The Future is Unwritten: Yoel Mecias

“So, who’s your guy?”

This is the question that former Baseball Prospectus prospect writer and current Houston Astros Scouting Director, Kevin Goldstein, would ask current BP prospect writer, Jason Parks, as they were about to finish discussing a team’s farm system on the now defunct Up and In Podcast. The vague simplicity of the question is a bit misleading. Really what the question means is, “What player deep in Team X’s system do you like more than the rest of the industry and media seem to? Who’s your favorite sleeper in the system?”

Yoel Mecias is my guy.

The 2010 Venezuelan signee spent 2013 as a 19 year-old at Low-A Lakewood and offers noteworthy amount of projection at a gangly 6’2”, 160lbs.  Loose and flexible, Mecias’ mechanics aren’t the most picturesque and efficient you’re going to see but they certainly don’t raise any red flags. Mecias will lose his legs as his starts wear on because of how thin and weak his lower half is right now and you’ll see variation in his stride length and power as well as changes in the way he stands/falls during his follow through. This, along with a few other very minor issues, gives Mecias below average present control and command. However, Mecias’ delivery is direct enough to the plate that, when factoring in physical development and instruction, I feel comfortable projecting it to future average. He’ll have time for plenty of both of those things in 2014 as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

From a pure stuff standpoint, Mecias is working with a fastball that ranges anywhere from 85-92mph. The lower end of that spectrum mostly comes toward the end of Mecias’ starts. Again, physical development will not only allow Mecias’ fastball to play toward the high end of that range (and maybe a little higher) but it will help him to sustain that sort of velocity deeper into his starts. For me, Mecias has mostly been 87-90mph with a little bit of life. I feel comfortable projecting that to plus as he grows. The secondary offerings are headlined by a low-80s swing and miss changeup with excellent arm speed and arm-side movement. It already flashes plus and projects a bit above that for me. Mecias also shows feel for two below average breaking balls, a slider and curveball. I think one of them develops up to average.

So what sort of ceiling are we talking about here. Well, if everything breaks right – and I mean everything – then Mecias would have two plus pitches, a third average pitch and average control. You’re talking about a #2/#3 starter there. Now, I don’t see Mecias ever becoming the sort of inning-eating horse that merits a #2 starter label but I think a role 6 projection, that of a solid #3 starter, is an arguable ceiling here.

Of course, there are plenty of things that could go wrong. The body might never fill out, the fastball velo might not settle in a viable major league range, he might not build enough stamina to start, the breaking balls might never develop and he’s already had one Tommy John. Really, the potential outcomes here are overwhelming. We’ve seen fringe-average fastballs and plus changeups provide some value at the back of Major League rotations (Jason Vargas and Shaun Marcum) and, though rare, we’ve seen changeup heavy relievers air it out in an inning of work and dominate (Tyler Clippard, Fernando Rodney) and only a few things need to go right for Mecias to arrive at either of those destinations (though I doubt he’ll ever sport Rodney’s fastball velo).

We won’t see Mecias for much of 2014, if at all, and so he’s likely to be out of sight out of mind when it comes to discussions of notable Phillies farmhands. But other than pre-injury Adam Morgan, Jesse Biddle and maybe Shane Watson, I don’t see another arm in the system that has this kind of potential. He’ll likely be higher on my organizational list than he will be on anyone else’s.

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