30. Brian Mundell (105 points, 10 ballots)
Mundell’s reputation as a prospect entering 2019 was well established: above average hitter who doesn’t hit for much power and is defensively limited. After all, the converted college catcher had never produced a wRC+ below 103 across five levels in four professional seasons with 15 or fewer HR each year and had almost exclusively played first until late in 2018, when he played some in left field.
Coming off the aforementioned 103 wRC+ season in a repeat of Double-A, in 2019 the 25-year-old righty joined an Albuquerque team that already had a 1B-only prospect (and fellow PuRP) in Roberto Ramos. In order to get his bat in the lineup more often, Mundell became a left fielder the majority of the time in 2019. Hitting in the offensive paradise that was the Pacific Coast League in 2019, Mundell was up to the task offensively. In 435 PAs for Albuquerque, Mundell hit .333/.399/.521 with 11 HR and 47 extra base hits, good for a 125 wRC+. He hit much better at home (1.062 OPS) than on the road (.760) and finished with a sky high .402 BABIP, indicating that he was a little fortunate to get the results he attained. Nonetheless, Mundell consistently hit well and provided a good contact profile in the context of baseball these days (10% BB, 19% K).
Defensively, Mundell made 59 of his 75 starts in left field and committed no errors with three OF assists at that position (he made one error at first base). By no means does that mean Mundell was a plus defender at the position, but he was obviously able to handle the chances that came his way. That defensive utility makes Mundell a much more viable MLB bench piece than if he were 1B-only, though I suspect he’d still be viewed as a liability out there in Coors Field.
Here’s some video of Mundell from July of 2018 courtesy of 2080 Baseball:
Last month, FanGraphs listed Mundell as a Prospect of Note, saying that “Mundell has plus raw but lacks the positional versatility to be a role player.”
Mundell is not currently ranked by MLB.com, but he slipped onto their top 30 at #29 before the 2019 season:
Mundell’s swing got out of whack in 2018 and it took him most of the year to get back on track. Even when he wasn’t driving the ball like he had in the past, he was still managing the strike zone, limiting strikeouts and drawing walks and he still has a career .369 on-base percentage entering the 2019 season. When he’s on time with his swing, he can hit to all fields, driving the gaps well, though most of his home run power has come to the pull side. There could be more over-the-fence pop as he gets more reps and gets back in a groove.
A DH for most of his college career, Mundell has worked extremely hard at his defense. There’s still work to do, but he should be an adequate defender at first base, where the hope is he’ll prove once again he has the bat to profile at the infield corner.
The good news is that Mundell’s 50 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 average hit tool.
Mundell’s minor league results suggest that he’s conquered AAA. The question is whether he’ll get the opportunity (and succeed) at the big league level. Mundell really has to hit with authority to make it to the Show, and despite his left field flexibility, his primary potential value is with the bat. He’s already gone unprotected and hasn’t been selected in the Rule 5 draft twice now (he’ll be a minor league free agent after 2020 if he isn’t added to the 40 man roster after the year), an indication that the Rockies nor the rest of MLB were believers in the profile.
At the moment, I’m not really a believer either, which is why Mundell missed my personal ballot. His hit tool and plate discipline, combined with the outfield flexibility, have convinced me that Mundell could be a legitimate corner depth player, but I’m still 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. Nonetheless, he’s a potential occupant of the Mark Reynolds memorial bench bat spot for the 2020 Rockies. We’ll see if he earns the chance with the Rockies or someone else this year.