The Nationals signed Kench Mench to a minor league deal this week, and he’ll attempt to win a spot on the major league roster. They have their starting outfield pretty much set going in to the spring, but Elijah Dukes is still a bit of a question mark. So if he isn’t performing, they’re gonna need someone to play right field. Mench could be the one to do it.
First of all, Mench is a corner outfielder, and he’s played alot in RF, although recently he’s spent more time in LF. He’s got a career UZR/150 as an outfielder of 4.2, and a pretty good 8.8 in RF. He’s got a pretty decent arm, not bad at all for right field. He’s not a stellar fielder but I’d say he’s been above average most of his career. At 32, he’s a good bet to at least be average at the position, although he may not be one you’d consider as a defensive replacement, you wouldn’t need to take him out late in games.
More importantly, as a right fielder, he’s gotta be able to hit. His best years with the bat were 2004 and 2005 playing with Texas. He hit 51 HRs in those two years, putting together a line of .270/.331/.499, but his career went downhill after that. After starting off hot in 2006, he was traded to Milwaukee and lost something, including playing time. His OPS in 2005 was .797. His OPS in 2006 with Texas was .797. His OPS in 2006 with Milwaukee was .566. He actually did better in 2007, but he wasn’t getting on base enough and he wasn’t really putting up starting RFer numbers, so he wasn’t re-signed in 2008. He ended up back with Texas and then Toronto, but spent much of his time in the minors. Once again, he looked better in Texas, although he was actually with AAA Oklahoma, and once Toronto purchased his contract, he fell off.
He went to Japan in 2009, and he wasn’t exactly super successful there. In 15 games with the Hanshin Tigers, he hit .148/.204/.179, so there’s nothing there to get excited about. However with the farm team, he was great, hitting .344/.547/.419 in 23 games. I don’t really know what to read from any of this, it’s a small sample size, he was probably in Japan for the first time in his life, I’m guessing there were at least some communication issues. I’m not excusing it, I’m just saying I don’t know the relevance.
More relevant, I would think, is his lack of power over the last few years. Since the end of 2005, he has slugged .418. And that includes his first half of 2006. His ISO in 2006 after the trade was .087. In 2007 it was back up to .174, but in 2008 it was back down to .114. I don’t think they can realistically ask him to slug over about .450, which would be fine, but he’d probably have to bat close to .300 to do that. His HRs have dropped precipitously since leaving Texas, and I’d be watching to see if he has any real power left in him. He’s not a .300 hitter and he doesn’t walk that much. So if you’re hoping that he hits real well and has a .275 AVG and .330 OBP, you better hope for some power on top of that. Unless he shows he’s still got some of that pop, he probably doesn’t have much value.