KC Royals: Why Adalberto Mondesi is so important now

(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports)
(Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports) /

Sit back, get comfortable, close your eyes, and let your mind wander to a post-lockout baseball world where Adalberto Mondesi solves some of the issues facing the KC Royals in 2022.

Imagine how things could be. Solid middle defense. Players working in familiar spots and where the club wants them to play.

As long as Mondesi, often injured but still young—26 after playing parts of six seasons in the majors—can stay reasonably healthy, it could happen. That’s why Mondesi, a five-tool potential star, is now, perhaps more than ever, so important to the Royals.

Simply put, Mondesi can be a key to Kansas City becoming relevant again.

What Adalberto Mondesi can do for the KC Royals could start at third base.

Mondesi playing third this season might be the catalyst Kansas City is searching for. But any discussion of him playing a significant role there (or anywhere) must begin with his health.

The Royals are realistic about Mondesi. They know his injury history and realize his best years will fall somewhere between the healthy season he enjoyed in 2020 when he played all but one of the club’s 60 games (a small sample to be sure, but proof he can stay in one piece for an extended period) and last year, when three injuries limited him to 35 games.

No less a club authority than Dayton Moore reportedly acknowledged as much last August:

But don’t misunderstand Moore. The Royals aren’t abandoning Mondesi; to the contrary, they put together an offseason program designed to improve his health, something the club wouldn’t have done if he wasn’t firmly entrenched in its plans. And that new winter regimen, now almost certain to be extended by the unproductive, and now stalled, labor negotiations, is successful, third base may be his best destination.

Assuming he hits well, something he’s certainly capable of doing, Mondesi playing the hot corner could help resolve several issues, not the least of which is reducing his exposure to injury. Third basemen don’t have to cover as much ground as shortstops, and making the double play at second, a sometimes dangerous proposition, isn’t part of their game.

Then there’s the question of where to play Bobby Witt Jr. who, if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, will arrive soon enough. Witt is, like Mondesi, a natural shortstop, and leaving him at his best position will make his transition from the minors to the majors less complicated and more comfortable.

And Nicky Lopez? Lopez’s surprisingly spectacular 2021—he more than filled Mondesi’s shoes at short and became the first Royal shortstop to hit .300—was an excellent second baseman before, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t be again.

However, Lopez returning to second forces Whit Merrifield out of the infield, a move that might (but considering Witt’s decent glove probably won’t) diminish the club’s middle defense a bit. That infield loss will be the outfield’s gain—Merrifield could fill the uncertain right field spot, something Kansas City clearly counted on him doing last season until Mondesi’s injuries rendered him far more valuable at second base. And right field means less wear and tear on Merrifield, who at 33 is reaching a career point where that’s important.

So, maybe third is where Mondesi needs to be; nothing about his 20-game performance there late last season suggests he can’t handle the job.

What if the KC Royals want to keep Nicky Lopez at shortstop this season?

The potential advantages of moving Mondesi to third are, of course, collectively conjecture, a mix of potential positives based on an option the Royals are lucky to have.

But another scenario—leaving Lopez at shortstop, moving Mondesi to second (or capitalizing on his athleticism by moving him around the field), having rookie Witt begin his big league career at third, and using Merrifield at second and in right—is also viable. Indeed, it may be best for the club to keep Lopez at short, especially considering his stellar performance there last season and his obvious comfort at the position.

At the end of the day, though, Kansas City will be in good hands no matter who—Lopez, Witt, or Mondesi—plays shortstop. And a healthy Mondesi gives the club the flexibility they need to maintain an excellent infield.

That’s why he, and his health, are so important.

Next. George Brett, NLBM, MLB lockout. dark

Adalberto Mondesi may be more important to the Royals now than he’s ever been.