The top-ranked catching prospect in baseball showed off his arm last night for the San Diego Padres.
When the San Diego Padres traded for the top catching prospect in Major League Baseball, the team immediately announced that Francisco Mejia would be sent to AAA El Paso to continue to hone his defensive craft. Fans have already seen what he can do with his bat and last night against the Texas Rangers, fans got a small taste of what he can do behind the plate.
The Rangers wasted no time in challenging the rookie making his first every start behind the plate at Petco Park. Leadoff hitter Delino DeShields led off the game with a 2-2 single, giving the combo of Robbie Erlin and Mejia one pitch before deciding to test the youngster.
Coming into last night’s game, DeShields had swiped 20 bags on the season, getting caught just three times. With a 70-grade arm behind the plate, Mejia made it four failed stolen base attempts for DeShields.
Thanks to Baseball Savant, we can look at the data behind that one-hopper. According to their numbers, the average Pop Time to second base is 2.01 seconds.
"Pop Time measures the time from the moment the pitch hits the catcher’s mitt to the moment the ball reaches the fielder’s projected receiving point at the center of the base. Pop Time is a combination of exchange time (how quickly the catcher releases the ball, measured in seconds) and arm strength (velocity of throw, in MPH)."
It’s just one throw, so keep that mind when looking at these numbers, however, it’s exciting to finally have some data on the rookie. Mejia’s pop time on the above throw was clocked at 1.84 seconds.
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For reference, among all MLB catchers with at least 10 pickoff attempts at second base, Miami Marlins catcher JT Realmuto has the quickest Pop Time in the majors at 1.90 seconds. Austin Hedges ranks fourth with a 1.94 time. However, neither player ranks in the top-six in exchange time. Using the same parameters, Chicago White Sox catcher Welington Castillo leads the league in exchange time with a 0.61 second time. Hedges ranks 12th in baseball with a 0.70 time.
The biggest question this offseason may be how will the San Diego Padres address the catching position in 2019? Are Mejia and Hedges splitting time? Will one of them be traded for other needs? Does Mejia find himself playing another position after learning to play third base and the outfield? No one has the answer to those questions yet. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the defense of both young men, behind the plate.