GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Mejia had not stepped into a big league clubhouse until this spring. This was the prospect's first time catching Major League pitchers and working with the Major League coaches. None of that fazed the young backstop."He was comfortable," Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. said. "He
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Mejia had not stepped into a big league clubhouse until this spring. This was the prospect's first time catching Major League pitchers and working with the Major League coaches. None of that fazed the young backstop.
"He was comfortable," Indians first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. said. "He played without pressure."
In baseball circles, that is high praise for a young player. The comments also carry weight coming from Alomar, who spent 20 years in the big leagues as a catcher and currently doubles as Cleveland's catching instructor. For the past month, Alomar worked closely with Mejia, getting to know the prospect and seeing how he would handle criticism and instruction.
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Mejia, 21, was optioned to Double-A Akron on Wednesday after a standout showing with the Tribe this spring. Beyond the numbers -- Mejia hit .421 in 11 Cactus League games -- Alomar was impressed by the catcher's ability to absorb information and apply it quickly.
"It was a joy to work with him, because he's able to adapt to new things right away," Alomar said. "He was out there doing his thing, putting into play the things he worked on. During the game, we'd talk about things we were working on and see if he could apply them in the game, and be able to adapt right away.
"He said, 'Yeah, I think I can do that. I'll go out there and try it out.' He was having fun with it."
Mejia, who is ranked No. 2 on the Tribe's Top 30 prospects list, according to MLBPipeline.com, is listed as 5-foot-10. His stature has its advantages and disadvantages behind the plate, where Mejia has rated as a plus defender. Alomar said his small frame allows for a good vantage point for the umpire and helps with pitch framing. Mejia can also move around more easily than a larger catcher. As Mejia gets older, though, his arm strength may not stay at the same level.
"For a small guy, he does have a great arm. Man, he has a plus arm," Alomar said. "The one thing he just needs to do is try to work on his transfer. Sometimes, he transfers the ball too far back, and right now you can get away with it, because you've got a good arm. But, when it comes through the years and you start losing some of your zip, you have to be able to get rid of the ball better. But, he's working on that."
Last season, Mejia threw out 43 percent (30-for-69) of would-be basestealers between his stops with Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg. In 102 games combined, the switch-hitter posted a .342 average with 11 homers, 29 doubles, 63 runs and 80 RBIs. He also enjoyed a 50-game hitting streak between May and August.
Alomar is looking forward to seeing how Mejia progresses this season after this past year's breakout campaign.
"This is the first time we had the chance to put hands on him and have the opportunity to see what kind of abilities he has," Alomar said. "He does show a lot of abilities, man. He has some tools."
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 listen to his podcast.