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Mejia has a mentor of sorts in Ramirez

Tribe's top prospect, third baseman hail from same town in DR
MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Mejia estimated that it was about a decade ago that he first encountered Jose Ramirez. It was during one of Mejia's weekend games in Bani, their shared hometown in the Dominican Republic. Ramirez was out at shortstop when a young Mejia stepped up to the plate.

"He was always a good player," said Mejia, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored in Wednesday's 15-3 win over the Angels in Tempe. "They love him in Bani."

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Mejia estimated that it was about a decade ago that he first encountered Jose Ramirez. It was during one of Mejia's weekend games in Bani, their shared hometown in the Dominican Republic. Ramirez was out at shortstop when a young Mejia stepped up to the plate.

"He was always a good player," said Mejia, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored in Wednesday's 15-3 win over the Angels in Tempe. "They love him in Bani."

Now, Ramirez acts like a big brother around Mejia in Cleveland's clubhouse. The rookie catcher's locker inside the Indians' spring complex is the first stall by the room's entrance. That gives Ramirez the chance to mess around with Mejia when he is coming and going. On a recent morning, Ramirez wrapped an arm around the catcher and pulled him out of his chair and told him to go watch video with him.

On Wednesday morning, when Mejia began to answer a reporter's questions, Ramirez leaned against the white cinder-block wall next to the catcher's locker. Ramirez had his arms folded across his chest and wore a serious expression as he awaited the rookie's responses. Cleveland's third baseman was jokingly asked whether he was supervising the interview.

"No cualquier supervisor," Ramirez fired back.

Not just any supervisor.

No, Ramirez is becoming more than that for Mejia.

Ramirez, who finished third in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award last season, has become a mentor for Mejia. The Bani Brothers spend time together away from the complex -- Ramirez said he does the driving -- and often get their daily work done side by side. Ramirez will swing by Mejia's locker and tell him to join him in the batting cage or video room.

"He's always around here," Mejia said with a smile. "I go do whatever he wants to do."

Video: Francona on catching situation, Mejia's development

The rookie has appreciated that veteran players like Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion have made him feel welcome around the Major Leaguers. It could be because they know the catcher should be knocking on the big league door soon. There is a lot of hype surrounding the 22-year-old Mejia, who is the Indians' No. 1 prospect and the top catching prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline.

Ramirez's description of Mejia as a hitter hardly needed translating.

"Tremendo bateador," said Ramirez, who doubled and drew a walk in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Mariners at Goodyear Ballpark.

Ramirez continued on.

"Obviously, he's still a young guy," he said via a translator. "And he has a lot of maturing to do and he has some adjustments that he needs to make. But, from what I've seen, I really think he's going to be one of the best."

Mejia found himself on the national radar two years ago, when the switch-hitter pieced together a 50-game hitting streak between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg. He finished that season hitting .342 with an .896 OPS in 102 games overall. Last year, Mejia moved up to Double-A Akron and turned in a .297/.346/.490 slash line with 14 homers, 21 doubles and 52 RBIs in 92 games before being promoted to Cleveland.

The Indians think so highly of Mejia as a hitter that the team had him try his hand at third base during the Arizona Fall League in an effort to introduce some position versatility. They believe he can be a good big league catcher, but Mejia is blocked at the moment by Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. If there is a way to expedite Mejia's path to the Majors, the Indians want to explore it.

"He's so advanced," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's kind of why we've talked about positional changes with him. It's not an indictment on his catching. It's just the fact that, if something happened in April or May or June, he's probably our best Minor League hitter."

Ramirez said his advice for Mejia this spring has been simple.

"I don't think he's going to have an opportunity to make the team when we break camp," Ramirez said. "So the advice I gave him is: No matter what, keep your head up, keep working hard no matter [where you're playing]. You don't know what could happen and what opportunities might come up."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Mejia, Jose Ramirez