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MLB Rookie Report: Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas Rangers

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Here's another September call-up worthy of your close consideration: Texas Rangers southpaw Yohander Mendez.

First, the basic background and the pre-season status report from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:

Yohander Mendez, LHP, Texas Rangers

Bats: L Throws: L HT: 6-4 WT: 180 DOB: January 17, 1995

The Rangers spent $1,500,000 to sign Venezuelan lefty Yohander Mendez in 2011. Elbow problems slowed his progress and he didn’t really get his career going until 2015 but his campaign in the Sally League last year was very successful. All of his component ratios were strong and the scouting reports are enthusiastic, pointing to a lively 88-92 MPH fastball and a very good change-up. His breaking ball could use more definition but his command is excellent and helps compensate for any deficiencies. The main worries with Mendez are workload and durability. He started off in the bullpen last year and didn’t enter the rotation until late June. He was kept on a short leash most of the summer, never throwing more than five innings or exceeding 75 pitches. Given the elbow history caution seems wise, but it remains to be seen how much work he can manage without blowing out. The talent package is that of a number three or strong number four starter but can he handle the innings? Grade B-.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

Mendez opened 2016 with High Desert in the California League and pitched excellently in that difficult environment, posting a 2.45 ERA in 33 innings with a 45/11 K/BB. Promoted to Double-A Frisco, he remained effective in the Texas League with a 3.09 ERA, 46/14 K/BB in 47 innings. He was bumped up to Triple-A Round Rock at that point and continued getting people out, posting a mere 0.57 ERA in 31 innings, allowing only 12 hits, although his K/BB deteriorated to 22/16.

As you likely know, he got knocked around by the Mariners in his major league debut, giving up four hits, a walk, and five runs in one inning of relief work. Obviously more chances will come.

Mendez came a long way in a short period of time this year. His fastball kicked up a notch, from 88-92 in 2015 to 90-94 this summer. He already had a good change-up and both his slider and curve appeared sharper this season, although Pacific Coast League sources noted that his command of both breaking pitches was inconsistent. He handled a slightly larger workload compared to last year without much trouble, though he was still on a limited pitch count most of the time, exceeding five innings only once in 21 starts.

It remains to be seen if Mendez starts or relieves in the long run and he still has work to do sharpening his command. In my opinion he could use more time in Triple-A, quite understandable given the fact that he's still only 21. He rated as a B- pre-season but would move up to a Grade B for 2017.