CLEVELAND -- The Indians signed catcher Francisco Mejia five years ago mainly on the strength of the rocket arm that he put on display. These days, Cleveland is daydreaming about the type of all-around threat that the prospect appears to be developing into for the organization.
On Saturday, Mejia's breakout 2016 season was rewarded in the form of an incredible jump up MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list. Outfielder Bradley Zimmer (No. 22), right-hander Triston McKenzie (No. 57) and first baseman Bobby Bradley (No. 95) also made the list, but it is Mejia's ranking (No. 40) that really stands out. That is 44 spots higher than where Mejia stood in the midseason Top 100 list last summer.
"I felt really good about this season," Mejia said through a translator at the Indians' fall development program in September. "Thanks to God, everything went really well."
Talk about an understatement.
The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2017 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 23 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.
It is no surprise to see Zimmer among the game's Top 25 prospects, as he ranked 25th on the midseason list. The outfielder will be in camp with the Indians as a non-roster invitee this spring and has a realistic shot at reaching the Majors this year. McKenzie and Bradley were ranked 95th and 67th, respectively, on the midseason list. Mejia also made the cut back then, coming in at No. 84.
Among players who were included in the midseason Top 100 rankings, Mejia's 44-spot jump on the updated list represents the second-largest leap. Only Braves shortstop prospect Kevin Maitan (plus-57) saw his ranking improve by more than Mejia. Carson Kelly of the Cardinals is the lone catching prospect ahead of Mejia, though he is only one spot in front at No. 39.
Mejia's showing in 2016 was impressive on a number of fronts.
First and foremost, Mejia enjoyed a 50-game hitting streak from May 27 to Aug. 13 between stops with Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Lynchburg. Across those 78 days, the switch-hitting catcher dealt with a handful of minor health issues, had breaks to play in the Midwest League All-Star Game and All-Star Futures Game (he had one hit in each), and overcame serious trade rumors.
Prior to the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, Mejia, 21, was the centerpiece of a four-player package that was going to be shipped to the Brewers in order for the Indians to acquire All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy. That fell apart when Lucroy used his no-trade rights to block the deal.
"There's just so many things that he fought through," said Indians assistant general manager Carter Hawkins, who was the director of player development last season. "He repeated a level. That's a very tough mental blow for guys as well. Put all those things together, the consistency that he showed despite that was a really, really big step for him mentally. We feel like it really helped a foundation that he's going to be able to jump off from for years to come."
Mejia, who signed for $350,000 out of the Dominican Republic on July 2, 2012, hit a combined .342 with 11 home runs, 29 doubles, four triples, 63 runs, 80 RBIs and an .896 OPS in 102 games last season. He showed an aggressiveness in the strike zone, recording 63 strikeouts compared to 28 walks. Defensively, Mejia threw out 43 percent (30-of-69) of would-be basestealers.
Mejia's 50-game streak tied for the fourth longest in Minor League history, trailing the 69-game run by Joe Wilhoit in 1919, the 61-game stretch by Joe DiMaggio in '33 and a 55-game streak by Roman Mejias in '54. Mejia's streak matched the 50-game stretch by Otto Pahlman in 1922.
Zimmer, Cleveland's first-round pick (21st overall) in the 2014 Draft, turned in a .250/.365/.425 slash line with 15 homers, 38 steals, 46 extra-base hits, 62 RBIs and 76 runs in 130 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus last year. The center fielder struck out 171 times and drew 77 walks. On MLBPipeline.com's Top 10 outfield prospects list, Zimmer came in at No. 7.
McKenzie, 19 and a first-round pick by the Indians in 2015, compiled a 1.62 ERA with 104 strikeouts against 22 walks in 83 1/3 innings between Class A Short-Season Mahoning Valley and Lynchburg in '16.
Bradley, 20, knocked 29 homers, 102 RBIs and a .231 Isolated Power in 131 games for Lynchburg last year. McKenzie did not make the cut on MLBPipeline.com's Top 10 right-handed prospects list, but Bradley ranked fourth in the Top 10 first basemen rankings.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.