On Wednesday evening the Cardinals chose to option Aledmys Diaz to Triple A Memphis. The corresponding move was a bit of a shocker: They purchased the contract of 26 year old middle infielder Alex Mejia.
As shocking as it was to see Diaz, the Cardinals starting SS be optioned to Memphis, the choice to bring Mejia into the fold was even more shocking. Mejia, the former 4th round pick in 2012 out of the University of Arizona and cousin to Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marco Estrada, is in his 6th season in the minors for the Cardinals organization. He is hardly a heralded prospect, as he has spent parts of the last three season splitting time between Triple A Memphis and Double A Springfield.
In the process of being added to the 40 man roster, Mejia has jumped over Memphis middle infielder and current member of the 40 man roster Breyvic Valera. This move almost certainly indicates that Valera would be the next man to be DFA’ed if the Cardinals needed a spot on the 40 man roster. Which they will need to do if they plan on adding anyone else to the 40 man, as they are up against the number.
Paul DeJong will take over the regular duties as short stop for the time being, and it only took him two years to reach the majors. Now, compare that to Mejia’s six and we start to flesh out exactly what kind of “prospect” Mejia is.
University of Arizona
Mejia went to college at the University of Arizona, where he pulled off the rare accomplishment of being the starting short stop for a major division(Pac-10 back then) as a TRUE freshman. During his time at The University of Arizona Mejia was honored with many awards, including being named the PAC-10/12 Player of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year, named to First Team All-Conference on multiple occasions, and was a First Team All American. He started 182 of a possible 183 games for Arizona at short stop.
Mejia is pedigreed.
Mejia loved his time at Arizona and thought about staying for his senior year, but chose to go pro, in part, because his family was struggling financially and he knew the signing bonus would help his family greatly. Gotta love that.
The Early Minors
Mejia signed with the Cardinals for a modest sum above slot and was placed on the roster of the Batavia Muckdogs, which is the current day equivalent to the Cardinals Short Season club The State College Spikes. There, he slashed a disappointing 250/265/333 in 95 at-bats. His first season was cut short when he tore his ACL.
Mejia’s knee was fully recovered by the beginning of the 2013 season and the Cardinals decided to start him out at Full Season Peoria. Mejia was pretty good there as he slashed 281/327/386 in 40 games before earning the promotion to Palm Beach. However, he was less than successful in 80 games at Palm Beach, the place that hitters go to die (Unless you are Randy Arozarena), slashing 207/247/254.
Mejia started the 2014 season back in Palm Beach and was solid there, so 71 games into the season he was promoted to Springfield. Unlike his 2013 campaign, Mejia did well after his promotion, slashing 270/326/356 in 49 games.
And that’s where it starts to get dicey for Mejia.
Springfield and Memphis
Over the last three seasons Mejia has stalled out while bouncing back and forth between Double A and Triple A. Mejia had a very solid all-around 2015 season in which he slashed 273/338/383 in 93 games and appeared to be on the cusp of the majors, but was never given the chance to get his feet wet. It was during this time that Mejia started to diversify as an infielder, playing games at 2nd and 3rd.
After a disappointing 2016, Mejia was humbled when he started the season at Double A instead of Triple A. He was passed over on the Memphis roster for Paul DeJong and Wilfredo Tovar, a defense-first minor league journeyman who the Cardinals signed as a minor league free agent. Mejia has spent time in Memphis this season, but only 11 of his 74 total games have been played there. In 265 AB over 74 games this season split between Memphis and Springfield Mejia has slashed 253/309/355 with 3 HR and a better than solid 26 Doubles. It has been reported that Mejia has changed his swing to follow the trend of trying to better produce fly balls.
Mejia: What To Expect
The short and lazy answer is “not a lot” in the grand scheme of things, but he does have a few tools worth addressing.
Mejia isn’t going to be an all-star. He isn’t a legitimate option to be a starter in the major leagues. But he does have a serious chance to stick in a super utility role.
Mejia hasn’t had more than 400 AB’s in a season since 2014 because he’s had seasons cut short to injuries. Also, because of how the pecking order goes, he’s seen himself benched while other, more promising prospects have taken playing time away from him (See; Paul DeJong). So keep that in mind when appraising him.
You can expect average to above average defense at SS, 2B, and 3B when Mejia takes the field and his doubles success at the plate this year, and projected over his last three seasons, suggest a player that hits the ball to the gaps. Mejia isn’t going to strike out a ton and he isn’t going to walk enough for it to matter, but he takes a very solid AB and he has been around the minors enough to know how to work a pitcher. Another thing about Mejia, he will not need to play everyday. He is familiar with and has excelled as an option off of the bench. And that, in addition to his defensive prowess at three positions, is why Mejia was chosen over Breyvic Valera.
To summarize, Mejia is every bit on par with the likes of Daniel Descalso, Greg Garcia, and Cards-fan favorites Joe McEwing(who I think Mejia is a lot more like at the plate than anyone is giving him credit for, but way better in the field). That’s the kind of player that was just added to the 40 man roster.
The 6’1, 200lb pure-righty might not be a world beater, but he does have a chance to stick in a super utility role. Now you just hold your breath and hope that he doesn’t need to be over exposed.
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