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Indians top prospect Mejia to play 3B in AFL

Club looking for a way to increase catcher's versatility
MLB.com @MLBastian

NEW YORK -- There was an interesting twist to the Arizona Fall League roster that was released for the Glendale Desert Dogs on Tuesday afternoon. The Indians' top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia, was listed among the infielders. It was not a typo.

Indians general manager Mike Chernoff told MLB.com on Tuesday that the organization is going to have Mejia -- Cleveland's No. 1 prospect and the No. 16-ranked prospect in baseball, per MLBPipeline.com -- try his hand at third base during the AFL this year. Chernoff emphasized that the decision is not a position change, but rather a way to potentially increase Mejia's versatility.

NEW YORK -- There was an interesting twist to the Arizona Fall League roster that was released for the Glendale Desert Dogs on Tuesday afternoon. The Indians' top prospect, catcher Francisco Mejia, was listed among the infielders. It was not a typo.

Indians general manager Mike Chernoff told MLB.com on Tuesday that the organization is going to have Mejia -- Cleveland's No. 1 prospect and the No. 16-ranked prospect in baseball, per MLBPipeline.com -- try his hand at third base during the AFL this year. Chernoff emphasized that the decision is not a position change, but rather a way to potentially increase Mejia's versatility.

"He's got the arm to play there and the hands to play there," Chernoff said. "By increasing his versatility, it will give him an opportunity to potentially make an impact in multiple ways, because you never know where that opportunity is going to arise."

2017 Arizona Fall League rosters

The Indians also have not ruled out promoting Mejia from Double-A Akron after Major League rosters expand to 40 players on Friday. Cleveland's catching situation in the big leagues currently includes Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez splitting up the duties, but teams often like to carry a third catcher as insurance for the final month. Mejia, 21, is the only other catcher on the Tribe's 40-man roster.

Chernoff would not tip his hand as to whether Mejia might get the call to the Majors for September.

"We consider everyone in the organization," Chernoff said, "in particular, a guy who's on the 40-man roster. So he's under consideration."

Video: KC@CLE: Mejia hammers a grand slam in the 7th inning

Cleveland is content with the Gomes-Perez catching tandem, especially given the above-average defense offered by both players and the rapport they have built with one of the Majors' best pitching staffs. It is worth noting, however, that Gomes (signed through 2019 with two club options) and Perez (signed through '20 with two club options) are under contractual control for several more seasons.

Under the circumstances, Cleveland does not feel that it will hurt to get Mejia experience at another position.

"We'll get him in a setting where he can get some exposure to third base," Chernoff said. "And then, hopefully he can carry that into winter ball after that, or into Spring Training. He's had a great year developmentally as a catcher and now has potentially increased his versatility."

Through 90 games at Double-A this year, the switch-hitting Mejia has turned in a .300/.349/.499 slash line with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, 51 RBIs and 51 runs. Mejia was named to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game World roster in each of the past two seasons and last year made headlines with a 50-game hitting streak.

Joining Mejia on Glendale's AFL roster will be Akron first baseman Bobby Bradley (No. 3 on the Indians' Top 30 Prospects list) and infielder Tyler Krieger (No. 20). Class A Advanced Lynchburg will be sending pitchers Argenis Angulo, Sean Brady and Luke Eubank, as well as outfielder Ka'ai Tom. Double-A pitcher Leandro Linares will also be on the roster. Lynchburg hitting coach Kevin Howard will be on the Desert Dogs' coaching staff.

Indians outfielder Bradley Zimmer -- a member of the 2016 AFL-champion Mesa Solar Sox team -- said he got a lot out of his time in the Fall League.

"I had an awesome time," Zimmer said. "At that time of the year, those are the only guys that are still playing baseball. Even after the playoffs in the big leagues, they're still playing. I think you can take it one of two ways. You can look at it as, 'I'm still playing baseball, this is brutal,' or, 'I'm still playing baseball, I can get better.' I think it's extremely beneficial."

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