Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates swung a five player trade yesterday with the Indians.  The team sent out two players and got three back, including two prospects.

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Pirates made one of the first significant trades of the offseason.  While the deal itself did not have significant names in it, it did see multiple big league players change hands.  The Bucs finally cut ties with Max Moroff and Jordan Luplow, as they got sent packing to Cleveland in exchange for infielder Erik Gonzalez and pitching prospects Tahnaj Thomas and Dante Mendoza.

While Gonzalez is the main piece in the trade, and the best player out of the five, the prospects actually brought some value as well.  Tahnaj Thomas fell inside the Indians top 30 prospect rankings on major sites.  Thomas was ranked as the Indians number 30 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline before the trade.  Furthermore, Thomas was ranked as the Indians number 26 overall on FanGraphs. Mendoza was not ranked in any of the top 30 lists, but looks very projectable as well.

Let’s look at what the Pittsburgh Pirates see in Tahnaj Thomas.  Thomas was an international signing out of the Bahamas back in 2016 when he signed with the Indians.  He received a significant bonus from Cleveland of $200,000.  According to Baseball America, Thomas wanted to sign as a shortstop, but stood out with his impressive arm and build.  This speaks about his athleticism too.  If Thomas was brought up as a shortstop, then chances are he has that athletic mold that the Pittsburgh Pirates like in pitchers.

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Thomas stands at 6’4” and 190 pounds, so he has a very projectable frame.  At just 19 years old he has a power fastball that can get up into the mid-90s.  Also, he has a projectable breaking pitch which is graded as a 55 future grade on FanGraphs.  Also, he throws a changeup which is considered very raw.

One can see that Thomas is still learning how to pitch in his stats.  He has thrown 58 total innings across the last two years all at the Rookie Level.  His ERA is a bit high at 5.28, but that tends to be the case with a lot of pitchers at those Rookie Levels. This is mainly due to lack of command, as he has walked 43 batters in those 58 innings.  However, he has shown his power stuff by striking out 61 batters in those 58 innings. This gives him 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his career.

Dante Mendoza is not much different than Tahnaj Thomas.  Mendoza is also very big, athletic, and projectable at 6’5” tall and 185 pounds.  He was drafted in the 12th round of the 2017 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians.  He was a noted prospect because according to his milb.com page because he is former Orioles closer Zach Britton‘s cousin.  His fastball is very projectable and is currently in the low 90s with plenty of room to add as he matures.

Still, like Thomas, Mendoza is only 19 years of age.  He was drafted out of a high school in Torrance, California.  He is very raw as well, even more so than Thomas.  The big righty has thrown innings over the last two years accumulating 40.1.  He has done this at the Rookie Level and has an ERA of 4.58 over the course of those two years.  Meanwhile, he has struck out almost a hitter per inning with 39 punch outs.  On top of those strikeouts, he has also walked five batters per nine innings pitched.

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Both pitchers are very similar.  They are 19 years of age, very tall, and projectable.  Thomas is a little ahead of Mendonza in terms of development.  He has three seasons of professional experience and his fastball is already ticking in the mid-90s.  Mendoza, on the other hand, is still looking to tap into his big frame to add more miles per hour to his fastball.  Still, for part of the return in the trade, the Bucs receive two potential top 30 guys.