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Hok Talk: Adalberto on my Mondesi

For good or for ill, he’s going to have everyone’s attention for the next couple of years.

Adalberto Mondesi gives max effort.
Adalberto Mondesi gives max effort.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Adalberto Mondesi was the last Royal to make a top 100 prospect list before the 2018 mid-season rankings came out. He last made that list in 2016. He’s had a lot of failure at the big league level since then but remains young - he still just turned 23 - and has more raw talent than anyone else in the Royals’ system. Still, a lot of fans had given up any hope of his becoming a real force in the Royals lineup.

Since he was finally recalled in June he has rocketed back into the collective attention of Royals fans everywhere. According to FanGraphs, he has been worth an astounding 1.9 fWAR since his return. Baseball Reference is even more bullish on him crediting him with 2.3 bWAR. Those numbers are for slightly more than a third of the season. If you projected them out over a full season he’d be worth better than 5 WAR - a plateau generally considered to be All-Star level.

Of course, it would be silly to project a dreaded SMALL SAMPLE SIZE!!!!! out that far. His plate approach and his history of failure at the big league level only add more question marks. So how good can he be next year? There was a spirited debate on twitter about what the Over/Under of the combined WAR of Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi - the middle infield apparent for next season - should be. Some people wanted to make it eight, others wanted to make it as low as four. I originally picked six - they’ve already cleared that benchmark for this season despite Mondesi spending half of it in AAA. But maybe I was over-zealous.

Whit has earned 4.5 fWAR/4.6 bWAR so far this season with a couple weeks left to play. He’s proved that he’s a legitimate big league second baseman. But he’ll be 30, next year. That’s the wrong side of the aging curve. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be instantly terrible but it would be foolish to assume that he will improve upon or even replicate this season in 2019.

So let’s assume Whit is going to decline a bit next year. 3.5 WAR would still be an excellent season and on the conservative side of most aging curves. How many WAR can we reasonably expect from Mondesi? If you think he’s going to regress a bit, next year, where do we expect that regression to occur? Do you think his defense is going to fall off? Considering his speed and youth you might even expect it to improve. How about his baserunning? That’s one thing he’s never slumped with. He’ll probably maintain that for a few more years.

So then, it comes down to his ability to hit. And it’s entirely fair if you question his ability to hit this well over an entire season. But if you still think he can play defense as well or better than he has this year and you still think he will be able to run as well or better, too, then I think you’d probably have to argue he’s going to be worth at least 2 WAR if he plays a full season, next year.

Playing a full season, though, would also be a neat trick for Mondesi. He hasn’t done much of that, recently. So let’s bump him down another half-WAR for the playing time he might miss. That would give us a total of five fWAR between the two of them. That seems like a good marker. If either of them falters they would come in below that, if either exceeds they could surpass it.

This, of course, just represents a microcosm of next year’s roster. Even if those two succeed the team could still easily be very, very bad. At least we should get to see more young guys and fewer veterans even if the team is losing. There’s no longer any excuse for guys like Ryan O’Hearn or Mondesi starting the year in AAA, after all. And we should see Brad Keller and Jorge Lopez filling out the rotation instead of Jason Hammel. We can at least hope that 2018 was the worst year of the current rebuild as far as how hard it is to watch the team.


Would you bet the over or under on Whit Merrifield and Adalberto Mondesi combining for 5 WAR next year, assuming they’re both still in KC?

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