by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Coming off an impressive 2016 season the Indians have not gotten off to the best of starts in 2017. While they have never been an overly aggressive franchise in terms of the promotion of their prospects, it’s fair to wonder if they could look from within for a shot in the arm. One of their obvious areas of weakness is at catcher (third worst SLG, at .320, and fifth worst AVG, at .203), but lucky for them they have the premier catching prospect tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A.
The best thing that may have happened to the Indians was Jonathan Lucroy refusing to go to Cleveland, since Francisco Mejia was rumored to be heading to Milwaukee as part of the return. Instead Mejia continues to rake at Double-A, hitting .369 with 8 HR and 25 RBI over 38 games.
Known more as a pure hitter, as opposed to a power threat, Mejia posted back-to-back 2 HR days last week, picking up 9 RBI and 5 R in the process (he’s gone 6-10 in the two game stretch), and has 5 HR over his past five games. Of course, despite the uptick in power (he also has 13 doubles and 1 triple) he hasn’t sacrificed his approach:
Single-A (2016) – 15.1% strikeout rate
High-A (2016) – 13.0% strikeout rate
Double-A (2017) – 13.1% strikeout rate (through Saturday)
So as the 21-year old switch hitter has advanced, he’s improved his strikeout rate. As he’s maturing and learning to hit he’s also gaining power (he combined for 11 HR last season), and that mix gives him the potential to be the elite offensive catcher in the game upon arrival in the Majors.
His bat may be ahead of his glove, but he has made significant progress in that regard as well. According to MLB.com prior to the season:
“Mejia’s well above-average arm strength is his best tool and helped him throw out a career-best 44 percent of would-be basestealers in 2016. His receiving skills and game calling also have progressed, and with improved blocking and footwork, scouts believe he’ll be an average defender behind the plate.”
He’s still a work in progress (4 pass balls this season), but he has caught 9-of-25 base stealers. You have to wonder if that will be the reason for the Indians to keep him developing in the minors, and it’s a fair excuse, but with where things are they may not have that luxuries.
Cleveland catchers have been among the worst in the game while the team overall is hovering around .500. It makes you wonder if they can make the decision to be aggressive, something that they’ve shown that they will do if it is necessary to win (Bradley Zimmer is in the Majors, while they removed the struggling Danny Salazar from the rotation already this season).
While a promotion to Triple-A may make more sense, don’t be surprised if they instead look to him to help spark the big league team.
Current Grade – A
Upside Grade – A+
Sources – MILB.com, MLB.com, Fangraphs
Make sure to check out all of our 2017 Prospect Rankings: