Mejia is of very small stature, weighing at 155 pounds and standing just 5-foot-8 the day he signed with the Indians on July 2, 2012.
But just before that, Rafael Castillo, a manager at Dominican Republic baseball academy La Academia, took Francisco Mejia aside and gave him some advice.
Castillo's message was simple. He instructed the 16-year-old to begin learning how to hit lefthanded. Mejia was already proficient as a righthanded hitter. Castillo's instructions were to learn how to hit from the other side of the plate so he would have a better opportunity to advance in baseball.
Mejia immediately began learning how to hit from the other side of the plate. That advice is certainly paying off years later for the catcher.
"That was from my manager," Mejia said of the decision to start switch-hitting. "He said, 'You have talent for hitting on both sides of the plate. You can swing on both sides of the plate.' He pushed me because he said, 'If you're a switch-hitter, you've got a better chance to get hits and you've got a chance to be a better player.'"
In 2014, Baseball America rated Mejia as the 12th-best prospect in the Indians organization. They moved him up to #7 in the winter before 2015 spring training, and he was at #10 in the spring of 2016. They moved Francisco up to being the #1 prospect in the Indians organization in the spring of 2017. And he was still at #1 in 2018. He was at #4 in the spring of 2019.
Francisco was one of the youngest players in the New York-Penn League in 2014. Same for the MWL in 2015.
“Playing at 19 last year (2015), the Midwest League was a challenge for Francisco,” Indians farm director Carter Hawkins said. “He held his own, but having him repeat the level this year was a mental challenge that he has handled even better.
“He is seeing how a consistent routine and approach can help him maximize his talent, and he’s impacting the game on both sides of the ball.”
Mejia idolizes Carlos Santana and frequently draws comparisons with him as a switch-hitting catching prospect in the Indians system.
In 2016, The Indians chose Mejia to represent them at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.
- In 2017, Mejia represented the Indians in the All-Star Futures game.
In 2018, Mejia represented the Indians in the All-Star Futures game.
During 2017 spring training, Francisco made the most of his opportunities and impressed his bosses. The switch-hitter took a step forward with his work in camp.
“His time here was really good for him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He got to work with (catching instructor) Sandy (Alomar Jr.), and he got to catch some of the Major League pitchers.
“Though he still has some development to do, he knows his skills can translate to help our big league team.”
Last July, it appeared doubtful that Mejia would be in Indians camp in 2017. He was part of an agreed-upon package of prospects Cleveland intended to trade to the Brewers for catcher Jonathan Lucroy . . . but Lucroy vetoed the deal.
At the time of the near-trade Mejia was in the middle of what became a 50-game hitting streak that bracketed his time at low Class A Lake County and high Class A Lynchburg. That hitting streak represents the longest since the minor leagues reorganized in 1963.
Mejia impressed manager Terry Francona with his makeup and demeanor.
“He wasn’t giving any ground,” Francona said. “We tell our young guys there’s a way to be respectful of veterans, but when the game starts and you get on the field, you don’t back down from anyone." (Jim Ingraham - Baseball America - 4/21/2017)
- MLB debut (Sept. 5, 2018): Mejia's debut was as a pinch-hitter. He struck out.
Francisco didn't realize he'd registered his first Major League hit and RBI until he was standing on second base. All he'd heard was his first-base coach, Sandy Alomar Jr., imploring him to head to second.
Then he heard the loud cheers from his teammates in the dugout in a 5-3 Indians win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Mejia's sharply hit liner through the middle of the diamond sped past the gloves of pitcher James Shields and shortstop Tim Anderson, driving in the third run of the game in the fourth inning of Cleveland's win over the White Sox—the club's 12th win in a row, the longest such streak in 2017.
"In the midst of, we're probably at Game 135 or something, and to see him standing on second and see the guys who are tired from playing all year reacting to that, that's pretty cool," Indians manager Terry Francona said of the dugout celebration.
Mejia, who kept the ball from his first hit and will be give it to his mother, didn't allow himself to celebrate the accomplishment until the celebration was thrust upon him postgame. He received the works: a shower that included milk, peanut butter, "everything," according to Mejia. (Ardaya - mlb.com - 9/4/17)
At Spring Training 2018, Francisco estimated that it was about a decade ago that he first encountered Jose Ramirez. It was during one of Mejia's weekend games in Bani, their shared hometown in the Dominican Republic. Ramirez was out at shortstop when a young Mejia stepped up to the plate.
