could put together a Yoenis Cespedes-esque workout video that would make fans drool. He’s got right-handed power, speed, a cannon arm, strong defense, durability … he just struggles to make contact. His career strikeout rate in the minors is a whopping 27.7%, and it’s 26.0% since his 2010 breakout.”

    Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

    • Bob Buttons

      And if you were Whitey Houston in The Bodyguard you’d be yelling at how Kevin Costner got your cloth dirty.

      • Bob Buttons

        Whitney*

        Damn I’m having a bad spelling day

      • dalelama

        He is really great but he can’t hit the ball…LOL..sycophants like yourself have no pride and will settle for anything.

        • Bob Buttons

          And whiny holier-than-thous like you will never enjoy the simpler pleasures.

          • dalelama

            Get some self respect, you can do better.

      • Hugh

        Isn’t Whitey Houston in Texas?

  • DJ4K&Monterowasdinero

    A Melky Mesa thread with no mention of Greg Golson?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      By pure reflex, I almost asked where Monterois/wasdinero was…..then I looked up.

      It’s too bad Greg Golson got mauled by that buffalo.

      • Monterowasnotdinero

        I have been waiting for my SSRI anti-depressants to kick in…

        Can I actually take off a whole year from watching my Yanks-with Youk???

        Maybe!!

        Worst feeling going into a season in quite some time….

  • The Real Greg

    What is the point of carrying prospects on the 40-man roster?

    • Preston

      To protect them from the rule 5 draft.

      • The Real Greg

        But that took place a few weeks ago.

        • Preston

          Not 100% on the rules, but I think once you put a guy on the 40 man, they have to pass through waivers when you take them off.

        • Bob Buttons

          You know they go through irrevocable waivers after getting DFA (a MUST in taking off 40-man) right?

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      they added him to the 40-man roster after the 2010 season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent.

  • Jacob

    Chris Dickerson and Musty Ass in an OF thread, and no one has yet mentioned “WE SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HAMILTON”

    • LitFig

      WE SHOULD HAVE SIGNED HAMILTON!

      #burstthatbubble

  • Mike HC

    Great write up on Melky 2.0. Hopefully he exceeds all expectations like the original one did (only this time for the Yanks).

    • Cris Pengiucci

      And without the assistance of PEDs. Just sayin’

      • Mike HC

        Preferably

  • BigBSArteest

    The 10 cent head is a big downside

    • Hugh

      Nothing a few steroids won’t alter.