Jenrry Mejia - SP, NYM
When healthy, Mejia has always flashed the kind of pitches that indicate he can dominate in the majors. Staying on the field has been an issue though; over the last three seasons he has averaged just 63 innings between the majors and minors.
This year he'll try to finally break through, and fortunately he's got a spot in the Mets rotation right out of the gates. Mejia made his big-league debut four years ago, in 2010, so it can be easy to forget he's still only 24 years old.
Mejia was a Top 50 prospect in baseball before a wave of injuries took its toll, and by all accounts he's coming into this season as healthy as he's been since he first arrived on the scene. The pitcher's most recent ailment was a bone spur in his right elbow that was removed last August, but he showed up at camp throwing hard and missing bats, enabling him to surpass Daisuke Matsuzaka for the Mets fifth starter job.
Mejia has averaged a strikeout per inning at every level of the minors except Triple-A, where he experienced a dramatic drop-off (partially due to health issues, no doubt), so it's hard to say where he might settle in at the majors. He certainly has what it takes to strike out MLB hitters, and in his first outing last week he fanned eight over six innings -- a promising sign.
Of course, in that same outing, Mejia also issued five walks, and that might be troublesome. Shaky control has been a recurring issue for the young righty, and it might limit his ability to pitch deep into games, especially since the Mets will surely be exercising extra caution with his historically fragile arm.
Keeping those reservations in mind, along with the fact that he'll probably be shut down sometime in August even if he stays healthy, Mejia makes for a strong early-season gamble as one of the most talented starters around who is unowned in the majority of leagues.
Kyle Gibson - SP, MIN
Coming off a rocky MLB debut in 2013, and going up against several pitchers who were out options, Gibson initially looked like a longshot to win a spot in the Twins rotation this spring. However, the right-hander impressed coaches enough during camp to overcome outside considerations and cement himself as the best option.
Last year, in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, Gibson pitched very well in Triple-A, posting a 2.92 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 17 starts. He was far less effective in a late-season stint with the Twins, turning in a 6.53 ERA over 51 innings, but he remained one of the most promising arms in Minnesota's system.
This season, he will get a chance to showcase his stuff, which stands out in a rotation that's been frequently filled with veteran contact pitchers. Gibson delivers a heavy fastball in the mid-90s from his 6'6" frame, generating plenty of ground balls.
He was also a solid strikeout artist in the minors, averaging 8.0 K/9 while rising through the ranks, but it's unclear whether he'll be able to maintain an above-average rate in the big leagues.
Either way, as a first-round pick and former top prospect who is 26 and in his second year removed from elbow surgery, Gibson looks like a great pick to click this year. He certainly offers more upside than any other hurler in the Minnesota rotation, and if he can stay on top of his command he could turn into a pretty reliable week-to-week fantasy contributor.