Starvin for Harvin: Mendoza enjoyed the best OPS (.819) of all White Sox first basemen who finished this season in the rookie leagues. (@gfvoyagers)
“Deep Dive” focuses on the depth of each position in the Chicago White Sox organization. Each position is broken into a five-part series:
- Depth in the rookie levels (Dominican through Great Falls)
- Depth in A-ball (Kannapolis and Winston-Salem)
- Depth in the higher levels (Birmingham and Charlotte)
- Under the Radar-type detail on one of the White Sox players at that position
- Free agent options at that position
This article delves into the first basemen who finished the year with Great Falls, along with the Arizona and Dominican League affiliates. While there's nobody here that is a Top 30 organizational prospect as of yet, there are a couple of interesting bats worth watching here — especially with Great Falls.
(age as of April 1, 2020)
Great Falls Voyagers
Mendoza was one of four players signed on International Signing Day in 2015, along with infielder Brayant Nova, Franklin Reyes and some guy named Fernando Tatís Jr. At the time of the signing, Ben Badler of Baseball America said, "Mendoza is limited to an outfield corner, but there were scouts who liked his left-handed swing, ability to use the opposite field and hang in well for his against left-handed pitching."
Mendoza spent his first two seasons (2016-17) in the DSL where he posted good numbers but with little power, as he combined to slash .281/.389/.358 with two homers, 61 RBIs, 78 walks (17.7%) and 76 strikeouts (17.2%) in a combined 125 games.
The Venezuela native appeared stateside with the AZL White Sox for the 2018 season, and produced slightly better numbers in 39 games by slashing .314/.381/.409 with no homers, 23 RBIs, 12 walks (7.7%) and 12 strikeouts.
This year with Great Falls, he sacrificed strikeouts for power and produced a .278/.362/.457 slash line with 17 doubles, three triples, six homers, 29 RBIs, 27 walks (10.4%) and 48 strikeouts (18.5%) in 62 games. His numbers were terrific in the first half of the season (.311/.393/.538) but slipped in the second (.243/.328/.360). He hit righties well this year (.301/.373/.519), but struggled against southpaws (.191/.321/.213). Mendoza has the projectable size to hit more homers going forward, as he is quite a bit larger than his official 175 pounds. Expect him to begin next season with Kannapolis.
A three-time state MVP in water polo at Curtis High School in University Place, Wash., Abbott had a partial scholarship to stay on that path at Long Beach State. But in the spring of 2017 — the spring he thought would be his last for competitive baseball — he batted .438 (21-for-61) with eight doubles, two home runs and 18 RBIs to earn an eighth round draft selection by the White Sox. That year with the AZL White Sox, he got off to a good start and showed good patience at the plate. However, he struggled making contact, which caused him to slash just .225/.344/.275 with 17 walks (13.8%) and 38 strikeouts (30.9%) in 102 at-bats.
Abbott got off to an extremely difficult start with the AZL White Sox in 2018, but salvaged his season somewhat as he found his power late in the season. Overall, though, Abbott slashed just .139/.347/.306 in 72 at-bats with three doubles, three homers, nine RBIs, 18 walks (18.9%) and 33 strikeouts (34.7%) in 72 at-bats.
In 2019 with Great Falls, Abbott still fanned far too frequently but started making harder contact. In 58 games and 181 at-bats with the Voyagers, he slashed .238/.355/.459 while producing 13 doubles, nine homers, 27 RBIs, 26 walks (12.0%) and 79 strikeouts (36.4%). He hit .212/.350/.455 against lefties and fared a bit better versus righties (.243/.356/.450). Abbott does have a great degree of patience for someone so young as he's walked 14% of the time during his professional career; however, that patience has also led to a seriously high strikeout rate of 34.5%.
With Tyler Osik likely to begin the 2020 season with Kannapolis, it may be between Mendoza and Abbott as to who could join him for 1B/DH duties. While Abbott has the better power potential, Mendoza is more likely to win that promotion due to being a more polished hitter. Even though Abbott may return to Great Falls to begin the 2020 season, he likely will end the year with Kannapolis.
