Thoughts on Cleveland Indians prospect Francisco Mejia

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Cleveland promotes catching prospect to majors

Yesterday the Cleveland Indians promoted catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the major league roster, helping to cover for the injured Roberto Perez. This morning I received the following email:

Francisco Mejia isn’t having a very good season but the Indians called him up anyway. Do you still think he is an elite prospect?”——-Ron from Seattle, Washington

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Indeed, Ron, Mejia isn’t having a great season, at least not up to his previous standards, hitting just .214/.271/.333 in Triple-A with Columbus, obviously much weaker than the .297/.36/.490 line he posted in Double-A last year.

I had Mejia rated as the top Indians prospect pre-season with this comment:

1) Francisco Mejia, C-3B, Grade A-/B+: Age 22, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2012, hit .297/.346/.490 with 14 homers, 24 walks, 53 strikeouts in 347 at-bats in Double-A, then .154/.214/.154 in 13 major league at-bats; switch-hitter with impressive track record adapted well to high minors; isolated power is steadily picking up; makes contact easily though not a high-walk bat; has made steady progress with the glove, cutting error and passed ball rates while throwing out 30% of runners; has the tools to catch and has improved his skills but not ready for the majors defensively just yet; has seen action at third base to enhance versatility and get him to the majors sooner; he looks like an excellent prospect to me, but not everyone buys into him to the same extent. ETA 2018.

Would I change that now? I might move down a half-notch to B+/A-. As noted he’s well off his previous performances but while 50 games and 192 at-bats can no longer be considered a very small sample size, it doesn’t override everything he’s done before in my view.

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A solid hot steak could still push that slash line up pretty quickly and he has shown signs of life with the bat lately, hitting .357 with a .571 SLG since June 1st. Ultimately we are still talking about a 22-year-old switch-hitter who ripped professional pitching without much trouble until he got to Triple-A. He needs some adjustment time but I think the balance of evidence is still favorable.

With the glove, the Indians have split Mejia between catching and other positions. He’s been playing left field a lot and has played errorless ball in 131 innings there so far, albeit with a poor range factor, zero assists, and comments from league observers that he needs work on his outfield reads and routes, which is hardly surprising.

He’s caught 229 innings this year and has performed reasonably: zero errors, four passed balls, and 35% of runners caught. slightly improved from past standards. He’s not an excellent defender by any means but he’s made steady progress and would certainly qualify as playable behind the plate in my opinion.

The Indians are reportedly quite happy with the glovework provided by Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez as explained by Jim Ingraham with Baseball America so there isn’t pressure to get Mejia into the big league lineup right now unless someone gets hurt for a significant period. Whether the outfield and last year’s third base experiments represent a genuine lack of faith in Mejia’s defensive future or just an attempt to add to his versatility and (trade) value depends on your point of view.

Bottom line, Ron: yes, I still think Mejia is an elite prospect. Granted, I was positively disposed towards him pre-season but what has happened this year isn’t enough to change my mind, not yet anyway.

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