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Further thoughts on San Diego Padres prospect Francisco Mejia

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Acquired in the Brad Hand trade from Cleveland, Mejia looks to the future behind the plate with San Diego

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday the San Diego Padres promoted catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the major league roster. A few readers have asked for an updated view on Mejia, so here goes.

Mejia had been acquired in the Brad Hand trade back in July. At the time we wrote this, noting Mejia’s strong track record as a hitter but also questions about his defense:

Mejia is 22-years-old, a switch-hitter listed at 5-10, 180. His offensive track record is quite good (career .291/.345/.444 hitter) and he made the necessary adjustments to overcome his cold start to ‘18. He should be a solid producer for batting average and at least moderate power.

The bigger question is defense. On paper Mejia has made good progress with the glove, playing errorless ball and throwing out 35% of runners this year in Triple-A. On the other hand scouting reports on his defense lately have been negative, with receiving and blocking skills reported as stagnant or even declining. The Indians themselves seemed down on his defense and he’s spent considerable time playing left field this year.

It will be interesting to see how the Padres assess his defense. Mejia is an elite prospect if he can catch but just a decent one if he turns out to be a mediocre left fielder. I have been optimistic about his long-term projection with the glove but the negative reviews this year do give me pause. If his glove turns out OK then the Padres did a good job buying low.

The Padres seem more open to Mejia as a catcher than the Indians were, playing him regularly behind the dish during August for Triple-A El Paso. He made one error and allowed just one passed ball in 26 games for the Chihuahuas while throwing out 20% of runners.

Word is that Mejia will split catching time in September with Austin Hedges, the Padres staff using the stretch run to assess his glove and get the young backstop comfortable with the pitching staff.

Quoting Kevin Acee in the San Diego Union Tribune and Padres manager Andy Green:

While Mejia has played both outfield spots and third base and could do so for the Padres in the future, he has been solely catching in El Paso and is expected to play only behind the plate this month.

“We value that pitcher-catcher relationship dynamic a ton,” Green said. “We think that investment — by catching bullpens, by studying pitchers, by studying opponents, by throwing himself headlong into that process, it’s going to be much better than if he’s worrying about taking fly balls in left field or ground balls at third base. We’ll get there at some point in time if we think that’s best for us.”

Mejia had expressed frustration over not catching enough while in the Indians organization.

“It the position I’ve always played,” he said Tuesday. “It’s what I’ve done since I was 4- or 5-years-old. It’s been good to do what I know and get better at that. I’m excited to have that opportunity to come up here and hit and do what I’ve always done. … I appreciate it a lot. It’s an opportunity not everyone gets. It’s a position I’ve always played. It’s where I feel comfortable.”

Mejia hit .293/.338/.471 in Triple-A this year including .328/.364/.582 for El Paso after the trade.

He doesn’t anything to prove with the bat in the minors at this point and his defensive metrics are reasonable.

Right now I will stick with what I wrote in July: the Padres did a good job buying low with Mejia.