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Adalberto Mondesi has a new approach at the plate

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Toronto Blue Jays v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Usually when you read stuff of mine, your stuck in front of 5,000 words blinking across your screen. This time I’ll save you the Joyce-ian burden and keep it short and semi-sweet, as sweet as my words can be at least: Adalberto Mondesi has a new approach at the plate, probably.

One of the biggest problems with Mondesi was his inability to not swing at any and every pitch, or rather his ability to not lay off bad pitches, a trait he shares with a lot of Royals hitters. Last year, Mondesi swung at 38% of pitches outside the zone, among the bottom 10th percentile in baseball. In 2016 it was even worse at 42%, among the bottom 20 of players. In the minors, Mondesi swung at 55-60% of all the pitches he saw, 10-15% more than the league average.

Understandably, Mondesi was young and baseball is hard. It’s a challenge to be pushed up a proverbial ladder at a young age, being asked to learn and adapt to facing harder and harder pitching as you also grow into your body, learn a new language, adopt a new culture, and struggle (which Mondesi did). We shouldn’t see Mondesi in the minors ever again on a regular basis (despite the existence of Alcides Escobar), so we are looking for Mondesi to grow and adapt at the major league level from now on.

Mondesi has done...something:

Data courtesy of FanGraphs

It’s tough to find clear trend lines like the ones above, but when you do, they are easy to interpret. Mondesi has, recently at least, stopped swinging at pitches outside the zone as much. He’s also started swinging at more pitches inside the zone, doing this without a large spike in total swings. This could mean that he’s swapped swinging at bad pitches for swinging at good pitches, something that is of course what you want hitters to do. There is no “good” Swing%. It varies hitter by hitter. There is also probably not a “good” Z-Swing%, because it depends on the hitter and situation. There is however a “good” O-Swing%, and it’s basically 0% for most scenarios. No player will ever reach that, Mondesi especially won’t, but he’s cut down on swinging at pitches outside the zone.

Maybe this is just a blip on the radar, and it’s just a bit of noise. After all, he’s only at ~375 career plate appearances. Juan Soto has as many as Mondesi and he was just playing in A+ Ball a few months ago. Ian Kennedy has more in his career. It’s quite possible that these numbers trend back the other way, but plate discipline numbers stabilize quick-ish. You don’t need 1,000 MLB plate appearances to know that Joey Gallo swings and missed a lot.

And as good as the changes have been for Mondesi, he isn’t out of the woods yet. Yes, lowering his O-Swing% has been nice, but he’s still swinging too much overall.

O-Swing%

Mondesi: 38.4%

League: 30.8%

Z-Swing%:

Mondesi: 79.5%

League: 67.3%

Swing%

Mondesi: 56.4%

League: 46.5%

Even despite the improvements, he’s still coming in ~10% higher than league average on swinging metrics, as witnessed by his abysmal 3% walk rate and .289 OBP. He’d have to grow a hell of a late more patient to bring those numbers up, and that’s just not realistic.

Still, it’s nice to see some improvements, even if he remains a fairly flawed hitter.