Name: Daniel Mengden
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 190
How Acquired: Acquired in July 2015 from the Houston Astros with Jacob Nottingham in exchange for Scott Kazmir
For the first time since 2011, the Oakland A’s were sellers at the MLB trade deadline. With some valuable veteran pieces available to deal, the A’s came away with a solid haul of young talent last July. One of those acquired at the deadline was right-hander Daniel Mengden, who positioned himself as one of the A’s top right-handed starting pitching prospects after a solid first stint with the organization.
Although Mengden was drafted by the Houston Astros, he was hardly new to the A’s scouting staff in 2015. A’s Texas area scout Armann Brown scouted Mengden extensively during Mengden's years at Westside High School in Houston and later at Texas A&M. Mengden was a two-way player in high school and during his first two seasons at A&M. As a sophomore, Mengden made 16 starts and posted a 2.11 ERA while also racking up 140 at-bats and posting a .271/.344/.393 line.
Daniel Mengden 2015 regular season stats
As a junior, Mengden turned to pitching full time. His ERA jumped to 4.08, but his strike-out rate went from 7.64 to 8.25 and he cut his homer rate in half. Mengden’s walk rate rose from 1.95 to 2.52 and his velocity dipped a few MPH from his 2014 readings, however. It was revealed at the end of the college season that Mengden pitched through a stress fracture in his back. The Astros still liked what they saw from Mengden and they took him with the 106th overall pick (fourth round) in the 2014 draft. He signed in late June but didn’t make his debut until August 11 as he recovered from the back injury. He threw just 11 innings in his pro debut.
In 2015, Mengden was back to full strength in terms of his health, and he took advantage of it. He began the year in the Midwest League and dominated for Quad Cities. In 38.2 innings, Mengden posted a 1.16 ERA and a 36:8 K:BB. On May 23, the Astros promoted Mengden to High-A to join the Lancaster JetHawks. Although Mengden’s peripherals remained solid with the JetHawks (48:18 K:BB in 49.2 innings; 0.72 HR/9), his ERA jumped to 5.28 thanks to a .298 BAA.
The A’s weren’t scared off by Mengden’s ERA with Lancaster, knowing full well that pitching in the southern half of the Cal League, in particular, can be very difficult. The A’s targeted Mengden in a deadline deal with Houston that also netted Oakland fellow JetHawk Jacob Nottingham in exchange for Scott Kazmir. The trade took place while the A’s High-A affiliate was in Lancaster to face the JetHawks, so Mengden’s first start as a member of the A’s organization came against his old teammates.
Mengden made eight regular season starts for High-A Stockton and then threw six innings of two-run ball in a post-season outing. In his eight regular season starts for the Ports, Mengden allowed two runs or less in five outings. In the other three, he allowed 14 runs in 12.1 innings total. He finished his Stockton stint with a 4.25 ERA and a 41:10 K:BB in 42.1 innings. His BAA with Stockton was .234 and he had a 1.42 GO/AO, although he did allow six homeruns.
Mengden is the type of pitcher that makes an impression on the mound thanks to his handlebar mustache and his old fashioned wind-up that has been compared to a right-handed version of Clayton Kershaw’s wind-up. Mengden’s fastball sits in the 91-94 MPH range and can occasionally touch 96. He also features a 12-6 curveball that he can throw for strikes and a change-up that has flashed the potential to be an MLB average pitch, although it is still inconsistent.
Mengden is an excellent athlete who fields his position well. He has traditionally been a groundball pitcher, although he was a little homer-prone with Stockton. Mengden repeats his delivery well and he has always been able to throw strikes.
“He’s polished and he’s fun to watch,” A’s Assistant General Manager Billy Owens said. “He’s a guy who has a chance to be a workhorse and an innings-eater going forward.”
Stockton Ports’ radio broadcaster Zack Bayrouty says that Mengden has a quiet confidence on the mound.
“He's a very unique individual. When he goes out there, he's not intimidated at all,” Bayrouty said. “He is very poised and there is a confidence about him despite his being eccentric at times. He has four quality pitches and he throws them all for strikes. He's also not afraid to let hitters put those balls in play."
Between the regular season and his post-season outing, Mengden threw 136.2 innings in 2015 and showed no signs of any issues with his back. His athleticism, delivery and frame should allow Mengden to withstand the grind of a 30-start season. Mengden, in some ways, is the Jaycob Brugman of A’s pitching prospects. None of his stuff stands out as plus, but he is at least average at nearly every aspect of his game. His ceiling is likely mid-rotation starter, but he has a decent chance of reaching the big leagues as a starter.
Mengden racked up more than half of a season in the California League and should be ready to return to his home state in 2016 with the Midland RockHounds.