Name: Abdiel Mendoza
Height/Weight: 5’10’’, 135
How Acquired: Signed as an international amateur free agent in July 2015.
Abdiel Mendoza arrived in the United States and on a non-complex team roster ahead of schedule. The youngest player on the Vermont Lake Monsters held his own in 2017. Can he continue to improve in a full year with Beloit in 2018?
In July 2015, the Oakland A’s signed 16-year-old Mendoza to an amateur free agent contract. The native of Panama didn’t take long to establish himself as one of the A’s most promising young pitching prospects. In his pro debut season in 2016, Mendoza posted a 2.32 ERA in 31 innings with the Dominican Summer League A’s. He followed up that season with a strong showing at the A’s fall Instructional League in Arizona.
Mendoza’s pro debut season was so strong, he earned a spot in Arizona for 2017 Extended Spring Training. Mendoza continued to impress during Extended, so much so that the A’s called upon the 18-year-old to make a spot start for the Low-A Beloit Snappers on June 10. Although Mendoza struggled in the outing (4 R in 2.1 innings), he did more than enough to earn a spot on the Opening Day roster of the short-season New York-Penn League Vermont Lake Monsters.
At 18, Mendoza was the youngest pitcher on the Vermont staff. He got off to a slow start with Vermont, allowing six runs in 5.2 innings over his first two outings. Then he ran off a string of three straight excellent starts, during which he allowed one run in 19 innings pitched. The last two of those three starts were each seven-innings, no-runs allowed.
Mendoza scoreless streak lasted 16 innings before ending in the second inning of a July 18 start, when he allowed five earned runs in 4.2 innings against the eventual New York-Penn League champion Renegades. Mendoza suffered from some fatigue during that start and wouldn’t pitch again until August 26, when he threw 1.1 innings in a loss to Aberdeen. Overall, Mendoza posted a 3.82 ERA in 30.2 innings with the Lake Monsters. He struck-out 17 and walked eight. Opposing batters hit .234 against him and he allowed just one home run.
A’s Assistant General Manager Dan Feinstein says the organization is optimistic about what they have seen from the young right-hander thus far.
“[At the time of his signing], he was a good body, good delivery, fast arm kid out of Panama that we signed two years ago,” Feinstein said midseason. “We’ve seen his velo spike to where we think it is going to go.”
Mendoza’s current calling card is his curveball, which is a mid-70s, overhand breaker with an above-average spin rate that has the effect of pausing halfway to the plate before tumbling down. The pitch, which he can throw for strikes, is very difficult on lower-level hitters to time and has the makings of a plus offering in the major leagues.
Mendoza has also shown a good fastball command. He sat mostly in the 88-90 MPH range with Vermont, but he ticked up to 92 on occasion and there is a feeling that more velocity could come as Mendoza matures into his frame. At the A’s 2016 Instructs, Mendoza added a two-seam fastball and a two-seam change-up.
“He got pretty good depth on it and some movement going down. He threw it well,” A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said of the change-up.
Mendoza’s change-up is behind the other two in terms of development, but it holds promise. Patterson was pleased with how Mendoza progressed with the two-seam fastball and the change-up this season.
“They were both very usable for him this year,” Patterson said.
Listed at 5’11’’, 135 when he joined the organization, Mendoza has put on some good weight over the past two years, but he still has plenty of room to add more strength. Patterson believes that Mendoza may still end up being effective even if he doesn’t add weight, but he says Mendoza’s ceiling could be quite high with even a little bit of weight gain.
“From a prospect potential, he’s right up there with anyone we have, save for [A.J.] Puk and a couple of other guys. But I like him. I like him a lot,” Patterson said. “He throws strikes. And if he gains just a little bit more strength, look out.”
Mendoza has demonstrated impressive maturity, competing against players mostly 2-3 years his senior and adjusting well to the US style of play.
How Mendoza develops will – as is often the case with young pitchers – depend on the development of his third pitch. He is still several years from reaching the big leagues, but Mendoza’s arm speed and feel for his breaking ball make him one to watch. The A’s may hold Mendoza back in Arizona until the weather warms in the Midwest next spring, but he should see the bulk of his innings with Beloit.
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