What to expect from Indians' Mejia in big leagues

What to expect from Indians' Mejia in big leagues

The Cleveland Indians announced a host of roster moves on Friday as Major League rosters expanded from 25 to 40 active players. Among them, that the club is recalling catcher and top prospect Francisco Mejia from Double-A Akron.

Currently the No. 16 prospect on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, Mejia joins the Indians just two days after it was revealed that he will play third base exclusively in this year's Arizona Fall League in an effort to increase his versatility.

While it's not clear exactly which positions he will play during the final month of the regular season, the Indians are confident that the 21-year-old switch-hitter is ready to contribute at the plate.

Mejia produced a .297/.346/.490 line with a career-high 14 home runs in 92 games with Akron this season, though he did lose steam offensively during the second half (.220/.282/.390) after a blistering first half (.336/.378/.541) in the Eastern League. He still was named to the circuit's midseason and postseason All-Star teams, and earned his second straight SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game selection along the way.

Despite a rather inconsistent 2017 campaign, Mejia continues to be regarded by evaluators as one the better pure hitters in the Minors.

A 2012 international signee out of the Dominican Republic, Mejia grabbed his share of headlines last year by authoring a 50-game hitting streak and slashing .342/.382/.514 with 44 extra-base hits over 102 games between the Midwest and Carolina Leagues. The streak was the longest in the Minor Leagues since 1963 and spanned parts of four months, beginning on May 27 with Class A Lake County and concluding on Aug. 13 at Class A Advanced Lynchburg.

Mejia may appear somewhat undersized at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, but his bat is undeniably explosive. He knows how to impact the baseball from both sides of the plate -- he slashed .352/.396/.604 as a righty, compared to .277/.327/.449 from the left side with Akron this season -- combining physical strength with plus bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination to hit for both average and power.

Mejia's approach, plate discipline and pitch recognition are all highly advanced, as he carries career strikeout and walk rates of 15.6 and 6.8 percent, respectively, with him to the Major Leagues. That patience and selectively, along with his preternatural feel for the barrel, allows him to effectively use the entire field.

What remains to be seen, however, is where Mejia, currently the top-ranked catching prospect in the Minors, will land defensively.

A catcher in all but two of his 330 career Minor League games, Mejia's best defensive tool is a cannon arm that receives a 70 grade from evaluators (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) and helped him throw out a career-best 44 percent of would-be basestealers in 2016. He did take a step backward on that front this season, posting a 30 percent caught-stealing rate in 72 games behind the plate with Akron, and some scouts continue to question whether he has the requisite blocking and receiving skills to stick at the position.

Cleveland's catching situation in the Major Leagues further complicates Mejia's defensive future, as the club currently employs a tandem of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, both above-average defenders under contractual control in the coming years. Gomes is signed through 2019 and Perez through '20, and both have a pair of club options.

That said, it's reasonable to think that Mejia, the only other catcher on the Tribe's 40-man roster, will get some time behind the plate down the stretch, especially if the Tribe can lock up a playoff spot relatively early in the month.

Mejia receiving the bulk of his September at-bats as Cleveland's designated hitter is perhaps a more realistic scenario, and the possibility exists that he also could see time at third base, a position he played for the first time in his final Double-A game.

Regardless of where Mejia may be deployed on the field, the Indians clearly are eager get his highly promising bat into their lineup.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.