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Francisco Mejia - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper


The catching position in fantasy baseball is slowly becoming the kicker position in fantasy football. With a lack of depth in the player pool and teams keeping their player's legs fresh by platooning them, drafters are taking catchers in the last few rounds just because they have to fill out the position. With more data to study on opposing batters and more knowledge on the increasing number of pitchers that are being used in a game, catchers don’t have enough time in the day to hone in on their hitting craft.

Once the first few elite backstops are off the board, the general mold of catchers are the same, low averages with decent pop. The major league batting average for catcher's in 2018 was a meager .232, the lowest total in 50 years. It’s just a matter of which player will sacrifice more average for more power.

In 2019, there is a new bat ready to make an impact at the catching position which breaks the mold of your prototypical backstop. Francisco Mejia of the San Diego Padres can hit. Not only can he hit, but he can flat out rake. The only thing standing in the 23-year-old's way is a possible platoon in 2019, but with Mejia’s hit tool and versatility, he should be on everyone’s sleeper list going into this season.

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Minor League Masher

Mejia made minor league history in 2016. He tailored a 50-game hitting streak across two minor league levels, the longest hitting streak since 1963. Finishing his season with a combined .342 AVG, he also chipped in with 11 long balls in 102 games for good measure. At the beginning of last season, MLB named Mejia the number one catching prospect in baseball. Deservingly so, as he spanked 14 home runs and batted .297 in just 92 games at Double-A in 2017.

He was hitting .279 with seven big flies in Triple-A last season before the Padres acquired the switch-hitter from the Cleveland Indians at the trade deadline for their prized closer Brad Hand. The change in scenery suited him even better as he batted .328 and clubbed another seven bombs in just 31 games for El Paso. Mejia has shown excellent plate discipline numbers as a minor leaguer as well. With only a 15.4% K% since the start of 2016, he’s got outstanding hand-eye skills, and he can put the ball in play as good or better than anyone at his position.

 

Major League Cup of Coffee

Mejia was a September call up for the Padres last year, and he made an impact early. He walloped two home runs in his first career start for the Padres, and 10 days later he crushed a walk-off grand slam. Other than the home runs, Mejia then showed he wasn’t ready to be a Major Leaguer. He batted just .185 with a disastrous 32.8% K%. Keep in mind that he platooned after his call up, and had nine pinch-hit at-bats and struck out in seven of them. Facing tough bullpen arms cold off the bench is hardly reprimandable.

With Austin Hedges in town, the two players split time in September as Mejia started 10 games behind the dish compared to Hedges’ 12. Known for being a defensive-minded catcher, Hedges can hit the long ball, but so far he’s only put together a .210 career batting average. In the Indians organization, Mejia spent an entire Arizona Fall League at the hot corner and spent parts of Triple-A in the outfield. It remains to be seen what the exact plan is going forward with these two players, but we know Mejia is open to playing elsewhere if that means more playing time. Remember, Mejia just turned 23 and being such a stud hitter already, it will be hard for San Diego to keep him out of the lineup.

 

2019 Outlook

We haven’t seen a minor league catcher’s bat profile like this since Buster Posey came into the league in 2010. As far as switch-hitting catchers go, you’d have to go way back to Victor Martinez in the early 2000s, who was also a member of the Indians. Saying Mejia will be a Hall of Fame caliber player like these two gentlemen would be way too premature to speculate, but the fact remains that he’s a scarce commodity.

In the worst case scenario, Mejia is a platoon player next season. Considering there were only seven backstops with 120 games last year, he can still be among the top of all counting stats with his above-average skillset. Either splitting time at a different position or another Hedges injury (three DL trips in the last year in a half), consistent playing time could propel Mejia to a top-five backstop ranking. Currently, he’s the 11th catcher off the board at a 240 ADP. This selection is an extremely low price, and it could soar higher with more information on this situation that should come during spring training. Get your shares now and avoid that feeling of being obligated to fill out your roster in the late rounds.

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