CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 03: Actress Minnie Driver throws out the first pitch at the Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers game on June 3, 2011 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
A big story in the Ranger minor league system for much of this season was the ascendence of Mike Olt. The third baseman, drafted with a supplemental first round pick in 2010, was seen to be establishing himself as a top-flight prospect, arguably the best position prospect in the Ranger system. When he broke his collarbone in a home plate collision, it was a huge blow to those who had been following his exploits and anticipating further improvement.
In contrast to Olt, there was Tommy Mendonca. Mendonca was a third baseman who was drafted in the 2nd round in the 2009 draft, and had a disappointing 2010 campaign. Despite being in the high-offense California League, Mendonca struggled with the bat, posting just a 722 OPS and striking out more than once per game. Although Mendonca had a reputation for being a slick fielder, the contact problems and poor output led a lot of folks to dismiss him coming into this season, and saw his presence at AA Frisco as simply a hindrance, delaying Olt's inevitable promotion.
A funny thing has happened this season, though...under the radar, Mendonca has been putting together a pretty good year. And he has absolutely exploded in the last week.
As of this morning, Mendonca has a .329/.380/.593 line for AA Frisco. Mendonca is 4th in the Texas League in average, 5th in slugging, and 7th in OPS.
In the last week, he has 19 hits in 30 ABs, with 5 doubles, a triple, 2 home runs, and 5 walks against just 4 strikeouts. The Ks have continued to be high for Mendonca this year -- he has 71 strikeouts in 60 games and 243 ABs -- but he's shown improvement in June, striking out just 12 times in 63 ABs.
Mendonca has put himself back on the prospect map with his strong first half. The Ks are still worrisome, and you have to be concerned about whether or not he'll be able to make contact at the major league level consistently enough to have success. But with his power and glove, if he continues to play like he has so far this year, he'll definitely get a chance. It will likely have to be with another team, given that Adrian Beltre is in Texas at least through 2015, but with the Rangers looking to make a deal for a reliever, Mendonca's progress could make him a key piece in a trade this summer.