Keury Mella was called to the side of the field during batting practice Friday for an autograph request. He politely obliged by flashing a smile that has drawn as many positive reports as his right arm.
The talented 20-year-old Dominican is entering his first full-season assignment in the San Francisco Giants system after blowing away the competition of the Dominican Summer and Arizona leagues the past two seasons.
While he is the talk of the Giants system for the potential that shows in his stuff, he is also quick to make fans for his bright smile and positive demeanor.
“One thing I know about Mella is, he’s a good kid,” said Augusta GreenJackets hitting coach Hector Borg, who managed Mella in the Dominican league in 2012. “He’s a good worker. He fights a lot and is a good competitor. He’s going to be good at this level.”
The 6-foot-2 right-hander is built to log innings as a starting pitcher.
He has big, strong hands, and an equally big arm that produces a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink. Mella combines it with a strong curveball and a developing changeup.
The progression of his secondary pitches, especially the changeup, is important to Mella as he works for Augusta this season.
“I’ve been working a lot with my changeup, my secondary pitches,” Mella said through an interpeter. “I’m focusing on attacking the strike zone and learning how to get hitters out.”
Mella is ranked seventh in the Giants system by Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball America ranked him 13th. Scouts like his potential, and many see a future frontline prospect in the organization if it all comes together.
Mella signed for $275,000 by scout Pablo Peguero, the same scout who signed former GreenJackets Kendry Flores, Joan Gregorio and Angel Villalona.
“He’s got a great arm,” GreenJackets pitching coach Steve Kline said. “If he throws strikes, he’s pretty dominant. That’s why he’s down here in Augusta right now, to get better. We’re going to try to polish him.”
Mella is just getting started in the Augusta rotation, but he’s already making fans down the lines at Lake Olmstead Stadium by showing appreciation for the opportunity he is given.
“I’m excited,” Mella said. “I want to do my 100 percent best at everything. I’m happy to be here.”