On October 30, 2015, young Kansas City Royals phenom Raul A. Mondesi became the first player to ever make his major league debut in the World Series. He had never played above Double-A in his life, yet there he stood against beloved righty Noah Syndergaard in the top of the fifth of Game Three. While he was swiftly retired, and as the Royals took their lone defeat of the series, the groundwork for an exciting career was laid.
The Mondesi name is probably a familiar one to most baseball fans. Raul Mondesi Sr. was an All-Star outfielder, playing for multiple teams, most notably the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is also a polarizing civil figure. Now, his two sons are pursuing their baseball dreams, Raul Mondesi with the Royals and Raul Mondesi Jr. with the Milwaukee Brewers. In 2018, the Kansas City Royals need to fully commit to Raul A. Mondesi as their starting shortstop, no matter what.
I do not think the term ‘sink or swim’ applies fully here because that implies a sense of urgency. Some fans maintain a disappointed outlook on Mondesi, and understandably so. He sports a gnarly batting average of .181 through his first 209 plate appearances. Although that is less than desired, it is important to factor in his age.
It sure feels like Mondesi has been around quite a while. He has been affiliated with the Kansas City Royals since he was sixteen. However, he will not even turn 23 until July of 2018. Lauded scout and Royals Hall of Fame member Art Stewart has long stated that it is unfair to write off a player before they are 27-years-old. Thankfully, being written off should not be a problem for Mondesi, as it does not take a genius to notice his incredible talent.
Members of the Kansas City Royals upper management have believed that Mondesi has had a big league-ready glove since they first contacted him seven years ago. Mondesi’s defensive prowess makes him a can’t-miss prospect, which he’s already shown flashes of defensive greatness at the MLB level.
His bat, however, has been more of a project. He has progressed steadily throughout the minors over the past six seasons. Upon each advancement, he faced statistical setbacks but adjusted and advanced his game.
Last year, Mondesi broke out at Omaha with a .890 OPS, 13 home runs, and 21 stolen bases. If not for a minor injury, Mondesi would have represented the Storm Chasers in the PCL All-Star Game. Although he has not yet broken through at the major league level, we have briefly seen the speed and pop that he possesses.
The big league ball club has not been able to give Mondesi time to work out of his offensive woes, albeit to little fault of their own. In 2016, he received his first regular-season call-up shortly after the All-Star break. The team went on somewhat of a run in August, but as the good mojo faded down the stretch, his playing time dwindled.
2017 initially appeared to be different for Mondesi, as he broke camp with the Royals. However, after two weeks of subpar offensive performance, he was demoted as the club deferred to Whit Merrifield at second base. Mondesi went on to destroy Triple-A pitching and was rewarded with a September call-up.
Essentially, the coaching staff has been excited to see what Mondesi has to offer. Unfortunately, they have not been able to dedicate a large amount of playing time to him due to playoff aspirations. General Manager Dayton Moore has made it clear this offseason that the team is entering a retooling phase. This has set the bar low for the 2018 season.
We need to write off any expectations for the team and allow young players like Mondesi time to grow and mature without the pressure of a playoff race. He will inevitably struggle, and he needs to be allowed time to figure it out. With room to grow, Mondesi can definitely grow into a leader of the next great Royals core.
While Merrifield seemingly has locked up the second base position, the departure of Alcides Escobar has left a gap in the middle infield. That spot simply seems destined to be filled by Mondesi.
There have been murmurs of a reunion with Escobar, or the addition of someone like Ryan Goins. I would not be opposed to adding a veteran, especially Escobar, to our infield. His leadership and durability would serve the team well, but he would need to serve in a relegated role.
The Royals must commit to Mondesi at shortstop in 2018 to prevent stunting his growth. Even if Mondesi does not necessarily have the breakout season I believe he will, labeling him a bust will still be much too premature. Especially since he will be only 23 at season’s end. I truly hope we get to witness his talent shine through at Kauffman beginning this year. So for now, sit back and enjoy the show.
What do you think Royals fans? Are you on board with letting Mondesi work through potential struggles during the rebuild? Is Mondesi a bust or just untapped potential? Let us know your thoughts!