The first Giants' prospect has fallen. In what likely won't be the only trade San Francisco will make in the next number of days, Dominican left-hander Adalberto Mejia was shipped to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for utility infielder Eduardo Núñez.
Mejia has been considered a top-10 prospect in the Giants system for the last three to four years, and at age 23, there was still a lot of promise. Baseball America had Mejia ranked at No. 3 on the Giants' farm, and 91st overall, while MLB Pipeline's latest update had him No. 7. Giant Potential updated the list on Wednesday, slotting Mejia in the No. 11 spot.
Núñez was a 2016 All-Star for the Twins. He'll head to San Francisco having had the American League-lead in stolen bases with 27 and the highest qualifying batting average on the team (.296), though he was as high as .323 back on July 8. He's struck out just 14.1 percent of the time in 2016, but rarely draws a walk, recording only 14 in almost 400 plate appearances. His wOBA of .323 and wRC+ of 107 are both league average marks.
He's played mostly shortstop and third base in 2016, but can play second base, first base, or even grab a corner outfield spot if needed. He's been a -1.5 dWAR in the current year, and the UZR metric puts him around the league average of 0 at -1.2 for his play at shortstop. At third base he's been slightly better at -0.6.
So, knowing that Matt Duffy and Brandon Crawford are second and first at their respective positions according to UZR this year, Núñez will certainly never be a defensive replacement, but more of a depth move, especially considering his flexibility around the field.
Mejia, at age 21 in 2014 when he was 3.7 years younger than the Eastern League average, struggled with the Richmond Flying Squirrels (4.67 ERA, 1.389 WHIP) but his 3.78 FIP gave a positive look into the future. Then in the offseason, he was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for sibutramine — a banned weight-loss drug. He returned in June of 2015, still in Double-A, and before his promotion to Triple-A Sacramento this June, was one of the best starting pitchers in the Eastern League. He surrendered just 86 hits in 116.1 innings en route to a 2.16 ERA, including a 1.11 ERA in his final seven starts with the Flying Squirrels.
Since heading west to Sacramento, the numbers have been mostly the same for Mejia, though he's allowed 42 hits in 40.2 innings, pushing his ERA into the lows 4s, and his strikeout rates have increased slightly. Mejia works hitters with a low-to-mid-90s fastball that has tail and sink at times, as well as a plus changeup, which is his best secondary offering. He throws a slider and curveball, as well.
Mejia definitely had the potential to break into the big leagues with the Giants as a starter. While he wasn't the team's highest ranked starting pitcher (i.e. Tyler Beede, Phil Bickford, Sam Coonrod), he was certainly one of the most MLB ready arms, alongside Clayton Blackburn, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, or even Joan Gregorio.
Here's the most recent footage of Mejia, followed by the best footage I ever shot of him — back in 2013 with San Jose where he struck out eight in five innings.
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