KC Royals need to give Adalberto Mondesi a break

The KC Royals’ talented shortstop struggled at the plate again Friday night. It’s time for the club to give him a break.

Adalberto Mondesi, the just turned 25-years old shortstop who could become the best ever to play the position for the KC Royals, went 0-for-5 in Friday night’s loss to the White Sox. Looking lost at the plate once again, he struck out three times with runners in scoring position, and his average dropped to .205. His OPS+ will remain disturbingly below 50 on a scale where 100 is league average, everything above 100 is better than average, and everything under that mark is consequently below average.

The Royals’ heartbreaking 6-5 loss was not Mondesi’s to own, of course—baseball is a game of collective effort, and team wins and losses belong to no player alone.

Ian Kennedy, for example, threw only four pitches, but it was his last, a 2-1 offering to Yasmani Grandal in the bottom of the ninth, that was the difference in the game—Grandal pounded it over the right-field fence to give the Sox the win. Starter Danny Duffy gave up two homers that accounted for half of Chicago’s runs.

Four other Royals went hitless and, true to the club’s 2020 form, the lineup left 11 on base and went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.

But the fact Mondesi wasn’t solely responsible for this loss will be little, if any, consolation for the potential-filled, talent-packed player stuck in a mysteriously dismal slump, the trappings of which were especially disconcerting Friday night.

Mondesi struck out swinging with no one out and runners at second and third in the second inning.

He grounded out with runners at first and third to end the next inning.

He went down swinging to end the seventh, this time with runners on first and second.

In the ninth, moments after the Royals tied the game at 5, he took an inning-ending called third strike with the go-ahead run at third base.

The performance was the latest chapter in Mondesi’s poor season with the bat. He was hitting .289 after 12 games, but that was after a 3-for-4 performance at a point in the campaign where a single hit triggers a disproportionate statistical spike. He hasn’t been that high since and joining veteran Alex Gordon below .200 could be just a game away, although Gordon, also slumping most of the season, is on a slight upswing and reached .196 Friday.

Mondesi’s .205 average coming into this afternoon’s game against Chicago isn’t the only irrefutable evidence of his distressing season. He’s gone hitless in 14 of the team’s 32 games and avoided striking out in only eight. He’s walked just twice in 119 plate appearances. His on base and slugging percentages are below .300.

Opposing pitchers are beginning to exploit his recent propensity to swing at almost every first pitch. He goes after pitches he shouldn’t and takes pitches he can handle. If he has a plan at the plate, it’s hard to detect.

Mondesi is young, but he’s played each and every one of the KC Royals’ 32 games. He hasn’t missed a beat defensively and his stellar play at short tends to prove his troubles with the bat aren’t traceable to physical fatigue.

Much of mastering the art of hitting is mental, and the mental component is fragile and vulnerable to the self-doubts and ceaseless searches for answers upon which prolonged slumps like Mondesi’s feed. The deeper the slumps, the more players press and develop counterproductive habits and trends. They try too hard and try new things. They think too much or too little, then swing too much or too little. They abandon hitting by a plan.

That many of Mondesi’s swings are ill-advised and desperate looking but seem fundamentally sound, suggests Mondesi’s plate troubles are rooted more in outlook and approach than technique and mechanics.

Managers tend to stay with hot hands and, sooner or later, give cold ones a respite from the daily grind of prolonged slumps. Relief from the battle could do Mondesi some good. A bit of time to sit back on the bench and reflect, a short time away from the pressures of the moment, couldn’t hurt.

And a break is something manager Mike Matheny is well-positioned to give him. The KC Royals are a versatile club with the luxury of flexibility. Nicky Lopez, considered by some a better shortstop than a second baseman, can easily move from second to short. Whit Merrifield can move from center field to second, a position he knows better than any other. Bubba Starling can certainly play center; so can Alex Gordon, and Ryan McBroom could replace Gordon in left.

The resources Matheny needs to cover a short break for Mondesi are at his fingertips. He should use them now to allow his young shortstop to take a step back, work with his coaches, and recharge his hitting batteries. A couple of games on the bench might do wonders for Mondesi and, in turn, help the club.

It’s worth a try.

The KC Royals need more from their struggling shortstop. A brief break may be just what Adalberto Mondesi needs to get back on track.