Indians land two on Top 100 Prospects list
Mejia, McKenzie ranked 11th and 24th, respectively
CLEVELAND -- The Indians are smack dab in the middle of a real contention window, in which winning the World Series is the primary focus. In recent years, highly touted prospects like Francisco Lindor, Bradley Zimmer and Tyler Naquin have ascended through the farm system to help the big league club in that quest.
As the core of Cleveland's Major League roster gets older, and contracts begin reaching expiration dates, the question becomes: Which current prospects can keep the window open in the future? MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects list is a great place to start, and the Indians have two players -- catcher Francisco Mejia and pitcher Triston McKenzie -- on the newest version of the rankings.
• MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 100 Prospects list
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In the unveiling of the Top 100 in an MLB Network special on Saturday night, Mejia was ranked 11th overall and McKenzie came in at 24th on MLB Pipeline's annual list. Mejia, who will be in camp with the Indians this spring, was rated as baseball's top catching prospect, while McKenzie checked in at ninth among all right-handed pitching prospects.
The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB PipelineDraft and prospect experts Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2018 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani -- the No. 1-ranked prospect -- spent the past five seasons pitching in Japan, but is 23 years old. The rest of the top five (in order) includes Ronald Acuna (Braves), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Blue Jays), Eloy Jimenez (White Sox) and Gleyber Torres (Yankees).
As part of the Top 100 rankings, MLB Pipeline assigns prospect points to each team based on the players' place on the list. The No. 1 position is worth 100 points, followed by 99 for No. 2, 98 for No. 3 and so on. Cleveland's 167 points were the most among the 11 teams with two or fewer prospects and more than three teams who had at least three prospects on the list. The Indians had the 17th-highest prospect point total among the 30 franchises.
Mejia, 22, turned in a .297/.346/.490 slash line with 14 home runs, 21 doubles, 52 RBIs, 52 runs scored and seven steals in 92 games with Double-A Akron last year. The switch-hitting catcher also threw out 30 percent of would-be basestealers. That showing came after Mejia's breakout performance 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.
The Indians promoted Mejia to the Majors for the final month of the season, but Cleveland was in the midst of its American League-record 22-game winning streak, and was jockeying for position in the playoff picture. Under the circumstances, the young catcher appeared in only 11 games for the Tribe.
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 (Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes) locked in at the moment.
Both Mejia and McKenzie were a part of the Futures Game this past summer.
McKenzie, 20, spent the entire 2017 season with Lynchburg, going 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA and 186 strikeouts against 45 walks in 143 innings (25 starts). Since being selected in the first round (42nd overall) in the 2015 MLB Draft, the righty has posted a 2.68 ERA with 11.6 strikeouts per nine innings and a 4.4 strikeout-to-walk rate in parts of three professional seasons.