It’s the first day of December, and with today’s article, we’re already through half of the players in the system. 158 down, 158 to go.
Abel Mendez is a six-foot-four, 205 lb. right-handed relief pitcher from Santo Domingo, DR. Born on April 4, 2003, he reported to his first professional job with the DSL Astros Blue in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in June 2022.
Mendez got into his first career game on June 7, pitching the fourth through the seventh innings of a 6-1 loss to the DSL Twins. In his debut, he allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks, striking out three batters. On June 22, in a 6-4 loss to the DSL BOS Blue, he struck out seven and allowed one run in four innings.
Following his performance in the loss to the Blue Red Sox, Mendez struck out eight over the next five innings, but also walked five during the same stretch. From July 30 through the end of the season, Mendez was in the tank. In 4 2⁄3 innings, he gave up 14 earned runs on 11 hits and 12 walks, a WHIP of 4.929.
Mendez flashed some brilliance, but also some other stuff. Opponents slashed .286/.511/.363 off him, including 13.5 walks per nine innings. He also struck out over a batter per inning, but he’s got a lot of work to do to get past the DSL.
Cristian Gonzalez is a six-foot-four, 210 lb. right-handed left-side infielder from Azua, DR. Born on October 22, 2001, he’s currently Houston’s number 12 organizational prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. He initially signed on with the Astros on July 2, 2018, still just 16-years-old.
Gonzalez slashed .214/.289/.286 in extended action with the DSL Astros in 2019, stealing 11 bases and ranking third on the team with 63 appearances. The 2021 campaign would see him split time between the FCL rookie club and the Low-A Fayetteville Woodpeckers. That second year, he slashed .261/.320/.382 with four long-balls and 27 RBI in 43 contests.
This past season, Gonzalez spent the entire campaign at the High-A level with the Asheville Tourists. On June 14, he drove in nine runs on a single, a double, and two homers in a 19-7 victory against the Rome Braves. He had 23 other multi-hit games over the season, including four three-hit games. On September 3, in a 5-1 win over the Bowling Green Hot Rods, he hit a single, a double, and another home run for two RBI.
Gonzalez ranked third on the Tourists by playing in 104 games, and put up a .227/.283/.350 slashline with 10 home runs and 48 RBI. He drew 29 walks, but struck out 127 times in 445 plate appearances, well over a quarter of the time. Defensively, he played 662 2⁄3 innings at shortstop, finishing with a .943 fielding percentage. He also put in 88 1⁄3 frames at third base without an error in 19 chances.
So yeah, there’s still a pretty big hole in Gonzalez’ swing, but he was two-and-a-half years younger than the “average” high-A ballplayer in 2022. That’s plenty of time to set things right. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance he begins the 2023 season back with the Tourists for another season.