End of Season Prospect Review: Dakota Mekkes


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mekkes_2017_18_ratings

Developments I looked for in 2018

1) Improve his secondary offerings to not be so fastball dependent

2) Improve fastball command so that he can get ahead of hitters more frequently

Season Review

Mekkes proved that the deception created by his motion and the extension created by his 6'7" 250 pound frame as he drives off the mound is as effective against upper level hitters as it was against less advanced hitters. He remained incredibly productive in numerous roles, from multi-inning outings, to setup, to closing. His numbers remained as incredible as ever, but that does not mean that Mekkes plateaued in any way. He made strides with both of his secondary pitches while making some adjustments in his fastball approach (and even added a little velocity as a bonus).

Positives

Mekkes usually sits around 91-92 with his four-seam fastball, but discovered a new gear with it this season, and is now capable of running it up to 94-95 when necessary. Those numbers may not sound overwhelming, but because of how hard he pushes off the rubber and how close he is to the hitters when he releases the ball, the perceived velocity from their end is undoubtedly in the upper-90s and very difficult to handle. Mekkes has and elongated delivery which hides the ball well, especially from righthanded hitters, making him not just difficult to time but adding in a layer of deception as well. Mekkes will occasionally still mix in a middling two-seamer (88-90) but he has leaned more heavily on the four-seamer in 2018, to his benefit.

The most exciting developments during the 2018 season were the improved command with all of his offerings and also the step forward he made with his changeup. It is now a Major League caliber pitch (probably still a notch below average) with better arm speed and nice separation (8-10 mph) from his fastball. It isn't a world beater but it gives him another option to keep hitters honest and adds another layer of deception that hitters must unravel in order to barrel him up.

Negatives

His slider is a bit unusual because it comes in a few mph slower (77-80) than a typical pitch of its kind. He does get some whiffs off he pitch, but Mekkes does not command it as well as his others, and there were games where it was ineffective. When he does have all three pitches working in unison opposing hitters have no chance.

The high walk rates can be troubling at times, but he never completely loses the strike zone the way Maples and some other relievers are prone to do. He tends to miss down or up and to his arm side but it is usually only for a couple of pitches at a time.

Summation

I've believed for quite some time that many national publications have been sleeping on Dakota Mekkes. While I do not expect him to continue posting such minuscule ERAs at the MLB level, he will be an effective reliever. He provides versatility to thrive in a number of roles, and I fully expect him to carve out career similar to Steve Cishek, as someone that can serve as a difficult platoon matchup, multi-inning middle relief, primary setup man and occasional closer.

2019 Outlook

He may not begin the 2019 season on the Cubs 40-man roster, but assuming he stays healthy, Mekkes will earn his way onto not only the 40, but 25-man roster by the end of the year. There is nothing left for Mekkes to prove at the Minor League level. That is not to say that he is a finished product. He can still improve his overall command and the consistency of his breaking ball, but neither of those issues should hold him back from receiving his first big league audition. I also do not feel it will prevent him from succeeding once he receives it either.

Comments

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  • There are several good free agents out there. I'm sure the Cubs will NOT go after Manny Machado, who in my opinion will be the second coming of Milton Bradley. Michael Brantley would be great in left field if and that's a big if, he can stay healthy. Edwardo Escobar will probably command a multi year contract but would be a perfect fit for the Cubbies. The catcher from Miami ( Realmuto ) would be expensive to acquire but this kid can hit.I'm very turned off by Scott Boras and his 200 million dollar players. These contracts rarely pan out. Q. All the pitchers the Cubs have drafted, when we see these kids come up to the major league club ?

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    I am turned off by Machado not only because he had been called a dirty player but the way he described his lack of hustle and that he’s not going to change. I would think that would drive Joe and Theo crazy but also cause clubhouse problems. I remember Joakim Noah playing with plantar fasciitis (I have that now and it’s painful) while Derek Rose sat on the bench although cleared to play. This is a team game and the Cubs have signed personality as much as talent.
    Mekkes seems to be close. It better control of his secondary pitches will help a great deal when he is called up.

  • Thanks for the write-up, Michael! I hope this will be the first of a series.

    These are the sorts of mid-round picks the Cubs need to hit on. Looking forward to following his progress in 2019. Mekkes will be a Spring Training invitee, right?

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    You're welcome. Very rare for a 10th round pick to become a legitimate prospect. The last 10th rounder to make the Majors was drafted in 2014. The last 10th rounder to accumulate a WAR > 1.0 was Zack Godley, who the #Cubs drafted back in 2013, and then traded to the DBacks for Montero. Ryan Williams was also a 10th round pick by the Cubs in 2014 who was on the cusp of the big leagues when his shoulder gave out.

