Here is more perspective on the advancement of third baseman/first baseman Drew Mendoza, who finally got his shot to participate in workouts and games in Fredericksburg, Va., in the summer. The No. 11 Nationals prospect joined other top 20 Nationals prospects, according to director of player development Mark Scialabba.
“We got him to the alternate site start of September. Along with shortstop Jackson Cluff (No. 20) and catcher Israel Pineda (No. 14), we had the ability to get him there to get some reps and to work with (Triple-A hitting coach) Brian Daubach,” Scialabba said. “He did a nice job offensively, continuing to (work). He was behind, you could tell, but that is normal. We expected that for a lot of the hitters. It takes roughly between 15-20 days of live pitching to really get your timing down. By the time he left there, he was in a very good place and carried that into the instructional league camp.”
And when the 23-year-old Mendoza got going, the Florida State product demonstrated how he had been able to increase power in his swing by shortening his path to the ball.
“He is really just working on shortening up, being more aggressive with pitches in the strike zone that he can handle,” Scialabba said. “Driving the baseball, using all parts of the field. I think he is someone that has a very good awareness of the strike zone. He’s disciplined, but also we want to continue to utilize his strengths and his ability to hit the fastball and hit pitches in the zone that he can drive. We are high on him as a left-handed bat that can get on base and drive in runs. He’s showing signs of that each day.”
Cluff was also in Fredericksburg with Mendoza for a time. The BYU product moved with Mendoza to West Palm Beach, Fla., where they continued workouts in the fall instructional league.
Cluff spoke this summer about the influence veteran Brandon Snyder had on his progress as a player in preparations for a potential major league career down the road. Scialabba said players like Snyder - who has played for five different major league teams from 2010-2018 and in 2019 hooked on with the Nats for 116 games at Triple-A Fresno - are important in the growth of youngsters.
“It really takes special individuals to understand that (the mentoring of Nats prospects) is valuable to our organization, but it’s what the best players do,” Scialabba said. “They really understand the concept of being a good teammate. There are certain people that are leaders out of their nature. Brandon is one of them. He also wants that for the team that he is with. He was always like that even when he was in Triple-A. Obviously, his main focus is to get to the big leagues to help us. That’s his No. 1 goal. But you can also do that alongside of helping some of the younger players.”
Scialabba said guys like Mendoza, Cluff and Pineda also provided a new energy for players that had been in Fredericksburg for an extended time. Adding the extra players also helped the Nats get to the place where they could play nine-on-nine baseball instead of just employing a couple of outfielders to go after fly balls.
“I think when we are able to add some younger position players to the alternate site, it also allowed us to really have a sim game that resembled more of a real game because you had some defenders out there, a longer lineup,” Scialabba said. “It kind of rejuvenated some of the guys that had been there every day. It was a very monotonous experience for a lot of these guys. It’s not easy. But when you had some of these younger kids (arrive), they kind of rejuvenated some of these guys a little bit. Not that they need it, but it just changed the environment a little bit. Anytime there’s change it can be a good thing when you are in baseball because of how monotonous it can be.”
Scialabba pointed out that the mix of veterans and prospects was a good one this summer for the Nats. There were no cliques of experienced guys who were unwilling to help those players that were fighting for a shot. He noticed the entire roster working together.
“These are special guys that we have here,” Scialabba said. “They understand that we are all about trying to win at the major league level and anything they can do to help somebody down the road, they understand that they are giving back. Maybe somebody helped them when they were young and they know they can do that to the younger player. That’s value for us and they know that can help us in the long run.”