The All Star break is over, and now the eyes of baseball shifts to the trading deadline at the end of this month.
And that leads to speculation about the Indians’ top prospects, catcher Francisco Mejia and pitcher Triston McKenzie.
Mejia gets even more scrutiny because of the offensive production on the catchers on the big league roster, Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez.
Gomes has an OPS of 680, and is hitting just .222 with a .315 on base percentage. Perez is even worse with a 517 OPS and his batting average is just .178. Combined, the two backstops have 6 HR and 36 RBI.
Mejia has all the look of a professional hitter. A switch-hitter, he is hitting .334 with 9 HR and 34 RBI at AA Akron, and has a 928 OPS. This following a season where he had a 50 game hitting streak, and combined at Class A Lynchburg and Akron, he hit .342 with 11 homers and 80 runs batted in.
He also doesn’t strike out, which is huge in today’s game where swinging and missing is plentiful. His high in whiffs is 78 in 446 at bats, and that was during his worst year in the minors, when he hit .243 at Lake County in 2015.
One thing we know, or should know, about the Tribe front office is they value defense, pitch framing, and handling a pitching staff the most from their catchers. If they can hit, that’s great, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to replace Gomes or Perez behind the plate, because they do those other things very well.
Baseball Prospectus ranked Mejia as the third best prospect in the game, and said they would rank him first if they knew the Dominican native was going to remain behind the plate long term.
The reason for that is Mejia’s size, he’s 5’10” and weighs 180 pounds. By contrast, Gomes is 6’2″, 215, and Perez is 5’11”, but weighs 220 pounds.
Ivan Rodriguez, who will be inducted into Cooperstown later this month, was only 5’9″, but weighed 205 pounds, so Mejia can get a little bigger and be a catcher for a long time in the big leagues.
On the other hand, Mejia looks like the kind of hitter that is special, and do the Indians want that bat to be subject to the daily grind and pounding a catcher takes, and perhaps shorten his career.
Look at Joe Mauer, who is much bigger than Mejia, but was an elite hitter as a catcher, with an OPS over 800 nine times in his first ten full seasons, and a winner of three batting titles.
He was basically done as a premier hitter at age 30 in 2013.
Do the Indians want to subject Mejia to that pounding or perhaps move him to another position and keep a possibly elite bat in their lineup for a long time.
Obviously, the Tribe front office would rather not deal Mejia, but they may have to if they are making a deal like the one that brought them Andrew Miller last year. In fact, remember he was involved in the ill-fated deal with Milwaukee that Jonathan Lucroy vetoed.
By the end of the month, we will see if the Indians dodged a bullet with that move, or they don’t think Mejia can become the type of catcher they would be comfortable with defensively.
He is purported to have a great arm and gets out of his crouch quickly, so we would be talking about pitch framing and handling the hurlers.
When you understand what Cleveland wants from the position, you can understand why Mejia is not in the Indians’ plans for this season.
Is he is their plans long term? We will find out in a couple of weeks.