"He was always a good player," said Mejia. "They love him in Bani."
Now, Ramirez acts like a big brother around Mejia in Cleveland's clubhouse. Mejia's locker inside the Indians' spring complex is the first stall by the room's entrance. That gives Ramirez the chance to mess around with Mejia when he is coming and going. On a recent morning, Ramirez wrapped an arm around the catcher and pulled him out of his chair and told him to go watch video with him.
During a Spring Training interview, when Mejia began to answer a reporter's questions, Ramirez leaned against the white cinder-block wall next to the catcher's locker. Ramirez had his arms folded across his chest and wore a serious expression as he awaited the rookie's responses. Cleveland's third baseman was jokingly asked whether he was supervising the interview.
"No cualquier supervisor," Ramirez fired back. Not just any supervisor. No, Ramirez is becoming more than that for Mejia.
Ramirez has become a mentor for Mejia. The Bani Brothers spend time together away from the complex and often get their daily work done side by side. Ramirez will swing by Mejia's locker and tell him to join him in the batting cage or video room.
"He's always around here," Mejia said with a smile. "I go do whatever he wants to do."
Ramirez's description of Mejia as a hitter hardly needed translating. "Tremendo bateador," said Ramirez.
Ramirez continued on. "Obviously, he's still a young guy," he said via a translator. "And he has a lot of maturing to do and he has some adjustments that he needs to make. But, from what I've seen, I really think he's going to be one of the best." (Bastian - mlb.com - 2/28/18)
Long before Francisco Mejia was traded, the Padres' front office had already zeroed in on the 22-year-old backstop. They loved his bat, and they felt he could star behind the plate, too. But the game's top catching prospect wouldn't come cheap.
In late July 2018, they struck a deal, with relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber going to Cleveland. San Diego had its man. And one start into Mejia's Padres tenure, it's easy to see why the club was so enamored with him in the first place.
Mejia homered in his each of his first two plate appearances in a 6-2 San Diego victory in Cincinnati. He became the first Padres hitter in franchise history to go deep in the first two at-bats of his first start with San Diego.
"It was emotional," said Mejia, who was promoted the day before and struck out in a pinch-hit at-bat that night in Arizona. "Every time I go to the plate, I'm just looking for a good pitch that I can drive." He got two of them on two nights later.
Mejia smashed a 96-mph fastball over the left-center-field wall in the third, giving San Diego an early lead. Then he showed off his elite bat speed, golfing a three-run homer to right field in the fourth. It put the Padres on top, 5-0, after Hunter Renfroe had gone deep earlier in the frame. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 9/6/18)
2019 Season: Mejia spent most of the 2019 season in the MLB with the Padres, and showed he was worthy of the high prospect rankings he had received. In 79 games, Mejia hit .265 with eight home runs, and 22 RBI’s.
July 2012: The Indians signed Mejia as a free agent, out of the D.R. He received a bonus of $350,000. And he signed with scout Ramon Pena.
July 19, 2018: The Indians acquired reliever Brad Hand and righthanded reliever Adam Cimber from the Padres, sending prized catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the Padres.
- Dec. 27, 2020: The Rays traded Blake Snell to the Padres for Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Cole Wilcox and Blake Hunt.
|Birth City:||Bani, D.R.|
|Draft:||2012 - Indians - Free agent - Out of the D.R.|
Mejia, a switch-hitter, possesses elite-hand eye coordination that allows him to project as a plus hitter. He squares balls up in all parts of the strike zone and sometimes even outside of it, producing hard contact gap-to-gap. Mejia gets to his double-digit home run power more righthanded than left, but his premium bat speed makes him a threat from both sides.
Francisco’s issue is he swings at absolutely everything. His ultra aggressiveness led to an 29 strikeout rate and weak contact against pitcher’s pitches in 2018, an unsustainable approach he’ll need to corral. (Spring, 2019)
Francisco is a switch-hitter with good bat speed and raw power, especially for his size. But he needs to improve his strike-zone discipline, rarely drawing a walk. However, his ability to square up balls in or out of the zone sometimes causes him to chase, but he has the hands and savvy to become an impact hitter.
