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Washington Nationals’ prospect Drew Mendoza tops MLB’s list of Nats’ infield prospects...

Just one year after being drafted, an infielder from Florida State overcame COVID issues and is now ranked as the Nationals’ top position prospect by MLB.com …

2019 Florida State Baseball Season Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – It was an eventful year for Nationals’ minor leaguer Drew Mendoza – but it ends with him being the top infield prospect in the system per MLB.com, and No. 11 overall after 10 pitchers.

The Florida State product was in Spring Training when baseball shut down in March. He then dealt with minor issues with Covid-19, with flu-like symptoms for a few days, before being part of the 60-player pool in Virginia and then the Instructional League in West Palm Beach in October.

He was one of the few infielders to take part in both camps in Fredericksburg and Florida.

“We were very much more performance-based in Fredericksburg, getting ready for gameplay,” Mendoza said. “In general, a lot more instructional based in Florida; the days were longer in Florida.”

What did he learn in Florida about infield play?

2019 Florida State Baseball Season Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

“Going back on the same things we learned as an organization in the last year and a half that I have been here, fundamentals, attacking angles (of batted balls) and understanding how to read hops, making everything as efficient as possible.”

The co-field coordinators in player development, Fairfax native Tommy Shields and Jeff Garber, are both former infielders at the professional level.

Shields played in the majors with the Orioles and Cubs while Garber reached the Triple-A level with the Royals.

“The understanding from top to bottom, they are all on the same page,” Mendoza, 23, said.

After playing for Hagerstown in 2019 and hitting .264 in 55 games, Mendoza missed out on a minor league season this year.

But he still feels he learned a lot.

“I think it was great – obviously you miss those game reps and those at-bats” in the minors, he said. “The extra focus on development as far as the swing goes and on defense … I think it was really helpful.

Mendoza was able to watch the pro debuts of fellow infielders Jake Boone and Quade Tomlin at instructs. Boone played in college at Princeton while Tomlin turned down a chance to play in college at Division I Liberty after a standout prep career in Lynchburg, VA.

“Athleticism and maturity for both of them, coming from very different backgrounds. That is what struck me the most,” Mendoza said.

Does he have a goal for what level he wants to play at in 2021?

“I really don’t speculate into all of that,” said Mendoza, drafted in the third round out of Florida State in 2019. “I am just going to continue to be the best player I can be; that is all that I can control. I am going to hope for the best.”

Mendoza said he played in all seven of the games in instructs against the Marlins.

Originally the schedule called for 12 games, but bad weather and COVID issues with the Marlins trimmed that number. He also was late add to the 60-player pool in Virginia this summer.

2019 Florida State Baseball Season Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

“Big kid, athletic, good arm, good feet in the field,” co-field coordinator Tommy Shields told Federal Baseball about Mendoza during alternate site camp. “First baseman, third baseman. And he’s got power. He actually had COVID and he was down for two or three weeks. So it is an opportunity for him to get at-bats as well, which is what you need. Both of those guys need at-bats.”

He was teammates in college with pitcher Andrew Karp, 25, drafted by the Nationals in 2018 in the sixth round. Karp pitched for Auburn and in the Gulf Coast League in 2018 but did not appear in the minors in 2019.

Mendoza is taking classes online this semester at Florida State and working on his degree in statistics. He will spend the holidays in central Florida with family and get ready for Spring Training 2021 in West Palm Beach.

“That is what we are all planning for,” he said of normal spring training. “It has been a long time since things felt normal. Baseball and spring are some of those things we all kind of need.”