September callups are upon us, and some of the game’s biggest prospects are among those getting their first calls to the major leagues. For some players, it’s a chance to get a bit of experience in the relatively sterile setting of the last month for a team not in playoff contention. But some players come up while a team is headed toward the postseason and get to watch how more-established veterans handle pressure. Such is the case for the Indians’ Francisco Mejia.
The Indians have a comfortable lead in the AL Central, and neither Double-A Akron nor Triple-A Columbus are going to make the playoffs, so Mejia’s minor league season was just about to come to a close. He’s already headed to the Arizona Fall League—where he’ll play third base—so this callup gives him a taste of the big time before he settles in as part of Cleveland’s long-term plans.
Mejia was nearly dealt last July as part of a package that would have sent catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Cleveland, but Lucroy nixed the deal. Mejia stayed put and Lucroy eventually wound up being traded to Texas while the Indians came just short of their first World Series championship since 1948.
With Akron this year, Mejia has had an up-and-down season. Early on, he was clearly one of the best players in the league. He hit for average and power and showed energy and a strong arm behind the plate. In the second half, however, his performance plummeted. In 32 games after the all-star break, Mejia, 21, hit just .220/.282/.390 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. Opposing managers throughout the Eastern League noticed that Mejia, listed 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, was wearing down. He looked tired and disengaged behind the plate, and the Indians had started sprinkling in more frequent time at DH as well as one game at third base on his last day with Akron. He caught 72 games this season, a drop of 15 games from last season between low Class A Lake County and high Class A Lynchburg.
The Indians say they aren’t giving up on Mejia as a catcher, but rather using third base to add versatility and as a way to keep giving him at-bats when he gets to the AFL. The Indians would be thrilled if Mejia sticks at catcher in the long-term, but his bat will have value regardless of where he plays. The owner of a 50-game hitting streak last season, Mejia has the chance to hit for average and power from both sides of the plate when he reaches the major leagues. Evaluators praise his ability to use the whole field, and they loved his energy and take-charge attitude in the early portion of the season behind the plate.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Mejia isn’t likely to get a whole lot of playing time until the Indians officially lock down a playoff berth. It’s not clear if they’ll play him at catcher, DH or let him continue getting reps at third base as a precursor to the AFL. No matter where he plays, he’s likely to provide an intriguing look at the Indians’ future.