29. Brian Mundell (171 points, 21 ballots)
Entering 2018 Brian Mundell had built up hope among a considerable amount of PuRPs voters that he was an answer to the first base woes that had befallen the Rockies. It was logical to entertain such a notion given the converted catcher’s 2017 campaign, in which Mundell hit a combined .300/.385/.472 across High A and Double-A with 44 extra base hits in 504 plate appearances and a BB% nearly equivalent to his K% (plus a stint in the prestigious Arizona Fall League). That season followed a 2016 in which the 6’3” righty was named the South Atlantic League MVP with a Minor League record 59 doubles and a 152 wRC+. In other words, Mundell had consistently showed the offense necessary for the offense-only prospect he is, given the lack of defensive flexibility he presents. There was even some talk of a 2018 call-up if things went well. They...didn’t. At least, not as PuRPs voters would have hoped.
Mundell repeated at Double-A in 2018, which was fine, but his production slumped from his 2017 performance at the same level. Against age appropriate competition, the 24-year-old first baseman hit just .263/.345/.372 with 33 extra base hits in 506 plate appearances with Hartford. Those numbers are not a catastrophe by any means — they represent an above league average 103 wRC+ and Mundell’s plate discipline was also good (10.5 BB%, 15.2 K%). It’s just that the power that would make him a traditionally effective major league first baseman didn’t manifest as hoped and the overall offensive package wasn’t potent for a bat-first prospect. An interesting development was that Mundell spent 24 games in left field (1 error and 2 assists), no doubt in a bid to develop some positional versatility, which would make Mundell more interesting for certain.
Here’s some video of Mundell courtesy of the Baseball Census from 2017 AFL action:
Mundell focuses on managing the strike zone and making consistent contact. A right-handed hitter, he excels at driving balls to the opposite field and hit 13 of his 15 homers last year to the left side. He has the bat speed, strength and discipline to provide more power if he began turning on more pitches.
Originally recruited as a catcher in college, Mundell has limited quickness and range but has worked hard to become an adequate defender at first base. He does have soft hands and is improving his instincts with experience. Club officials praise his leadership skills.
The good news is that Mundell’s 55 Hit tool is the most impactful one to possess. The bad news is that his other below average tools across the board put a lot of pressure on that above average one.
To belabor the point: given his defensive profile, Mundell really has to hit to make it to the Show. Maybe he can do it as a non-traditional first baseman with high average and a lot of line drives, but my guess is that Mundell will have to start hitting for more power if he wants to make it into the organization’s big league plans. He didn’t do it in 2018 and was left unprotected and un-selected in the Rule 5 draft as a result, indicating that the Rockies and the rest of MLB don’t believe he’s ready for the Show.
I think Mundell is ready to be a fringy MLB bench bat, but given the ever expanding bullpens present in today’s MLB he’ll need to be able to offer more than that to provide value. I’ve long been skeptical of prospects like Mundell, consistently ranking him below the Purple Row consensus, and this time was no different — Mundell was just off my list this time around. His hit tool and plate discipline have convinced me that Mundell could be a legitimate first base prospect, but right now I’m leaning toward the Quad-A label. I value defensive utility pretty highly and Mundell’s power game hasn’t popped to differentiate him from other bats in the system.