EL notes: Indians' Mejia has glove to match

Akron catcher focused on defense as bat continues to make waves

Francisco Mejia has thrown out 101-of-294 would-be base stealers in his young career. (David Monseur/MiLB.com)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | June 14, 2017 10:00 AM ET

Francisco Mejia has been a headline producer at the plate all season for Akron, but while his bat has grabbed the bulk of attention, MLB.com's No. 2 catching prospect matches that quality behind the dish.

For the 21-year-old, it's about maintaining his level of play, which starts by coming to the ballpark ready to put in work from the moment he steps into the clubhouse.

"On a day-to-day basis I just tell him to maintain," said RubberDucks bench coach Omir Santos, who works directly with Akron's catching corps. "Don't sit back because it will catch up to you. He does a big league job of coming out here and maintaining everything he has. If he can get better, he's going to be an [MLB] All Star."

When Mejia walks into the park, the first thing he does is sit with pitching coach Tony Arnold to go over who's starting on the mound for the club that day, who is coming in from the 'pen and who is on the other side. Once they've gone through every opposing batter, including those who may not even see the field, the Indians' No. 2 prospect hits the cage with Santos and begins the dirty work.

"Every time I come to the park, I ask who is going to pitch today, relievers and starters, and every inning we start talking, who's coming up hitting," said Mejia, MLB.com's No. 35 prospect overall. "I come here every day, I have a routine, me and Santos in the cage, work on blocking balls and learning about the hitters with the pitching coach."

He is self-assured in the work he puts in, and past efforts have come back around to benefit him and his teammates, especially when it comes down to calling the game and knowing who exactly's stepping into the box.

"I feel confident in calling pitches, working with the pitchers," said Mejia. "Most of the hitters that are here have been in high-A, so I know a lot of them and before the game I get with Tony [Arnold] and go through every hitter, even if they're not playing."

In 32 games behind the dish this season, Mejia has made only two errors with four passed balls and has a .992 fielding percentage. He's thrown out nine of 25 runners thus far this season, and 101 of 294 would-be base stealers in his young career.

But like every other part of his game, throwing out runners is just another area of focus to become better at every day.

"I feel good, but I'm trying to get better," Mejia said. "I work with Omir on my feet, getting a little quicker, so the ball leaves more quickly."

Of course, there's also the bat, which has become the hottest in the Eastern League and recently earned Mejia Player of the Week honors. His average jumped from .331 at the end of May to a league-best .369 after a torrid June start in which he belted five home runs and registered six multi-hit games in eight played.

Video: RubberDucks' Mejia goes deep

With those numbers at the plate, and the work he's putting in behind it, Mejia is rounding into the complete package and may be fit for delivery to Cleveland sometime in the near future.

"He comes to play every day," said Santos. "He's a big league catcher, and a big league hitter. When you have a player like that, it's pretty much just the basics. He's pretty much a complete ballplayer. It's easy on me coming out here and working him every day. It's nice."

In brief

Rolling thunder: Trenton's Miguel Andujar has carried things over from May, hitting safely in eight of nine games played in June. The Yankees No. 9 prospect has collected hits in 18 of his last 19 games and 21 of his last 23. The 22-year-old third baseman leads the league with 46 RBIs and has hit .379 with 15 extra base hits over his last 23 games.

Won't go out like that: Binghamton catcher Tomas Nido is striking out, on average, just once every 2.8 games this season. The Mets No. 10 prospect has yet to K through seven June games and had run his streak to 61 straight plate appearances without whiffing. During the stretch the 23-year-old is hitting .327, with nine RBIs and 10 runs scored. Over six minor league seasons, Nido has struck out just 228 times in 347 games.

On and on: Wyatt Mathisen has ridden a well-balanced approach to the top of the league's on-base percentage leaderboard. The Altoona third baseman is 23rd in the league with 47 hits, and tied for 10th in the league with 21 walks, but his .413 OBP stands as the league's best. That mark also stands as the best of any player with 50 or more at-bats in the Pirates organization. Mathisen, who has been hit by three pitches this season, has reached base in 42 of 50 games.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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