13. Brian Mundell (501 points, 33 ballots)
Brian Mundell started his professional career crushing the ball. He hasn’t stopped in three years. At each of his four minor league stops, Mundell’s lowest wRC+ is the 119 he posted in the tough hitting environment of the short season Northwest League. The 6’3”, 23-year-old righty first baseman really burst onto the scene in 2016 when his .313/.383/.505 line (152 wRC+) with 74 extra base hits—including a MiLB-modern era record 59 doubles—helped him earn the South Atlantic League MVP.
And yet there were doubters, myself included, entering 2017. After all, Mundell was a college draftee (he actually played catcher in college) with a first base defensive profile who was older than league average in the SAL. It’s safe to say that Mundell’s continued rampage through the minor leagues has assuaged most of those doubts.
Mundell was initially assigned in 2017 to High-A Lancaster, where in 301 plate appearances for the Jethawks his triple slash was .299/.379/.504 (134 wRC+) with 29 extra base hits. That earned him a promotion to Double-A Hartford where, finally playing at younger than league average (by 1.2 years), Mundell continued his hot streak. In 203 plate appearances with the Yard Goats, Mundell produced a robust .302/.394/.424 line (130 wRC+) including an excellent 11.6 BB% and 14.6 K%. The power didn’t show up much in Double-A (only 15 extra base hits), but that’s an impressive transition to a very difficult level. Worth noting is that Mundell hit lefties quite well in Hartford with a .345/.493./491 line in 55 at-bats.
Here’s some video of Mundell in action in May 2017 with Lancaster courtesy of Baseball Census:
Mundell has plus raw power that hasn’t fully translated into home run production because he focuses on making contact with a compact right-handed swing. He has a knack for driving the ball to the opposite-field gap, as evidenced by his doubles total. His combination of bat speed, strength and discipline gives him the potential to hit for average and power.
Mundell has learned first base on the job in pro ball. He has limited speed and range, but he works hard, has soft hands and has improved his instincts. He also has made an immediate impression with his leadership skills.
Mundell was scouted by Wilson Karaman of Baseball Prospectus in June of 2017:
Mundell isn’t a typical masher first-base prospect, but he is an all-bat one. He possesses better-than-average contact skills, especially impressive for a man of his size and profile, and advanced pitch recognition and zone command skills help the barrel skills play up all the more. His power is generated almost entirely by his strong upper-half, and he’s able to hit up through balls with occasional loft despite not getting very deep at all into his back leg. He’s slow and totes a fringy glove, and the road of a bat-first right-handed first baseman with average game power is about as narrow as they come. The hit tool and just passable-enough pop offers potential for a run in the big leagues down the line, however, and there’s room for development of his power utility.
That report put Mundell’s realistic role at 40, with a 50 OFP.
On the pace Mundell has set so far, it’s possible that he’ll be a call-up option for the Rockies as soon as this year since he’ll be in line for 40 man roster protection after the 2018 season. Mundell will have to continue his hot hitting, probably at Albuquerque to start, and take advantage of any opportunities that come his way in order to make that happen.
I was among the lower voters on Mundell (I ranked him 25th on my list with a 40 FV) simply because I value defensive utility pretty highly, and he doesn’t offer much, while his power game hasn’t popped at an advanced level yet. His bat and plate discipline (especially at Hartford) have convinced me that Mundell could be a legitimate first base prospect, but we’ve heard this story before with other first base prospects that turned out to be AAAA players. As time goes on, my wariness has gradually subsided with Mundell.