First base is a coveted spot in the Nationals organization, especially with Ryan Zimmerman not an everyday player anymore and the club using the likes of veterans Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames at that spot.
Former Florida State standout Drew Mendoza has a shot to turn some heads in the near future and become that top candidate for a corner infield spot, similar to the track Carter Kieboom is hoping to attain at third base this season.
Baseball America Nats correspondent Lacy Lusk says the Nats like what they have see from the former second-team All-American. The 22-year-old played 55 games at low Single-A Hagerstown last season, slashing .264/.377/.383 with 12 doubles, four homers and 25 RBIs.
No. 6 Drew Mendoza
“They are high on him,” Lusk said. “He played short and third at FSU, leading that last Mike Martin team to Omaha last year. “The Nats are pretty set on playing him at first base. They really love his power.”
Lusk noted the key for Ward this season is to streamline his swing and be a bit more aggressive with pitches near his hitting zone.
“They think he has to rework his swing that he used in college,” Lusk said. “From talking to officials in the organization, it sounds like he was maybe a little too selective in college baseball and they’d like to see him change his approach a bit as he enters his first full year this coming year.”
With Drew Ward electing minor league free agency, Mendoza becomes the organization’s top prospect at first base.
“He is the top prospect at that spot,” Lusk said. “They have with Kieboom and (Luis) Garcia, a couple of infielders, so who knows who could move to different spots? But just in terms of an authentic first base, Mendoza would be the top guy in the system.”
At 6-foot-5 and 230 lbs., Mendoza has the frame to deliver, and like Zimmerman, he played in the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. This will help him at high Single-A Fredericksburg this season and give him the chance to show what he can do against the better pitching he will see in the Carolina League.