Ricardo Méndez’s 17-game hitting streak has not become a trending topic in the Fredericksburg Nationals’ dugout. In fact, most of Méndez’s teammates only learned of his ongoing feat via a tweet issued by the team’s official account.
“I don’t hear much talk about it,” offered first baseman Kevin Strohschein.
Méndez’s numbers, however, speak for themselves.
During his streak, which dates back to July 2, Méndez is hitting. 435 with seven doubles, three triples and three home runs. He’s raised his season average to .301 and his OPS (on-base plus slugging) to .833. Both are team highs.
With a fifth-inning single in Tuesday’s series opener at Salem, the 21-year-old outfielder tied the longest streak in the Low-A East league this season. He still has a ways to go before flirting with the longest streak in the minors; Great Lakes third baseman Miguel Vargas recorded a hit in 26 straight games from May 12 to June 10.
“Ricardo is using the whole field right now,” FredNats hitting coach Jorge Mejia said. “He’ll hit the ball from left center to right center, a gap-to-gap guy. He can bunt at times—but he can also hit a home run when you’re not expecting it. He’s a fun hitter to watch.”
Mejia offers a simple formula for Méndez’s recent success at the plate: he’s swinging at good pitches. More often than not, those good pitches are fastballs.
“This organization, all the way from the big leagues to the Dominican Summer Leagues, we emphasize hunting the fastball,” Mejia explained. “That’s the main goal, to be able to hit the fastball.
“If you can’t hit the fastball, you’re not going to be able to play in the big leagues. Everybody throws 97 nowadays and you have to be able to handle the fastball before you move up to the next level.”
Born in Barcelona, Venezuela, Méndez joined a baseball academy called Sluggers Corporation in the nearby city of Puerto La Cruz. That’s where he eventually came onto the radar of several MLB teams, including Washington.
“It was tryout after tryout until the Nationals looked at me,” Méndez said in a phone interview, with FredNats manager Mario Lisson translating. “It was a few more workouts with them, and then they signed me.”
Only 17 when he began his career as an international free agent, Méndez has already made stops in the Gulf Coast rookie league, short-season Auburn (N.Y.) and Class-A Hagerstown prior to his assignment to the Low-A FredNats this season.
As prospects go, Méndez is an old soul with the work habits to match. He’s not superstitious, so it shouldn’t be considered unlucky that he didn’t even become aware of his own streak until it stood at 13 games.
“He’s on a mission,” Mejia said. “He’s not here to have fun. He has fun, but he’s here to make it to the big leagues.”
Joey LoMonaco: 540/368-5045