Know Your 40: Melky Mesa

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Can the outfielder with tools for days cut down on his strikeouts and become a viable option for the majors?

Name: Melky Mesa
Position: Outfielder
Bats: Right Throws: Right
Age as of Opening Day 2013: 26 (born 1/31/1987)
Height: 6'1" Weight: 190 lbs.
Remaining Contract: Under team control, seven years of minor league service time
2012 Statistics: Double-A Trenton - 88 games, 368 PA, .278/.345/.468, 14 HR, 17 SB, 124 wRC+, .364 wOBA -- Triple-A Scranton - 33 games, 133 PA, .230/.271/.524, 9 HR, 5 SB, 115 wRC+, .348 wOBA

The Yankees signed Melky Mesa out of the Dominican Republic all the way back in 2003. He followed up a few years in the Dominican Summer League with two years in Rookie Ball during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, and has been floating about rather slowly in the Yankee farm system since. That's quite a long road traveled for a guy who saw his first action above Double-A a year ago, but with an injury to Curtis Granderson opening a spot in the outfield for Opening Day, Mesa could potentially steal a spot from a couple veterans if he has a particularly strong showing in Spring Training.

The peak of Mesa's minor league career may have been winning the Florida State League MVP award during his time with the High-A Tampa Yankees. Scouts have always fawned over the tools that Mesa possesses. He's a speedy outfielder who can hit for power with strong defense and a great arm. What's not to like, right? Well, Melky's problem has always been the whole contact aspect of hitting. His strikeout-prone hitting has kept him from reaching what he might be as a player, but he managed to show slight improvement in that department by cutting his strikeout percentage down to 20.4% when repeating Double-A last season. That number ballooned again to 32.3%, however, once Mesa was promoted to the next level. Considering that adjusting to better pitchers has always made his strikeouts increase upon promotion, you can begin to imagine what it would be like if he were to be starting for the Yankees right now. He could very well put Curtis Granderson to shame.

It's more likely than not that Melky will begin this season in Triple-A with the RailRiders to serve as depth if another outfielder gets hurt and needs to miss considerable time. Unfortunately for him, he should be dominating the level at his age and that's just not happening. Time is quickly getting away from him as a prospect, and spending seven years trying to make it to Triple-A can't be the path he assumed his career would take. It's possible that he's the kind of prospect who just never manages to put the tools they were given together enough to make it in the big leagues. Maybe he figures out his strikeout problem this season in a way that he never has been able to before. The gifts are there, but the gifts alone are not enough.

Mesa did manage to get a taste of the big leagues last year, and that combined with Triple-A experience and a spot on the 40-man roster certainly make him a candidate for call-up duty at any time. Should he get another chance at the majors, maybe he won't be so nervous that he forgets to step on third base next time. We hope.

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