(Can we get this kid some swings in a different set of pinstripes? Courtesy of Paul Hasdall)
There wasn't much reaction to the Yankees calling up Melky Mesa on Monday. With Mark Teixeira expected to miss 2 weeks and there being plenty of position player depth on the active roster, the move looked like nothing more than adding a warm insurance bench body to cover for the loss of Teix and rewarding an upper-level prospect with a long MiL history for a job well done in Double- and Triple-A this season. That's pretty much how the move has played out so far, with Mesa staying glued to the bench over the past 2 games despite there being instances where his skill set could have helped, but I think there might be something more to this move.
Stick with me on this, because this theory is admittedly out of left field (or right). It also operates under the assumption that the Yankees will make the postseason, an assumption that has become decidedly more gross since the Yankees started to morph into a baseball version of a beat up military platoon. But it does make a little bit of sense, at least to me, if you consider it with an open mind. Methinks that the Mesa promotion is more than just filling the bench during September, and it is actually the Yankees sneaky giving him the chance to audition for Andruw Jones' postseason roster spot.
Think about it. What does Jones bring to the table? Power, the ability to mash left-handed pitching, and some good outfield defense. At least that's what he's supposed to bring to the table, but for the better part of this season and the overwhelming majority of the 2nd half he hasn't brought any of that. Jones has 13 HR on the season, but has hit only 2 since the pre-ASB series in Bahhston and 1 since August 16th. His walks are down (9.9%), he's got a sub-.500 OPS since the start of August, and he's seemingly lost his ability to hit lefties (.302 wOBA in 179 PA). And as for that defense, I think we all know that Jones is a shell of his former outfield self. His Gold Glove days seem like ancient history, he's damn near a liability at this point when it comes to covering ground quickly, and only the eye test is needed to confirm that.
Looking at Mesa's season, there's plenty of overlap between what he's done and what Jones isn't doing that makes him a good fit as a replacement for Jones. Mesa clubbed 25 HR in the Minors this year, and hit for more power in Triple-A than he did in Double-A (.294 ISO in 133 PA). Like Jones, he had a reverse platoon split against lefties, hitting just .202/.256/.357 in 84 AB against LHP in Trenton, but Mesa picked it up with a .250/.276/.750 slash against LHP in Triple-A with 4 HR. Admittedly that was in a very small sample size, and it'd be ludicrous to expect Mesa to replicate that at the Major League level, but it's not out of the question to think he could do better than Jones' .209/.291/.411 clip. Defensively Mesa is a center fielder by trade, but he has plus speed and there's no doubt that he could cover more ground out there than Jones at this point. And with his center field experience, transitioning to a corner spot shouldn't be a problem.
Mesa doesn't walk much, and he's going to accumulate his fair share of strikeouts, but isn't that what Jones is already doing? He has an offensive skill set identical to Jones' and a potentially higher ceiling for production because of his younger age. What we've seen from Jones lately is likely what we're going to see for the rest of the year. What we could see from Mesa could be a step up from that with the added bonus of better defense, an ability to play all 3 OF positions if needed (something Jones can no longer do), and speed on the basepaths. We know the Yankees value flexibility, especially on their postseason bench, and Mesa brings more of it than Jones.
This whole thing hinges on the Yankees actually peeling Mesa off the bench and putting him on the field, something Joe hasn't shown a whole lot of interest in doing just yet, but if/when they do they could be doing themselves a big favor. At age 25 and in his 7th Minor League season, Mesa is a fringe prospect at best. But he still has value as an upgrade over Jones, has skills that fit the Yankees' needs, and he's cheap. With any luck, the Yanks could have found themselves an under-the-radar boost to their postseason roster and a potential piece to their payroll-cutting plan, even if it's just as a 4th OF. I know it's a longshot, but I'm holding out hope that we're going to see the new Melkman's name on a lineup card soon.