Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Mejia earns top ranking among C prospects

Tribe's highly touted backstop all about 'focus' in MLB development
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia is not only widely considered the top prospect in the Indians' organization, but he is also one of baseball's best young catchers. According to MLB Pipeline, in fact, there is no catching prospect who merits a higher ranking than the up-and-coming Tribe backstop.

On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled the top 10 catching prospects in baseball and Mejia -- who got a brief taste of the big leagues last season -- led the way in the No. 1 spot. This comes after Indians pitcher Triston McKenzie was rated as the No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect in the game earlier this week.

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Mejia is not only widely considered the top prospect in the Indians' organization, but he is also one of baseball's best young catchers. According to MLB Pipeline, in fact, there is no catching prospect who merits a higher ranking than the up-and-coming Tribe backstop.

On Thursday, MLB Pipeline unveiled the top 10 catching prospects in baseball and Mejia -- who got a brief taste of the big leagues last season -- led the way in the No. 1 spot. This comes after Indians pitcher Triston McKenzie was rated as the No. 9 right-handed pitching prospect in the game earlier this week.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

MLB Pipeline will continue to roll out its preseason top 10 lists over the next several days, culminating in the Top 100 prospects list on Jan. 27.

"He did an extraordinary job at continuing his development," Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations, said of Mejia at the end of last season. "Offensively, and specifically defensively, the way he led the staff, some of the nuances of catching. He's in a much better spot now than he was a couple years ago as a defender."

Mejia, 22, was promoted to the Majors from Double-A Akron in the final month last season, but he only appeared in 11 games for the Indians. Tribe manager Terry Francona quipped that Mejia was always standing near the bat rack or close to the skipper with a bat in his hand, staying ready. That was noticed by Cleveland's big league staff, which will be looking closely at Mejia this spring, too.

Video: Indians prospect Francisco Mejia discusses his goals

When Mejia was called up to the big leagues, though, the Indians were in the midst of their American League-record 22-game winning streak, and they had a good thing going with veteran catchers Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes. Under the circumstances, there were not many innings available for Mejia to be worked into Major League games.

"There just wasn't the opportunity to catch him as much as I would have liked," Francona said. "You could tell, it's a young kid who's used to playing every day. He's making the jump from Double-A to the Major Leagues, and he's playing so sporadically. You could even see in his at-bats, he was getting a little out of control. That's not the type of hitter he is. He's a really advanced hitter. He was put into some situations that were extremely challenging."

Mejia enjoyed a standout showing with Akron before being called up to The Show. In 92 games in the Minors, the catcher turned in a .297/.346/.490 slash line with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, 52 RBIs, 52 runs scored and seven stolen bases. Mejia also threw out 30 percent of would-be basestealers.

The .835 OPS that Mejia posted in 2017 followed a breakout showing in '16, when he had an .896 OPS between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg and made national headlines with a 50-game hitting streak. That performance, which vaulted Mejia up the prospect rankings, came after he had a .670 OPS in '15 for Lake County.

Video: Mejia discusses his memorable 50-game hitting streak

"It's been about the focus and focusing on the game," Mejia said earlier this month at MLB's Rookie Career Development Program. "When I finished the season in 2015, I went to the Dominican [Republic] for a short time and came back to do a program that the [Indians] set up for me. I stayed with the team more than in the Dominican. The focus and the help of the coaches and new manager helped me a lot. I talked about a lot of things with the pitching coach.

"Also, I practiced a lot in the Dominican, seeing a lot of games there, too. I learned a lot in the winter league. I didn't play, but I was on the bench. That helped me a lot to see that, in this game, it's not just you. There are a lot of people behind you waiting to take your job."

Following the regular season, Mejia went to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .365 in 15 games and tried his hand at third base. The idea was to introduce some versatility into Mejia's game, given that he is close to being ready for the Majors and Cleveland has two veteran catchers locked in at the moment.

"One thing we know," Antonetti said recently, "is [Mejia] is a really good catcher right now and he made a lot of great progress defensively. Over the course of the last six months, he took a step toward increasing his versatility, so that's a big positive. Francisco deserves a lot of credit."

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