KC Royals: “Like father, like son” for KC’s Mondesi?

Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images /
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KC Royals, Adalberto Mondesi
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images) /

Like his father before him, the KC Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi is a talented baseball player. But how does he compare, at this stage of his career, with Raul Mondesi at the same point in his?

Raul and Adalberto Mondesi aren’t the only father and son to excel in the major leagues–before them came (among others) Bobby and Barry Bonds, Sandy and Roberto Alomar, Ken and Ken Griffey Jr., Mel and Todd Stottlemyre, Vladimir and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cecil and Prince Fielder, and the KC Royals’ own Hal and Brian McRae. The sons have all been compared to the fathers, a task made easier by the fact all but Adalberto Mondesi and Vladimir Jr. have retired. Career comparisons are best when the subject careers are complete.

An imperfect comparison, though, is better than no comparison at all, especially when, and because, the circumstance of family members playing the same game invite comparisons and entice us to make them. In the Mondesi case, Raul’s career is long over, but Adalberto’s has, relatively speaking just begun; the base for comparison is the first four regular seasons of their respective careers.

Season One.  Raul debuted in 1993, his age 22 season; Adalberto’s first regular campaign began when he was 20 in 2016. (His birthday is in July, so he turns another year older at mid-season; the age a season starts is used here). Their inaugural campaign sample size is similar–Raul played in 42 games, Adalberto 47.

Raul could hit; Adalberto can, and they each had 25 hits. Although Raul soon established himself as a power hitter, and Adalberto has yet to (and may not), they both displayed little power in their first season. Raul had four homers and his son hit two. Raul had 10 RBIs; Adalberto had 13. Adalberto stole more bases, 9 to 4.

Although they each had the same number of hits, batting average was the great divide: Raul hit .291, Adalberto .185–the son had 49 more at-bats than the father.

Season Two.  Raul’s second campaign, 1994, was a classic “breakout” year. Named NL Rookie of the Year, he displayed his first glimpse of power with 16 homers in 112 games, had 56 RBIs, stole 11 bases and hit .306 with an OPS+ of 123. Adalberto’s second season didn’t approach his father’s in playing time or numbers–he played 87 fewer games, had a homer and three RBIs, and hit .181 in 2017.

Season Three.  Their third seasons–Raul’s 1995 and his son’s 2018–were less disparate than their second, and both were good. Raul played 64 more games than Adalberto, so it isn’t surprising most of his numbers exceeded his son’s. His 153 hits bettered Adalberto’s 76; he had 10 more doubles and three more triples; although Adalberto’s 14 home runs in 75 games proved he has power, his father continued to prove his with 26, and he drove in 88 runs compared to his son’s 37.

Both Mondesis were dangerous on the basepaths–Adalberto stole 32 bases to Raul’s 27, a testament to the former’s base-stealing prowess because he stole five more in 64 fewer games.

Raul slashed .285/.328/.496; Adalberto slashed .276/.306/.498. Raul’s OPS+ was 123, Adalberto’s was 115.

Raul was an All-Star and won his first Gold Glove, achievements so far not reached by his son.

Season Four.  The injuries that marred Adalberto’s 2019 season resulted in his playing 55 fewer games than his father did in 1996. It is no surprise, then, that Raul hit twice as many doubles (40), 15 more homers (24), and 34 points higher (.297) than his son; what is somewhat surprising, however, is that Adalberto had three more triples (10) and 29 more stolen bases (43) than Raul. While Adalberto is likely faster than his father was, the stolen base difference is likely less a product of disparate speed than it is differences in opportunity and running situations.

Raul’s OPS+ was 123; Adalberto’s was a disappointing 86.

That Raul played so many more games than Adalberto during their first four seasons complicates statistical comparison–numbers based on significantly different opportunities are inherently imprecise. What, then, can be gleaned from scrutiny of these four seasons?

Experience probably doesn’t explain any differences in performance. Raul debuted in his fourth professional season; excluding his one at bat in the 2015 World Series, Adalberto debuted in his fifth. Despite having one less pro season under his belt when he broke into the majors, Raul’s first and second seasons were far better than his son’s.

Base stealing is a shared prowess. Raul was fast and a threat on the basepaths; Adalberto is probably faster, and a force on base. At his present 22+ steals per season pace, the son should easily surpass his father’s 13-year total of 229–if he can avoid injury and play that long.

Power.  Adalberto is widely perceived to have raw power, an assessment his 14 homers in 75 2018 games seems to support. But raw power is only useful when transformed to actual power; Raul consistently hit for power until the latter stages of his career, while Adalberto is still a work in progress. The KC Royals are not a team traditionally built or dependent on power, and power is not a required attribute for a fast, slick-fielding big league shortstop. But pop at the position wouldn’t hurt; Adalberto equaling his father’s power would be a welcome Royal blessing.

Raul was good; Adalberto could be better.  Raul’s career numbers speak for themselves–he was a good player with a good career. He could hit for average and power and steal bases when he needed to. His son could be better–he can steal bases at any time in any situation (once his plate discipline improves with experience, 70-80 steals a season might become his norm), is an excellent fielder with superb range, can bunt and hit away and has underlying power that, if developed soon, could produce regular 20-25 homer seasons.  But he has to avoid injury.

Next. The Royals and the new 26th man. dark

The Mondesi baseball skill sets are similar. Father Raul could hit, hit for power, run, steal bases, and play Gold Glove defense; son Adalberto can handle the bat, has occasional power and blazing speed, is a prolific base stealer, and has an excellent glove and range. Time will tell whether it’s “Like father, like son” for the KC Royals’ shortstop.