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Cardinals Top 30 Prospects: Prospect #23

In conjunction with my friend Colin Garner over at The Redbird Daily, we present to you our combined list of the Top 30 Prospects in the Cardinals organization! Every other day for the next two months, From January 28th until March 29th, we will be presenting you with an exhaustive evaluation on each of the top 30 prospects in the organization starting with prospect #30 and counting down to prospect #1. This is our combined list, not our own individual lists. For additional information on how we came these rankings, CLICK HERE. Without further delay, we present...

Prospect #23, 3B Evan Mendoza

Age At The Start Of The 2018 Season: 21

Drafted In The 11th Round Of The 2017 Draft

A- wRC+: 191 A wRC+: 90

***WARNING: IRRATIONAL MANCRUSHING IS ABOUT TO TRANSPIRE. TURN BACK NOW. Kyle might really have screwed the pooch with this one***

Kyle Reis (Prospect #20 On Personal List, Prior To Combining Lists With Colin Garner)

What I like about Mendoza, and I can't stress this enough, is how much alike he is to Cardinals catching prospect Andrew Knizner. You'll find Knizner's name way up on this list, and the similarities between the two is part of the reason why I have Mendoza ranked 20th on my personal list.

But what are the similarities? Well, first, they both went to North Carolina State. Both played 3rd base at NC State. Both started at a different position as a freshman before settling in to their current position (Knizner was a 3B that transitioned to catcher. Mendoza was a RHP-turned 3rd baseman). Both have a cannon for an arm. Both are about the same size, 6'1-6'2, around 200 lbs. Both were the best hitter from their draft class during their pro debut.

More importantly, both are "leGit" and advanced hitting prospects. Last season I had Knizner just outside of my Top 30 (he was prospect #31 on my list) and I'm trying to learn from that ranking with Mendoza. I'm not going to repeat the stats that you can just scroll up to see, but I do want to emphasize that you should scroll up to see his stats at State College. They're impressive.

Mendoza was so good at the State College level that he won the batting title there despite spending the last three weeks of the season playing for Peoria after a much deserved promotion. To put it into relevant context, a year earlier Knizner dominated a level lower than Mendoza and Mendoza out-paced the advanced Knizner's slash line, aside from OBP.

Like I said, he spent the last three weeks of his season playing 3rd for Peoria. He got off to a tough start, but he finished strong. Over his last 10 games spanning 41 at-bats he slashed 366/372/610/982 with 5 doubles, 1 HR, and 1 triple. More importantly, he did all of that while only striking out 6 times. It's rare that you see a player drafted, especially one as young as Mendoza, hit that well at a full season affiliate. More importantly, it only took him 8 games of struggle to adapt to the league. Again, another similarity that you can draw with Knizner.

Peoria was fortunate enough to make it to the playoffs and Mendoza almost single-handedly push them to their only win in the their best of 3 series loss to Quad Cities. In game one he made some stellar plays in the field, hit a double, and walked the game off in the 9th with a single. That was the second time in his three week stint at Peoria that he walked it off. When the series was done Mendoza had hit .333 (with no walks and 1 strikeout) with a double and that all-important RBI to win game one. His four hits in the series led the team.

The 20 doubles in 236 at-bats is wonderful. I'm also a big fan of the 28 extra base hits in 259 plate appearances. There are some that question his power potential. That's fair, too. But the doubles potential is already starting to flesh-out and I'm bullish on his slugging ability.

I mentioned during the write up for prospect #26 Wadye Ynfante that I thought Ynfante was the sleeper hitting prospect in the organization. Initially, that designation went to Mendoza. However, Mendoza is something more than Ynfante. He's better. He's older. He's more developed and polished. He plays a position that the Cardinals are more in need of than Ynfante.

So, while I stick with the designation that Ynfante is the sleeper position player hitting prospect in the organization, there isn't a more important and underrated prospect in the organization than Evan Mendoza.

There is very little that I don't like about Mendoza. Since this is where I'm supposed to put my concerns I'll say that his K rate could use a little ticking-down. 18.5% is in the "average" range and will play, I'd be ecstatic if he could get it down to 16%. One thing is for sure, I'd like to see him take more walks. He had a BB% of almost 7% in 2017, which is below average. Even adding 1% to that brings him into the "average" column. That's going to be a must.

There are some that are concerned about Mendoza's power. I totally understand those concerns. I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't also concerned by his lack of HR power. Truth be told, I think Mendoza is a 15 HR guy at his peak and that isn't exactly ideal for a 3B. Now, if he took a ton of walks like Matt Carpenter did upon entering the majors/at that stage of his career then we have staying power. But, so far, Mendoza doesn't take enough walks to cancel out the lack of HR, and the 2.6% walk are at State College is a full on nightmare. The good news is that there is still time for Mendoza to prove all of us wrong. Right now it doesn't seem like he has prototypical third baseman power.

I could be wrong about this and I don't think I've seen anyone comment on this, but I think Mendoza is on the slow-running side. He's a little slow with his reactions at third (at least it appeared that way during his time at Peoria) and he kind of lumbers around the base paths. Of course there's video evidence to prove that I don't have the slightest idea of what I am talking about:

And that's not the only defensive highlight that you'll find of him online. As a matter of fact, it's surprisingly easy to find defensive highlights of him. That's a pretty good sign that he's at least an average third baseman:

I have seen people question his agility as well as the reads that he gets off of the bat at 3rd, and that's concerning. Again, he has a ton of time to work on that. I expect him to take positive strides in 2018. At the very worst, we are looking at a position change to 2B where his bat would profile as plus.

If I'm comparing Mendoza to anyone statistically right now it's Logan Forsythe. Obviously, I'm more bullish on Mendoza than most are, so keep that in mind when eating what I'm cooking. His swinging mechanics remind me a little bit of Javy Baez, but they're two different hitters. So, with that in mind, I think you're looking at a player with an ultimate statistical ceiling of Mark DeRosa. I hate that I keep going to former Cardinals for comps but there are just too many similarities to former players to be ignored for a lot of these players.

As always, these articles can't be done without Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. They are equally as reliant on the skills of Cardinalsgif's and NChill17. It's a pleasure to do this list with my friend Colin Garner at The Redbird Daily.

And please remember to check out my colleague Colin Garner's write up of our #23 Prospect (Colin's personal #30 prospect, prior to combining lists) over at The Redbird Daily right HERE!!!

Thanks For Reading!

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