Mesa Taking The Next Step

It's the bottom of the first inning in Saturday's contest between the Trenton Thunder and Harrisburg Senators. Trenton leadoff hitter Melky Mesa steps into the box. Sixty feet, six inches away stands former Yankee pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, who is on a rehab start after straining his right hip while pitching for the Nationals.

It's a seven-year minor leaguer against a seven-year MLB veteran.

Here's the pitch.

Mesa sees a fastball, slightly inside, but right over the plate.

He swings, sending the baseball deep to center.

The ball lands way over the 407 sign in dead-center field, an approximate 430-foot homer.

Normally, Mesa hits in the middle of the Thunder lineup. But Thunder manager Tony Franklin on Saturday chose to hit Mesa first after giving usual leadoff man Jose Pirela a day off.

"I think Mesa can hit anywhere in the lineup," Franklin said. "It's not unusual that you got a guy who hits fifth in your lineup and produces RBIs and home runs for you, but if he goes to the Major Leagues, he might hit second, maybe even seventh or eight.

"You try to experiment with them from time to time, see how they handle that, and when they go to the Major Leagues, they have some reference to what they need to do in those particular positions."

A native of the Dominican Republic, Mesa handled the experiment quite well. He finished the game 2 for 3 off Wang with the homer and a single.

So that begs the question: Is Mesa capable of being a leadoff hitter at the next level?

"Absolutely, no question about it," Franklin said. "He's hitting .274 with 14 home runs. That's Ricky Henderson-like, I'd say. You're looking for a guy with some speed, some power and the ability to steal some bases. Every Major League club would like to have that with their leadoff guy. Mesa possesses all that."

The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder this season was hitting .277 with 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 17 stolen bases prior to his Triple-A call-up on Wednesday evening. But things weren't always going so smoothly for Mesa. Back in April, the 25-year-old centerfielder hit just .229 (19 for 83).

He did better at the plate the next two months, batting .274 (17 for 62) in May and .273 (21 for 77) in June.

And in July, Mesa has been racking up hits at a torrid pace. He hit .324 (32-99) in July.

Mesa said his April struggles were a result of bad luck.

"I just tried to do the same form the beginning to now," Mesa said. "At the beginning, I hit the ball really good, but the ball didn't drop. I feel like I do the same, just a little bit more lucky. The ball has been dropping somewhere."

Franklin had a different explanation for his outfielder's slow start.

"Not to offer any excuse, but here's a kid who lives in the Caribbean," Franklin said. "We're playing in April. It's not the easiest thing to do. You're battling the cold, and then you have to battle 93 mile-per-hour fastballs and 89 mile-per-hour sliders. That's not a good combination.

"For whatever reason, he got off to a slow start, but has done quite well picking up his average to a very respectable level. And his home run total is pretty fascinating. He's put his game together."

This was Mesa's second year in Trenton. Signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in July 2003, Mesa last year hit .251 (97-386) with 58 runs, 24 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 46 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.

He has made significant offensive strides since 2011, as shown by his improved statistics.

"My first year I wasn't that good, but I just tried to do my best at times," Mesa said. "But now, I'm just working hard, more focused and more confident in what I'm supposed to do.

"So far, I feel great in what I do. I can be better and that I know. I improved a lot in my approach, recognizing pitches and all that stuff."

As Mesa hinted, the key to his newfound offensive prowess has been better plate discipline. He's not swinging at pitches out of the zone, something he had trouble doing last year.

"Most young hitters have to improve on their ability to lay off bad pitches, which he does," Franklin said. "He still does. It's a constant battle, but I think he's gotten better compared to last year. Much better."

Mesa is currently on the Yankees' 40-man roster, a sign that the Yankees consider him a potential Major Leaguer. With how Mesa has been swinging the bat lately, his promotion to Triple-A is not surprising.

