Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #8: 3B, Evan Mendoza
Previously Ranked 23rd in the preseason and 7th during the July rerankings
Drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 draft
THE QUICK WRITE UP
NC State produces some pretty damn good athletes these days. The 2016 draft brought the Cardinals Andrew Knizner and the 2017 draft gave the Cardinals Mendoza. After making an incredible impression on the Cardinals at the end of the 2017 that earned him a promotion to Peoria, Mendoza was given the tough task of starting the season off at Palm Beach. Mendoza hit well from the on-set, but he struggled to hit for any type of slug. Then, before that part of his game could come to the forefront, Mendoza was given a deserve promotion as a 21-year-old to Double-A. Right now, Mendoza is struggling a bit at the plate for Springfield Cardinals, but that's to be expected from a kid that is as young as Mendoza and has yet to develop his slugging potential. His hitting tools his plate coverage, disciple, and contact abilities, and just like Tommy Edman before him, the advanced promotion without sufficient power development time really hurts how the general public perceives his stats. The only thing that I'm worried about with Mendoza is where his AA strike out rate is at. Right now, it's at 18% and that's right in line with where it's been at every level, so far. Being selfish, he'll need to drop that number as he progresses.
Mendoza's defense has the potential to be one of the stronger parts of his game because of his above average arm and range. When I talked with him earlier in the year he expressed his disappointment in regards to that aspect of his game at that point in the season. Since that talk, Mendoza has really cleaned it up and he's been steady and impressive for the Springfield Cardinals. The Cardinals have even give Mendoza a few starts at short stop. We'll have to wait to see how that experiment goes. Don't let his AA struggles fool you, Mendoza's professionalism, approach, and defensive give him a chance to make a major league impact with the next two season. He's already starting to turn it around for Springfield. Over his last eleven games entering Sunday, Mendoza has slashed 383/420/447/867 in 50 plate appearances. Now, you just sit back and hope that the power comes.
*UPDATED ON 8/23/2018*
It's been a tough go at AA for Mendoza but you shouldn't lose hope. We knew this was coming, right? Mendoza's lack of pop at AA is because he didn't have proper time to develop before being sped to that location. We saw this with Tommy Edman last season. Mendoza is a superior hitter to Edman at that point in his career with better tools all of the way around at the plate and I believe that Mendoza is going to be just fine. But take note that this is what happens to a bat when a team gets too aggressive with a hitter that isn't ready for a promotion. There's a chance that serious damage could have been done to his development at the dish. At least his defense hasn't fallen off!
WHY TO GET EXCITED
At 22-years-old and a year into his professional career, Mendoza has proven that he is on an accelerated path through the system.
Mendoza is a very good defensive third baseman. He has good range and a good arm. He makes all of the plays that he needs to make and he has a flare for the dramatic play, as well.
He has the potential because of his skill-set and athleticism to play multiple positions, if needed.
Mendoza has good ball-to-bat skills. He shortens his swing in pitchers counts, often choking up a little bit, in order to make contact and work a count.
He has a quick bat and great plate coverage.
He went to NC State. NC State creates tremendous people and better baseball players.
He's a smart kid with a baseball mind.
He's honest with himself about what he needs to work on. When I talked with him earlier in the season he was demonstrative about knowing what he needed to work on and he was fully committed to working at it.
After struggling at AA upon an advanced promotion, Mendoza is starting to figure it out a little. Over his last 18 games between July 11th and July 28th, Mendoza has slashed 312/369/442/811 with two doubles, a triple, and two home runs in 84 plate appearances. He's struck out a very acceptable 12 times in those 84 plate appearances.
He's adjusted and adapted well after early struggle at every level while every level and every promotion has been overly-aggressive.
Like with my #11 prospect Dylan Carlson and my #3 prospect Andrew Knizner, some position players just have "it." To me, "it" is an understanding and reasoning along with a physical skill-set that makes a player "sharpie" write in to make a major league debut. Mendoza is absolutely one of those players.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
He's been aggressively promoted through the system with no regard for the development of his slugging potential. He makes contact and solid contact at that. However, it's most been the "finding holes" variety. He needs time at a minor league level where he can tweak his game instead of staying afloat.
Which brings us to our next part, Mendoza hasn't shown the ability to slug yet. Even last year when he rolled through the NY/Penn League then did well in the Midwest League, he did it mostly with his hit tool, not the ability to slug the ball. Make no mistake, the slug needs to come for him to hold onto a top 10 spot in the organization, for me.
His stats this season aren't impressive. That's misleading
Mendoza is quick, but he isn't exactly "fast", if that makes sense. He's a smart base runner but he isn't going to wow you around the bases.
Mendoza is a better hitter with a better approach than his 6.77% walk rate on the season indicates. This also goes to being a defensive hitter at an advanced level. The hope is, Mendoza hasn't changed too much as a hitter that this is his new normal. At his peak, when he's comfortable, Mendoza is a 8.5-9.5% walk-taker.
I'm very bullish on Mendoza as an above average defensive third baseman, but his footwork, especially on throws, get's what the kids call "janky" at times and it causes him to some of his consistency as a defender.
Right now, Mendoza is a third baseman. He was forced to play short while the Springfield roster dealt with injuries. Personally, I think that if the Cardinals were to transition him to a utility role in the long run then he'd be a lot like Ben Zobrist, as a 5% chance of reaching his ceiling. More than likely, for a 20% chance-ceiling, he'll be something similar to Aaron Boone but with less power.
Thanks to Fangraphs for supplying the stats.
Thanks For Reading!!