The KC Royals have the winter to figure out where to play Adalberto Mondesi.
Perhaps no decision J.J. Picollo involves himself with this winter will prove as perplexing as what to do with Kansas City’s often injured, but extraordinarily talented, Adalberto Mondesi.
Everyone in baseball recognizes the problem. Healthy, Mondesi is a player all clubs covet, but his several injuries render him incredibly risky. Shoulder problems complicated his 2019 season, and two oblique injuries and a hamstring issue have limited him to just 28 games this year.
Yet Mondesi is a true five-tool ballplayer with electrifying everything, too good and too valuable when healthy to simply write off. And that’s Picollo’s first problem—the KC Royals simply can’t declare Mondesi too injury-prone to tolerate and walk away from him.
Until he proves he can stay in one piece for prolonged periods, they also can’t give him an everyday job. Kansas City is inching closer to contending again and needs physically reliable players.
Compounding the Mondesi problem is the roster and talent crunch sure to face the club next season. He’s an infielder by trade, currently playing third base because the Royals need a third sacker and they’re clearly trying to determine just how versatile he can be.
But third may not be an option for Mondesi in 2022. Nicky Lopez is so good at shortstop that Bobby Witt Jr., who’s likely to make Kauffman Stadium his permanent baseball residence next year, may be Kansas City’s first hot corner choice. Moving Lopez back to second would open short and third to Mondesi and Witt, leaving Manager Mike Matheny to decide who plays each position. That, however, presents another quandary: where to play Whit Merrifield? Right field might do, but KC needs some place for Hunter Dozier and the heavy baggage of his $25 million contract.
Perhaps Mondesi can DH and play several positions (maybe even center field) if he can’t land a full-time spot. A new Merrifield, so to speak, with time off now and then to reduce physical risk.
It’s a puzzle Picollo must solve.
New KC Royals General Manager J.J. Picollo is a busy man. He’ll get even busier when the season ends.