Long before Carlos Mendoza was named manager of the New York Mets, there was a completely different Carlos Mendoza in the minor leagues for the ball club. It should come as no surprise for such a common first and last name to pair together at some other point in MLB history. This other Carlos Mendoza originated as a 1992 amateur free agent signing by the Mets.
He’s so forgotten even my baseball card collection built up through the 1990s and early 2000s may not have included a card of him. Despite attending numerous minor league games at different levels during the time when Mendoza played, his name doesn’t ring a bell at all. I remember Ronald Acuna Sr., Rob Stratton, and Jorge Toca.
What about this forgotten man whose name would return to the Mets in a completely different body? What made him so special?
The original Carlos Mendoza had three phenomenal years in the minor leagues
After accidentally stumbling upon his Baseball-Reference page, I was astonished to see how excellent Mendoza was on the farm for three straight years. It began with a .328/.415/.391 slash line performance in 51 games at Rookie Ball in 1995. Mendoza swiped 28 bases and had 27 walks vs. 24 strikeouts. The tools were there to become a throwback type of player with speed and contact.
He wasn’t a one-year wonder. Mendoza slashed .337/.452/.383 the next year in Single-A. Yet again, he showed off his speed and eye at the plate. He swiped 31 bases. He walked 57 times compared to only 46 strikeouts.
The next season in 1997 was a big one for Mendoza. He played in Double-A and Triple-A for the Mets where he’d combine to bat .350/.400/.430 in 293 trips to the plate. He had only 15 stolen bases in 27 attempts and saw his strikeout numbers tick higher than the walks. Nevertheless, hitting .350 at any level is impressive enough to warrant a look in the majors. Mendoza would get it late in 1997 when he appeared in 15 games for the Mets.
You may have been as locked into baseball as I was in 1997 and still forgotten about Mendoza. He had just 18 plate appearances in those 15 games but did manage to hit an oddly satisfying .250/.500/.250.
The bat was almost completely void of power. Remember former Mets farmhand Jason Tyner? He was like him. Mendoza popped only two home runs for the Mets organization in all of those chances. It wasn’t enough for the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays to pass on him in the draft ahead of their 1998 debut. The Mets lost Mendoza to Tampa Bay as the 52nd overall selection.
Mendoza would play out a few years in the minors where he continued to hit for a high average, steal bases, and have a strong if not superb walk to strikeout ratio. He’d only get to the major leagues again in 2000 as a member of the Colorado Rockies where he was just 1 for 10. He didn’t register another professional at-bat again after 2000 in what was only his age 25 season.
Whatever happened to this Carlos Mendoza? The amount of information on him online is minimal. No explanation as to why his career ended abruptly could be found either. Now 49, he might be the best Mets prospect none of us ever heard of. We now only know him because he shared a name with a future Mets skipper.