In 2016, pitching prospect Yohander Mendez enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Texas Rangers' minor league system. Mendez started the season at High-A High Desert and ended it as a September call up to the big league club. Before the season began, Mendez was rated the 10th-best prospect in the Rangers' system and by the end of his 2016 campaign, he was rated top Rangers' prospect overall.
When 2017 began, Mendez was rated as the Rangers' second-ranked prospect and the highest ranking prospect on the roster for the Double-A Frisco Rough Riders. Mendez is also the highest rated pitching prospect for the Rangers and the big league club is counting on him to continue his development into a major league starter. In recent years, the Rangers have depleted their farm system due to several high impact trades and their pitching prospects are especially thin.
In 2015 the Rangers traded for Cole Hamels and sent five members of their farm system to the Philadelphia Phillies. Among them were pitchers Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff and position players Nick Williams and Jorge Alfaro. At the time of the trade, Williams, Alfaro and Thompson were rated in the top-7 Rangers' prospects and Thompson and Alfaro were in the top-100 MLB prospects, according to Baseball America.
In 2016, the Rangers traded for Carlos Beltran, parting with their 2015 first round pick Dillon Tate. Following the Beltran trade, the Rangers traded for Jonathan Lucroy and Jeremy Jeffress, parting with prospects Lewis Brinson and Luis Ortiz. While Tate was not a huge hit to the Rangers system, Brinson and Ortiz were. Brinson was regularly regarded as a top-30 prospect in the game at the time of the trade, while Ortiz was seen as a top-60 prospect.
The high profile departures in recent years have placed additional pressure on pitchers like Mendez to develop quickly and so far he has been up to the task. In 2017, Mendez has not been quite as dominant as he was in 2016, but still came into Thursday night’s match-up with the league leading Corpus Christi Hooks sporting a record of 1-0 with a 2.53 ERA.
Mendez was not great against the Hooks as he struggled to control the zone for much of the game. In six innings of work, Mendez allowed four runs on six hits raising his ERA to 3.78 in the process. Mendez biggest problem Thursday was walks which really hurt him in the third inning. In the frame, Mendez walked two batters before allowing a two-out, three-run home run to Hooks left-fielder Alejandro Garcia.
Despite his lack of early dominance, Mendez make-up should have Rangers fans very excited. Standing at 6-foot-5, with a lanky frame, Mendez features a fastball, slider, curveball and change-up with his velocity ranging from 93 mph down to 78 mph. His best pitch is his change-up which he throws around 26% of the time. Mendez change-up is especially helpful when facing right-handers batters which makes him more of a lock to help the Rangers in the near future.
While the Rangers' farm system has definitely thinned out over the previous years, Yohander Mendez should give Rangers fans hope. Right now he’s giving Rough Riders fans all their money’s worth.