Born: 31 January 1987 in Bajas de Haina, DR
Height/Weight: 6'1"/165 pounds
Signed: 2003, amateur free agent
Tampa (High-A) - .260/.338/.475, 21 2B, 9 3B, 19 HR, 31 SB (9 CS), 137 wRC+
There has been a considerable amount of discussion about Mesa following his being named the Florida State League Player of the Year. Over the last few years, Mesa has been the sort of prospect that garners staunch support or scathing opposition, and not much in between. Those that believe in Mesa point to his strong power-speed combination, fine defensive play, and his lean, muscular build. Naysayers decry his high strikeout totals and history of low batting-average (particularly as he was signed with the dreaded "five tool" label). I find myself quite lonely on the middle ground.
Mesa's strikeout numbers are quite disconcerting - he has struck out in 31.0%, 35.9%, 31.1%, 33.8%, and 28.9% of his plate appearances over his five-year professional career. While 2010 does represent his 'best' season in this regard (and in a notoriously pitcher-friendly league), most scouting reports indicate that he can still be fooled with a steady diet of offspeed stuff - and this is an area with perhaps the most difficult learning curve for young hitters. I would suggest, though, that the nearly 5% drop is encouraging - particularly as his walk rate remained steady (a fine 8.7%, in fact). I doubt that he'll ever flirt with .300 ... or even .280 ... but he may not need to in order to be an asset.
With the noteworthy exception of the strikeout issues, Mesa's all-around offensive game profiles quite well. He finished in the top-five in triples, home runs, total bases, stolen bases, slugging percentage, and OPS. His ability to hit for power has never been doubted and his base-running has improved as well - he was successful on 78% of stealing attempts, the best rate of his career. Additionally, he made the most contact of his young career, despite facing the best pitching over that same period of time. Mesa's issues with the strikeout do force one to wonder just how much of an offensive contributor he can be ... but it's clear that he has the pop and speed that many teams salivate over.
Defensively, Mesa's nothing short of fantastic. Featuring a plus-plus arm, he profiles as an excellent corner outfielder or a solid to above-average centerfielder. I have also read that his routes and reaction speed improved this year, as well - and they were solid to begin with, which is all the more impressive.
Looking forward, Mesa remains a raw product with a difficult issue to remedy. Though some progress has been made, there is still work to be done, which is the key reason to temper one's expectations. A frequent comparison that I've stumbled across is Alfonso Soriano ... but I don't really like that, as Soriano did perform better in the minors while playing another position. Mesa, to me, profiles similar to Mike Cameron - a perennial 20/20 candidate with above-average to great defense with a propensity for striking out. I wouldn't mind such a player patrolling centerfield for the Yankees.