Francisco is undersized but generates surprising bat speed from both sides of the plate, giving him gap power with a shot to grow into some home run pop, especially from the left side. He has become better at handling pitches on the outer half of the plate and using the opposite field to hit. His bat speed gives him more raw power than his lean, 5-foot-10 frame would suggest, but he more typically drives balls into the gaps than over the fence.
He has an aggressive approach and doesn’t walk much, but his excellent feel for the barrel prevents him from striking out often and he is comfortable working down in the count. Mejia shows smooth, quick, balanced line-drive swings from both sides of the plate. He doesn’t have standout power, but he has the potential for double-digit home runs when he finishes maturing physically.
He has the ability to hit from both sides of the plate. However, he gets overaggressive and his pitch selection is questionable, But his gifted hand-eye coordination allows him to make consistent contact. (Spring, 2019)
Mejia gets a 60 grade on his above average hitting ability, and 45 for his nearly-average power.
Mejia’s improvement at the plate in 2016, stemmed from moving away from a pull-happy, homer-centric approach to letting the ball travel deeper in the hitting zone and using the opposite field. He has
He’s an above-average hitter with near-average power presently, and his .347 average would have tied Cedar Rapids’ Luis Arraez for the best in the MWL if he had the requisite number of plate appearances.
Mejia has an innate feel for his barrel, though he hits better from the left side, than the right side. His natural feel for hitting allows him to drive almost anything. The Indians hope to see him dial back his aggressive approach, for the ease with which he makes contact sometimes works against him. Mejia generates plenty of bat speed and should develop average or better power from both sides.
Francisco's is advanced in his approach. He has a simple swing with some power in it. He's a natural hitter with a quality swing that has few moving parts, allowing him to stay inside the ball consistently.
Mejia focuses on hitting the ball up the middle.
Francisco spent the offseason and 2016 spring training working on a new approach at the plate that reduced the amount of movement in his body and head. It has resulted in better timing so he can see the ball deeper in the zone and use the entire field.
"I learned that baseball's hard, so you have to play every day," Mejia said. "These guys are on another level here. It's hard to play a couple of teams here, so you've just got to know what to hit, where you want to hit. It's hard to hit here."
Mejia's hitting prowess has come under the tutelage of Larry Day, who was his hitting coach last season in Lake County and during his brief time so far with Lynchburg. Day has spoken fondly of Mejia's righthanded batting stance with his posture and ability to connect his upper and lower halves through his core.
The key to getting Mejia better at the plate was through the continual development as a lefthanded hitter.
"Left-handed, he starts a little more upright but does a good job of creating good posture with his load," Day said. "Then maintaining good posture has kind of been what we've been working on and that's been our message as an organization to him and my message to him on a daily basis in the cage left-handed is to create that good posture when he loads up and gets ready to hit, and then when he swings, to maintain that good posture." (Damien Sordelett - MiLB.com - 8/03/2016)
May 25—August 13, 2016: Mejia put up a two-month, 50-game hitting streak. Francisco hit the ball down the third-base line past Dash third baseman Gerson Montilla. When the scorer changed the play to a double, Mejia’s hit streak officially reached 50 games, tying Otto Pahlman for the fourth-longest streak in minor league history.
Mejia’s streak finally ended the next night when he went 0-for-3 with a walk. The 20-year-old, switch-hitting catcher had not gone without a hit since May 25.
“I was very nervous today, going to hit,” Mejia told The Lynchburg (Va.) News & Advance. “Every at-bat, I was feeling pressure, was very scared as a hitter.”
Mejia’s streak is the longest since the minor leagues were reorganized in 1963. Roman Mejia’s 54-game streak in the 1954 Big State League is the only longer professional streak since baseball was integrated in 1946.
