Looking at Melky Mesa

Melky Mesa, Center Fielder

Ranked 21st best Yankee prospect

2006 19 Yankees Rk 40 159 145 20 30 7 2 3 22 3 3 11 45 .207 .266 .345 .611
2007 20 Yankees Rk 49 169 153 27 36 10 2 3 13 5 3 9 55 .235 .293 .386 .679
2008 21 Staten Island A- 46 128 122 19 27 5 2 7 23 4 1 4 38 .221 .252 .467 .719
2009 22 Charleston A 133 564 497 76 112 24 7 20 74 18 6 51 168 .225 .309 .423 .731
2010 23 Tampa A+ 121 507 446 81 116 21 9 19 74 31 9 44 129 .260 .338 .475 .813
5 Seasons 389 1527 1363 223 321 67 22 52 206 61 22 119 435 .236 .307 .431 .739
Rk (2 seasons) 89 328 298 47 66 17 4 6 35 8 6 20 100 .221 .280 .366 .646
A (1 season) 133 564 497 76 112 24 7 20 74 18 6 51 168 .225 .309 .423 .731
A- (1 season) 46 128 122 19 27 5 2 7 23 4 1 4 38 .221 .252 .467 .719
A+ (1 season) 121 507 446 81 116 21 9 19 74 31 9 44 129 .260 .338 .475 .813
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/21/2010.

Melky Mesa has been around the Yankee system for a long time, but has mostly remained an afterthought. Scouts can’t get over how great his athletic tools are – he’s fast, can throw a bullet from the outfield, and hits moonshots in batting practice. But he’s never really been able to put it all together. At least not until 2010. He strikes out, a lot. He plays a gold glove center field. And he’s getting old.

So why rate him #21? To me, its all about Melky’s ceiling. Melky is a super-athletic guy who took a long time to figure out how to play baseball. He finally brought his batting average up to respectable levels, continued to hit for power, and most importantly dramatically improved his K rate. He did it in a pitcher’s league.

I think that Melky Mesa could continue to improve. He’s shown no signs of plateauing his K rate improvements. His LD% depressed to 13% last year, which leaves room for improvement. His .320 BABIP wasn’t particularly inflated. He hits for power, takes a decent number of walks, and strikes out a lot. For a center fielder, those are relatively elite skills.

Think about Curtis Granderson’s performance this year. He’s hit a relatively pedestrian .249/.326/.467 while fielding an UZR/150 of 13.1. While disappointing and a bit overpaid, Granderson has been the 3rd most valuable center fielder in the AL. Mesa is capable of being a poor man’s Curtis Granderson – potentially with even better defense; better than Granderson. The real lesson is that great defenders at a premium position can have a lot of flaws on the hitting side and still be good major league players.

Now, I’m not 100% sold on Mesa. This year could easily have been a fluke. He’s a bit old. But to quote Mark Newman, “He doesn’t have any equals when it comes to [speed and power]” He’s got some really nice athletic tools. Even if he doesn’t continue to progress, he could become a 4th outfielder. Or he could flame out and strike out 200 times next season in Trenton. We’ll see. He’s a dice roll, but with nice rewards if we get a bit lucky.

About EJ Fagan

E.J. Fagan been blogging about Yankee baseball since 2006. He is a Ph.D. student at University of Texas at Austin.

9 thoughts on “Looking at Melky Mesa

  1. like the 31 sb improvement. for some reason, yankees minor players doesnt seem to run alot. for example, austin jackson didnt run alot in AA or AAA. he has the speed. in A ball, austin had 37 sb. is stolen bases against yankees philosophy in the minors? maybe its just me who feel that.

  2. Melky is Rule V eligible this year, and I believe that is the reason why he was not promoted this season. If he can prove he can handle AA, I think the chances go up that a team takes him in the draft. Melky has an excellent chance to be a fast mover next year. If he starts out fast in AA, I think he will quickly be promoted to AAA.

