5. Francisco Mejia – Catcher
Born: 10/27/1995 – Height: 5’10” – Weight: 175 – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right
History: Mejia was signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2012 for $350,000. He did not qualify because he did not have enough at bats, but last year he would have ranked 4th in the Arizona League in OPS (.872) had he qualified.
Strengths: Mejia is a fast rising catching prospect that has the goods with some raw power behind the plate and at it to make him one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire system. He does not have the typical size a team looks for in a catcher, but he is athletic and unbelievably strong for his age and even though he is very young he has made some significant strides in his development. He has an exceptional cannon for a throwing arm with raw arm strength to add even more as he continues to mature. Several scouts in attendance at Instructional League in the fall graded his arm as a “7” on the 2-8 scouting scale and some projected it as an “8” down the road. He shows some good, developing catching skills behind the plate and has already made some significant strides as a defender with his receiving and blocking. He just has all of the raw intangibles with catching that excite people around the game.Mejia has a lot of upside from both sides of the plate and has a lot of confidence and a no fear attitude. The bat stood out from the day the Indians signed him because of his good hit ability but mostly because of some very good raw power despite his smaller size. The swing is continuing to be refined but he already shows a good feel for the bat head with good plus power from both sides, uses the whole field well and has some bat-to-ball ability. His setup and stride in his swing are very smooth and simple as he is very calm and relaxed in the box and easily brings his hands back in a calm motion and just explodes through the ball when he swings. It is a long projection at this point, but he is very similar to a young Carlos Santana with his body type, switch-hitting ability, approach, power, and strong arm. He obviously has to come a long way to get to that point, but he has the makings of an elite catching prospect if he stays healthy, works hard, and develops as hoped.
Opportunities: Mejia has years to go in terms of his development path to totally tap into the raw skills that he has behind the plate. On a basic scale, he is learning about preparation, the pro environment, and how to get through nine innings behind the plate in a pro game. More specifically he is learning to pick up a lot of little things such as how to handle a staff, the communication aspect, understanding what it means to be a leader, and learning English which is going to be huge for him. If he is going to be a Major League catcher he can’t just be a guy with tools, he has to be a guy that leads the entire field and understands what the other seven guys are doing and understand how the pitcher is trying to attack the hitter and work through that seamlessly throughout a game. He is working on adding strength and developing his raw receiving and blocking skills behind the plate. At the plate he shows remarkable consistency day in and day out with his at bats for such a young and inexperienced player even though he has a little bit of an unorthodox approach, so the key will be to continue to improve and maintain consistency with his at bats and approach. He shows a good ability to make contact, but his plate discipline and pitch recognition skills are raw and need refining.
Outlook: Expectations or not, as a high profile Latin American signing, Mejia proved to be the real deal last season. Even after an aggressive push stateside to the Arizona League in his first pro season, he lived up to the hype and showcased a bat and arm combination that have the potential to be special. Maybe most impressive with him was his consistency over a seven month span where he was out in Arizona the whole time. Players often have a tough time in the complex environment not just with the heat in the summer, but the isolation they feel at the complex, but he put his work in day in and day out and performed. His presence and characteristics as a 17-18 year old are exciting and make you salivate when you watch him play. To think that he was the equivalent of a junior in high school and competing as he did in the Arizona League makes his showing even more impressive. It was a great learning experience for him and he made a lot of positive strides over the year and has the building blocks in place to get even better this season. Bottom line, he certainly has the raw ability to catch, so now it will be determined by durability and desirability to be a catcher and if he shows that he is able to stay behind the plate he has a chance to be special. The Indians will probably continue to be aggressive with him and assign him to Low-A Lake County to start the season, though it is possible they hold him back in extended spring training and then send him to short season Single-A Mahoning Valley in June.
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