Wichita’s Joe Wilhoit (Western League) holds the all-time minor league hit-streak record with 69 games in 1919. Joe DiMaggio actually holds two of the three longest hitting streaks in pro baseball history. In addition to his 56-game major league record set in 1941, he also has the second-longest minor league streak with a 61-gamer in the Pacific Coast League in 1933. (J.J. Cooper - Baseball America.com)
August 14, 2016: Mejia's hitting streak ended at 50. His streak was the fourth-longest in Minor League history and the longest in 62 years, since Roman Mejias hit in 55 straight for Waco in 1954. Mejia tied the 50-game mark of Otto Pahlman, who achieved the feat in 1922.
The Minor League record is 69, set by Joe Wilhoit in 1919. Joe DiMaggio had a 61-game Minor League hit streak in 1933, the second-longest of all-time.
A streak of this length requires a huge amount of mental toughness.
2016 Improvements: Mejia wasn't on the Top 100 list for MLB or Baseball America, and wasn't ranked as one of the top 10 catching prospects in the game when the season started. He's No. 3 on that list and is ranked No. 88 overall (as of October 2016).
Mejia made national headlines with a 50-game hitting streak that spanned across three months and two levels. His .342 combined average topped the Indians' organization, as did his .514 slugging percentage.
Francisco also threw out more than 43 percent of base-stealers. More of that kind of performance, combined with Mejia continuing to hit in Double-A in 2017, could really vault him up the rankings.
“Francisco had a choice this year, either get frustrated that he was repeating the Midwest League and leave his development up to chance, or take advantage of the mental challenge and turn his game up another notch. Luckily he did the latter and the rest is history,” Indians farm director Carter Hawkins said. “The hit streak was merely a by-product of the work and focus he showed throughout the season.”
Francisco has an aggressive approach and doesn't walk much, but his excellent feel for the barrel means he also doesn't strike out much and is comfortable working behind in the count. (Spring, 2018)
- As of the start of the 2022 season, Francisco's career Major League stats were: .240 batting average, 18 home runs with 68 RBI in 584 at-bats.
Francisco has a 70 grade right arm and the athleticism to be a solid-average catcher, but he often lacks focus, resulting in numerous passed balls in 2018. In part because of his lack of reliability, the Indians experimented with Mejia at third base and left field. (Spring, 2019)
Mejia needs to improve his receiving and blocking skills. He gained ground on both in 2016, but more work should garner even better results. He is working on his setup behind the plate, which would allow him to block balls and frame pitches more consistently.
Mejia has a well above-average arm that he shows off on pickoff attempts, but he must polish his receiving and blocking technique. Most importantly, he needs to increase his stamina. He’s small for a catcher and must prove he can withstand a full season’s workload. (Spring, 2018)
Mejia has an excellent arm and a quick release, getting a superb 80 on the scout scale. It is his biggest tool. But he gets a 50 grade for his defense back there.
In 2013, Francisco threw out 23 percent of Arizona Rookie League runners.
In 2015, Mejia threw out 34 percent of base-stealers.
In 2016, he nailed 43 percent of Midwest League runners who tried to steal.
Francisco's work ethic is very strong. And he has leadership traits. He has become very good at the English language and in his game-calling.
He has improved his English, allowing him to develop a relationship with his pitching staff. And pitchers trust his ability to call a game.
In 2017, the Indians had Mejia work at third base in the Arizona Fall League. That is because he was blocked by Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez, a pair of excellent defensive catchers with the Indians.
Francisco has developed more consistency behind the plate.
In 2018, Mejia was learning to be a left fielder.
“It’s a work in progress, which we knew it would be,” said Indians manager Terry Francona 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 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. Repetition will be the best thing for him.” (Jim Ingraham - Baseball America - 6/01/2018)
- In 2019 with the Padres, Mejia played 4 games in left field and 60 games at catcher. In 2020, he played all his games at catcher. In 2021 with the Rays, he played one game at first base. (Baseball-Reference.com - Sept 2021)
- Francisco runs slow. He has a 40 grade.
May 11-20, 2017: Mejia was placed on the DL with groin soreness.
May 11-June 17, 2019: Mejia was on the IL with a left knee sprain.
Aug 31-Sept 17, 2019: Mejia was on the IL with a right oblique strain.
Aug 17-Sept 16, 2020: Mejia was on the IL with a left thumb contusion.
- May 8-16, 2021: Mejia was on the IL with a left intercostal discomfort.