Watching the AAA All-Star game, one Gwinnett Brave was in the starting lineup: 1B Ernesto Mejia. The 26-year-old is having a nice season, hitting .302/.360/.527 with 17 HR. While his minor league stats are good, how does he project in a major league uniform?
The fact that it took him until age 26 to get to AAA is concerning. Mejia signed with the Braves at age 16, remaining in the system aside from spending 2010 in the Royals farm system. He didn’t stick in AA until halfway through his age 24 season, so he developed fairly slow. Players that take so long to develop rarely became MLB threats, with someone like Dan Uggla being the exception to the rule.
His bat is the only reason he can be considered a future bench option. The right-hander has displayed good pop in the minors, especially the past two seasons. He’s also makes consistent solid contact, posting a .330+ BABIP at every stint since 2006, besides a 38 PA Rookie league stay in 2009. A career .285 BA and .496 SLG shows signs of future potential.
While he’s great when he hits the ball, making contact has been a problem. Since reaching AA, he’s posted K rates of 29%, 27%, and 23%. While those numbers are going in the correct direction, they are still very high. Complicating that is his lack of patience. His 9% unintentional walk rate last year was by far his highest in his career, not a good sign for someone striking out 25% of the time. His BB/K ratios aren’t as bad as Juan Francisco, but poor plate discipline in the minors is generally exposed very quickly in the majors.
Mejia should be able to make the Atlanta roster in September, a righty with some pop off the bench. In the long term, guys like Evan Gattis are ahead of him, and I could see Mejia ending up with a Mike Hessman type career, floating between AAA and the majors, but never able to stick in the show.