Frisco, Texas —— Entering play on Tuesday, Texas Rangers left-handed pitching prospect Yohander Mendez is 4-4 with a 3.78 ERA over his first 13 starts for the Double-A Frisco RoughRiders with 64 strikeouts against 30 walks and only 61 hits allowed in 81.0 innings pitched in 2017. I observed the Texas Rangers’ top-level pitching prospect in early June for Frisco; below is Baseball Census‘ full Yohander Mendez scouting report, including several videos.
Yohander Mendez Scouting Report — Video
Our video of Texas Rangers left-handed pitcher Yohander Mendez comes from a June 3 start against the Arkansas Travelers:
In that start, Mendez threw a seven-inning complete game in the first game of a doubleheader, allowing no runs and just three hits and a walk while striking out five Arkansas hitters. For more baseball prospect videos, please click here and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Yohander Mendez Scouting Report — Notes
Yohander Mendez throws a 90-93 mph fastball with decent pitch life and some arm-side run and sink. He commands it well within the zone, throwing it early in counts and allowing his off-speed stuff to work late. That off-speed stuff is highlighted by his changeup; the Texas Rangers prospect has one of the best changeups in baseball, and it was beautiful during the start I observed in early June. It sits 79-83 mph with extremely good fade, and he has great feel for the pitch. He’s not afraid to use it, doesn’t shy away from contact with it, and he can miss bats on occasion when it’s down in the zone and tumbling, too.
Mendez also throws a 74 mph curveball, and an 82-84 mph slider. Others have noted previously that his slider has improved some in the last year, and those contextual claims look to be correct: Mendez’s slider was filthy in June. He got several bad swings and misses on it from Arkansas hitters, and that night, it had the makings of a true wipeout pitch. Obviously, it’s easy to assume all this when the pitcher throws a complete game shutout with everything working, and the lefty will have his fair share of starts with his stuff working less effectively than this, but if that June 3 start was Yohander Mendez at his best, it was a sight to see. His pace within the game was notable, too; throw the pitch, walk back up the mound, throw the next pitch—a critical and too-often overlooked aspect of pitching that will significantly help a defense.
Yohander Mendez Scouting Report — Projection
While his stuff was filthy on June 3, the greater context of his season (just 64 strikeouts in 81 innings, but also only 61 hits) suggests that Yohander Mendez is in a weird place: he’s tough to square up and hit, but he doesn’t have quite enough stuff to be a strikeout master. That’s likely thanks to liberal use of his changeup, which is a groundball machine; rather than wipe out hitters late with breaking balls, he’s content to do it early in the count by getting an off-balance swing and a three hopper to shortstop.
That’s important for projection because it might suggest at the big league level that Mendez won’t be quite unhittable enough to be a true top-line starter. MLB Pipeline contends he’s likely ticketed for a number three rotation spot in the big leagues, and I think that’s actually pretty spot-on. He got some big league time in 2016—after beginning the year in High-A—and he is a Texas League All-Star in 2017, so there’s no question he’s an exciting prospect who should soon make a larger impact in Arlington. But barring some more rapid advancement of his slider and curveball (which, granted, could certainly happen), don’t expect him to be a wipeout ace getting more than a strikeout an inning in the big leagues. He’ll pitch to contact, work efficiently, and eat innings in a mid-rotation role when right—and that’s still an incredibly valuable pitcher to have in the rotation.