Raul Adalberto Mondesi made his MLB debut last year in the World Series as a 20 year old. He won’t turn 21 until July and has been one of the youngest players at every level he’s ever been at. The Royals have been very aggressive with Mondesi, culminating in his call up last year. Currently, Mondesi is not projected to make the Royals 25 man roster but there is plenty of time for that to change.
The one man standing in Mondesi’s way is near 2015 All Star Omar Infante. Really the only worthy argument for keeping Infante in the starting lineup is that he is due to make almost $8 million in 2016 and $8 million exactly in 2017. The Royals aren’t a team that can afford to eat that kind of payroll. Last year was easily Infante’s worst as a pro posting a .238 wOBA and a 44 wRC+ (with 100 being average). His overall value was a sterling -0.9 WAR meaning that Infante was worse than a replacement level player by a decent amount. His 2014 wasn’t much better with a .280 wOBA, 76 wRC+ and 0.5 WAR. His glove isn’t a negative. It’s more of an average glove at 2B which is probably the only thing he really has going for him at 34 years old. Infante is a sunk cost at this point and it’s up to Ned Yost and the Royals to realize that they have a better option.
Mondesi’s natural position is SS and he’s always been regarded as being able to flash some leather. That alone should be enough for the Royals to consider using him at 2B where he figures to be an even better defender given that it’s an easier position to play. He also provides enough upside at the plate that the decision should be pretty easy.
Mondesi is not a large man. He is listed at 6-1/165 on Fangraphs. However he shows surprising power for being so small, hitting 8 and 6 HRs in his last two years. Given today’s SS crop, that probably doesn’t seem that special but he figures to start at 2B early in his career which makes that a little more bearable. What he lacks in power, he makes up for with speed. In AA last year he stole 19 bases on 25 attempts. That might not seem like a lot but he did that in just 81 games. If he gets 300 PA this year, I would think Mondesi can notch 10-15 SBs as long as he can get on base.
OBP is the one area that I have concerns with. Mondesi has always shown a penchant for hacking (25.4 career MiLB K%). Unless he makes some big strides in plate discipline that will continue. He combines that with a pretty poor ability to take walks (3.8 career MiLB BB%). That doesn’t bode well for the majors considering these career numbers were mainly achieved in the low minors. The good news is that he is young enough where the possibility for improvement is very real.
Mondesi is more of a play in keeper and dynasty leagues but I think he gets the call before the summer in the majors and potentially even breaks camp with the Royals. There are absolutely going to be growing pains with Mondesi and it would be a good idea to have another 2B/SS on the roster so he can ride those out on the bench. However, he could come up and provide plenty of speed. It’s unreasonable to expect much else in his first real taste of the big leagues, but as with guys like Jarrod Dyson, if you can steal 15+ SBs you will have value.
Steamer is projecting Mondesi for 1 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI, 2 SB, a .233 AVG and a .264 OBP over 46 PA. I think Mondesi gets at least 200 PA this year as the Royals realize that Infante is hurting their team. I’ll give Mondesi 2 HR, 23 R, 18 RBI, 15 SB, a .245 AVG and a .270 OBP. This projection is a longshot and Mondesi getting 200 PA is also a longshot but in deeper leagues or keepers, Mondesi is definitely worth the gamble.