MMLN – Mejia Throws Heat

Mejia looked very sharp on Wednesday

PORT ST. LUCIE – The intrasquad games finally got underway on Wednesday with the organizations two leading pitching prospects facing off before giving way to others. The lineups featured many of the top prospects all over the field in a scrimmage that was closely watched by both the big league and minor league coaching staffs. Inside Pitch was there for the action.

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Away Starting Lineup:
Alonzo Harris
Jefry Marte
Wilmer Flores
Ike Davis
Francisco Pena
Matt Bouchard (DH)
Caleb Stewart
Joe Holden
BJ Hubbert
SP – Brad Holt

Home Starting Lineup:
Greg Veloz
Mike Nickeas
Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Sean Ratliff
Pedro Zapata
Eric Campbell
Ruben Tejada
Emmanuel Garcia
Josh Petersen (DH)
SP – Jon Niese

Niese went right to work, wasting no time with his competition. He pitched at an excellent tempo, throwing a majority of fastballs that sat 87-90 MPH and spotting them on the corners. His snapping, overhand curveball drew many awkward swings from his comparatively inexperienced opposition. His curveball looked very strong though his changeup was a bit a flat at times. Niese breezed through four innings of work and totaled roughly 50 pitches, allowing zero hits and only one walk to Alonzo Harris.

Brad Holt was not quite as sharp. It is still mid-March but his fastball was anywhere from 87-92 MPH, certainly below where his heater reached last summer. He surrendered four runs (three earned) over two innings and was hit fairly hard at times. However, despite the lower fastball velocity, Holt flashed his improving breaking ball and a changeup that sat 81-83 MPH. There does not appear to be any concern about Holt's velocity as his workouts and conditioning are on target for the start of the season.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis drew some positive reviews from the big league coaching staff when he smoked a line drive off Holt in the first inning and motored around the bases for a triple. Coaches were impressed with his top end speed and running form. At the plate, he showed excellent form turning on a Holt fastball. He is looking very good heading into the season.

Sean Ratliff matched his former Brooklyn outfield-mate as he stepped up next and hit a bomb to right-center field that drew some "ooohs" as he too sprinted around for a triple. Ratliff has lessened the drop-and-drive hitch that he possessed last year, looked a lot smoother through the zone and is better able to get around on the ball.

Jefry Marte again looked awkward in the field, backing up on the ball more than once and committing an error in the second inning. There was a bit of a scare in the top of the first when Marte tweaked his knee running through the first base bag. He came out of the game for an inning and was replaced by Nick Giarraputo, but came back after getting stretched out by trainers. He went 0-for-3 in the game.

Ruben Tejada got just one at-bat, a ground out, and exited the game after two innings when Jose Coronado replaced him.

Francisco Pena looked very good plate behind. His slimmer frame has obviously improved him mobility behind the plate as he moved side to side much easier than when previously observed. His most impressive play came in the second inning when Emmanuel Garcia took off for second base and Pena threw a dart from his knees to cut him down.

Jenrry Mejia replaced Holt in the third inning and threw gas from the first pitch. Looking stronger and more filled out from last summer, he reached back and consistently threw 93-95. He blew away one hitter after the next by strikeout or weak contact. He did not throw many changeups and appears to have a bit of a tell when throwing his curveball, but pitches are improving and he was otherwise very impressive.

Ike Davis' swing looks improved over last year. Like Ratliff, he is straighter through the zone and is using his hips more than he was with Brooklyn which gives him added drive and allows him to make more solid contact. He did not hit his way on base today, but twice made very good contact. He did, however, make an error on a bounding ball to his right which he tried to backhand it to Adam Bostick (who replaced Niese) but overthrew him with Greg Veloz speeding down the base line.

Wilmer Flores went 0-for-3 at the plate including grounding into a double play, but looked better in the field when he was on the receiving end of a 4-6-3 double play. Speed is a very limited tool for Flores, but to give you an idea of his speed, it was negligibly better than Francisco Pena's during base running drills.

It was a rough morning for Pedro Zapata. In the second inning, he took a poor route while backtracking on a ball and watched it fall just to his right. Two innings later, he was plunked in the leg by Mejia.

Here is an indicator of arm strength: During pitchers' warm-ups, as the long-toss extended to 100 feet, the collection of pitchers could be seen taking a step or two into their throws. But there was Brant Rustich, who just leaned back and fired the ball with ease as if he was 50 or 60 feet away.

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