By Todd Johnson
Bo Bichette – 0/2 with 1 K
Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. – 0/1 with a walk
Jorge Ona – 0/2 with 2 Ks
Fernando Tatis, Jr. – 0/3 with 2 Ks
Those four hitters were some of the best hitters in the Midwest League in the first half of 2017. The statistics listed above are how they fared against Dakota Mekkes. They should not feel ashamed as that is pretty much how everyone did against Mekkes while he was with South Bend. In 2017, he’s struck out 70 batters in 49.2 IP across 2 levels with a God-like ERA of 0.36.
Earlier this year, I wrote about Dakota Mekkes for Cubs Insider. At the end of the article, I foresaw the 6’7” 255 lb. right-handed reliever being a fast riser through the Cubs system. In the early part of June, Mekkes was promoted from South Bend to Myrtle Beach. I originally thought he should just skip Myrtle Beach because he had been so dominant for South Bend. Since his promotion, he has not given up an earned run. Soon, I would imagine, he will be in AA Tennessee.
I had the great opportunity to sit down and talk with him on Tuesday about his routine and the adjustments he is making at AA.
Did your daily process/routines change when you went from South Bend to Myrtle Beach?
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, then I will just do long toss. Normally, I just go 90 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.
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?
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 they are different.
Are you using video to adjust your pitching?
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?
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 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 at Myrtle Beach in 18.2 IP along with 23 Ks and a 100% Left-on-Base rate. In other words, he’s stranded every runner.
The fact that opponents hit just .132 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 2 of the interview where Dakota discusses his unique delivery, its development, his grips, and getting to AA Tennessee.