Mejia traded to Padres for Hand, Cimber

Loaded San Diego system adds No. 15 overall prospect from Indians

Francisco Mejia is a career .291 hitter over five seasons in the Minor Leagues. (Joe Santry/Columbus Clippers)

By Sam Dykstra / MiLB.com | July 19, 2018 12:30 PM

The game's best farm system just got even stronger.

The San Diego Padres have acquired No. 15 overall prospect Francisco Mejia from the Cleveland Indians for closer Brad Hand and right-handed reliever Adam Cimber, the clubs confirmed Thursday.

Mejia becomes the 10th Padre ranked among MLB.com's top 100 prospects, joining Fernando Tatis Jr., MacKenzie Gore, Luis Urias, Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza, Chris Paddack and Logan Allen. Among those 10, only Gore, Baez, Morejon and Espinoza have yet to reach at least Double-A -- a sign that San Diego's rebuild is close to bringing major talent to the big leagues by 2019.

Mejia should play a big role in that wave of talent. The 22-year-old switch-hitter already has 12 Major League games under his belt and has shown an incredibly impressive hit tool in the Minors. He gained notoriety back in 2016 for producing a 50-game hitting streak between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg and has carried that reputation to the upper levels. After getting off to a slow start with Triple-A Columbus this season, Mejia was hitting .279/.328/.426 with seven homers, a triple, 22 doubles and a 110 wRC+ in 79 games in the International League. He's batted .383/.413/.582 with 20 extra-base hits in 36 games since June 1.

Video: Columbus' Mejia connects on a solo homer

The biggest questions around Mejia involve his defense. Primarily a catcher since signing out of the Dominican Republic in July 2012, Mejia has shown a plus-plus arm but is considered a below-average framer behind the plate. Because of those issues and Yan Gomes' solid play in the Majors, the Indians began to move Mejia around at the end of last year, giving him time at third base in the Arizona Fall League. This season, he's made 19 starts in left field and five in right with Columbus. With Austin Hedges struggling at the plate but not behind it, the Padres could decide to keep Mejia at catcher and use his plus bat as a complement to Hedges' plus glove, with the latter moving to a backup role.

The Indians had to pay a heavy price but picked up two quality, controllable relievers in the process. Hand, a left-hander, is a two-time All-Star and has notched 24 saves to go with his 3.05 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 65 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings this season. After being selected off waivers in April 2016, he has two years left of team control after this season and has a $10 million team for 2021 as well. Cimber is in the midst of his first Major League season after making the big club out of Spring Training and has posted a 3.17 ERA with 51 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 48 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. The 27-year-old sidearmer has been especially tough against fellow righties, holding them to a .207 average this season. 

Hand and Cimber join a Cleveland bullpen much in need of help: Indians relievers rank 29th in the Majors with a collective 5.28 ERA this season. More good news could be on the way when elite left-hander Andrew Miller, who suffered a right knee injury on May 26, soon comes off the disabled list. Despite the pitching issues, the Indians hold a 7 1/2-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central. This deal was made with the postseason in mind.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for MiLB.com. Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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