Reyes, like Mendoza, was an outfielder when the White Sox gave him a $1.5 million signing bonus in 2015. Reyes, a Dominican native whose brother Franmil played for the Padres and Indians this year, was actually given a 70 grade for power — higher than Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at the time. Unfortunately, Reyes also came with a 30 grade hit tool per MLB, while Baseball America described his approach as being "aggressive, raw, with a lot of swing-and-miss, especially against breaking pitches” and they called his swing “long and loopy."
His first professional season (2016) saw him slash just .171/.189/.251 in 217 at-bats with the AZL White Sox as he hit 10 doubles, two triples, one homer, and 16 RBIs while walking just five times (2.3%) and striking out 71 (32.7%). Reyes played in Great Falls the following year, and although his stats did improve, he still produced disappointing results: .249/.270/.361 in 241 at-bats with 12 doubles five homers, 34 RBIs, five walks (2.0%) and 68 strikeouts (27.2%).
Reyes has missed the past two seasons due to back injuries. If he's healthy in 2020, expect Reyes to return to Great Falls and hopefully tap into his immense potential.
AZL White Sox
Other positions played: Second base, Shortstop, Third base
Pimentel, a native of the Dominican Republic, signed with the White Sox on International Signing Day in 2017. The Dominican Prospect League said of him at the time, "Pimentel has the length and range for SS and possesses soft hands that allow him to field grounders and get rid of the ball without wasted movement." They also note that Pimentel is built to be a leadoff hitter that "sprays balls into the gaps."
Unfortunately, Pimentel hasn't done much with the bat yet. In 2018 for the DSL White Sox in 17 games, he slashed just .167/.219/.300 with two doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, two stolen bases, four walks (6.3%) and 18 strikeouts (28.1%). This year for the AZL White Sox, Pimentel slashed .181/.271/.219 in 27 games as he produced four doubles, eight RBIs, 10 walks (8.5%) and 40 strikeouts (33.9%).
His best attribute to date has been his defensive versatility, as he played all four infield positions while committing just four errors. Pimentel, with his size, essentially played out of position this year, as he's better suited for a middle-infield slot.
DSL White Sox
Other positions played: Left field
Mercedes, the son of baseball scout Edgar Mercedes, signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates during 2016's International Signing Day as a soon-to-be 18-year-old. He didn't get into his first professional action until the following year, when he scuffled a bit by slashing .237/.323/.297 in 39 games with seven doubles, 11 RBIs, 10 walks (7.5%) and 18 strikeouts (13.4%). Mercedes improved with the DSL Pirates in 2018, as he slashed .257/.359/.440 in 39 games with five doubles, five homers, 28 RBIs, 13 walks (10.2%) and just 10 strikeouts (7.8%). However, despite his improved numbers, the Pirates released him at season's end. The White Sox signed him as an international free agent less than three months later.
Mercedes returned to the DSL for a third season and enjoyed his best season to date: .328/.400/.440 in 40 games with 10 doubles, one triple, one homer, 30 RBIs, 16 walks (10.3%) and 14 strikeouts (9.0%). Mercedes played against opponents more than two years younger on average this year, so his results can be taken with a grain of salt. Walking more than he has struck out in each of the past two years, Mercedes should be a good fit for the AZL White Sox in 2020. How far he progresses will likely depend upon his ability to hit the ball over the fence, because he plays a premier power position.
Bernal, a native of Cuba, received a $250,000 signing bonus as he was selected by the White Sox on 2018's International Signing Day. Recognized as a young man with power potential, he received his first game action this year but scuffled. Bernal was young (even by DSL standards) this year, and slashed .167/.361/.270 in 43 games with five doubles, a triple, two homers, 16 RBIs, 33 walks (19.4%) and 55 strikeouts (32.4%). His high walk rate indicates a promising degree of patience for someone so young. Expect Bernal to return to the DSL for the 2020 season, where his stats should improve significantly.