Yohander Mendez Emerges As Rangers’ Top Arm

Best player: Joey Gallo is the better prospect, had another homer-heavy season and could very well be the Rangers’ starting first baseman next season. But club officials raved about the season 21-year-old first baseman Ronald Guzman had.

Though he struggled in his first look at Triple-A, as Gallo did in 2015, Guzman continued his rise from potential mega-dollars bust to a potential big leaguer with a strong showing at Double-A Frisco. He batted .288/.348/.477, which was second in the Texas League at the time of his promotion, with 15 homers, 16 doubles and an .825 OPS. After a standout season at a thin position in the organization, Guzman seems destined for his first major league spring training next year and a fresh start at Round Rock.

Best pitcher: The acquisitions of Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Beltran cost the Rangers their top two pitching prospects, Luis Ortiz and Dillon Tate, and left Yohander Mendez as the organization’s top arm.

The lefthander moved quickly to Triple-A Round Rock after a season in which he appeared in big league spring training for the first time. He tackled high Class A, allowing only two homers in seven starts in the hitter-friendly California League, and quickly showed that he had a handle on Double-A by posting a 3.09 ERA in 10 starts with Frisco. He posted a 0.57 ERA after his first 31.1 Triple-A innings.

Mendez has 90-94 mph fastball velocity, an effective curveball, a developing cutter/slider and his best pitch, a plus changeup. “He’s got that changeup in his back pocket at any time,” farm director Mike Daly said. “He can throw it ahead in the count or behind in the count. He’s got four pitches, he’s lefthanded, competitive, he’s smart and can read swings. That’s a pretty good combination.”

Keep An Eye On: His first act as a Ranger was having right ankle surgery after they drafted him in the 11th round in 2015 out of Oregon. But Scott Heineman took advantage of a spring injury to another outfielder to get a shot at high Class A High Desert for his first debut and made the most of it.

He started out hot and finished at .303/.386/.505 with 17 homers. The Rangers love the 23-year-old’s energy. While there isn’t one standout tool, Heineman does everything well and doesn’t have a glaring shortcoming.

“He can hit, he has some power, he can run and he plays all the outfield spots,” Daly said. “He’s a guy that other players gravitate toward.”

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