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2023 D50: Prospect #49

Updated: Feb 14, 2023


Each post will feature these words, so feel free to skip accordingly. I offer the same always-standing apologies for the lackluster quality of my writing, as well as the stream of consciousness nature that I write with. I sincerely wish that I was better at writing than I am but, alas, here we are. Also, I'm very good at this as compared to most, but I am still VERY bad at it. Just think about that for a second, for context purposes.

I want to start off by reminding everyone that these posts are aided and enhanced by the works of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball America, and Prospects Live. Each embedded link will take you to their subscription pages and you should absolutely do that. Shout out to Geoff Pontes and Matt Thompson from Baseball America and Prospects Live, respectfully, because they're awesome. FanGraphs stats are OBVIOUSLY clutch and awesome, and that's why they are used in nearly every "Dirty" post. LOVE that FanGraphs.

Accordingly, @Cardinalsgifs provides his artistic touch to the pictures in each article, and I wouldn't do this at all if he wasn't a part of it. Special shoutout to @KareemSSN who is a must follow for Cardinals prospects stuff. His partner in crime is @Cardinalsreek and they have their own prospect list coming out soon!! Shoutout to Blake Newberry (@BT_Newberry) and Brian Walton (@B_Walton) for their work on their list over at The Cardinal Nation, too.

I also want to remind everyone that my list is different in that I don't include players with rookie eligibility that have made a Major League debut. So, you'll have to look elsewhere for Matthew Liberatore, Ivan Herrera, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez, Brendan Donovan, Jake Walsh, Andre Pallante, and ZacK Thompson. Some of these guys have exhausted their prospect status, anyway. I'm just trying to get ahead of this because I will 100% be asked about each. I did almost add 32-year-old Rule 5 draft selection Wilking Rodriguez to the list, but decided against it because he's 32-years-old, entering his age 33 season, and the coverage of him will surely be overly saturated by the time that Spring Training gets going. Also, I didn't add recently acquired Jose Fermín because I just don't care at all. I'm sure he'll make a Major League debut at some point in 2023 which will be cool but I just can't find it in me to care about it at all.

The last thing that I'd like to do is remind everyone that this is just a snap shot of THIS moment. I'm not 100% sure what every player on the list has worked on or has been doing this offseason. So, when I'm a little more conservative with a player like, say, Michael McGreevy, it's without the knowledge of what he's worked on this offseason, along with the gains that he's made in the areas that I'm concerned about. You never know when/if things are going to click for a player, and there's more reason now than ever before - with the advancements in modern baseball technologies - for a prospect to catapult themselves from out of nowhere. Vice versa, it's easier than ever for a prospect to fall off into obscurity.

Finally, I'd like to provide links to other sites that rank Cardinals' prospects. The Cardinal Nation, Prospects Live, and Baseball America all have their 2023 lists published, and MLB and FanGraphs will link to their most recent rankings from 2022:

THE CARDINAL NATION (Subscribe to the damn site, dummies) MLB


Infielder Noah Mendlinger

Age 22, Turns 23 in August

Signed as Minor League Free Agent in 2021

Listed at 5'9, 180. Bats L/Throws R

Noah Mendlinger is one of those players that you can't really appreciate unless you watch him regularly.

There is a world - a list - where Noah Mendlinger is a top 40 prospect in the organization. Currently, I have guys like Anyelo Encarnacion and Nick Dunn ahead of him. At the very least, he could easily be in either of those spots. To be clear, I'm resisting my better urges to move Mendlinger up on the list.

I've had some debate about this, but the only thing that keeps him this low on the list is that he hits for virtually ZERO power, and the contact that he makes can be best described as "alarmingly soft as shit".

An average exit velocity of about 80 with a 90th percentile exit velocity of 96 isn't much to even talk about. There was a part of me that wanted to omit this part of the conversation in the first place because I'm sure it'll make the analytically inclined "reader" dismiss him right away.

But as it is with baseball, the measurables only tell a part of the story. Or at least, selective measurables. Another measurable is that Mendlinger walked 14.4% of the time while only striking out 14.8% of the time while making contact about 82% of the time. The only person in the organization that made more contact than Mendlinger was Nick Dunn. We'll get to Nick Dunn in the coming days so I don't want to dive too deeply into that, but making contact is definitely important and maybe a little underrated these days.

While the .246 batting average on the season is even more glaring because of the lack of power, the accumulation of the stat only tells part of the story. Obviously, the wRC+ of 109 paints a better picture of his offensive output, but it's his 2nd half at the plate that really sticks out.

From July 1st until the end of the season, a period of 136 plate appearances, the left-handed hitting Mendlinger hit 288/403/405, with all but four of his 12 extra base hits coming in this time. His wRC+ over that period of time was 133, and there were few players on the farm that were as productive as he was. Choosing the beginning of July is certainly a selective decision on my part, but it's worth mentioning that his plate discipline and ability to get on base never waivered, as he got on base about 38% of the time from the beginning of May until the end of the season.

There is some Brendan Donovan in here, albeit without the ability to reach "power" in his swing led mostly by a soft barrel and bat speed. Getting stronger and quicker would definitely aid Mendlinger's chances of become a higher profile prospect moving forward. One of the biggest differences between Mendlinger and Donovan is that Donovan has always hit left-handed pitching well and that's something that Mendlinger hasn't demonstrated just yet. Since we are relatively resigned to the fact that power will never be in his game, he's going to have to learn to at least make some additional type of meaningful contact against lefties going forward. The platoon split with virtually no slug and weak contact is probably the largest reason why he is my 49th best prospect. Even then with these deficiencies against lefties, he still got on base about 36% of the time in 65 plate appearances against lefties in 2022.

In the field, there are some mixed reviews about Mendlinger, but I think that he's a better third baseman than he is given credit for. He'll let a throw get away from him at 3rd - where he's played more than anywhere else - but he has good instincts and quick motions in the field, and he made a few spectacular plays at the hot corner here and there. Specifically, Mendlinger is damn good going to his right. His arm is probably average at best, and he profiles more aptly for 2nd, but he more than handles 3rd base with the tools that he does possess.

If Mendlinger makes the gains that we hope for then we are looking at a more-than serviceable utility type player that just might have a Major League debut in his future. I'm anxious to see how much time he gets at other positions around the diamond and just how realistic it is that he'll be able to play a utility role. An increase in hard contact and more reliable work at the plate against lefties will probably be what makes or breaks Noah Mendlinger. He's tough kid and reliable worker, and he leaves everything that he has on the diamond.

Thanks For Reading!! Kyle Reis


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