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2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #17 Gabriel Mejia

The 2017 countdown continues with one of the most dynamic and exciting prospects in the system and a player who brings a lot of potential and upside to become one of the best center field prospects in baseball...

17. Gabriel Mejia – Outfielder

Born: 07/30/1995 – Height: 5’11” – Weight: 160 – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Mejia was signed by the Indians as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in October 2013. He’s been at the top of the league leaderboards in stolen bases, batting average, walks and on-base percentage at every stop in the system. In 2014 he led the Dominican Summer League in stolen bases (72) and tied for the league lead in walks (51) and in 2015 he ranked 2nd in the Arizona League in hitting (.357), 8th in walks (21), 1st in stolen bases (34) and 2nd in on-base percentage (.438). Last season he finished 3rd in the NY-Penn League in batting average (.322), 2nd in at bats (264), 2nd in runs (55), 1st in hits (85), 10th in total bases (99), 2nd in stolen bases (28), 8th in on-base percentage (.378) and 14th in OPS (.753). He also finished 2nd in the organization in batting average (.322) and 3rd in stolen bases (28).

Offense: Mejia is dynamic player for the Indians who combines some very good offensive skills, lots of athleticism and tons of speed to impact the game in many different ways. He displays some good bat-to-ball ability and really maintains a consistent bat path and controls it well through the zone where he consistently puts the ball in play and limits strikeouts. He mostly uses a slap approach to put the ball on the ground and use his legs to beat out throws to first base. He has a good approach that is still developing where he shows a strong feel for the strike zone, works counts well, values walks and has no fear hitting with two strikes. He has become a very good bunter and is not afraid to drop one down at any time, something he almost does too much as the Indians have told him to tone it down some in order to keep it as an element of surprise and allow him chance to impact in other ways by swinging the bat a little more. He has almost no power whatsoever, but he has made some strides with his swing where the Indians have worked to get him away from his slap approach some and get him to drive the ball a little more. He shows the ability to barrel up baseballs well and if he can work to drive balls a little more consistently then he has a chance to have below average power.

Defense: Mejia has the potential to be an above average defender, but he is still very raw and lacks the overall feel and understanding to play the position because of his lack of experience. His exceptional speed and athleticism give him a chance to have plus range to cover a lot of ground to his left and right and with his outstanding closing speed he can really chase down balls in the gaps. He is making strides in reading balls off the bat, his first step quickness and the routes he takes to balls and the Indians believe he has a chance to be above average in all of those areas as he progresses through the minors. His arm is solid average and he has the versatility to handle all three outfield positions.

Speed & Intangibles: Speed is the name of Mejia’s game as he grades out as a 75-80 by most scouts on the 20-80 scouting scale. He shows great acceleration out of the batter’s box where he is able to quickly get to top speed and put pressure on the defense to field and throw the ball quickly to get him out. He really impacts games with his speed as middle infielders often have to play almost even with the baselines in order to give them a chance to get him at first base. Once he gets on the basepaths he is an aggressive runner who is not afraid to steal bases and on contact is not afraid to push for the extra base. He has the mindset and confidence to handle failure and shows a lot of focus, determination and drive to have success and improve. He also shows a good work ethic and is coachable.

Focus: One of the main areas of focus with Mejia is to develop his ability to use his speed more effectively. His speed is the one skill that brings so much excitement, but it is also a skill which he is still learning to use as right now he just tries to outrun the arm of catchers. He is still rather raw with his base stealing and needs work on picking up the moves of pitchers and getting better jumps. That’s the big thing the Indians want him to grasp is that he can be more than just a burner on the bases because for as fast as he is he gets caught stealing a lot. Offensively, the Indians believe he has the approach and bat control at the plate to be a solid hitter, but they also believe he has some untapped power to drive the ball into the gaps. While the home run power is extremely limited, they think he has enough juice in his swing where if he stays behind the ball better and is more aggressive with his swing that he can plug the outfield gaps which will put even more pressure on the defense with his speed to take the extra base. It all comes down to getting a little more intent with his swing and getting him to move away from his slap approach a little bit. Defensively, he still just needs game experience in order to develop his reads, ball tracking skills and routes he takes to balls. They would also like to see him develop a better feel for the nuances of center field with his ability to pick up on hitter tendencies and show some more leadership by directing his outfielders better. He still needs to go through a full season in order to enhance his development with learning to handle all of the mental ups and downs that come with playing every day over a 140-game season and learning to maintain his body to withstand the physical toll a full season has on it.

Future: Mejia is one of the more exciting prospects for the Indians in the lower levels of the system. Last year, the Indians kept him around in extended spring training at the start of the season so they could continue to develop his approach, swing and defense, which paid off over the course of the season. Once he got to Short-A Mahoning Valley in June it took him some time to get going and comfortable as he hit just .200 with a .494 OPS in 11 games in June, but once July came he turned it on hitting .330 with an .810 OPS for the month and then carried that into August when he hit an amazing .390 with an .858 OPS. He really started to settle into his approach as the season wore on last year and gained more confidence not only as a player but also in trusting his abilities. He is realizing he can play and compete in the lower levels and is beginning to take charge. This season the Indians will likely challenge him with his first full season assignment to Low-A Lake County where he should be the everyday center fielder. With his ability to impact defensively and on the bases, if he is able to continue to make strides to be more aggressive with his swing and hit some balls with more authority, it removes some of his limitations and will improve his standing in the organization. This season will be a great barometer for what kind of prospect he is and should make him one of the top prospects people follow over the course of the year.

Ranking History: #21


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