Scouting Rangers Prospect #35: Tom Mendonca

In terms of raw potential, third baseman Tom Mendonca has one of the biggest impact bats in the Texas Rangers' system. Lone Star Dugout takes a look at the 21-year-old with a feature article and an in-depth scouting report.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Tom Mendonca
Position: Third Base
DOB: April 12, 1988
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Acquired: 2009 Amateur Draft, 2nd round

The first portion of this article originally appeared on October 15, in an interview with Mendonca near the conclusion of Fall Instructional League. The original link can be found between the feature story and the scouting report.

In the MLB Draft, signing bonus negotiations can be a tough thing for early-round picks. Many talks drag all the way to the mid-August deadline, and most take at least a month or two before a deal is reached.

That wasn't about to be the case for Rangers' second-round pick Tom Mendonca. The former Fresno State standout signed just a few weeks after the June draft for a slot bonus of $587,700, and he got his professional career underway.

The extra time proved to be valuable for Mendonca, who had an extremely productive debut summer in professional ball. After getting off to a slow start that included a .196 batting average and 19 strikeouts over his first 14 games at short-season Spokane, Mendonca began to make some adjustments.

Tired of struggling, Mendonca went to the Rangers and began to re-work his entire swing. Once Mendonca got accustomed to his new mechanics, he posted a .322/.388/.575 line in 87 August at-bats with the Indians.

The drastic improvement–along with Bakersfield's need for an extra power bat during their playoff run–got the 21-year-old a late-season promotion to High-A. In 11 regular-season games with the Blaze, Mendonca was 9-for-43 [.209] with three doubles.

The left-handed hitting third baseman doesn't come without his issues. Despite batting a cumulative .290 with an .832 OPS in his debut summer, Mendonca had just 10 walks versus 78 strikeouts in 60 games played. He has monstrous raw power and overall potential with the bat, but Mendonca swings and misses quite often and his plate discipline must improve.

In less than one-half season as a member of the Rangers' organization, the California native has proven that he's willing to work hard and listen to his coaches, and that's all the club can ask for at this point.

Mendonca finished up an impressive Fall Instructional League performance. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect continued to show improvement as a hitter, and he appears likely to begin his first full season back with the Bakersfield Blaze when 2010 Spring Training breaks.

Also See: Top Prospects, Top Tools (February 11, 2010)
Major adjustments paying off for Mendonca (October 15, 2009)
Rangers Instructs Report (October 8, 2009)
Sizing up the corner infield prospects (September 22, 2009)
Q&A with Rangers 2nd Round Pick Tom Mendonca (June 30, 2009)

Batting and Power: Mendonca has a lot of promise at the plate, but he also has a number of adjustments to make before he can reach that potential as a professional hitter. The prospect is coachable, and he approached the Rangers' hitting staff about making improvements in his swing last summer. He gradually improved as the season progressed and capped it off with an impressive showing at Fall Instructional League.

The 21-year-old has tons of raw power––he has the ability to hit between 30-35 home runs in a big league season someday. However, Mendonca tends to drop his hands low, giving him a bit of an uppercut swing, and that also leads to lots of swings-and-misses. Mendonca set the NCAA Division I record for strikeouts as a sophomore at Fresno State, and he punched out 78 times in 60 pro games last summer. He will have to improve his discipline and make more consistent contact as he progresses.

The left-handed hitter will likely always be prone to strikeouts, but he recognizes his shortcomings and works hard to correct them––two characteristics that certainly won't hurt his progression.

Base Running and Speed: As a third baseman with a 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame that will likely add some muscle in the coming years, Mendonca isn't much of a threat on the base paths, and his speed will probably be a bit below average down the line. He never stole more than six bases in a collegiate season and attempted just one in 60 games between Spokane and Bakersfield last year. Still, Mendonca has excellent reaction time and first-step quickness, and that helps him both on the base paths and in the field.

Defense: Mendonca's abilities in the field became well-known during Fresno State's College World Series run in 2008. While Mendonca was excellent with the bat, his glovework was just as big a factor in his CWS Most Outstanding Player honor. The third baseman may not project as a future Gold Glove winner in the Majors, but all signs point to him being a well above-average defender at the hot corner.

The California native is strong defensively in large part due to his sure, soft hands. If Mendonca can get his glove on the ball, there's a good chance he'll make a clean fielding play. His range is a tick above average, but it's not elite. Mendonca also flashes a strong arm at times, but he often doesn't fire the ball across the diamond unless absolutely necessary. He has a tendency to sort of flip the ball across the infield, and it led to wild throws at times last summer.

Projection: Mendonca has a high ceiling as a corner infielder with the potential for a plus glove and a plus power bat. He has the raw talent to become an All-Star caliber player, but he also has a lot of work to do before he gets there. The lack of walks and high swing-and-miss frequency may make Mendonca more of a boom-or-bust prospect than most high draft picks––if he makes the proper adjustments, he could be a very good big leaguer; if not, he may never see the Majors. Regardless, the third baseman has one of the highest ceilings for a position player in the entire system.

2010 Outlook: After earning a late-season promotion to High-A Bakersfield last summer, Mendonca should be headed back there when Spring Training breaks this April. Because he still has plenty of adjustments to make offensively––and given his struggles with the Blaze last August––there is a decent chance that he'll spend all year in the Cal League. Mendonca could possibly get to Frisco late in the season, but that will most likely be his full-time destination in 2011.

ETA: 2012.

Year Team AVG AB 2B HR RBI R SB BB SO OBP SLG
2009 Spokane (SSA) .309 188 12 9 26 33 0 9 66 .361 .537
Bakersfield (A+) .209 43 3 0 2 5 1 1 12 .261 .279

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