Francisco Mejia is Catching Attention On the Field

With only three home games left this season, the Lake County Captains are nine games back of first place in the Midwest League Eastern division. They are tied with the South Bend Cubs for third place in their division, and each team is able to lose three games before they are eliminated from the playoffs for the season.

With a dominant pitching staff, the Captains must rely on their offense moving into the final stretch of the season if they want to see a glimpse of postseason baseball. Of course, offense comes in the form of Bobby Bradley and his 27 home runs, but there is another young hitter on the team who has not received the same amount of attention throughout the season as has been doted on Bradley.

Francisco Mejia is a 19 year-old catching prospect, another one of the youngest members of this year’s Lake County Captains roster. A native of the Dominican Republic, Mejia came to the Indians as a free agent signing a few years ago, and has played in the Arizona Rookie League and Mahoning Valley prior to making his full season debut this year for the Captains. Mejia has caught the eyes of prospect lists and the organization throughout his time with the Tribe, and has quietly continued to play at that high level during his 2015 campaign.

In 2013 in the Arizona League, Mejia hit .305 in 30 games, with 32 hits, nine doubles, one triple, and four home runs. He knocked in 24 runs and stole three bases. He had an equally as productive 2014 campaign with the Scrappers, hitting .282 in 66 games with 70 hits, 17 doubles, four triples, and two home runs to drive in 36 runs.

Last season, Mejia’s manager in Mahoning Valley, Ted Kubiak, told Fox Sports Ohio that Mejia “has good pop at the plate and is a little like Jose Ramirez as a little bit of a wild swinger at the plate….But he is real different this year. He has learned a little bit this year and has become more aggressive.”

Mejia’s performances leading up to 2015 were noticed by more than just the Indians organization. Prior to this season, Mejia was ranked the number 84 prospect in baseball by Baseball Prospectus. His performance at the plate has dropped a little this season – he is hitting .250 this season – but he has still managed to stay at the top of the leaderboard. He is second on the team in home runs with nine, behind only Bradley’s impossible-to-reach 27. If Mejia can keep up the strong hitting, he could be a great asset to the team during their final run of the season.

However, Mejia’s strengths are not only found at the plate, but also behind it. Mejia easily has one of the best arms in the minors. He has caught 32 runners stealing this season. His 14 errors are near the top of the team’s leaderboard but, at only 19 years old, playing flawlessly is not expected. Mejia has tremendous potential behind the plate, which accounts for more than the number of times he commits an error. He only has time to get better and, as the Indians saw with Dorssys Paulino, one season with high errors does not mean an entire career will be based on that number. There’s always room to grow.

One of the biggest testaments demonstrating Mejia’s talents as a catcher can be found in the success of the Captains pitching staff this season. While their own abilities clearly got them far – as has been noted, they’ve had five pitchers reach 100+ strikeouts for the first time in Captains history – Mejia’s ability to call a game also feeds into their success. Without Mejia behind the plate, there’s no telling if any one of those pitchers would have been unable to reach more than 100 strikeouts this season.

The Indians have one of the best big league catchers in the game in Yan Gomes, and have strong prospects throughout the system in guys such as Jeremy Lucas and Eric Haase. Those players are all a few years older than Mejia, which gives him time to develop and hone his skills in the organization’s lower levels. With that time, there’s no telling how good Mejia can be behind the dish and at the plate.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN Photographer

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