The Kansas City Royals brought up infielder yesterday, installing him at second base. Mondesi has been on the prospect charts for several years. Can he help the Royals salvage the second half of the 2016 season?
We last looked at Mondesi back in late March as spring training was coming to an end.
He looks like a player is supposed to look. Many respected analysts consider him one of the very best prospects in baseball, focusing on the tools and his very young age relative to the competition.
His numbers have always been bad; he's been a persistently below average hitter with poor strike zone judgment and little game power. Of course, he's also been extremely young for his leagues, the Royals pushing him in a Darwinian sink-or-swim development approach. It hasn't worked to this point but he's still only 20. However, if you study baseball history, you'll find that while age-relative-to-league is an important factor, it is not the only one. The assumption that Mondesi will figure things out because he is so young is just that, an assumption, one which has some historical support but which also has historical counterpoints.
Mondesi has played 52 games this year, his time on the field limited by a 50-game PED suspension; Mondesi blamed his positive test on cold medicine purchased in the Dominican Republic. In those 52 games he's hit a combined .268/.322/.469 with 24 steals in 25 attempts, 17 walks and 60 strikeouts in 209 at-bats. This includes a .304/.328/.536 mark in 56 at-bats in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League with Omaha, with two walks and 19 strikeouts.
There has been real progress here. Mondesi has learned to use his speed on the bases properly. His defense at shortstop has been much steadier this year, with fewer mental mistakes. He's at second base for the Royals right now (and made an error in his first game) but given additional adjustment time he should be an excellent second baseman defensively and one who can shift over to shortstop as needed
Offensively, he is getting to his power much more often this year, with Isolated Power at a career high without loss of batting average. His approach is still highly aggressive and PCL observers noted a marked tendency to chase junk pitches outside the strike zone. This didn't hurt his production in the minors this year but you can be very sure that MLB pitchers will make note quickly.
Despite doubts about his current hitting, he still ranked as a Grade B+ pre-season and I'd stay with that grade right now. My guess is that Mondesi will provide speed, some power, and inconsistent but at times excellent defense. Don't expect much in the way of batting average or OBP once the pitchers get a good look at him. At age 21 he has plenty of time on the clock to make adjustments and continue adding skills to go with his tools.