Just when you thought the Reds couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t possibly add more depth to their starting pitching pool in the minors, the Reds trade two months of Mike Leake for six plus years of another hard throwing youngster in Keury Mella (plus infielder Adam Duvall). Mella is a soon to be 22 year old pitching in High A. Before the season, both Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs had Mella as the fifth best prospect in the Giants system. But MLB PipelineÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s midseason update has Mella as the Giants best prospect. ESPN prospect analyst Keith Law has Mella as the Giants top pitching prospect.
Mella has three pitches: a fastball, curveball/slider, and changeup. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s some video and then information on his repertoire.
MellaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fast sits 93-96 and touches 97. According to one report, he holds his velocity well throughout the start and the pitch has potential to be a Ã¢â‚¬Å“plus-plusÃ¢â‚¬Â offering. Some scouts have described his fastball as having Ã¢â‚¬Å“bat missing velocity,Ã¢â‚¬Â and he has backed that up with strong strikeout rates throughout the minors. He also shows a two-seam fastball that works in the low 90s. Right now, Mella commands his fastball better than his other pitches.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen some people call this pitch a curveball and others call it a slider. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll stick with curveball for now, but if you see a scouting report that mentions a slider, it is apparently the same pitch. MLB Pipeline even says the pitch can get Ã¢â‚¬Å“slurvy,Ã¢â‚¬Â which only further complicates the matter. MellaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s curveball has been described as a future plus offering but apparently needs work right now. He throws the curve around 76-80 MPH with it touching a little higher at times. When he throws it well, the pitch has an 11-5 break that will generate some swings and misses. Scouts consistently say he has trouble commanding the curveball and needs to harness this pitch because it has enough movement to be a consistent out pitch.
MellaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s changeup comes in at 82-84, and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs calls the pitch inconsistent and fringy. Mella apparently has a lot of confidence in the pitch even if he hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t commanded it well to this point. Some scouts think this pitch needs the most work (others see it slightly ahead of the curveball), and Mella will need to develop it to reach his considerable potential as a starter. If he canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t develop it, he might not be a starter.
Overall Thoughts on Pitches
Thus far in the minors, Mella has been able to use his elite fastball to overwhelm hitters. His fastball makes him an intriguing prospect in that his other pitches only need to be average for him to succeed at the higher levels. While his secondary pitches lagged behind the heater coming into the season, the fact that several analysts have moved Mella up their Giants prospect lists suggest he may be improving his secondary offerings to the point where he will remain a starter.
Minor League Numbers
Mella signed as an international free agent in 2011 and began his minor league career in 2012 His numbers have been strong since signing. HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s an overview.
In 2015, opponents have struggled to square up MellaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pitches, hitting a paltry .212 against him. He has let up five homeruns this season, which is a career high. In 81.2 innings, five homeruns isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t terribly egregious especially in the California league, a league known for inflated offense.The strikeout numbers really stand out. For context, Johnny Cueto struck out 23.9% of batters his first season in high A, right about where Mella is. He certainly strikes out enough hitters and has prevented runs at an impressive rate. As you can see, he has never thrown 100 innings in a season and needs to build up his arm strength. He missed a couple months in the middle of the 2014 season with a rotator cuff strain.
Walt Jocketty did well to get another strong pitching prospect for two months of a player they probably werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t going to resign. Mella has had a strong minor league career to this point and Baseball Prospectus lists his potential as a number 2 or 3 starter.
Unfortunately, scouts do have concerns. MellaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s delivery has consistently been called rough, and he doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always command his pitches well. He needs to develop his secondary pitches to remain a starter but has impressed enough this year to shoot up the Giants prospect lists and alleviate some of those concerns.
The bottom line is that Mella is another player whose floor is a late-inning reliever and whose ceiling is a top/middle of the rotation starter. He has a lot of potential but also comes with risk. As previously stated, he already suffered a rotator-cuff injury in 2014 but hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t had any issues since. He is probably two full seasons away from the majors, so he has time to improve his arsenal.
The Reds added yet another strong pitching prospect to their already impressive list. While they have traded away four starters since December, they have also stocked their farm system with enough power arms to think they can field a strong rotation within the next few years. Mella has as much upside as anyone not named Stephenson. Time will tell if he can reach that upside, but for now, Mella seems like someone to get excited about.