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Ex-MSU reliever from Grand Rapids area joins Cubs for spring training

Jenison’s Dakota Mekkes is closer to reaching the Major Leagues after the Chicago Cubs extended an invitation this week to the relief pitcher to join the team in spring training as a non-roster player.

Mekkes was one of 27 players extended the invitation from the Cubs. Pitchers and catchers report Tuesday in Mesa, Arizona.

It is the latest step in what has been a fast rise through the minor league system for the 24-year-old right-hander who played at Jenison High School and Michigan State.

Since drafted in the 10th round in 2016, Mekkes has a 1.16 ERA with 190 strikeouts and four home runs allowed in 147 innings. He was promoted to Triple-A Iowa last June and posted a 1.44 ERA and three saves in 25 appearances and 31 1/3 innings.

Dakota Mekkes in the mix for late-season call-up to Cubs

The 6-foot-7, 250-pound Mekkes began the 2018 season at Double-A Tennessee and was stellar with a 0.81 ERA in 16 games with nine hits allowed over 22 1/3 innings. He struck out 30 and walked 13. He had eight saves.

Mekkes pitched two seasons at Michigan State, and had a 1.74 ERA and seven saves in 28 games in 2016. In high school, he was a three-year letterwinner at Jenison.

Here are a couple recent reports on him.

From Forbes’ Ryan Davis:

“He doesn’t throw extremely hard, but he has a deceptive delivery that comes from a low arm-slot and works to fool hitters. Essentially, the ball may only be going 92-93 mph, but it appears more like 97-98 to batters … (G)iven the patchwork bullpen that Theo Epstein has constructed, it probably won’t be long before Mekkes is in a big league uniform.”

From NBC Sports’ Tony Andracki:

“Mekkes doesn’t have elite velocity, but the Cubs love how he pitches to his big frame and a deceptive motion that hides the ball from hitters. That’s led to a lot of swings-and-misses in the minors — a career 11.6 K/9 rate, with 71 whiffs in 53.2 innings last season.

“He’s kind of a big guy with a lower slot with a high-riding heater that guys can’t get on for whatever reason,” said Cubs senior VP Jason McLeod.

From Cubs Insider Todd Johnson:

“Dakota Mekkes looks to be just about ready. His 6-foot-7 frame and deceptive delivery will be tested quite a bit this spring in Mesa. He’s dominated at each stop of his career so far, so how that deception fares against big league hitters will go a long way toward determining his path.”

From 2018 review by Chicago Now’s Michael Ernst:

“While I do not expect him to continue posting such minuscule ERAs at the MLB level, he will be an effective reliever. He provides versatility to thrive in a number of roles, and I fully expect him to carve out career similar to Steve Cishek, as someone that can serve as a difficult platoon matchup, multi-inning middle relief, primary setup man and occasional closer.”

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