photo: Evan Mendoza (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Born: 6/28/1996 (24)
Hits / Throws: R/R
Acquired: 2017 Draft – 11th Round (334th overall)
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Click on the above photo to be taken to his player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
2021 individual rankings – Brian Walton #34, Matt Thompson #53
Prior top 50 rankings – 2018 #26, 2019 #26, 2020 #32
Matt Thompson’s scouting report
Physical Description: Average build that lacks physical projection. No issues with listed height of weight. He plays much smaller than his frame. Naked eye says he should have some pop but that’s not his game.
Hit: He does a lot of things well at the plate. Excellent plate coverage and a pest in the box that is difficult to strikeout due to his two-strike approach. Contact first approach, but to the point where it sacrifices driving the ball. He’s going to get challenged at the big league level though. Grade: 45
Power: He’s going to get challenged by pitchers because they can knock the bat out of his hands. There might be 40-grade raw pop here, but his in game power is nearly at the bottom of the scale. All the good he does at the plate will be completely undone at the big league level due to the lack of power. Grade: 30
Field: Mendoza might be the best defensive infielder in the system and one of the top defenders on the infield in all of the minor leagues. He lacks footspeed but his instincts and lateral quickness is very strong. He covers a lot of ground at third base, and spent some time at shortstop during instructs in January, and if he can play a strong defensive shortstop that is a huge plus for this profile. Grade: 70
Arm: It’s a plus arm for Mendoza. Accurate and strong. Capable of making any throw. Different motions but was a pitcher briefly at NC State. Grade: 60
Run: Not fast, but is quick. Speed tool shows up more defensively for Mendoza. Grade: 45
Overall: It’s a strange profile, but if he can play shortstop at the big league level then that changes the profile for me. Right now he’s a fringe big leaguer due to the complete lack of power for a corner infielder. He’s an off the charts makeup guy and likely has a future in coaching or player development if he wants it, but if he can play a passable shortstop he can hold off on buying suits and polos for a bit longer.
Future Value: 35
Role: Up/Down Emergency Depth
Brian Walton’s environmental impact report
As a third baseman, the former North Carolina State teammate of Andrew Knizner was coming off all-star berths earned in each of his first two professional seasons – at Short-Season Class-A State College in 2017 and High-A Palm Beach in 2018.
Mendoza had two long cracks at the hitter-friendly Texas League – 98 games in 2018 and 54 in 2019. This total of 152 games is more than one full season, yet the aggregate results were underwhelming – six home runs, 46 RBI and an OPS of .636. His Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) with Springfield fell from 81 down to 70 in his second season. In other words, his 2019 output was 30 percent below the TL average.
While his 2019 began with those two months in Double-A, Mendoza’s season came to an abrupt, premature and painful end at just six games into his Triple-A debut. While chasing a foul ball at Memphis’ AutoZone Park on June 14, he slammed into a side wall, breaking his right arm. So he did not receive the chance for an extended trial in the Pacific Coast League. That should be rectified in 2021.
2020 recap – Assignments
- January instructional camp – yes
- St. Louis’ spring training camp – yes
- St. Louis Summer Camp – yes
- Springfield alternate camp – yes
- St. Louis – no
Mendoza was a repeater for instructional camp in Jupiter to open the New Year. The new news, broken by me, was that Mendoza was exclusively playing shortstop. This move came in the best Paul DeJong tradition, though it appears it was a broadening assignment, rather than a permanent shift. Mendoza did stay at short for all of instructional camp.
He reprised his role in the abbreviated original big league camp after having appeared in 15 games the prior March. Mendoza showed his versatility, playing at first, short and third. However, he was not added to the 40-man roster, so of course, did not reach St. Louis during the shortened 2020 regular season.
When a first baseman was needed, John Nogowski received the call from alternate camp instead. Max Schrock took the second base opportunities, though Mendoza doesn’t play that position. With Matt Carpenter, Tommy Edman and Brad Miller all on the active roster, no Springfield replacements at the hot corner were required. When Paul DeJong was out with COVID, Edman was the primary shortstop, backed up by Miller (at least on paper), as Edmundo Sosa was sick, as well.
Here we are with the second of our back-to-back “Evans”, with Mendoza following our number 46, Kruczynski. This is also one of the greatest ranking differences between Matt and I in the new Top 50 – 19 spots – with my score more bullish.
The Cardinals have a well-established track record of squeezing the maximum value from players like Mendoza. With just a little more in the bat, his defensive strength would almost certainly carry him ahead to St. Louis. When injuries occur in 2021, I believe it will happen, though probably only as a fill-in.
With Schrock and Miller gone, it seems Sosa is the next in line for reserve infielder duties. Mendoza is perhaps next in the chain, though Kramer Robertson should not be counted out, either.
Given third base is chock full of prospects and with Nogowski likely back at first for the 2021 Memphis club, my on-paper choice to start at short for the Redbirds would be Mendoza.
Getting on the 40-man roster probably won’t occur until the day he is actually needed in St. Louis. I do not expect Mendoza to be added to the 40-man roster prior to the December 2020 Rule 5 Draft, nor do I anticipate he will be taken.
I cannot take exception to Matt’s assessment of Mendoza’s future probably being that of an up-and-down player. He simply lacks the power to be a big-league starter at either infield corner.
But heck, Pete Kozma’s defense was good enough that he could forge a seven-year off-and-on MLB career with a similar profile. I am not suggesting Mendoza is as slick at short, but I do think he will be able to keep playing for some time if he so chooses. Versatile guys who are plus defenders seem to always have a home.
MLB debut: 2021
Our 2021 Top 50 series continues
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