There is no doubt as to why many see Francisco Mejia as the Tribe’s top prospect.
Accomplishing such a rare feat of hitting in 50 straight games in the minors highlights Mejia’s greatest strength: his ability to make good contact. And many aspects of this remarkable hit tool liken the young phenom to a division rival who is currently hitting .309/.354/.518 with 13 homers, and a 47.9% hard contact rate on the 2018 season.
Starting with the obvious, Mejia has always been known to find the barrel of the bat, and makes consistent hard contact. He’s not necessarily known for hitting the ball out of the ballpark (despite above average raw power), but most of his power has been gap power, which has helped contribute to his 14 doubles so far this year. The only drawback to Mejia’s great swing is that he likes to use it a little too hastily, as he has totaled just 13 walks this year, and carries a measly on base percentage of .304.
In addition to his lack of patience, Mejia’s defense has also been a concern. Starting off as a catcher, Mejia has received playing time at third base as well as the outfield within the past year. But despite the uncertainty of where Mejia will play in the field, he does have a plus-plus arm that would fit well wherever he ends up defensively.
So what type of player can we expect Mejia to be in the big leagues? I can see two very different potential outcomes for a player like Mejia; one being very disappointing and the other extremely encouraging. With the plate discipline concerns we’ve highlighted so far, and the potential lackluster fielding, I can see his floor as a Maikel Franco-type. Franco is seen as a lazy player who has very little plate discipline. As such, it’s only natural that he sees the highest number of sliders and cutters is baseball, in terms of percentage of pitches seen. This is because of his poor discipline, and his constant desire to pull the ball. Franco is not in the best of shape over at third, even if his arm is nothing to scoff at.
Realistically, though, Mejia will likely be much better than Franco. Due to his stellar bat, his more likely outcome is something similar to Tigers slugger Nick Castellanos. Castellanos has moved around in the field, getting time at third and the outfield, but what keeps him in the lineup is his bat. Like Mejia, he doesn’t walk a ton and he certainly doesn’t crush an exciting number of homers, but he does exhibit good power in the form of doubles. Castellanos has tallied 26 doubles thus far in the season, and can hit the ball to all fields, although like most hitters he primarily pulls the ball.
The presence of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez makes it hard for me to envision playing time for Mejia behind the plate, at least in the near future. Jose Ramirez and Yonder Alonso occupy the corner infield spots, and the DH spot is plugged up by Edwin Encarnacion. It appears the path to playing time for Mejia is in the outfield, potentially with some reps behind the plate here and there. Simply put, if he hits, Terry Francona will find ways to get him in the lineup. And can you imagine just how exciting it would be to add a Castellanos clone to the Tribe’s lineup who can occasionally work behind the plate?
With the lineup being as deep as it is, and with how well the Indians play the platoon game in the outfield, they can afford to wait until Mejia is absolutely ready. But once he can hold down an everyday role in the lineup, he should add an intimidating new threat to an already potent offense.
Photo courtesy of Erik Drost, via Flickr.