Ismael Mena – Picture by Larry Kave/Myrtle Beach Pelicans
One of the hidden gems of the past month has been the play of outfielder Ismael Mena of Myrtle Beach. It seems like he’s been around quite a while because he came over to the Cubs in the Yu Darvish trade along with Owen Caissie, Yeison Santana, Zach Davies, and Reggie Preciado on December 30, 2020.
Height – 6-foot-3
Weight – 185 at signing
Bats – Left
Throws – Left
From – Santo Domingo in the DR
Signed as an international free agent with the Padres on July 2, 2019
Most people probably don’t realize that Mena is going to be 20-years-old for the entire 2023 season.
It’s not been an easy road for Mena. A lot of people expected him to perform because the Cubs did trade Yu Darvish to acquire him and three other young prospects. His first two summers did not go well.
Normally, international free agents debut in the Dominican Summer League. But because of pandemic, Mena debuted as a Cub in 2021 in Arizona Complex League. He hit just .244 in 36 games. His on base percentage wasn’t much better at .287.
However, his 2021 performance was not good enough to get him to Myrtle Beach for the next year. He returned to extended spring training and wound up repeating/doubling up in Mesa. There is nothing wrong with an 18-year-old doubling up.
He did better in 2022. He hit .264 with a .331 on base percentage. It shows that he’s taking a lot more walks and there’s starting to be a lot more separation between his average and his on base percentage. But it was still not good enough to get him to Myrtle Beach at all last summer.
So, over the winter, Mena put in the time and the work to improve his swing. Although he didn’t make the Pelicans team right out of the gate, he put himself at the front of the line, if the need arose.
And it did.
Since getting called up on June 1, Mena has been one of the spark plugs of the Pelicans’ offense. He hit .279 in June consistently without much fluctuation. In July, he’s in a bit of a slump.
I’m really looking forward to seeing how he does this next month. Will he continue to hit for a high average? Will he show some more power? And how will he be doing in the field? Will he adapt this month to his slow start? The fact that he’s still only 20-years-old and the Cubs have a while to continue to develop him just as he did this winter.