After stumbling out of the starting gate, the Cleveland Indians have found their stride.
Their five-and-a-half game lead over the Detroit Tigers for first place in the AL Central is the largest lead between a first and second team in any division. The duo of Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber have formed a deadly duo at the top of the rotation while the likes of Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco have helped carry the load while young gun Adam Plutko rounds out the rotation as the fifth starter.
Offensively, it’s been Michael Brantley, Jose Ramirez, and Francisco Lindor doing the most damage to opposing pitchers, while Edwin Encarnacion’s 16 home runs are second best on the team and 40 RBI third-best. As the Indians prepare for the dog days of July and August, they have summoned reinforcements in the form of Francisco Mejia, the 11th best prospect in all of baseball and the top-rated prospect at his position.
So, what can the Indians expect from the 22-year-old Dominican-born switch hitter?
The Scouting Report
Mejia’s greatest calling card is his arm. Scouts have rated it a 70 out of an 80-point grading scale and while his durability behind the plate remains in question, the Indians’ organization has tested his versatility by giving him reps at third base.
How this will work out remains to be seen. Jose Ramirez has solidified himself as an overlooked star at the hot corner, and it’s hard to imagine someone with limited experience such as Mejia is ready to usurp him. But it’s because of that plus-rated throwing arm that the Indians want to see how versatile Mejia can be so they can keep his switch-hitting capabilities, the second-best rated tool he possesses, in the lineup. Thus, appearances in the corner outfield at the Triple-A level to help streamline his ascent to the majors.
MLB Pipeline has scouted Mejia having “natural hitting ability from both sides of the plate,” producing a line-drive approach due to an aggressive approach predicated on bat speed and barrel control. How that translates in the MLB remains to be seen; Mejia had an 11-game audition in 2017 where he failed to do much with a .154 batting average and no extra-base hits as a 21-year-old.
The overall numbers at Triple-A would leave wanting: a .214 average with nine doubles, one triple, and four home runs in 50 games, but since May 26 those numbers have been inflated in a span, that’s seen him hitting .350 with three doubles, one triple, a home run, and 10 RBI.
At 22, Mejia can still grow into the power that's only been rated at 50 out of 80, but it'd be unfair to expect the numbers put up by catchers like Salvador Perez, Gary Sanchez, and Wilson Contreras. Instead, Mejia seems more likely to develop into a gap hitter, which will serve him well for as long as he's calling Progressive Field his home.
Mejia doesn't project to be a flashy player, but an advanced hit tool will ensure he finds a job in the majors. It's hard to see him taking on a major offensive role this time around, as his ultra-aggressive approach may backfire on him while facing superior pitching, but that remains to be seen.
The Indians hold a comfortable lead over their opponents in the AL Central. Barring a major collapse, it would be safe to expect them to make the playoffs for the third year in a row. It's because of this cushion in their division they can afford to be patient with the development of a prospect like Mejia. As long as the likes of Ramirez, Lindor, Kluber, and Bauer perform at such levels, the pressure will be off Mejia's shoulders as he finds his footing in the majors.
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