But one thing is for certain; as seen by his performance against Chien-ming Wang on Saturday, Mesa has shown he can hit big league pitching.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nIt's a seven-year minor leaguer against a seven-year MLB veteran.
\r\n
\r\nHere's the pitch.
\r\n
\r\nMesa sees a fastball, slightly inside, but right over the plate.
\r\n
\r\nHe swings, sending the baseball deep to center.
\r\n
\r\nThe ball lands way over the 407 sign in dead-center field, an approximate 430-foot homer.
\r\n
\r\nNormally, Mesa hits in the middle of the Thunder lineup. But Thunder manager Tony Franklin on Saturday chose to hit Mesa first after giving usual leadoff man Jose Pirela a day off.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think Mesa can hit anywhere in the lineup,\" Franklin said. \"It's not unusual that you got a guy who hits fifth in your lineup and produces RBIs and home runs for you, but if he goes to the Major Leagues, he might hit second, maybe even seventh or eight.
\r\n
\r\n\"You try to experiment with them from time to time, see how they handle that, and when they go to the Major Leagues, they have some reference to what they need to do in those particular positions.\"
\r\n
\r\nA native of the Dominican Republic, Mesa handled the experiment quite well. He finished the game 2 for 3 off Wang with the homer and a single.
\r\n
\r\nSo that begs the question: Is Mesa capable of being a leadoff hitter at the next level?
\r\n
\r\n\"Absolutely, no question about it,\" Franklin said. \"He's hitting .274 with 14 home runs. That's Ricky Henderson-like, I'd say. You're looking for a guy with some speed, some power and the ability to steal some bases. Every Major League club would like to have that with their leadoff guy. Mesa possesses all that.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe 6-foot-1, 190-pounder this season was hitting .277 with 14 homers, 46 RBIs and 17 stolen bases prior to his Triple-A call-up on Wednesday evening. But things weren't always going so smoothly for Mesa. Back in April, the 25-year-old centerfielder hit just .229 (19 for 83).
\r\n
\r\nHe did better at the plate the next two months, batting .274 (17 for 62) in May and .273 (21 for 77) in June.
\r\n
\r\nAnd in July, Mesa has been racking up hits at a torrid pace. He hit .324 (32-99) in July.
\r\n
\r\nMesa said his April struggles were a result of bad luck.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just tried to do the same form the beginning to now,\" Mesa said. \"At the beginning, I hit the ball really good, but the ball didn't drop. I feel like I do the same, just a little bit more lucky. The ball has been dropping somewhere.\"
\r\n
\r\nFranklin had a different explanation for his outfielder's slow start.
\r\n
\r\n\"Not to offer any excuse, but here's a kid who lives in the Caribbean,\" Franklin said. \"We're playing in April. It's not the easiest thing to do. You're battling the cold, and then you have to battle 93 mile-per-hour fastballs and 89 mile-per-hour sliders. That's not a good combination.
\r\n
\r\n\"For whatever reason, he got off to a slow start, but has done quite well picking up his average to a very respectable level. And his home run total is pretty fascinating. He's put his game together.\"
\r\n
\r\nThis was Mesa's second year in Trenton. Signed by the Yankees as a non-drafted free agent in July 2003, Mesa last year hit .251 (97-386) with 58 runs, 24 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 46 RBIs and 18 stolen bases.
\r\n
\r\nHe has made significant offensive strides since 2011, as shown by his improved statistics.
\r\n
\r\n\"My first year I wasn't that good, but I just tried to do my best at times,\" Mesa said. \"But now, I'm just working hard, more focused and more confident in what I'm supposed to do.
\r\n
\r\n\"So far, I feel great in what I do. I can be better and that I know. I improved a lot in my approach, recognizing pitches and all that stuff.\"
\r\n
\r\nAs Mesa hinted, the key to his newfound offensive prowess has been better plate discipline. He's not swinging at pitches out of the zone, something he had trouble doing last year.
\r\n
\r\n\"Most young hitters have to improve on their ability to lay off bad pitches, which he does,\" Franklin said. \"He still does. It's a constant battle, but I think he's gotten better compared to last year. Much better.\"
\r\n
\r\nMesa is currently on the Yankees' 40-man roster, a sign that the Yankees consider him a potential Major Leaguer. With how Mesa has been swinging the bat lately, his promotion to Triple-A is not surprising.
\r\n
\r\nBut one thing is for certain; as seen by his performance against Chien-ming Wang on Saturday, Mesa has shown he can hit big league pitching.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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\r\n

\r\n

Become an annual subscriber today!

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