Scouting Rangers Prospect #36: Luis Mendoza

Luis Mendoza stepped out of obscurity in 2007, posting an impressive 15-4 record with Double-A Frisco before finishing with a strong stint in the major leagues. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the prospect with an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Luis Mendoza
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: October 31, 1983
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 180
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

The Rangers' acquisition of Luis Mendoza – in exchange for RHP Bryan Corey – in July 2006 was merely a blip on baseball's trade-deadline transaction radar, but the move could prove to be an important one for the Rangers system.

After coming over from the Red Sox organization in 2006, Mendoza was knocked around in seven starts with Double-A Frisco. The right-hander coughed up 55 hits in 38.1 innings, leading to a lofty 7.75 ERA.

The hurler entered the 2007 season with a new focus, knowing adjustments must be made. Although Mendoza finished his first-half with a pristine 8-0 record, his 5.35 earned run average left quite a bit of room for improvement.

Mendoza spent much of the first half adjusting mechanics, working on a new slider, and developing his two-seam sinking fastball. Two of the three would stick and prove to be beneficial later in the season. Mendoza's slider was eventually scrapped after just a few starts.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment Mendoza made in 2007 was with his two-seam fastball. The native of Mexico generally worked with a four-seamer in the past, but the Rangers instructed him to begin focusing on his sinker early in the season.

"I'm using more of my two-seam sinking fastball right now," Mendoza told Lone Star Dugout in late-May. "I didn't throw it earlier in the season."

Mendoza's primary focus remained the same later in the season, as he confirmed after a late-July outing.

"I'm working on recognizing swings and my two-seam fastball," said Mendoza. "I've also done a lot of work with my breaking pitches."

The adjustments began to pay off in the second half of the Texas League season, as Mendoza posted a 2.59 ERA in 12 starts. The 24-year-old held opposing hitters to a .247 average after the All-Star break.

Because he had been in professional baseball since 2002, Mendoza was set to become a minor league free agent in the offseason if left unprotected on the Rangers' 40-man roster.

The conundrum led the Rangers to give Mendoza a September call-up, giving him a look at the major leagues. Faced with a tough offseason decision, the move also helped the Rangers decide whether or not their hurler was deserving of a spot on the 40-man roster.

Though he only appeared in 16 innings with the club, Mendoza proved to be more than deserving. During that time, which spanned six outings, the 6-foot-3 pitcher flashed a great sinker to go along with a 2.25 earned run average.

With a career 41-41 record and a 4.53 ERA in six minor league seasons, Mendoza has seen his share of struggles. But the prospect proved he has the stuff to succeed at the big league level when he was with the Rangers last September. If Mendoza is able to consistently show the stuff he did with the Rangers last season, he will have a future in the major leagues.

Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Mendoza lives off his excellent two-seam fastball, which generally ranges between 90-93 MPH. The right-hander consistently sits at 91 MPH during his starts. Mendoza's sinker, which he commands extremely well, was at its best during his stint in the majors last season. Though he doesn't have an outstanding groundball-to-flyball ratio, Mendoza has shown the ability to keep the ball in the park, allowing just 11 home runs with Double-A Frisco last season. The hurler also throws a curveball and a changeup, both of which rate as average offerings.

Projection: Mendoza's solid fastball makes him a good bet to become a major league pitcher in some fashion. What remains to be seen is exactly what role Mendoza will fill at the next level. The right-hander currently looks like a middle reliever with the ability to work longer outings if needed, but it is far too early to rule out the possibility of starting. If Mendoza is able to consistently show the stuff he displayed with the Rangers last September, he can be a back-of-the-rotation starter. The role Mendoza plays from here on out will most likely be determined by the development and consistency of his curveball and changeup.

2008 Outlook: Despite reaching the majors last season, Mendoza has never pitched an inning at the Triple-A level. Though the prospect will have a slight opportunity to make the big league pitching staff in spring training, he will probably open the season in the rotation for Triple-A Oklahoma. Mendoza will get a look with the Rangers in 2008, but whether it will be in the bullpen or as a starting pitcher remains to be seen.

ETA: 2008.

Year Team W-L IP H BB SO ERA
2002 GCL Red Sox (RK) 3-4 57.2 76 8 21 4.21
2003 GCL Red Sox (RK) 0-0 5.0 4 0 3 0.00
Augusta (A) 3-3 59.2 46 14 29 2.26
2004 Sarasota (A+) 8-7 137.0 133 54 51 3.74
2005 Lake Elsinore (A+) 0-1 10.2 18 4 3 9.28
Wilmington (A+) 4-9 119.1 145 36 60 6.34
2006 Wilmington (A+) 5-4 63.0 66 14 46 2.86
Portland (AA) 1-5 48.0 73 14 29 6.38
Frisco (AA) 2-4 38.1 55 11 21 7.75
2007 Frisco (AA) 15-4 148.2 145 48 93 3.93
Texas (MLB) 1-0 16.0 13 4 7 2.25

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