(This is the first of a five-part series)
The New York Yankees have one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, if not the best. With that comes a lot of top-level talent that becomes household names in the fan base. But aside from the big names the fans already know there are several players throughout the system that they should also keep an eye on in 2017.
At the top of our list is right-handed pitcher Jose Mesa Jr. Fans might know the name, as he is the son of former major league reliever, Jose Mesa. And like his father he has the shutdown mentality you would expect in a reliever.
Jose is a 4-pitch pitcher with a fastball that usually sits in the low-mid 90’s and a curveball, slider and changeup to complement it. He possesses a good feel for his pitches, enabling him to throw any of them with any count on the batters.
Mesa was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 2012 draft but did not make his professional debut until 2014 due to Tommy John surgery. As a 20-year old in the Gulf Coast League, he went 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA in nine games, one start, throwing a total of 9 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs on ten hits and three walks while striking out six batters.
Mesa returned to the Gulf Coast League to start the 2015 season with the Gulf Coast Yankees 2 team; he pitched in 2 games where he earned 4.5 ERA with two earned runs allowed in 4innings and striking out three batters before he switched to the Gulf Coast Yankees 1 team. In 2 games with them, he allowed two earned runs in 3 1/3 innings while striking out five batters.
On July 11, 2015, Jose received a promotion to the Staten Island Yankees of the NY-Penn League where he impressed many as one of the best relievers on the team. He earned himself a 3-0 record in his first taste of Class-A ball, appearing in 10 games and throwing 21 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. During that time, Mesa struck out 35 batters, walked 9 and allowed just one earned run. That one earned run came on July 24 when he allowed a run to the West Virginia Black Bears who went on to win the league championship.
Mesa’s time was short with Staten Island as he earned another promotion on August 18, 2015. This time it was to the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. In the SAL he was touched for five earned runs over five games and 11 1/3 innings while striking out 17 batters and walking 7. In total, he threw 40 1/3 innings over three levels of the minor leagues.
This past season Jose did not make his season debut until April 22, and after just one game with the Tampa Yankees, he went back to the Charleston RiverDogs. With the RiverDogs he did well, working as a multi-inning reliever. In 14 games, out of the bullpen, he was 1-3 with a 2.97 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings. His strong performance earned him a promotion back to Tampa on July 17.
With the Tampa Yankees, he struggled, throwing just 11 2/3 innings in 7 games and gave up 16 runs in that time frame. However, an arm injury came up, and after attempting to pitch through it, he went on the disabled list on August 15, 2016.
This offseason he was selected by Tigres del Licey in the Dominican Winter League draft, the same team that his father pitched for years ago.
Next season will be crucial for the right-hander as he returns from injury. A big season could see him move quickly as a reliever.