KC Royals: Answering Adalberto Mondesi questions

(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Editor’s Note and Update: This story was written and published before news began breaking that the KC Royals have now placed Adalberto Mondesi on the Injured List (Twitter link).

Someday, maybe even this season, Adalberto Mondesi is bound to put it all together. He’s a genuine five-tool player, a profoundly skilled multi-dimensional talent who should hit, hit for power, run, field, and throw better than most. After all, he was only 20 and hadn’t played above Double-A when the KC Royals added him to their 2015 postseason roster and he appeared in the World Series.

But Mondesi’s big league performance didn’t immediately match expectations. Probably rushed along too soon, he hit .185 in 47 games in 2016 and .170 in 25 the next season. But he broke out in 2018 with 14 home runs, 32 stolen bases, and a .276 average in 75 contests. And despite injuring his left shoulder twice, he had 10 triples, nine homers, 62 RBIs and 43 steals two years ago.

He led the majors in steals with 24 last season but, considered by itself, his .256 average conceals two crucial things—Mondesi was terrible for much of the pandemic-shortened campaign, and spectacular in its final month. Lost at the plate and homerless with just two RBIs in 35 games, he dragged a .186 average into September, then displayed every bit of his talent that month with six home runs, 20 RBIs, 16 steals, and a .356/.408/.667 line.

And what of Mondesi’s 2021? Like 2019, injuries have sidelined him much of this season. An oblique strain kept him out of action until May 25, and he’s now out with a hamstring issue. But he’s hitting .360 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs in the seven games he’s played.

His injuries and career highs and lows raise questions about the Kansas City shortstop.

Should Mondesi’s latest injury cause the KC Royals to promote Bobby Witt Jr.?

Fans and media posed this same question when Kansas City put Mondesi on the Injured List a day before the season started. The Royals answered it by recalling Nicky Lopez to replace him.

Now, in the face of Mondesi’s hamstring injury, the answer is still “No.” KC opted for Lopez and Hanser Alberto instead, resisting once again any temptation to call up Witt.

Witt, listed as the organization’s No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline, started miserably this season and was hitting .189 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas on May 19. Since then, though, he’s raised his average to .236, and clubbed eight homers and driven in 12 runs.

Despite his currently hot bat, the Royals clearly don’t want to rush Witt to the majors; moving Mondesi as rapidly as they did hasn’t helped his career. So they’ll stick with Lopez and Alberto.

Why don’t the KC Royals put Adalberto Mondesi on the Injured List?

This one’s easy. Kansas City could move their shortstop to the IL, but he’d have to stay there at least 10 days unless the Royals make the designation retroactive. But because they can only “back date” an IL designation three days, Mondesi couldn’t play until next weekend if he went on the IL today.

By leaving him on the active roster, the club avoids the frustration of Mondesi being cleared to play before he’s eligible to come off the IL.

So, when can we expect Mondesi to return to the KC Royals’ everyday lineup?

Because they need their shortstop back, this is the question the Royals want answered more than fans do.

Optimists will say Mondesi’s continued presence on the active roster indicates he could return any day, perhaps even this afternoon for Kansas City’s series finale with Minnesota at Kauffman Stadium. Saturday brought a positive sign—per mlb.com KC beat writer Anne Rogers, Mondesi took grounders before the game:

Pessimists, however, will point to Manager Mike Matheny’s Saturday comment concerning Mondesi’s status, as also reported by Rogers:

Unless Mondesi suddenly reappears in the lineup this afternoon, or until the Royals have more information, the “When will Mondesi be back?” question has no precise answer.

Any chance the KC Royals reduce Mondesi’s injury risk by making him the DH?

Well, yes, there’s always that chance. And moving Mondesi to designated hitter makes some sense.

The benefit, of course, is minimizing injury risk—taking Mondesi out of the field drastically reduces the chances of him hurting himself trying to make the flashy plays he’s capable of and for which he’s known. Remember when he was ordered not to dive for balls before returning from a left should subluxation in 2019, but dove anyway and reinjured the same shoulder? Guarding against such situations will help keep Mondesi’s bat in the lineup.

But can he succeed as a designated hitter? The job of a DH is to hit, hopefully with more than just an isolated home run or two, and Mondesi proved in 2018, 2019, last September, and so far this season, that he can hit well. And his 14 homers in less than half a season in 2018 prove his power.

Becoming DH, however, means Mondesi’s glove stays in the clubhouse or on the bench. He’s a high-caliber defender who makes plays other shortstops don’t, and while Nicky Lopez’s defense is excellent, having Mondesi in the dugout instead of the field deprives the Royals of the outstanding double play combinations of Whit Merrifield and Mondesi, or Lopez and Mondesi if the former returns to second base when the latter returns to the lineup.

Mondesi at DH certainly deserves some consideration. It’s unlikely to happen, but the option is there.

Next. Should this be the end for Wade Davis?. dark

Adalberto Mondesi’s latest injury raises questions for the KC Royals. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon.