Francisco Mejia has an opportunity to lock down the Padres’ catching gig. What does he need to do this year to get regular playing time?
To this point, Austin Hedges has earned the majority of playing time at catcher because of his draft status and pitch framing. However, he’s left a lot to be desired offensively, which may force the Padres to look elsewhere after this year. Is the answer already on their roster?
Francisco Mejia originally signed with the Cleveland Indians as an international free agent in July 2012 but came over to San Diego in the Brad Hand deal. And at 24 years of age, he has age on his side compared to Hedges, who is already 27.
Last year, Mejia played in 79 games and posted a .265/.316/.438 line with eight home runs and 22 RBI.
Statcast Batting Statistics
Mejia’s 4.7 barrel percentage in 2019 was quite a drop from 8.1 percent in 2018. Balls left his bat at an average exit velocity of 87.8 MPH and a 19.1-degree launch angle. He was phenomenal on offspeed pitches, posting a .600 slugging percentage. Mejia hit .280 off fastballs, but he struggled mightily against breaking balls, to the tune of a .197 average.
Batted Ball Statistics
Primarily a pull hitter throughout his career, Mejia demonstrated just that again in 2019, 50.3 percent of balls in play were hit to the pull side, 28.7 percent to center, and 21.1 percent to the opposite field. Mejia hit flyballs at a 44.4 percent clip; however, he popped up a lot of baseballs in 2019, 18.7 percent of balls in play to be exact.
He doesn’t tear the cover off the ball – as indicated by his exit velocity – but Mejia hit balls at just a 21.6 percent clip. The remainder came in the form of medium and hard-hit contact.
Mejia is not a threat to steal bases. He was successful on 1-of-2 chances, both coming at second base.
Hedges has the edge on pitch framing, as Mejia logged a -4.3 pitch frame rating last year. But he plays solid defense behind home plate, logging a .996 fielding percentage in 2019. He needs to improve his ability to throw out runners though, as he converted on just 17 percent of chances.
Mejia was a concern in spring training, registering exactly zero hits in 20 plate appearances. As part of Baseball References simulated season, they have Mejia with a .214/.283/.452 line with four doubles, two home runs, and four RBI in 18 games, including ten starts. For what it’s worth, Hedges has a .138 batting average in 36 games.