    • I actually think that he’ll make his way on the 40-man, but I need to get a spreadsheet going to figure it out. Maybe I’ll post it tomorrow if I get it going.

  3. I have issue with a couple of comments you made about Granderson.

    Since when is an OPS+ of 108 and and an OPS 60+ pts higher than the average AL CF’er, “pedestrian”? Pedestrian compared to Mickey Mantle maybe but he’s a top 5 CF’er in the AL this year.

    Also, how is Granderson overpaid? He’s making $5.5 million for being a well above average hitter and fielder. Fangraphs has him worth $15.2 million this year. I wish the Yankees could fill their lineup with 4 WAR players who are that “overpaid”. If he just stays at his established level of production he’ll be a good value throughout his current contract, possibly even if the Yanks pick up his $13 million option in 2013.

    • I’m more looking at his overall contract.

      I said “relatively pedestrian” for a lot of reasons. His .326 OBP wouldn’t be all that useful at any position less premium than center field. If Granderson were a left fielder, he wouldn’t be all that valuable to a competitive team in the AL East. Nor would he as a 1st baseman, DH, or even 3rd baseman. But as a center fielder, he’s worth it. I think I made this point clear in the body of the post. Furthermore, I think that I also made the point that Granderson’s line is more disappointing than harmful to the team, because he plays the premium position.

      • No you’re not or you wouldn’t have said it. At the end of this year he’ll be +$10 million on the value of his contract with only $18 million over two years left. In other words if he hits like some people thought Gardner would he’ll still be a break even value…not overpaid. If he has another year just like this one he’ll be plus $20 million with 1 year @ $10 million left. Really, the only thing that could make Granderson overpaid is a seriously debilitating injury. Of course insurance would pretty much still leave the Yanks in the black on that.

        So his production would be “pedestrian” and he would be overpaid if he wasn’t a excellent fielder at a premium position. OK, but isn’t that kind of like saying CC’s too fat to play 3B? Who cares he’s a pitcher and Grandy is an excellent fielding CF’er?

  4. Read the post.That’s not what he meant, idiot.FYM.  

    When you can’t use facts or reason call names eh?

    If it’s not what he meant he shouldn’t have said it. Please point out the parts where it’s clear that he doesn’t mean what he just said. I quoted his own words. He called Granderson’s numbers pedestrian and called him overpaid. He’s neither and I showed as much. Then he says his numbers would be pedestrian at a non-premium position which is meaningless due to the fact that he not only plays a premium position but plays it extremely well. He says he meant he’s overpaid when looking at his entire contract. I stated that in his “disappointing” year he will be plus $10 million in value with 2 years and $18 million to go on his contract. He’d have to be really bad the next two years to be only worth $4 million a season and even then he would not have been “overpaid” over the length of his contract.

    What it comes down to is he made some erroneous statements about Granderson in his piece and his response was that he didn’t mean what he said.

    • Yeah, I don’t know what that was about. I moderated out the comment.

      I don’t think there’s anything new for me to address here. We’re actually agreeing.

  5. K/PA
    2000 29.9%
    2010 25.3% He went from horrific to bad and there is no progression over the course of the year.
    2009 9.1%
    2010 8.7%
    No real improvement and this is a guy with good power – he should be walking more. Pichers supposedly fear him.
    2008 .263
    2009 .296
    2010 .326 with a 13% LD% (down from 18% in 2009)??
    Sounds like a BABIP bump to me. If he stays at .300, he’s a sub .250 hitter year in, year out.
    The low walks means that he is likely striking out because of poor strike zone discipline, not because he is patient. Major league pitchers are trained to chew up guys with no strike zone discipline. His strikeout rate is likely to increase as he faces better pitching. You can’t easily learn where a pitch is going to land – it requires great vision and a certain cerebral capacity. It requires innate skill to some extent. There was an article about this in GQ (of all places) a few years back.
    EJ – I love your stuff but I have to disagree on this one.