Corner infielder Drew Mendoza has a statistics degree from Florida State, so he can appreciate the importance of analytics in baseball. But he said, “I definitely think the game is won on the field with athleticism. It’s won by people.”
As a non-roster invitee to big league camp, the 23-year-old showed signs of tapping into his power potential. In the first game, he doubled off Cardinals lefthander Genesis Cabrera and made a barehanded spear of a bad-hop grounder to first base.
“Drew is making a great impression on our staff in big league camp,” Nationals farm director Mark Scialabba said. “He’s improving his contact points by creating a more direct bat path and leveraging the baseball much better. He’s learning how to sync up his lower half properly, and in result, is able to drive the ball to the deep parts of the ballpark more consistently.”
Mendoza hit .200/.429/.300 in 10 at-bats over eight games this spring, drawing four walks in 14 plate appearances. The plate discipline has long been a calling card for Mendoza, who was a 2019 third-rounder after leading the Atlantic Coast Conference in walks.
A highly touted shortstop in high school, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Mendoza played mostly third base at Florida State. He shifted to first base during his pro debut at Low-A Hagerstown, where he hit .264/.377/.383 with 34 walks and 57 strikeouts in 55 games. This spring, he worked at first and third base.
“Defensively his footwork continues to improve around the bag, and he’s demonstrating that he has the potential to be a plus defender at first base, while also continuing to get reps over at third as well,” Scialabba said.
Mendoza is expected to be part of the Nationals’ contingent at the alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Va., as he was in 2020. Then once official games start, he looks forward to seeing how his swing plays.
“I feel like my swing path is in a really good place,” he said. “Timing is going to take some time, I’m sure, but I’ve shortened my path and done better at staying through the ball.”
— The Nationals honored Steve Arnieri as their inaugural Phil Rizzo scout of the year. The award will be given each year to the franchise’s scout who represents the integrity, character and work ethic exemplified by Rizzo. Arnieri, special assistant to Nationals head of baseball operations and general manager, has been with the Nationals since the fall of 2006.
“We created this award to both recognize an outstanding member of our scouting department and honor the memory of my dad, who had a tremendous impact not only on my life but on the scouting community throughout all of Major League Baseball,” president of baseball operations and GM Mike Rizzo said.
—Outfielder Yadiel Hernandez, who made his major league debut at age 32 in 2020, hit .469/.500/.719 in 21 games this spring.
“Whether you’re here in the beginning, middle, end—sooner or later, you’ll help us win games up here,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said of Hernandez. “I know that.”