Grading the 2021 KC Royals, Part 3: The infielders

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /
2 of 3
KC Royals, Adalberto Mondesi
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /

Small sample sizes complicate grading 3 KC Royals infielders for 2021.

A trio of Royal infielders—Adalberto Mondesi, Emmanuel Rivera, and Kelvin Gutierrez—played sparingly in 2021, but not so infrequently that they can’t be graded.

Mondesi’s lack of playing time stemmed from health, not subpar performance. Two oblique injuries and a hamstring issue limited KC’s regular shortstop to just 35 games, although he made it through the season’s final month without making a fourth trip to the Injured List.

Mondesi finished his truncated campaign with a .230/.271/.452 line and six home runs. He showed glimpses of how well he can perform when healthy, especially in the 10 games he played before his third, and longest (almost 10 weeks) stay on the IL when, interrupted once by a much shorter trip to the List, he homered four times, drove in nine runs, and slashed .361/.378/.833.

But he hit only .178 from his Sept. 1 return to the campaign’s final game Oct. 3. He gets a C for the year.

After five years in the minors, Rivera debuted in the big leagues by going 2-for-4 against Boston June 28. He singled on the first major league pitch he saw.

But Rivera suffered a hamate fracture the next day and didn’t play for the Royals again until early August. He saw action in 29 more games and hit .247 with a .312 OBP before Kansas City sent him back to Triple-A Omaha to finish the season. Unfortunately, he had a subpar .934 fielding percentage in 28 games at third base.

For 2021, Rivera also gets a C.

Playing serviceably for parts of two Royals seasons seemed to make Kelvin Gutierrez the favorite for a reserve infield spot in 2021. That, though, was before the club’s offseason acquisition of Hanser Alberto, a deal that all but assured Gutierrez of a diminished, if not disappearing, role.

And eventually, after finding his way into 38 games but batting only .215 and making nine errors in 37 games at third, he was gone. Kansas City sold him, ironically, to Baltimore, Alberto’s former club. A D is the best Royal grade Gutierrez can get.