As scouting departments hustle around the country getting last looks at draft targets and evaluating their pref lists, high school talents with short track records are the most vulnerable to changes in draft stock. Prep talents come with a fair share of inherent risk, but how much upside is it worth passing on to mitigate that risk? Draft targets Drew Mendoza and Gavin Lux embody this kind of decision that clubs are going to be making in just a few days. Let’s break down the player’s profiles and how teams will evaluate them.
Drew Mendoza, SS, Lake Minneola HS
Mendoza is a compelling high-school infielder with a mature approach at the plate and a polished, doubles-focused swing. A product of Lake Minneola HS (FL), Mendoza has committed to Florida State, where his parents both attended. He has professed a desire to attend his parents’ alma mater, but it seems unlikely considering his projected draft spot. The 6-foot-4 infielder originally popped up on the radar as a two-way player, and he was hitting 91 from the mound in his sophomore year of high school. However, he decided to turn his full attention to his offensive game, leaving pitching and basketball behind. From there, he continued to raise eyebrows through his performance at heavily scouted events, including hitting two home runs in a contest against Brady Singer, who would later be drafted 56th-overall by Toronto.
The main selling point with Mendoza is the hit tool. A compact, doubles-oriented swing perhaps isn’t as sexy as one with plus power potential, but the mature approach and pitch-recognition skills provide Mendoza a high floor. Mendoza hits from the left side despite throwing with his right, which adds another layer of intrigue to his profile. Above-average bat speed is a key to his success, and should help him put up double-digit homers at his peak if everything breaks right. Mendoza has enough speed to comfortably leg out doubles, but won’t pose much of a threat on the basepaths.
The more intriguing question for Mendoza is his long-term positional future. The industry consensus appears to consider him a third baseman, where he would possibly be the strongest option in this year’s draft. Mendoza played shortstop through high school, and it’s possible a team would be willing to give him the chance to stick there, but in all likelihood, the hot corner is in his future. He has a chance to be a plus defender there, where his instincts and arm will play up. Mendoza is a lock to stick on the left side of the infield, if nothing else.
Gavin Lux, SS, Indian Trail Academy
Lux, a prep shortstop out of Wisconsin, has quickly risen to become the top infield prospect in his region, a feat accomplished due to his impressive hands at shortstop and his four-tool potential. While the level of competition in his area is perhaps less than ideal, Lux had little trouble teeing off on opposing pitchers and has performed well against tougher squads in prospect showcases. Lux also has the advantage of a family of accomplished athletes: His uncle, Augie Schmidt, was taken second-overall in the 1982 draft. His mother played volleyball and ran track in college, and his father was a collegiate soccer athlete. Through genetics, Lux has a frame ideal for a major-league shortstop; flexible, quick, with room for muscle. Through teaching, Lux has learned from the careers of his mentors, and multiple scouts have mentioned plus makeup with a mature dedication to the game.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds, Lux is still a bit slim, and to reach his offensive upside, he’ll need to put on weight. To his credit, he has added muscle over the winter, and intends to continue filling out his frame. For the moment, his youth and build has credited him with above-average speed, and it’s likely he’ll be a contributor in the stolen base category to some degree. Like Mendoza, Lux swings from the left side of the plate. His swing is garnered towards line drives, and solid barrel control skills allow him to spray the ball to all fields. There’s certainly a chance for a plus hit tool, though he’ll have to refine his approach at the plate and improve his balance and patience in the box, adjustments that can be tough to make even at his present stage of development. Given his slender frame, power is not a major element to Lux’s game, but as he fills out he has a chance to starting driving the ball out of the park. For the moment, however, his speed and gap approach should help him consistently produce doubles.
If the bat never reaches its full potential, Lux will still provide a solid floor through his defense alone. Widely considered a lock to stay at shortstop, his soft hands, quick transitions, and speed allow him to make all the routine plays with plenty of room for the spectacular. He has no problem moving to either side, though he has received surprisingly mixed reviews on his footwork. His arm grades out at plus, and he’s been clocked with an infield velocity of 90 mph. The defensive tools alone mitigate some of the inherent risk that normally comes with the prep shortstop profile.
Lux and Mendoza are surprisingly similar draft targets, shortstops who mash doubles from the left side of the plate. Mendoza provides a safer offensive profile, as his approach and pitch recognition skills are already well-founded and implemented. His likely positional switch to third base certainly dings his value, but perhaps less so than in years past. A plus defensive third baseman with a mature approach at the plate is certainly a tantalizing profile. However, Lux’s ceiling as a four-tool player simply overshadows that of Mendoza, despite the increased risk. Lux will need more development time in the minors to refine his approach at the plate and may struggle for longs bouts in the lower minors as he makes those frustrating adjustments that have stymied many a prospect before him. It’s a tough call, but I’m taking Lux over Mendoza for the offensive upside and defensive value. It might take an extra year and cause some anxious months of poor production in the minors, but Lux’s ceiling and makeup are too tempting to pass on.