Tampa Bay Rays: A fresh start for Francisco Mejia may be the ticket

Francisco Mejia finds himself with an opportunity to succeed with the Tampa Bay Rays.

The San Diego Padres sent waves through the baseball world this week after adding 2019 Cy Young winner Blake Snell and 2020 Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish to their starting rotation, leaving many pundits and fans questioning exactly what the Tampa Bay Rays were thinking by trading away their ace starting pitcher after falling just short of a World Series title in 2020.

But the trade is completed and this isn’t a piece that’s going to dive into should or shouldn’t have the Rays made the trade. Instead, let’s look at one of those players the Tampa Bay Rays received in return for Blake Snell, catcher Francisco Mejia.

Once considered the top catching prospect in baseball, Mejia has yet to find his footing at the major league level, now playing for his third franchise since 2018.

Coming up with the Cleveland Indians, Mejia brought noted offensive firepower to the plate, but his defensive abilities behind the dish left a lot to be desired. Despite being determined and open about wanting to remain as a catcher, Mejia spent many of his final days with Cleveland working as an outfielder at the Triple-A level.

Soon after, he was dealt to the Padres for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, where he spent much of his time splitting at-bats with Austin Hedges.

But the offense never showed up on a consistent basis for Mejia while in San Diego. In 128 career games (all but 15 of those with the Padres), Mejia owns a .225/.282/.386 slash with a 24% strikeout rate, a 5.5% walk rate, and a career wRC+ of 75.

Perhaps, finding a new home with the Tampa Bay Rays will be just the ticket for Francisco Mejia to jumpstart his career. After all, if you’re looking for an organization to help improve your game, the Rays aren’t a bad option.

Instead of upgrading the catching position earlier this winter, Tampa Bay brought in familiar faces in Kevan Smith and Mike Zunino to fill the void behind the plate. Unfortunately, Zunino is a career .200 hitter with a 35% strikeout rate. If Mejia can continue to make improvements behind the plate, the primary starting job should be his to take fairly easily.

Against right-handed pitching, Mejia, who is a switch-hitter, has hit 10 of 12 home runs and owns a .709 OPS with an 84 wRC+, compared to a .581 OPS and 53 wRC+ against left-handed pitching.

Now in the AL East, Mejia should enjoy the short left porches in New York and Boston, and find some comfort in the hitter’s park that is Camden Yards in Baltimore.

Without much competition in his way, an opportunity to reset with a new organization, and playing in more hitter-friendly ballparks for left-handed hitters, joining the Tampa Bay Rays may be just what Francisco Mejia needed.