    The scouting staff has done great things in that 7-10th Rd range identifying useful college arms that others overlook. Not only did Godley get us Montero, but Tyler Thomas (7th) got us Chavez, and James Farris returned Eddie Butler.

    Also, Duncan Robinson (9th) is emerging as one of the team's most MLB ready pitching prospects and will likely make his Chicago debut at some point in 2019. James Norwood (7th) made his debut last season. Craig Brooks (7th) will return to Iowa, and though he is down the list for call ups next year, he does have an MLB caliber slider. David Garner (7th) was a similar righty to Brooks with mid-90s and a good slider, who was in AAA and may have had a shot at some point, but was suspended for substance abuse multiple times and his career is up in the air.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Mekkes will certainly be an NRI next spring if he isn't added to the 40-man during the offseason (I don't expect he will). More likely they keep him off the 40 and only add him once they need him in 2019. I expect he will be the first callup in the event of an injury to a reliever. Norwood will be his main competition.

    This is actually the 3rd in the series of prospect reviews, but I don't blame you for forgetting as I started the series at the end of August but then took some time off from Cubs Den. I had planned to only step away for a couple of weeks but a few things came up, and I caught a nasty flu bug which made doing just my 9-to-5 job difficult, and then I was also out of town for a couple of weeks.

    The first two were on
    Adbert Alzolay (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2018/09/end-of-season-prospect-review-adbert-alzolay/)
    and Nico Hoerner (http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2018/09/end-of-season-prospect-review-nico-hoerner/).

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    Thanks, Michael! August/September were hectic for me with a big research proposal...I’ll check them out.

    Never think your work goes unappreciated....

  • Opinions please, who has the stronger arm, Javy Baez or Machado?

  • In reply to Hagsag:

    Javy's is definitely quicker...

  • Mike

    Nice write up on Mekkes. Question, is it a bid odd that a pitcher of his size doesn’t have more speed on his FB? One would think he would top out at 99-100. Is it mechanical? Or is it just what he is.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Not every big guy throws hard. I mean being big and strong certainly helps and improves your chances. But there certainly is a genetic component.

    That said, Mekkes has stated he isn't much of a video guy. I do believe that most pitchers can benefit and unlock at least some level of higher velo by breaking down their mechanics and trying to optimize everything. But then there is a psychological component as well. There certainly seems to be a subset of players that benefit from not overthinking. Since I don't know or work with any of these players I can't give any definitive answers on questions of that nature.

  • I believe Mekkes' most valuable asset this year will be his minor league options. I certainly hope that the Cubs have the starting pitching depth to use the DL as creatively as the Dodgers have the past 2 seasons (2017-2018). Not one starter started more than 27 games. The starters pitched 82 - 175 innings. It's amazing how their "injured starters" are all fresh for the playoffs.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    I don't like cheating or even "bending the rules" so I hope we never see the Cubs partake in activities of that nature. Creative DL usage is no different than creative accounting.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    But creative accounting is part of the game, and we do partake. I would like to think we are pure, but we ain't. They lay down the rules, and we skirt them, like everyone else. There is an investigation underway trying to end the human trafficking of players from other countries. This is a dirty business, and we play the game. I hope we all can do better.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    a current non-Cub MLB exec said the following: If outside the left field line is illegal and outside the right field line is immoral, I don't want any of that. However, I do expect to see chalk on your feet.

    To use the DL creatively for pitchers means you must have depth. Very few, if any teams have amassed the depth of LAD.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    The Dodgers have played this well. Kudos to them. We can possibly be as deep next season, especially if we retain Hamels. Chatwood could be our eighth-deep, and I hope that's as high as he gets. I feel pretty good about our rotation, and all of our options have no options. We may have to play that DL game.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I’d love to see the Cubs retain Hamels, but then figure out how to package Quintana and Chatwood plus Russell and Almora and a couple prospects to the Diamondbacks for Greinke, Nick Ahmed, and either Archie Bradley or Boxberger.

    Just imagine if our starting 5 was Lester, Hendricks, Hamels, Greinke, and Darvish in any order. And we’d only need to go into the postseason with 4 of them healthy, or just the best 4, with the other going to the pen.

    Then at least we have a great backup SS to play when Javy plays 2nd or 3rd base. And adding to our bullpen would be nice too.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    Pitching is fickle, and Theo said he doesn't plan on taking away. I believe if Darvish and Chatwood were sure things we could see what Quintana would fetch, but there are no such things. I really hope Darvish is good, but I have my doubts. Even if he's healthy I'm beginning to have questions about his mental toughness. I don't know what he will give us. I'm wondering if this may be a collosal free-agent misstep.

    We will be wheeling and dealing, but I can't see a major overhaul. A bad contract for another bad contract is a possibility, I suppose, but I don't see trading multiple players off the big-league roster for other players onto the big-league roster. Our rotation is nearly set, and the pen needs some work. The big splashes will be who we sign and who gets dealt from the position side, IMO.

