In his first season playing over 100 games, the Royals’ fan base caught a glimpse of what the future has in store for shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. At only 24 years of age, the switch-hitter finished his 2019 season slashing .263/.291/.424 while driving in 62 and swiping 43 bags. He also finished atop the league with 10 triples, tied with teammates Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier.
Speed was Mondesi’s best attribute. His 29.9 sprint speed (feet per second) ranked in the top one percent of the league. For his career bests, he clocked it at 4.08 seconds from home to first and amassed 68 bolts (defined as feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window). A shoulder injury can be blamed for costing him the stolen base title, as he missed much of the second half and still finished just three stolen bases behind Seattle outfielder Mallex Smith for the league lead.
His power numbers suffered a slight dip, with Mondesi hitting just 9 home runs in comparison to 14 through 75 games in 2018. However, Mondesi’s average exit velocity of 87.9 was another career-best at the plate.
Though the power declined, the fewer home runs didn’t always result in more contact. In fact, combing his totals on both sides of the plate, Mondesi posted a whiff percentage of 70% on balls down and away. On pitches down and in, that number was 59%. His lowest percentage on pitches he chased came on balls up and away, whiffing on 46% of those pitches. Based off those totals, it’s no shock that Mondesi saw a total of 269 pitches down and out of zone.
What does come as a surprise is the average exit velocity on all of the pitches out of the zone. Despite whiffing more and pitchers locating it down and away frequently, Mondesi struck those pitches the hardest out of any other locations out of the zone (86.1). The next best was on pitches down and in at 80.8.
When the shortstop was at his best at the plate, he was connecting on those pitches up, in, and out of the zone. Over the course of 2019, Mondesi logged a .444 batting average on balls in play, 33% line drive rate, and .393 expected on base average in that location. In addition to swinging at that pitch, it appeared Mondesi had a better eye on pitches up. On the balls up and in , he showcased a wOBA of .306. No other spot out of the zone was above .200.
In the field, Mondesi appeared in 100 games and 852 2⁄3 innings at shortstop. In 440 total chances, he recorded 147 putouts, 286 assists, and turned 66 double plays. The 24-year old faltered seven times on fielding plays, bringing his season fielding percentage to .984. Mondesi also ranked ninth in the American League in defensive WAR at 1.6. Additionally, he placed first in the both Range Factor per nine innings at shortstop (4.57) and Range Factor per game as a shortstop (4.33). The next closest was White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson at 4.34 and 4.15.
For Kansas City, the encouragement comes from the elite speed, flashy defense, and raw potential. On the downside, the ability to stay healthy remains in question. Mondesi played in just 102 games, a career-high.
In a 9-0 win over Seattle in June, he slid feet first into home awkwardly. This aggravated his groin and eventually placed him on the injured list. In the second series of the second half, Mondesi attempted an acrobatic dive in foul territory. This resulted in a shoulder subluxation, but did not require surgery. On the final road game of 2019, he dove on a line drive off the bat of Nelson Cruz. The final leaping stretch re-injured that same shoulder and ended his season.
When a team suffers through a second consecutive 100-loss campaign, it can be difficult to stumble upon positives. However, Mondesi became a bright spot in the time he spent on the field healthy. If his contact increases, the ability to lay off the pitches down improves, and he avoids the injured list, the 2020 season could be the true breakout year the fan base has been salivating over.
What grade would you give Adalberto Mondesi for his 2019 season?
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