D-backs' new righty just on cusp of Majors

February 5th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Steve Gilbert's D-backs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

When we checked in with D-backs GM Mike Hazen before the last newsletter, he said that he thought the trade market was heating up a little bit and there was a chance that Arizona would be able to get at least one more thing done before Spring Training.

Fast forward to Saturday, when the D-backs pulled off a trade of Minor Leaguers, sending outfielder Dominic Fletcher to the White Sox for right-hander .

The 21-year-old Mena made 23 starts in Double-A and four in Triple-A last year, combining for a 4.85 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 133 2/3 innings.

Mena is Arizona's No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline.

“His slider and his curveball are both really good, and he’s got a decent changeup, too,” Hazen said. “I think we’re still looking for, and we haven’t laid eyes on him yet, but some velocity gains that we think could be in there given his youth and with more maturity, and then refinement of everything. He’s certainly not a finished product. I’d very much anticipate him being in [Triple-A] Reno to start the season.”

When Hazen has traded for players on the cusp of the big leagues like Mena, he has referenced the fact that to get a player with that kind of talent, organizations need to land them sooner than later.

“We felt like it was an opportunity to get a young starting pitcher,” Hazen said. “Once they sort of break out and get to the Major League level and play and play well, you have no chance to get them. We felt like this was an opportunity for us to add a really young starting pitcher, already been to Triple-A, and we think he has really good stuff.”

Mena adds to the D-backs' starting-pitching depth in the upper level of the Minors. That group includes Slade Cecconi and Bryce Jarvis, who both saw limited big league action last year, along with Blake Walston.

The D-backs will have a competitive camp when it comes to starting pitching. While Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez are locks to make the rotation and Brandon Pfaadt certainly has a leg up, Tommy Henry, Ryne Nelson, Cecconi and Jarvis could all get looks for the Opening Day roster.

“We can never have enough starting pitchers,” Hazen said.

That lesson was reinforced last year when Arizona had to go with bullpen games in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series and Game 4 of the World Series.