Who Is Luis Mendoza?: Kansas City Royals Management Puzzles with Bullpen Move

Ben CookContributor IApril 14, 2010

DETROIT - APRIL 13: First base umpire Jerry Crawford checks the glove of Luis Mendoza #39 of the Kansas City Royals in the eight inning on April 13, 2010 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit Tigers won the game 6-5 over the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

On April 2, we saw one of the Kansas City Royals' final bullpen spots get handed out to a young pitcher who has little service time.

Luis Mendoza, literally hours before the Royals and the Rangers were about to play the first of two final exhibition games in Arlington to close out spring training, packed up his things with Texas and walked to the visiting team's locker room, suiting up for the Royals that night.

Mendoza, who is out of options, had to make the Royals or be put through waivers before he could be sent to the minors. Basically, he was in Anthony Lerew's situation. Lerew cleared waivers and was sent to AA Northwest Arkansas.

So with the solution set, why did Dayton Moore make this move for Mendoza? Because he has an arm and good stuff on his pitches. His fastball runs about 94 MPH (Mendoza hit that high Saturday against the Red Sox) and has some movement, and his sinker, when located well, induces a good number of ground balls.

With that said, Mendoza doesn't have any other pitch. He worked hard at Rangers camp this spring on adding a curveball to his arsenal, but it is still in development, meaning he lacks a true "out" pitch.

Here are Mendoza's career lines (as of April 12):

Majors: 4-9 with an 8.38 ERA in 34 games (14 starts); 119 hits, 31 BB, 43 K's, .332 BAA, and a 18.1 WHIP in 82.2 IP.

Minors: 49-51 with a 4.58 ERA in 167 games (153 starts); 936 hits, 263 BB, 454 K's, and a 1.43 WHIP in 835 IP.

Mendoza, originally drafted by the Red Sox, was predominantly a starter in the minors and was slated to make the Rangers rotation as the fifth starter in 2008. So, the question is raised again: Why did Moore make this move to add Luis Mendoza to his bullpen?

Maybe there is something that Dayton and the rest of the front office see in Mendoza, but based off the two outings he's had so far, he has potential, but potential that can be worked on in the minors.

There are times when trades are made that you just need to trust that management made the right decision or a development trade (such as Kyle Davies for Octavio Dotel in '07). Then there are times where management needs to admit they simply made a mistake and were wrong (Mike Jacobs for Leo Nunez). This is one of those times.

Who knows? Maybe Mendoza comes out and becomes a good pitcher down the line. But the fact remains that when you are traded for straight-up cash, chances are that you are not major league-ready or worth a spot on the 25-man roster.

Also, what does this say about the veteran pitchers that were signed in the offseason that were battling for bullpen jobs, such as Bryan Bullington, Brad Thompson, or Josh Rupe, to name a few?

There are Blake Wood and Lerew (as previously mentioned), as well as the Rule 5 pick Edgar Osuna or Carlos Rosa, who has shown signs of progressing to become a good bullpen pitcher (4.56 ERA with 80 K's in 71 IP in Triple-A last year).

You make trades that improve your organization. With that view in mind, I could see how this trade makes sense in helping to improve depth within the organization at pitcher. However, from watching Mendoza pitch this year so far, it's only a matter of time until he is put on waivers in hopes of sending him to the minors, as Mendoza needs to work on throwing to his spots and, more importantly, pitching first-pitch strikes.

Right now, he has only thrown eight first-pitch strikes in 18 ABs (44 percent). Compare that to John Parrish, who though he has faced fewer batters (10) has thrown seven first-pitch strikes.

Now obviously a good portion of the bullpen is in shambles right now. But when you look at the stats and contracts, it makes the most sense to bring up one of the veterans that were signed this offseason and send Mendoza down to work on control.

Mendoza is still 26, so he still has time to become a quality reliever. But he will have a short-lived career at the major league level if he isn't sent to the minors to work on location and control.