In a clubhouse that’s been filled with top prospects like Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Dylan Cease, there’s a White Sox 22nd round draft pick who arrived at spring training almost invisible.
He’s not ranked among their top 30 prospects. He never received a scholarship offer out of high school. Chances are, this article might be the first time you’ve ever seen his name—and that’s completely fine with Danny Mendick.
“I like being under the radar because someday when I do come up (to the majors), and everyone is like, ‘Who’s this guy?’ it will be a little more special,” said the 25-year-old Mendick who is starting to lose some of that anonymity this spring. He entered Sunday batting .412 in 20 at-bats with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs.
It’s been quite a journey for the Rochester, N.Y. native, an ascend so steep just to get to this point, he’s practically a mountain climber.
“It’s been very uphill. A lot of bumps in it. That made me the player I am today. I’ve had to battle a lot more adversity than most people,” he said. “You get a stretch where you’re 0 for 20. I can handle that. I feel like I’m so in tune with adversity, it’s second nature.”
Coming out of high school at 5-foot-8 and not a single college knocking on his door, Mendick stayed home and played at nearby Monroe Community College for two years. After that, it was two years at UMass-Lowell where he combined to hit .317/.407/.467. When it came time for the 2015 draft, he knew of just one team that was interested in him, and it was Chicago’s other baseball team. Not the White Sox.
“The only team I really talked to before (the draft) was the Cubs,” Mendick said. “When the draft was around, I was looking at the Cubs and then the White Sox picked me and I was like, okay. I didn’t have any knowledge of anything beforehand. Honestly, it was kind of a good thing because I wasn’t expecting much. But when I did get the opportunity and got the call from the White Sox in the 22nd round I was so thrilled. It was probably one of the greatest days of my life.”
His first full season in the White Sox organization was a whirlwind to say the least. Being a toolsy 22-year-old who could play second base, third base and shortstop, he went through prospect spin cycle, moving from one minor league team to another all year long.
How about this stretch that July when Mendick changed teams seven times in 20 days:
July 1: Winston-Salem to Charlotte
July 2: Charlotte to Winston-Salem
July 4: Winston-Salem to Charlotte
July 5: Charlotte to Winston-Salem
July 7: Winston-Salem to Charlotte
July 13: Charlotte to Winston-Salem
July 20: Winston-Salem to Kannapolis
“That road down from Winston to Charlotte, my car had some good mileage on that,” Mendick said. “I finished that year in (Class-A) Kannapolis. I didn’t really play much when I was in Winston and Charlotte. I was more of a backup in case somebody got hurt. And then I went back to Charlotte and I was playing everyday. I think that’s what they wanted to me to do was to get some experience which was good.”
Chris Getz didn’t become the White Sox director of player development until the following season, but he understands why a player like Mendick could be tossed around like that.
“It’s more of a testament to what he brings to the table. His ability to play multiple positions and having trust in what he’s doing,” Getz said about Mendick. “So even though you’re putting him at perhaps a higher level, you know he’s going to stand in the right spots, and provide what the team needs that day.”
If there was a breakthrough moment for Mendick in his career, it came in 2017. He started that season at Winston-Salem, where there was a manager who happened to score the only run in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series for the White Sox.
Mendick had found a kindred spirit in the form of Willie Harris.
“He actually taught me a lot, and it wasn’t just verbally. It was how he acted and what he did,” Mendick said about Harris. “We talked all the time because he was the utility guy. He was that guy you needed who played everywhere. He brought so much energy and he told me how to take care of my business the right way and how to go out there with a little chip on my shoulder, because I am a 22nd rounder. You don’t have the big name on your jersey. He just taught me how to go out there and play the right way. I owe him a lot because that whole year made me into the player I am right now.”
In 2018, Mendick was named the MVP of the Double-A Birmingham Barons, hitting .247/.340/.395 with 14 home runs, 25 doubles and 20 steals, while playing his home games at a park that’s not considered hitter-friendly. His numbers might not jump off the page, but a player like Mendick has a skillset that goes beyond the boxscore.
“Coaches really enjoy having him on a team because of what he brings to the table,” Getz said. “His attention to detail, his ability to play multiple positions, his quality of at-bats. He’s a winning player. You talk to all the managers and coaches who have had him, they always speak highly of Danny.”
If you’ve ever been told that you can’t do something, Mendick is an example that you can.
“You can’t have a negative mindset when you go through stuff like that. You’ve just got to always stay positive and always keep your goals in sight. That’s what I’ve done since day one. Just go out there and control what I can control. You can’t worry about everything else,” Mendick said.
That’s how a 22nd round draft pick out of a small college in Lowell, Mass. has been playing spring training games against the likes of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kris Bryant.
“It shows us that he’s not scared of anything. He’s proved doubters wrong his whole life and his whole playing career. Any obstacle that’s put in his way, he’s not going to back down,” Getz said. “Certainly baseball presents plenty of challenges. He’s one of those guys who’s not going to run the other direction because he’s overcome so much. There are a lot of players like that have the same backstory and track record that go out and have nice major league careers.”
If he does reach the majors, Mendick knows exactly the type of player he can be: a super utilityman who does everything.
“I just look at guys like Ben Zobrist and Brock Holt, how they’re so versatile and so good, the team can just put them wherever and they’ll go out there and produce. That’s a guy I want to be like. They can ask me to do whatever, and I’ll just do it."