Anyone can watch Raul Mondesi at the plate this season and realize he is not comfortable standing in against Major League pitching. Not yet anyway.
This is no secret, no giant debate, no conspiracy or “hawt take.” The guy just isn’t quite ready yet.
But we KNEW this……..Didn’t we? In 2016 in 150 plate appearances, Mondesi posted a batting line of .185/.231/.512 for an OPS+ of 36. It doesn’t take Bill James running the numbers to figure out that he was not very good at the plate. Coupled with 48 strikeouts, he looked uncomfortable and not ready then, just the same as he has in his first 50 plate appearances this season. Flashy spring training aside, he is still the same struggling 21 year old prospect who some day will be a superstar, but has yet to master the final level of competition.
So why the anger NOW? Why are Royals fans so upset with watching him flail as though it is something totally unexpected? Just how much expectation did fans have for a guy with 14 games of experience at AAA and not even a full season at AA?
The answer lies not with the shortcomings of Mondesi himself, but rather the fact his teammates have been so bad at the plate. The common defense by those on Mondesi’s side has been “well PLAYER X is the REAL problem!” and in most cases, they are right. The real problem with the Royals offense is not that their 21-year old phenom is hitting poorly, its that his hitting poorly is negatively affecting a team so starved for offensive production.
The Royals (6-7) were able to win the World Series in 2015 with a second baseman who hit .220/.234/.318 for crying out loud. It IS POSSIBLE to win with a second baseman who is trying to figure it out at the major league level. The problem is it is not possible to win with that second baseman struggling AND the stars of the team failing to produce.
The Royals chose to let Mondesi develop in Kansas City instead of starting him in Omaha. This was a decision many (including myself) disagreed with, but one I was willing to accept once it was made. He was going to struggle and we knew that. He was going to look bad, and we knew that. The bottom of the lineup was going to be a black hole……and we knew that. Royals management insists that as long as he does one thing a night to help the team win, his offensive struggles as a whole are still worth it.
What we DIDN’T know was the top half would not fair much better. So when Raul Mondesi Jr. gets demoted to AAA Omaha at some point in the future, do not think it is an indication of the organization admitting they were wrong to put him up here in the first place. He is what we all knew he was at this point.
No. Instead place the blame on the players who necessitated a shift in placing more emphasis on improving the club offensively. Mondesi was never part of that plan. Not now. In order to let him develop at the major league level, everyone (should have) knew that he was going to struggle mightily for stretches. Be overmatched and flat out look bad. And he is, just as expected. But the Royals weren’t suppose to NEED him to be batting in the bottom of the ninth with the winning runs on base. That’s what happened last night, when he stranded five runners, including with two on to end the game in the 11 innings, 2-1 loss. Last night, the Royals stranded 11 more runners, including 8 in the 4 innings and went 1-11 with RISP. Same story, different night for the Royals in 2017, where they are hitting .149 with runners in scoring position. Last night, they had SIX players in the lineup with OPS under .600. They have hit 16 HR in 13 games, but 15 of them have been solo, because OBP matters. The “superstar” Eric Hosmer has pulled the ball in the air ONCE – and it left the yard in what has been his ONLY extra-base hit of the season. Because, ground balls.
Raul Mondesi Jr probably has no business being on the Major League roster right now, but the Royals put enough pieces in place that the front office should have been able to have their cake and eat it too. So while it is true Mondesi should not be on a team who has playoff aspirations, as developing a player at the MLB level seems to be a contradiction to the “win now” mode unless a team has no other choice. The Royals did have another choice (Whit Merrifield, who, oh by the way, homered and reached base four times in his season debut last night, accounting for the Royals only run of the night), even if it was only a place holder. That is a fact only made true because others have been unable to cover his shortcomings. In the short term, the easiest answer would be for the rest of the team to just start hitting, otherwise Mondesi developing in KC will be the casualty. And now, he could be a roster casualty when Jorge Soler (oblique), expected to start a rehab assignment any day now, returns.
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