2. Francisco Mejia – Catcher
Born: 10/27/1995 – Height: 5’10” – Weight: 180 – Bats: Switch – Throws: Right
Facts & Info: Mejia is an undrafted free agent the Indians signed out of the Dominican Republic in July of 2012 for $350,000. He worked out as a shortstop and after just one tryout at the Indians academy in the Dominican Republic, former Indians Latin American Scouting Director Ramon Pena quickly signed him and he made an immediate conversion to catcher. He didn’t factor into a league leaderboard since he wasn’t in the Midwest League or Carolina League long enough, but he did finish 1st in the organization in batting average (.342) and 5th in RBI (80). He was also a part of the Futures Game during the MLB All Star game festivities and player on the World team roster. He put together a 50-game hitting streak last season which is tied for the 4th longest of all time in the minors.
Offense: Mejia is a well-rounded catching prospect who can impact a game with his defense and bat, and has really come a long way at the plate the last few seasons. What separates him from most catching prospects is he has the bat to go with the defense as he has the potential to be a .300 hitter with some power to rack up lots of doubles and a few home runs and the discipline to limit strikeouts and consistently put the ball in play. He is a gifted natural hitter who shows some very good bat-to-ball skills and a natural feel to get the barrel to the ball and make consistent, hard contact. He really shows some good plate coverage as he handles inside pitches well and is one of those good bad ball hitters who makes a lot of contact on balls out of the zone on the outside part of the plate. He is very confident in his abilities, brings a fearless mentality to his at bats and takes a very aggressive swing. Not only does he show good bat to ball ability, but he also shows a good approach where he is relaxed and calm in the box and uses a whole field approach where he sprays line drives from gap to gap. He has an easy load that is smooth where he brings his hands back with ease and then comes forward and unleashes some impressive bat speed where it explodes through the zone and balls jump off his bat. That bat speed along with some sneaky strength, athleticism and strong, quick hands allow him to show good raw power that plays average now but has a chance to be above average as he matures and fills out.
Defense: Mejia’s 50-game hitting streak and his good offensive showing last year overshadowed the great work he did behind the plate and some significant strides he made with his work behind it and the way he controls his staff and the running game. He once again showed off his good blocking skills and his laser-like arm where opposing teams didn’t test him that much because they knew of his lighting quick release and arm strength and precision with which he throws to second and third. His catch-and-throw skills are as good as you will find in the game as he just completely shuts down a running game with the incredible arm strength he displays and the confidence with a touch of cockiness he has with his throwing where he is not afraid to throw behind runners to catch them off guard. He also receives the ball very well, he moves well behind the plate and his leadership skills continue to improve. He is a rare commodity in the game who actually loves to play defense and spends endless hours working to perfect his craft.
Speed & Intangibles: Mejia is a below average runner, but he actually runs the bases well for a catcher thanks to his impressive athleticism and agility. He is a smaller sized player but has a very good body that doesn’t wear down and shows an ability to be durable. He has a good work ethic as he works very hard in all phases of his game and constantly works to improve his skills. The makeup has improved as there were some questions regarding it early in his career but as he has matured he has become more coachable and better in control of his emotions.
Focus: While Mejia had a lot of success last season, he is still learning his swing and still has some maturing to do in all phases of the game from a discipline, approach, swing and defensive standpoint. A lot of his issues in the past offensively were about controlling his aggression, and the reason he showed improvement last season is he was able to control that aggression a little more. He is a high energy player who wants to go up to the plate and swing hard and hit the ball hard, so he has to constantly be reminded to keep himself under control and balanced. When he does that and stays focused on just that, he does some special things that other most hitters are not capable of doing. The Indians also worked on some adjustments in his setup getting him to bend his knees to get into a better posture position before he starts to stride which makes it easier for him to keep himself under control when he does stride. His biggest issue was that his body was flying forward so quickly that at times it was making it hard for him to see the ball. When he controlled that move forward simply by getting down in his legs a little more to where he could balance more, from there it was all just using his athleticism to get the barrel to the ball and the results speak for themselves. The Indians also tweaked some things with his swing where the movements with it are a little more gradual. He now starts his build up and loading process a little earlier and is able to perform his swing with a little more control. His ability to be able to control his naturally given bat speed and prolific bat to ball skills put him in a positon to be able to have the production he had last year. The Indians are also working to get him more consistent from both sides of the plate. When you watch him left-handed he has a nice coiling move that loads up his back side and he does it early versus late, but right-handed it is more a matter of starting in a strong spot with his initial stance and maintaining it throughout his shift and swing. Defensively, the Indians have worked to keep him better focused behind the plate to stay engaged on each and every pitch as he has a tendency to lose his concentration and is prone to some mental errors that lead to physical errors with passed balls and other defensive miscues. They also want to see him take a step forward in his game calling and the way he handles a pitching staff. His makeup has been something that has come under question in the past, but he made some big strides in that department last season and it may have been the key to his offensive profile coming together.
Future: Mejia garnered national attention with his 50-game hitting streak last season which ran from May 27th through August 13th. It was an incredible near three month period where he recorded at least one hit in every game played, and occurred over a long calendar period because of the off days he received as a catcher, the All Star break and a few illnesses which sidelined him for several games at a time. Probably one of the most amazing things from the 50-game hitting streak was that in the middle of the hit streak he received a promotion to High-A for the first time, missed several games here and there because of a root canal, a sore right arm and illness, and dealt with a ton of mounting media pressure – yet continued to perform. That 50-game hit streak put him on the map with the casual followers of the minor leagues, but for those involved in the game or who follow it religiously, he is a talent that has been known for some time. While he was always a decent hitter in the past, last season his power picked up as he set career highs in doubles, homers and slugging percentage and isolated power – and probably most impressive about his added power was that it did not take away from his approach as his strikeout rate (14.2 K%) was very good. He has always been a high level prospect, but it was always more about projection and less about performance. Last season his performance matched the talent and upside to position him as one of the top prospects in the system and one of the best catching prospects in baseball. This is a guy who as he continues to refine his approach, matures and gets stronger is going to really begin to impact the baseball because he just has such a knack for hitting and such quick hands and bat speed at the plate. When you combine that upside at the plate with his ridiculous arm strength and plus skills behind the plate, you have a very exciting catching prospect on your hands. He has a chance to be an elite starting catcher at the big league level and at the very least should be a serviceable backup who specializes in defense. He probably won’t get a chance in Cleveland until sometime in the latter part of the 2018 season at the earliest and in the meantime will work to continue his development as he moves into the upper levels of the minors for the first time this season by opening at Double-A Akron.
Ranking History: #10 (2016), #5 (2015), #5 (2014)