CI Talks with Lights-Out Reliever Prospect Dakota Mekkes (Part 2): Deception and Next Steps

“As you’re certainly aware, a strong college performance doesn’t come close to guaranteeing success at higher levels,” Chris Mitchell of FanGraphs wrote about Dakota Mekkes after the Cubs selected him in the 10th round of last year’s draft. “But certain characteristics — such as strikeout rate — are predictive of success in the majors. Mekkes posted one of the top strikeout rates in the country in one of the top college conferences in the country. My math says that bodes very well for his future.”

In 53 innings this year, Mekkes has compiled a 0.34 ERA by allowing only two earned runs all season, the last of which crossed the plate on May 10. He has struck out 72 hitters and opponents have only hit .142 against him across two levels of the minors. I’d say Mitchell nailed it.

Mekkes throws his fastball in the low 90’s, which isn’t exceptional in and of itself. But in talking with others who know him well, you learn quickly that the big righty’s Mekkes’ biggest strength is his deceptive delivery. Former South Bend teammate Chad Hockin said, “He just hides the ball really well. He doesn’t pitch from his height, though. He really gets deep on his stride.” In other words, a 92 mph fastball from Mekkes could look 96 or 97 to a hitter.

In part one of my interview with Mekkes, he talked about his daily routine, differences in coaching in the Cubs’ system, the adjustments he made moving up a level, and using video to get better. In this editions, Mekkes discusses his deceptive delivery and the effect it has on hitters, plus the possibility of being promoted to Tennessee.

TJ: How did your delivery and deception evolve over time?

DM: I’ve just kind been like this my whole life.I don’t really use my height to my advantage, I think I really use my length. I kinda crouch down, but I get a nice long stride and try to stride as far as I can and then I release the ball as close to home as I can. I try to give the hitter a split second less time. I try to cut down the time as much as possible. I’m not a guy that throws too hard.

I discussed some of the swings I have seen and how I could not believe the ugliness of the swings.

It’s kinda confusing to me almost. I will throw a fastball like 90 and he’ll be behind it. I just attribute that to my length.

TJ: Myrtle Beach is totally a different climate than South Bend. Does that affect your grip? Do you use rosin to help you?

DM: I’m not a real rosin guy. I like to have complete control of the ball. Sometimes I will lick my fingers. The rosin could be too sticky or not sticky enough. I never know what I might get. I am a big guy and I sweat a lot but I find another way to keep my arm and hand as dry as possible.

TJ: Have the Cubs sat you down and said, “Here’s what you need to do to make it to the next level”?

DM: They haven’t really said too much. I just go about my business and hopefully let my performance speak for itself. Whatever happens, happens. If I get moved up, I do. If I stay here, either way, I’m happy.

With less than six weeks left in the season, I would think a promotion to AA would have to happen in the next two weeks. Then again, if the Cubs want to see how Mekkes does against advanced competition, they could use one of their eight spots in the Arizona Fall League to see him in action against elite players.

Aside from issuing fewer walks, I don’t think there is much left for him to prove in Myrtle Beach. He has utterly dominated two levels in one year.

His future looks pretty bright after this year, as that long stride carries him quickly through the system.

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