Top prospect Mendez likely to open '17 at Triple-A

Righty attending minicamp, will be honored as Rangers' Minor League Pitcher of Year

Top prospect Mendez likely to open '17 at Triple-A

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are holding a minicamp for many of their young players this week in Arlington. It could be a significant week for some of them.

Left-hander Yohander Mendez said it was significant for him last year, and he'll be honored at the Rangers' awards banquet Friday night in Dallas as the club's Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Mendez said getting a week to work with the Major League coaching staff and being around veterans was invaluable for him in preparing for last season.

"I think the key was the preparation I had from the beginning of the year, like this year as well," Mendez said. "I was in Arlington early in the year with a goal in mind. I went to Arlington on Jan. 10 to work out and my goal was to stay healthy all year.

"That's what I did. I started working and that's what helped me have the year that I had."

Rookie Prg: Mendez

This has been a busy month for Mendez, who is the Rangers' No. 1 prospect according to A week ago, he was in Virginia at the annual Rookie Career Development Program. Now he is back in Arlington for the minicamp that starts Tuesday and leads up to the banquet and FanFest on Saturday.

Mendez will be going through Tuesday's workout while celebrating his 22nd birthday.

He is one of 14 pitchers scheduled to be at the camp along with Dario Alvarez, R.J. Alvarez, James Dykstra, Andrew Faulkner, Brady Feigl, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Michael Hauschild, Ariel Jurado, Jose Leclerc, Nick Martinez, Connor Sadzeck, Jose Valdespina and Allen Webster.

Also scheduled to attend are catchers Pat Cantwell, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Steve Lerud, Brett Nicholas and Jose Trevino, infielders Hanser Alberto, Joey Gallo and Ronald Guzman, and outfielders Jared Hoying, Nomar Mazara and Drew Robinson.

Mendez attended the minicamp after four years in the Rangers' farm system. He spent 2015 at Class A Hickory and was 3-3 with a 2.44 ERA in eight starts and 13 relief appearances. He had a 1.08 WHIP and averaged 10.0 strikeouts per nine innings for the South Atlantic League champions.

He didn't stay anywhere long in 2016. Mendez started at Class A High Desert and was 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven starts. The Rangers then promoted him to Double-A Frisco, where he went 4-1 with a 3.47 ERA in 10 starts. That got him to Triple-A Round Rock for four starts and three relief appearances, going 4-1 with a 0.57 ERA for the Express.

Rookie Prg: Mendez

Overall, Mendez was 12-3 with a 2.19 ERA while averaging 5.8 hits, 3.3 walks and 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The Rangers brought him up in September and flirted with the idea of using him as a reliever in postseason. But that idea was scratched when he was hit for six runs in three innings over two outings.

Mendez will come to Spring Training as a starter, although he may have an uphill battle to make the Opening Day roster. The Rangers are projected to have a rotation of Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Andrew Cashner.

Texas is expected to announce the signing of free-agent pitcher Tyson Ross this week to be a fifth-starter candidate along with A.J. Griffin, Martinez and Gonzalez.

Mendez will likely begin the season at Triple-A, which might be a good approach given his youth and inexperience. The Rangers have not had much success pushing their young pitchers through the farm system quickly.

"They've set some limits for me, but that's because they don't want the same thing to happen to me as in the past," Mendez said. "They want me to move forward. I don't feel limited, but that they want to be careful with me because they've always told me they want me to be one of their starters in the future."

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.