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Trade Veto Spares Francisco Mejia’s Hit Streak

In the history of professional baseball, has a 42-game hit streak ever ended in a trade?

To the relief of Lynchburg Hillcats fans, baseball historian-statisticians need not puzzle over that question this week. Sunday the Cleveland Indians nearly shipped catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the Milwaukee Brewers organization in a prospect package for All-Star receiver Jonathan Lucroy. Mejia was working on a 42-game hit streak in the minors when the media announced the clubs had agreed on the swap. The deal fell through Sunday afternoon when Lucroy invoked a contractual no-trade clause and vetoed the transaction.

On Monday, a few hours after the trade deadline passed and as Lucroy was joining the Texas Rangers, Mejia was back in the Hillcats lineup as Lynchburg hosted the Potomac Nationals. Mejia promptly extended his hit streak to 43 straight games with a single in the first inning, adding a steal and a run scored for good measure. According to the Lynchburg club, 43 games is the eighth longest hit streak in MiLB history.

A 20 year-old switch-hitter, Mejia is the number six prospect in The Tribe’s minor league system. Baseball America ranked him 84th among prospects in the 2015 pre-season and in their recent mid-season 2016 rankings upgraded him to 70th (MLB Pipeline ranks him 100th). The Indians organization signed the teenage Mejia out of Bani, Dominican Republic, in 2012. He was the headliner in an offer for Lucroy that also included shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, outfielder Greg Allen, and reliever Shawn Armstrong.

Mejia started his 2016 campaign with the Lake County Captains in the Midwest League (Class A), where he batted .347/.384/.531 (BA/OBP/SLG) in 60 games. He started his hit streak on May 27th and stretched it to 24 games before his late June promotion to Class A-Advanced Lynchburg in the Carolina League, where he is batting at a .325 clip in 19 games. Mejia did not play in Sunday’s game at Winston-Salem as the Lucroy drama unfolded.

Lucroy had a limited “no-trade” clause in his contract that listed Cleveland as one of the destinations that required his approval. Media reported that he used the veto, without success, as leverage  for assurances of playing time – Yan Gomes, currently on the disabled list, is the Tribe’s regular catcher – and waiver of the 2017 club option, which limited Lucroy’s 2017 salary to an economical $5.25 million. In the high-stakes world of Major League Baseball, an All Star is worth two to three times that sum on the free agent market.

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images

Monday the Rangers swooped in, unfettered by Lucroy’s no-trade list, and snared the native Louisianan, plus Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress, for outfielder Lewis Brinson, pitcher Luis Ortiz, and a player to be named later.

Every baseball fan knows about Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio and the 56-game streak of 1941. Most agree 56 in a row is one of Major League Baseball’s unassailable records (Joe Wilhoit‘s minor league record of 69 games has stood since 1919; DiMag is second all-time with 61 games in 1933). To reel off 43 games at any level of play should tell scouts they have something special in Francisco Mejia.

Lucroy not only gave Lynchburg Hillcats fans a reprieve to root for their summer hero, he may have done the front office and Indians fans a favor by rescinding the trade. Though he has several developmental targets ahead of him, Mejia’s 2016 achievement points toward a good long look at Progressive Field in coming years.

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Tim is a lifelong baseball (especially Cubs) fan, member of SABR, and player of Out of the Park Baseball. Recently he caught the genealogy bug and is researching his family history. He is originally from Chicago, but now lives in Columbia, MO, with his wife, two daughters, and two dogs.

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