Just what Cleveland's been missing: a potent bat behind the plate.
The Situation: September is the time that teams like to have a third catcher on the bench and like to give their top prospects on the 40 a taste of major-league action. Francisco Mejia fits both criteria.
The Background: Cleveland signed Francisco Mejia out of the Dominican Republic for $350,000 as part of their 2012 July 2nd class. He came stateside immediately the following year and after two summers bashing short-season pitching, he slotted in second on the Cleveland team list and 84th on the 101. He was sent to full-season-ball as a 19-year-old in 2015 and scuffled in the Midwest League, slashing a mere .243/.324/.345. A return engagement in 2016 went much better and Mejia posted a 50-game hit streak between two A-ball levels. He popped back on the 101, at no. 34 this time, and continued to hit in Double-A in 2017 while reports on his defense behind the plate improved as well. He clocked in at no. 3 on the 2017 Midseason 50 and was arguably the best prospect in the minors at the time of his call up.
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The team goes deep on guys they'd have put on the list or ranked higher if they had final say.
Bo Bichette, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (High-A Dunedin)
Bichette jumped from off of our Top 101 in the offseason to No. 29 in the midseason, so it’s not as if we don’t like him. And the concerns about him are legitimate. He isn’t a shortstop, there is a decent amount of swing-and-miss in the game, and he was only in Low-A. That said, this kid is something special. While Bichette isn’t going to stick at the six, I believe his final home will still be on the dirt. His footwork will look at little clunky at short at times, but he’ll show solid lateral movement and an average arm, which makes it a profile I can envision working well at second.
There were seven candidates for the top spot. How did we arrive at No. 1?
It’s a fun time in baseball, with a lot of elite talent floating around, much of it close to the majors. We discussed seven of those elite talents as potential top overall prospects for this midseason list—not surprisingly, the top seven guys on the list. I’d suggest that the top eight or nine prospects (depending on your feelings about Tommy John recovery with regard to Alex Reyes) form a top tier, and they could be jumbled in nearly any order without being abjectly wrong. But part of the job here is to find an order in the mayhem, and after some great internal debate, we came up with a list. Here’s how that top prospect debate developed...
A second-generation impaler continues to impale, a first-round pick continues to confound in the Cal League, and more.
Eric Lauer, LHP, San Diego Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore)
The last of San Diego’s three first-rounders last June, Lauer wore the tag of polished, “safe” collegiate southpaw heading into the draft, and he’s acquitted himself accordingly in the first calendar year of his professional career. He’s got good size, and while his is not a quick-twitch athleticism, he is classically “pitcher athletic”: he’s extremely fluid and consistent in his delivery, with strong balance and quality timing. The arm swing is not traditional, with a stab and mild wrist wrap at the back of a deep, closed-off turn. But while he’s long to is higher three-quarter slot as a result, he’s also quite loose, and the result is a clean, flowing delivery that he repeats very well.
Is the future Oriole or the future Indian a better long-term bet to help your fantasy team in the squat?
We’ve mercifully reached the end of catchers week, during which the staff covered fantasy’s worst position from every angle. Most of our dynasty coverage rolled out yesterday and I’m here to close it out with Round 4 in our Tale of the Tape series. This one tackles the 17th and 22nd best options—fourth and fifth among prospects—according to Bret’s dynasty catcher rankings. As those ranks imply, there’s not much gap between Mejia and Sisco. Let’s see if we can find some separation.
Notes on Anderson Espinoza, Francisco Mejia and a couple frustrated former first rounders...
Anderson Espinoza, RHP, Boston Red Sox (GCL Red Sox)
After starting his professional journey in the Dominican Summer League, the Red Sox saw enough from the 17-year-old to give him an aggressive bump to the Gulf Coast League and in the process begin the right-hander’s assimilation to life stateside, on an earlier than expected timeline. The intrigue with Espinoza goes well beyond the $1.8 million signing bonus inked by the youngster a little over a year ago, with tangible evidence this could be a special arm in the making. Though, the expectation on the timing of that type of potential payout is well down the developmental road.
From Buster Posey to Christian Bethancourt, this list is loaded with both big leaguers and high-upside prospects.
Because dynasty league rankings are relatively league dependent, I set up parameters for ranking the players below (and the ones who will follow at other positions). The list here presupposes a 16-team standard dynasty format, in which there are no contracts/salaries, players can be kept forever, and owners have minor-league farm systems in which to hoard prospects. Feel free to adjust this as necessary for your individual league, whether it’s moving non-elite prospects without 2014 ETAs down if you don’t have separate farm teams or moving lower-risk, lower-reward players up in deeper mixed or league–only formats.
The catcher position is a tricky one, as there are a lot of players at or near the top of the list who may be playing another position in three or so years. That, plus with most leagues using one active catcher, prospects are featured a little more prominently due to both the major-league depth right now and the fact that there are diminishing returns to carrying too many backstops.