KC Royals Projections: The Adalberto Mondesi question

Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2022. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up now is infielder Adalberto Mondesi.

From the day his very first major league at-bat came in the 2015 World Series, KC Royals fans have been excited about the potential of Adalberto Mondesi. His combination of speed, a bat with home run pop and a slick glove made it look like the club had its shortstop for years to come.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case as the switch-hitter has combined inconsistency and injury to post only one season when he played more than 100 games, and only one, the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, when he made it through an entire season without missing considerable time.

When he’s played, Mondesi has used his speed to tie teammates Hunter Dozier and Whit Merrifield, and Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar, for the major league lead in triples with 10 in 2019, although he played only 102 games. In the abbreviated 2020 season, he led the majors with 24 stolen bases (but was caught stealing eight times, also more than any other player).

The 2021 season began with Mondesi on the Injured List with a strained right oblique. His season debut came May 25 with a pair of doubles, but a hamstring strain a few days later put Mondesi back on the shelf. He returned June 16 and went 4-for-11 with two homers over the next three games, but this time fell to a left oblique injury.

At the time of his second oblique injury, Mondesi was hitting .361 with four home runs and nine RBIs in just 10 games. Unfortunately, his third injury of the season kept him out until September. Whether it was the lingering effects of the injuries or the grind of the season, Mondesi hit only .178 with two homers and eight RBIs the rest of the way. He also tried out third base because Nicky Lopez had entrenched himself at shortstop.

How Baseball Reference and FanGraphs project the KC Royals’ Adalberto Mondesi.

Baseball Reference projects a .252 batting average with nine home runs, 40 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 331 plate appearances for Mondesi in 2022. FanGraphs (Depth Chart version) predicts a productive season for Mondesi — 19 home runs, 70 RBIs and 50 steals (but a .248 average) in 136 games.

How will Adalberto Mondesi actually perform for the KC Royals this season?

Before fans are able to see how Mondesi performs for the Royals in 2022, the first question will be IF, given his extensive injury history, he performs for the Royals at all. In fact, and according to 610 Sports Radio’s Josh Vernier, then-General Manager Dayton Moore suggested to 610’s Bob Fescoe that the club can’t rely on Mondesi playing every day:

The next part of the conversation is finding a place for Mondesi to play. Lopez has proven more than capable at shortstop, creating talk of a position shift for Mondesi to perhaps third base or even the outfield. A spot in the outfield could help him stay healthier, but many of his injuries are strains, pulls and the types of muscle injuries that result from ordinary actions anywhere on the field.

In 20 games at third base late in the season, Mondesi committed two errors in 56 chances. His glove has never been a question, so he would likely adapt well to a position change if that’s the direction the Royals choose to go. Second base is another option, but Mondesi hasn’t played there since 2018 or regularly since coming up to the major leagues in 2016. With the likelihood of a lockout-induced shortened season, he would have to pick up either position quickly.

Mondesi has one more year of arbitration eligibility left after this season, giving him additional motivation to stay healthy and produce the type of breakout season Royals fans have been hoping for.

In all likelihood, Mondesi’s 2022 season will fall somewhere between the Baseball Reference and FanGraphs projections. If he stays healthy, FanGraphs’ prediction is certainly within reach.

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