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Atlanta Braves Prospect Ernesto Mejia Named IL Rookie Of The Year

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At 26, Ernesto Mejia is a non-traditional prospect, but his ability can't be denied.
At 26, Ernesto Mejia is a non-traditional prospect, but his ability can't be denied.

Gwinnett Braves first baseman Ernesto Mejia was named the International League Rookie Of The Year and a Post Season All-Star. The 26 year old Venezuelan native, playing in his ninth professional season, is currently hitting .303 with a .871 OPS, 31 doubles, 24 homers, 91 RBI, and 9 steals in 489 at bats. The right handed batter currently leads the league in RBI, hits (148), and total bases (253), is second in slugging (.517), at bats, and homers, third in extra base hits (56), fourth in OPS, fifth in runs scored (72), sixth in doubles, games played (126), and batting average.

The Braves originally signed Mejia as an international free agent in July of 2002, and his career seemed to be taking off after a 2008 season that saw him hit .274 with a .829 OPS, 47 doubles, 21 homers, and 93 RBI for High A Myrtle Beach, but a torn ACL suffered in Spring Training led to him playing just 36 games in 2009. He left the team as a Minor League free agent following that year, and spent 2010 in the Kansas City Royals organization, playing at High A and AA. He returned to the Braves as a Minor League free agent prior to the 2011 season and had a fantastic year for AA Mississippi, hitting .297 with a .906 OPS, 37 doubles, 26 homers, and 99 RBI, setting team records in hits (148), homers, and RBI.

Mejia is a hulking player, standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 245 pounds. He originally began his career as an outfielder but quickly moved to first base because of his size. He is an average defender at best, but his bat more than makes up for the occasional defensive misstep. This is the third year in a row a Gwinnett player has been named the International League Rookie Of The Year, following Freddie Freeman in 2010 and Julio Teheran in 2011.