A Smart, Savvy Catcher who Knows the Game: Francisco Mejia

From the beginning of his tenure with the Indians organization, Francisco Mejia has been a highly-touted prospect with a strong set of skills behind – and at – the plate. When he was signed by the Indians in 2013 as a 17-year-old, Mejia skipped right over the DSL Rookie League team to debut with the Arizona League Indians.

The young catcher has been on the fast-track to success ever since. He spent 2014 with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, where he hit .282 in 66 games, knocking in 36 runs on 70 hits, 17 doubles, four triples and two home runs. Mejia got his first taste of full season ball in 2015, when he spent the season in Lake County with the Captains. He hit .243 in 109 games with the Low-A squad, including nine home runs. He was tied for third on the team with Yu-Cheng Chang in home runs, trailing Anthony Santander, who had 10, and Bobby Bradley, with a near impossible to beat 27 homers on the season.

Although his hitting performance is certainly nothing to scoff at, perhaps the strongest aspect of Mejia’s game – and what will likely take him far in the organization – is his work behind the plate catching. At 5’10”, Mejia is on the smaller side, though his arm doesn’t reflect a lack of power. He caught 32 runners stealing last season with the Captains and totaled 14 errors, a not-terrible number for a youngster on a team of, and playing against, other younger players. At just 20 years old, Mejia has quite a bit of time to continue to refine his performance and harness his power, but his raw talent that he has been exhibiting throughout his time in the lower levels of the minor leagues is promising – and exciting – to watch.

In similar fashion to the big league team, a successful catcher can assist in the successes of the rest of the squad. When the Indians have success with their starting rotation, much of it can be of course attributed to the impressive talent of the pitching staff. However, credit also has to be given to the catcher that calls a strong game and assists the pitchers in delivering the appropriate pitchers at the perfect moment. Calling a great game is instrumental in also pitching a great game. Perhaps one of Mejia’s strongest attributes can be his ability to do just that – call a game that will lead his pitching staff to success.

The Lake County starting rotation had a season not previously had by any other pitching staff in Captains history. The rotation boasted five pitchers who reached the 100+ strikeout mark during the season for the first time in Captains history. And, yes, while the pitchers themselves had a lot to do with earning that designation, Mejia’s assistance in calling a game that enabled them to throw strikes cannot be overlooked. The young catcher is savvy and knowledgeable of the intricacies of the game and knows the hitters his pitchers are facing enough to call a game that will keep their hitting successes at bay. It’s an attribute that pitchers look for in a catcher, and one attribute of which the Indians should be hard pressed to let go.

Mejia will likely enter this season in High-A Lynchburg with the Hillcats, joined by a similar squad to that which he played with last season. As he continues to hone his skills – and gets to know a new set of hitters at the next level of the game – he will be a player to watch, and a catcher to keep an eye on as he approaches the big league stage. A knowledge of the game is hardly a trait which will disintegrate as Mejia moves up the ladder, and is an invaluable asset to a team with a pitching staff who can strike out the best in the game, assisted by a catcher who knows which shots to call.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTLWN Photographer

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