The Padres are set to promote top prospect Francisco Mejia from Triple-A El Paso, per Dennis Lin of The Athletic (Twitter link). MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell adds that while Mejia could eventually be shifted back and forth between catching and the outfield, he’s been catching in El Paso this season and will be used as a catcher in the month of September with the Padres.
Mejia, 22, was the lone prospect traded from Cleveland to San Diego in the July deal that sent both Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to the Indians. He’s long rated as one of the game’s top overall prospects and entered the 2018 campaign as a consensus top 20 all-around minor leaguer. While he had a solid but unspectacular run with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate this season, he’s exploded for a .328/.364/.582 slash with seven homes, eight doubles and a triple in just 132 PAs with the Padres’ top affiliate since the trade.
The arrival of Mejia in San Diego will give the Padres a pair of catchers who were highly touted as prospects, though certainly Austin Hedges’ bat remains a work in progress. Hedges has improve upon last year’s overall production but is still hitting just .239/.292/.422 through 271 trips to the plate in 2018. Hedges is regarded as a premier defender behind the dish, though, even if his 22 percent caught-stealing rate is uncharacteristically low in 2018. The 26-year-old ranks as one of the game’s better pitch framers and sits 10th among MLB catchers in Baseball Prospectus’ Fielding Runs Above Average this season, even in spite of his unusual throwing troubles.
The San Diego front office likely views the presence of both Hedges and Mejia as a good problem to have. Neither will be expensive in 2019. Mejia, of course, will be a pre-arbitration player while Hedges will receive a small but notable bump in pay as a Super Two player in arbitration. It’s possible that the pair could shoulder the bulk of the Padres’ work behind the plate for years to come, with Hedges serving as a glove-first option with power but middling OBP skills, while Mejia provides a bat-first option with a terrific arm but a lesser all-around defensive reputation.
Mejia does already have a slight bit of MLB experience under his belt, having logged 12 games with the Indians from 2017-18 (just one this year). He’s totaled just over a month of big league service time and will finish out the season with roughly 60 days of big league service. That’ll keep him from reaching Super Two status in arbitration if he’s in the big leagues to stay. Currently, he projects to reach arbitration eligibility following the 2021 season, and he’d reach the open market as a free agent following the 2024 season. Further time spent in the minors could yet push that trajectory back, but it appears that he’ll be given the opportunity to prove that he’s learned all he has to learn at the minor league level.