The early part of the 2016 season has been fairly successful for Cincinnati Reds right handed pitching prospect Keury Mella. He was acquired from the San Francisco Giants last season at the trade deadline in the Mike Leake trade. After pitching in the hitter friendly California League with plenty of success, he came over into the Reds organization and joined Daytona in the pitcher friendly Florida State League. He posted a 2.95 ERA, but did see his walk rate balloon down the stretch.
In 2016 the Reds sent him back to Daytona to join the Tortugas rotation. He’s currently got a 2.97 ERA in 39.1 innings over seven starts. On the downside of things, the righty has walked more batters than you’d like to see, handing out 17 free passes to go along with 33 strikeouts. Where things get interesting is to see exactly when most of the damage against him has been done.
The 1st inning has been a huge problem for Keury Mella this season. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the 1st inning for the Dominican Republic native compared to the rest of the innings that he’s thrown this season.
Once Mella has gotten beyond the 1st inning, he’s been rather dominant. His walk rate is down and in line with the rate he had before he joined the Reds organization. His strikeout rate is way up and where it has been throughout the rest of his career. The ERA is miniscule, sitting at 1.39 in 32.1 innings pitched.
Of course, the problem is that 1st inning where he’s absolutely gotten beaten up all season long. In seven starts he’s allowed one or two runs in every start but one. He’s walked at least one batter in every start but one. Each start has resulted in at least two base runners and all but one resulted in three. Over the last five starts he’s failed to register a strikeout in the 1st inning.
His WHIP in the 1st inning of 2016 is 3.29 and his ERA is over 10.00. What exactly is leading to the issues, I don’t have the slightest clue. But it’s very apparent that once he settles into the game, things really turn around and we start to see the Keury Mella that is expected based on his track record. Maybe he needs to slightly alter how he warms up before the game, or maybe there’s just a chance that this is all just one of those weird things that just happen to a player from time to time. For now there’s something strange going on in the 1st inning for Mella, but after that he’s about as dominant as there has been in the Florida State League to begin the year.