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The Royals may have a star in Adalberto Mondesi

There aren’t many things to be excited about with the Royals now, but Mondesi is doing his best to change that.

Cleveland Indians v Kansas City Royals Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images

For baseball fans in Kansas City, there wasn’t a whole lot to cheer about during the 2018 season. A couple years removed from a campaign that ended in a championship, they had become a team with the second most losses in all of baseball. Their former core of Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Wade Davis had all left via free agency or trade, so for much of the season, there was little single player performances to cheer for, at least compared to their back-to-back American League pennant clubs.

Narrow it down to above-average play and the Royals still had little. Outside of Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez, and Brad Keller there was basically zero plus-production they had from start to finish. Much of this will remain the same heading into 2019. They’ll still have Merrifield, one of the better second baseman in all of baseball, and Perez, a consistent appearance on the American League All-Star roster. Among the outskirts of those two players though is a whole lot of uncertainty.

One player I have yet to mention has the potential to be the best player on this cellar-dwelling roster. Not stoping there, he’ll potential to be one of the better young shortstops in the game. This player is Adalberto Mondesi. A former big-bonus international signing and consensus top 100 prospect, he fell slightly off the spectrum due to prospect fatigue and struggles at the big league level (a .181/.226/.271 line in 209 plate appearances will do the trick).

Even though his bat had fizzled in his first two stints, the raw potential still showed signs in Triple-A, as in 551 plate appearances the level from the ages of 20 to 22 (average triple-A hitter is usually around 26-27), Mondesi slashed .292/.328/.527 with a total of 64 extra-base hits and 36 stolen bases in 39 attempts.

With the Royals manning the horrendous bat of Alcides Escobar at shortstop in the middle of the season, Mondesi would earn his third opportunity in the majors. His struggles continued his first month back, hitting for 54 wRC+ and striking out in a fourth of his plate appearances, making it hard for him to get consistent time in an even sub-par Royals lineup.

Once the second half came and his playing time ramped up, he had finally hit his stride at the highest level. On a prorated level, only seven qualified players posted a better fWAR than Mondesi in the second half. Players ahead of him included the two probable MVPs and the recently named NL Rookie of the Year.

Top 10 prorated fWAR in the second half

Name Team G PA 2nd Half fWAR 2nd Half fWAR/600 PA
Name Team G PA 2nd Half fWAR 2nd Half fWAR/600 PA
Christian Yelich Brewers 65 294 5.4 11.0
Justin Turner Dodgers 55 237 3.4 8.6
Mookie Betts Red Sox 58 259 3.7 8.6
Matt Chapman Athletics 64 286 3.9 8.2
Tommy Pham - - - 50 217 2.8 7.7
Anthony Rendon Nationals 61 270 3.3 7.3
Ronald Acuna Jr. Braves 68 303 3.4 6.7
Adalberto Mondesi Royals 54 217 2.4 6.6
Jeff McNeil Mets 63 248 2.7 6.5
Alex Bregman Astros 61 271 2.9 6.4
Among qualified 2nd half hitters FanGraphs

Mondesi reached his season peak in September, a month in which five players (Yelich, Pham, Rendon, Trout, Betts) collected more fWAR than him. Doing most of the work with that was his power/speed combo that created 14 stolen bases and eight home runs for the month. Adding those two numbers together and comparing with every month every player had in the 2018 season, not one topped Mondesi’s September. I wouldn’t put much weight into this single month, but Mondesi showed off what he can look like at his best.

Most HR+SB during a month in the 2018 season

Season Month Name Tm PA HR SB HR+SB
Season Month Name Tm PA HR SB HR+SB
2018 Sept/Oct Adalberto Mondesi KCR 119 8 14 22
2018 May Mookie Betts BOS 106 9 10 19
2018 Jul Jose Ramirez CLE 111 8 11 19
2018 Sept/Oct Whit Merrifield KCR 132 2 16 18
2018 Aug Ronald Acuna Jr. ATL 131 11 6 17
2018 Sept/Oct Christian Yelich MIL 118 10 7 17
2018 Sept/Oct Jonathan Villar BAL 115 4 13 17
2018 May Jose Ramirez CLE 125 11 5 16
2018 Mar/Apr Mike Trout LAA 125 10 5 15
2018 Mar/Apr A.J. Pollock ARI 114 9 6 15
Minimum 100 plate appearances FanGraphs

The issues with a player like that of Mondesi’s mold are obvious. It’s tough for a player with .306 OBP to sustain a star’s level of play. It’s why there’s so much variance in outcomes for Mondesi. Maybe his impressive half-season was a mirage and his plate discipline struggles end up biting him, making a Chris Owings-like outcome more plausible. But maybe he’ll work around the OBP issues and make up for it with his elite glove at shortstop, his fiery presence on the base paths, and the unbelievable thump in his bat for a player at his position, closer to what Javier Baez and Ozzie Albies have done so far in their careers.

There isn’t a lot to cheer about regarding baseball at the moment in Kansas City. But Adalberto Mondesi has potential to be the most exciting homegrown player they’ve had since Carlos Beltran (not a comparison). If he carries the successes of his 2018 season over into 2019, he should bring plenty of entertainment to Kauffman Stadium.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.