- Full name Roman Junior Mendez
- Born 07/25/1990 in San Pedro De Macoris, Dominican Republic
- Profile Ht.: 6'3" / Wt.: 245 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- Debut 07/08/2014
Organization Prospect Rankings
Mendez originally signed with the Red Sox for $125,000 in 2007 and developed into one of the organization's best young international pitchers. When the Rangers traded Jarrod Saltalamacchia to Boston at the trade deadline in 2010, Mendez was the best prospect the Rangers received in return, along with first baseman Chris McGuiness and catcher Michael Thomas. After climbing through the minors as a starter, Mendez pitched exclusively in relief in 2013, but he lasted just two months before having surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right elbow, ending his season. When healthy, he pitches off a 93-96 mph fastball that he can crank even higher at times. His best secondary pitch is an inconsistent slider that's average at times, while his below-average changeup doesn't get much use out of the bullpen. Mendez is a solid strike-thrower, though he does have a hook in his arm action that sometimes makes it tricky for him to repeat his release point. His delivery has a lot of torque and shoulder rotation that keeps hitters off-balance but may have contributed to his arm problems. Durability is less of a concern now that Mendez is no longer starting, and he projects as a middle reliever.
Mendez joined the Rangers in the July 2010 trade that sent Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Red Sox and also yielded first baseman Chris McGuiness. Mendez hadn't thrown a pitch above the low Class A level when Texas added him to its 40-man roster in November 2011. Despite his obvious arm strength and quickness, he struggles to locate his pitches because of an inconsistent arm slot brought on in part by a hooking arm action. So after Mendez missed time in June with arm tightness, the Rangers converted him to the bullpen in high Class A and he proceeded to experience his first run of sustained success. In 11 relief appearances there and in Double-A, he struck out 24, walked six and allowed just 13 hits in 24 innings. Mendez pitches at 94-96 mph and approaches triple digits with his fastball as a reliever. He deceives batters with the torque and upper-half rotation in his pitching motion. His average mid-80s slider runs away from righthanders, who hit a mere .227 against him in 211 at-bats last season. Mendez's fair splitter/changeup leads some to believe he can return to starting at some point, though he'd have to improve his command drastically to find success. He could get a refresher with Frisco to begin 2013, then surface in the Texas bullpen at some point during the season. He has closer upside.
The Rangers saw plenty of Mendez as an amateur free agent, as he grew up in San Pedro de Marcoris, not far from their complex in the Dominican Republic. Their scouts liked his wiry-strong frame and whippy arm, but he signed with the Red Sox for $125,000 in 2007. Texas targeted Mendez in several trade discussions with Boston and eventually got him as the main piece in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia trade in July 2010. First baseman Chris McGuiness and since-released catcher Michael Thomas also came to the Rangers in the deal. Mendez's fastball ranges from 92-98 mph and sits around 94-95 when he's on. He can add boring, running and cutting action with his quick arm action. He has a slider with good tilt that flashes as a plus pitch, and he mixes in a solid changeup. He has worked on a splitter that shows good bite, but he doesn't often use it in games. Mendez throws across his body and slings the ball from a three-quarters arm slot, which leads to varying release points and some control issues. He did cut his walk rate from 4.8 per nine innings in 2010 to 3.5 last year. The development of his secondary stuff and command will determine his future role, as some scouts see Mendez as a mid-rotation starter and others view him as a late-inning reliever. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, he should start 2012 in high Class A.
The Rangers saw Mendez throw 87-88 mph in tryouts before he signed with the Red Sox for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. His velocity jumped over the course of two dominant seasons in Rookie ball, and Boston skipped him to low Class A to start 2010. He was hit hard but recovered in the short-season New York-Penn League before the Red Sox traded him and two other minor leaguers, first baseman Chris McGuiness and righthander Michael Thomas, to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia last July. Mendez showed electric stuff in three appearances in Spokane before tweaking his forearm throwing to first base on a bunt play. He returned to action in the Rangers' Dominican instructional league program and generated buzz with a fastball that reached 98 mph. His heater sits around 94-96 mph with explosive life. He flashed a plus slider that reached 87 mph with the Red Sox, but Texas took away that pitch and his changeup for the time being, instead getting him to focus on developing a promising hard curveball. Mendez has a tendency to break his hands late and deep and collapse prematurely on his back side in his delivery. When he's fresh, he has the arm speed to catch up, but when he starts to get fatigued he tends to miss armside and high. If he can maintain his alignment and learn to repeat his arm slot and release point, his command should improve. If it does, Mendez has frontline-starter upside--but he has a ways to go. He should get another crack at low Class A to start 2011.
Signed for $125,000 out of the Dominican Republic in 2007, Mendez has breezed through the two lowest levels of the system. In his U.S. debut last year, he ranked fourth in the Gulf Coast League in opponent average (.184) and baserunners per nine innings (8.2). Mendez has one of the best arms in the system, sitting in the low 90s and reaching as high as 97 mph with his fastball. He's still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and could have a plus-plus fastball when he's done filling out. His low-80s slider has some tilt but still has a ways to go, as does his changeup. While his secondary pitches lack polish, he throws them for strikes. Mendez has a sound delivery and operates from a high three-quarters arm slot. Scouts love his live, athletic body and praise his mound presence. Because Mendez has handled Rookie-level hitters so easily, Boston may send him to low Class A at age 19 this season.
Minor League Top Prospects
After signing for a $125,000 bonus in 2007, Mendez posted two dominant seasons in Rookie ball before jumping to low Class A to start 2010. He was hit hard in the South Atlantic League, but he recovered in the NY-P before the Red Sox traded him to Texas as the centerpiece of the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal. Mendez's delivery has some moving parts and some wrist funk in the back, but there are no red flags and his arm is exceptionally loose and fast. His explosive fastball sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 98 mph. He also flashes a plus slider that reaches 87 mph, though it's inconsistent. His developing changeup also shows promise, giving him the makings of a three-pitch starter's repertoire. Mendez has No. 1 starter upside if everything comes together for him, but his command is a work in progress, as he needs to do a better job repeating his arm slot and release point.
Though he's still skinny at 6-foot-2 and 180 pound, Mendez has a power arm. He throws his fastball in the low 90s and ran it up to 96-97 mph in his final GCL outing. Signed for $125,000 two years ago, Mendez has good control for a young pitcher and promising secondary pitches. His slider has nice tilt and sits in the low 80s, while his changeup is more of a work in progress. "The slider is a strikeout pitch," Mauer said. "He sets it up with his fastball. It has good bite with good arm speed."