2018 Royals Season Preview – Raúl Mondesí

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 25: Raul Mondesi
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 25: Raul Mondesi /

Raúl Mondesí Jr. has been among the main talking points of the Royals organization for a few years now. The team has pushed him uber-aggressively through the minor-league system and at each level, the 22-year-old has shown enough promise to earn a promotion. During his time in Kansas City, however, Mondesí has struggled immensely. With the team re-signing Alcides Escobar ahead of the 2018 season, what does that mean for Mondesí?

If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Ramón Torres, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Torres will be seeking a highly-desired utility spot in the Royals’ infield this season. Another young infielder competing for a spot on the 25-man roster is Raúl Mondesí. Mondesí has been one of the Royals’ most talked about young players since the days of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. Becoming the first player to ever make his MLB debut in the World Series, there has always been something different about the son of former major-leaguer Raul Mondesi Sr.

Mondesí hit to the tune of just .185 in 47 games with the Royals in 2016. His AAA season was cut short due to a PED suspension connected to an over-the-counter cold medication he took in the Dominican Republic. It was evident Mondesí was not ready for the MLB yet. Here’s a quote from GM Dayton Moore a few weeks ago regarding his young shortstop/second baseman:

We’ll leave it at that. Is this the year Mondesí breaks through? Only time will tell.

What did he offer last season?

Winning the second base job out of Spring Training, expectations were high for Mondesí’s 2017 season. Instead of starting the season off on a high note, he looked completely overwhelmed. In 25 games with the Royals last season, Mondesí batted .170 with an on-base percentage of .214. He hit just one home run and added only three RBIs. Striking out in nearly 37% of his at-bats, it was (once again) evident that Mondesí was not yet ready to see major-league pitching. These numbers included a .103 batting average in the months of March and April. Again sent back to AAA Omaha, Mondesí had his best minor-league season to date.

In 85 games with the Omaha Storm Chasers, Mondesí was superb. He set minor-league career-highs in batting average (.305), slugging percentage (.539), home runs (13) and RBIs (52). The switch-hitter also managed to lower his strikeout rate to 24%. This performance was more than enough for the Royals to call Mondesí back up in September, where he proceeded to go 5/11 (.455 BA) over his final nine games of the season. Considering this was such a small sample size, it’s not safe to assume Mondesí made the proper adjustments to become MLB-ready. What do the projections say?

What can we expect in 2018?

Steamer expects Raúl Mondesî to find his way back to the MLB for about half of the season, putting up the following numbers:

  • 74 games played (up from 25)
  • .238 BA (up from .170)
  • 27.8% strikeout rate (down from 36.7%)
  • 7 HR (up from one)
  • 30 RBIs (up from three)

This would be nice. Considering Alcides Escobar is likely to start at shortstop for the entire season and Whit Merrifield is still on the roster, playing time may be hard to come by for Mondesí. As a result of poor play or injury, it’s always possible players are benched for younger ones – especially in a season like this one. I’m going to say Mondesí plays fewer than 74 games, hits fewer than seven home runs and has fewer than 30 RBIs. I’ll take slightly over on the strikeout rate and, for the sake of optimism, I’ll say Mondesí finishes with an even .238 batting average.

Yes, it would be nice for Mondesí to see an entire season of playing time and crush these projections. I just don’t see it happening. Until told otherwise (or barring an amazing Spring), I doubt he’ll see 74 games this year. Last season, no one knew Merrifield was going to be this good. After a stellar season from him, it’s going to be extremely difficult for Mondesí to compete for playing time at second base. Contrary to popular belief, Dayton Moore thinks the opportunity is still there:

"“Mondy, although he had a breakout year in AAA, there’s still some questions with durability. We need to see that but he’ll get an opportunity to compete at second base again. If he doesn’t win a job, he’ll be back at AAA to develop.”"

The verdict

I like Raúl Mondesí. I think he still has immense potential. Last season in the minors, he showed everything. He has amazing speed. The glove has its question marks, but no one questions his range. There is still pop in Mondesí’s bat. Keep in mind, this kid is still just 22 years old. The Royals pushed him for a reason. He may not be ready yet, but his time is coming. Hopefully, he can have a great Spring Training and earn some playing time. I hope he blows my projections out of the water. The main obstacle for Mondesí this year isn’t himself: it’s the players ahead of him. If he can prove himself ready, an opportunity will hopefully present itself. If he can’t, at least everyone will have some great AAA baseball to look forward to.

What do you think, Royals fans? Is this the year Raúl Mondesí makes a splash in the MLB? Is he destined for another year stuck in AAA? Let us know what you think!