CI Talks with Lights-Out Reliever Prospect Dakota Mekkes (Part 1): Routines Playing Huge Part in Success
Bo Bichette: 0-for-2, K
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.: 0-for-1, BB
Jorge Ona: 0-for-2, 2 K’s
Fernando Tatis, Jr.: 0-for-3, 2 K’s
Those four hitters were some of the best in the Midwest League in the first half of 2017, yet they went a combined 0-for-7 with five strikeouts and just one walk against Dakota Mekkes. They should not feel ashamed, as that is pretty much how everyone did against Mekkes while he was with South Bend.
He’s done the same since being promoted to Myrtle Beach and has now struck out 72 batters in 53.2 innings (12.34 K/9) across two levels with a utterly insane 0.34 ERA.
I profiled Mekkes for Cubs Insider earlier this year, at which point I foresaw the 6-foot-7, 255 lb. right-handed reliever rising quickly through the Cubs system. I originally thought he should just skip Myrtle Beach because he had been so dominant for South Bend, but I’d imagine his performance for the Pelicans will see him at AA Tennessee soon.
I had the great opportunity to sit down and talk with Mekkes recently about his routine and the adjustments he is making at high-A ball.
TJ: Did your daily process/routines change when you went from South Bend to Myrtle Beach?
DM: No, I pretty much stayed doing the same thing every day that I did in South Bend. I figured if it’s not broke don’t fix it. I like to get in a routine, get my routine down, and do the same thing every day.That’s what I have been doing since I moved up here is stay with what I have been doing. Some days, if I throw 2 innings [the night before], then I know I will have a couple days off, [and] I will just do long toss. Normally, I just go 90 [feet] then 120 and get some sprints in before the game. It’s nothing too crazy or complicated. I’m a big routine guy. I’m really superstitious actually.
TJ: How is the coaching different? You had Brian Lawrence at South Bend and now have Anderson Tavarez at Myrtle Beach. How are they similar and different?
DM: For me, since I throw kinda funky, they have been kinda hands off. Like, neither of them really tell me too much. That’s just like how they are through the organization. Like the coordinators, they just let me throw. If they see something small, they’ll tweak it.
Mekkes did add that the two pitching coaches have different personalities, but he likes that about the organization.
TJ: Are you using video to adjust your pitching?
DM: I am actually not a big video guy, I have always been someone that when I throw a bad pitch, I typically know what I did wrong. I will look at it every now and then, like if hadn’t had my slider for a few outings or I haven’t had my changeup. I’ll look at it to see if I can find any differences in my last outing and an outing from a month ago when I knew it was good.
What has been the biggest adjustment you have had to make at Myrtle Beach?
DM: I noticed it right away. The hitters are much better at Myrtle Beach, obviously. They don’t miss mistakes. If you make a mistake pitch here, you are not going to get away with it. Down at South Bend you get away with missing a fastball and get some swing-and-miss. Up here, more likely than not, it’s going to be a base hit. You gotta be pinpoint with your accuracy.
I think it’s safe to say Mekkes has made the adjustment to playing at a higher level just fine. In fact, he has far exceeded expectations with a 0.00 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP in 18.2 innings at Myrtle Beach. The fact that opponents have hit just .142 against him across both levels is a testament to his arsenal. Even more, it is a testament to his work ethic and routine.
I will be back next week with part two of the interview, in which Mekkes discusses his unique delivery, its development, his grips, and getting to AA Tennessee.