Francisco Mejia Expands His Defensive Horizons

Francisco Mejia continues his march to the big leagues, and the Indians continue to experiment with ways to make room for the 22-year-old catcher.

The Indians feel they have one of the best catching tandems in the game in Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, who in 2017 combined for 22 home runs and 94 RBIs while excelling defensively.

Gomes, one of three finalists for the AL Gold Glove award, threw out a 40 percent of basestealers, tops among major league catchers. Perez threw out 39 percent.

Barring a trade or injury, Mejia seems like an imperfect fit for the big league roster, even if the switch-hitter’s minor league résumé include a 50-game hitting streak, which he achieved in 2016.

Mejia’s bat isn’t the problem. His position is. In the Arizona Fall League last year, Mejia played third base exclusively. At Triple-A Columbus this year, he has split time between catcher and left field.

“It’s a work in progress, which we knew it would be,” said Indians manager Terry Francona of the early returns on Mejia as an outfielder.

“I don’t know that you can go from being a catcher to being a Gold Glove outfielder,” Francona said. “But as long as he’s willing to try it and put the work in, which he is, it just opens up maybe more avenues for him to get to the major leagues.”

Mejia, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2012, has one major tool that plays well in the outfield.

“He has a tremendous arm,” Francona said. “That’s not going to be an issue anywhere. Balls off the bat, you can take all the drills you want—and he does—but balls off the bat are probably the hardest thing (in terms of) your first step. You have to make sure you’re going in the right direction.

“Repetition will be the best thing for him.”

>> Righthander Triston McKenzie, the Indians’ top pitching prospect, started the season on the disabled list at high Class A Lynchburg with a right forearm strain. The club hopes to have him back in May.

>> Righthander Shane Bieber got off to a terrific start at Double-A Akron. In his first three starts he recorded 20 scoreless innings while allowing 10 hits, with 23 strikeouts, no walks, and a 0.50 WHIP.

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