January 13, 2017
Tale of the Tape, Dynasty Edition
Francisco Mejia vs. Chance Sisco
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.
This is a fitting place to start. Bat-to-ball will get both of these players to the majors and each figures to contribute in this fantasy category moreso than any other. You probably know about Mejia’s 50-game hit streak last season, which straddled a promotion from low-A Lake County to high-A Lynchburg. Mejia hit like crazy at both stops, finishing with a .333 batting average and 13 percent strikeout rate in the Carolina League after posting a .347 and 15.1 percent in the Midwest League. Meanwhile, save for a brief cameo in Triple-A Norfolk, Sisco spent the whole of 2016 at Double-A Bowie, batting .320 with a 17.3 percent strikeout out rate as the league’s youngest qualified regular. I have a 60 grade on each of these sticks. Outstanding feel for the barrel, whole-plate coverage, and the ability to spray to all fields makes them both plus hitters without the standard “for a catcher” qualification. Normally I’d defer to the one who’s shown it at a higher level—especially in a case like Sisco’s, where he was extraordinarily young relative to the league—but I’m going with my instinct here and giving the slightest of edges to Mejia. Advantage: Mejia
If we think the batting average margin is razor thin, this one’s pretty simple. Mejia goes to the plate looking to swing the bat. I have no problem with that approach given the natural hitting ability, but it doesn’t lend itself to much separation between batting average and on-base percentage. Mejia only drew 28 walks among his 443 plate appearances last season, a 6.3 percent rate. Sisco shows quite a bit more plate discipline, content to work counts and take the free base. Sisco’s career-best 12.3 percent walk rate pushed his OBP up to .406 in 2016, a mark that led the Eastern League by 19 points. Advantage: Sisco
Remember watching Sisco hit a ball out to left-center in last July’s Futures Game? Forget it. Sisco tied a career high with six home runs last season and his isolated power in Double-A was a paltry .102. While he does make plenty of hard contact, a flatter swing plane limits it to the gap-double variety. Mejia works between the outfielders, too, but is more willing to put his raw thump to work by jumping on pitches he likes and yanking balls out down the lines. In the end, I don’t think either of these players is going to be impactful in the power department, but Mejia should get to the mid-teens routinely. Advantage: Mejia
Sisco will play 2017 at age 22 and Mejia at age 21. Hell if I know how to handicap their contextual stats. Let’s move on. Advantage: Heads for Mejia, tails for Sisco
Keep moving. Advantage: Nah
Sisco missed a month with a broken finger in 2015. Other than that, both he and Mejia have been durable. Advantage: Draw
These aren’t profiles dripping with untapped potential. Their fantasy value is derived from high floors, assuming you believe in such a thing in a catching prospect. The bat-to-ball baseline makes each a near lock to play in the major leagues, though it’s hard to see either one as a top tier option at the position even if everything breaks right. In batting practice, Mejia shows many of the ingredients of a guy who could reach 20 home runs at peak: premium bat speed, willingness to cut at max effort, ability to square with backspin. He’s too aggressive for all of that to play in games though, so I think a dinger total in the high teens is still an upper-quartile projection unless he tightens his approach at the higher levels. Not exactly exciting, but the competition here slugs like Francisco Cervelli. Advantage: Mejia
Estimated Time of Impact
After a full season at Double-A, Sisco will almost certainly open in Triple-A in 2017. The Orioles inked Welington Castillo for a year and I’d say Sisco has a shot to displace Beef if the latter slumps and the organization tires of his horrendous defense, except that Sisco graded out worse by our adjusted FRAA metric. Given his age and need for continued development behind the plate, it’s hard to see Sisco ascending to the majors for any significant period of time until 2018. That’ll still beat Mejia, who hasn’t played a game above High-A yet. There is no reason for the Indians to rush him even though they aren’t exactly brimming with inspiring options. 2018 will be Mejia’s age-22 season. That’s awful young for a first-division catcher. 2019’s a better bet, especially since we’re thinking about impact, not simply appearance.
It’s worth mentioning that part of the calculus for catchers is, you know, whether they’ll actually be catchers at the major league level. Mejia and his weapons-grade arm undeniably will. Sisco’s ability to stay behind the plate has long been questioned, though reports were generally more favorable in 2016 than they’d previously been even if the data disagreed. The Orioles have every incentive to keep him back there, not only because they lack organizational depth at the position, but also because the bat becomes fringe-y if he has to move. Advantage: Sisco
As you know if you’ve been reading about catchers all week, the position is a wasteland right now. There’s a place for a vanilla set-it-and-forget-it player who isn’t going to kill you anywhere in this environment. I’ll take the extra risk and opt for Mejia, who I believe can get to the catching’s middle class if major-league pitchers don’t completely neutralize his power by preying on his aggressiveness. And the winner is… Mejia