  • In reply to BarleyPop:

    I am a little concerned about Darvish's future health as well. I don't know if there's enough evidence, or truthfully, first hand-experience/knowledge, for one to make a claim about his mental capacities, like you state. Although, I feel like you're one of the Chitown people who's mingled close to the Cubs family, so what do I know?

    The big strength in dealing away Q is that while his 2 options are for (I think) $10.5M for each year, is that the AAV of his current contract is somewhere around $5 or $6M/year, so if there's gonna be a taker who's willing to either give up enough in players to help us compete now, or even good enough prospects who are close to helping us very soon, it's likely to come from a team who is in need of pitching, but is dangerously close to the tax threshold (Yankees come to mind), or a team whose ownership wants to cut costs while they either want to shuffle the deck a little (D-backs) or start rebuilding. I'm having a hard time thinking of a team that needs to rebuild (and further cut their costs) and has players that we can use.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I'd love to get Greinke but not his $35Mil per year for 2019-20-21. If AZ ate $15Mil per year, I'm all in. I like Ahmed just because he seems to hit 350 against us with the only power he seems to show in any given year. Control of Bradley thru 2021 would be great. Boxberger will be a FA in 2020.

    However, I think if AZ trades Greinke, then Bradley goes into the rotation as a cheap controlable arm. However, your package isn't crazy.

  • In reply to TexasCubsFan:

    Yeah the one thing I forgot to mention in my post was there would have to be some money coming from AZ as well. Basically if they send more money, then we get Boxberger, I’d less we get Bradley; that kind of thing. Part of my reason with including Chatwood is to party offset the ridiculous amount that Greinke gets paid. So I’d think AZ would have to send over somewhere between $5-10M/year of Greinke’s contract.

  • In reply to Cubber Lang:

    I'm not 100% opposed to moving Quintana but you have to think long and hard about it and if you do move him it needs to be to get a younger guy with upside, not Greinke which smacks of overkill which is a huge red flag for me. Overkill usually fails for whatever reason. The other thing to consider is that Jose Quintana is one of the most consistent pitchers in the game. Looking at his numbers 2018 literally screams outlier in comparison to every other year in his career. He's only had two years with a FIP over 4, 2012 his first year and 2018. Even this year his numbers were inflated by about 4 awful starts. Without those his numbers would have been in the same range as the rest of his career. Sure, sure, if my grandma had wheels she would have been a wagon and all that but we are talking about a clear outlier year. He's #3 starter when I think a lot of people expected a #1 but he's a very good #3. Now, that's not to say you don't consider moving him but not for an older pitcher but for a younger one. I'd approach Atlanta and see what kind of a deal is there. Quintana would bring a solid veteran presence to a young rotation that's going to get even younger. I think Foltynewicz is going to be an an ace and then you have Ian Anderson, David Wright and Mike Soroka who all have that TOR potential as well. I'd love to acquire Sean Newcomb. This is a guy with TOR potential that can start in a no pressure position as your #5 starter in a Cubs uniform and Quintana would slot right in the middle for them. Clearly it's not a one for one deal but as a part of a larger deal it could make sense. Let's say Atlanta lands Harper and moves Acuna to CF, Schwarber could be very attractive to them. Depending on their scouting they might even prefer Happ, but either way their might be a fit. It mean taking on Ender Inciarte but if his OBP bounces back he could be an upgrade in CF for the Cubs. Those are just some possibilities but some deal that brings Newcomb and sends Quintana is intriguing. Newcomb could slot in at #2 likely within a year or two. Anyway that's the only way I move Q, to get younger on the pitching staff.

  • Once the Cubs were eliminated I was rooting for a Dodgers and Red Sox matchup, as I think both those teams were built the best and provide a great matchup. Included in that prediction is my absolute disdain for the Astros. They promised they’re not the Cubs and wouldn’t have a hangover, yet they also only made it to game 5 of their championship series.

    Now for my big prediction, the Dodgers have the talent and depth to wear down the Red Sox. They’ve battled all season through adversity and played a considerably tougher schedule and beaten better teams more often while doing that. Dodgers in 6!

  • Amazing job, Michael. Keep up the great work. Really outstanding.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Hello, Quedub. Michael does an amazing job, doesn't he? I know you have a little knowledge up your sleeve as well, and it's always nice to hear from you.

  • In reply to Quedub:

    Thank you. Planning to do about 40 or so this offseason.

  • In reply to Michael Ernst:

    During the rebuilding process, our eye was frequently on the prospects as we awaited the opening of the "window" of contention. Now, as we watch the MLB part of the organization, it's easy to ignore the rest of the "organizational iceberg." Thanks, Michael, for keeping us educated on the assets that don't get the publicity of our MLB heroes.

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