The Royals are calling up 20 year old, Top 100 prospect, shortstop Raul Mondesi Jr. from triple-A Omaha today, according to Kansas City Star reporter Rustin Dodd (which doesn’t seem like it’s a real name, but apparently is):
Raul Mondesi is coming up. Whit Merrifield to Omaha.— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) July 26, 2016
(Note: apparently enough people are thinking I’m making fun of Dodd’s name that I have to be more specific. It’s a great name. Like he’s destined to host Face the Nation or get elected to the Senate some day.)
Mondesi was the first MLB player to make his debut in the postseason last year, when he struck out for the Royals in Game Three of last year’s World Series. The defending champions will send current second baseman Whit Merrifield down to make room for the youngster.
We often get so focused at the trade deadline that we see prospects as assets to be traded, rather than as potential solutions for teams that are struggling. But this is a clear example of the Royals trying to jumpstart their fading playoff
homes hopes without having to make a deal.
After Omar Infante flopped again, the Royals got an unexpected boost from Merrifield earlier this year, as the 27 year old minor league veteran got off to a .306/.327/.427 start through the end of June. Like Cinderella, however, he wasn’t meant to last and regressed significantly in July, hitting just .170/.241/.245. And the Royals’ fortunes have faded along with him, as the club dropped from six games above .500 to two under after going 6-14 for the month so far.
The problem is that it’s not abundantly clear that Mondesi is ready to handle the majors at age 20. His addition to the postseason roster last year was about having a pinch runner and defensive replacement available (though he was never used that way), not for his bat after he hit .243/.279/.372 for double-A Northwest Arkansas.
Suspended for 50 games for a PED that was an ingredient in a cold medicine he took, Mondesi has missed much of 2016. He had a brief stint in the Carolina League to get his feet under him and then 29 games hitting well in double-A before earning a promotion to Omaha. There, he’s played just 14 games, hitting .304/.328/.536 in 61 plate appearances. Across all three levels, he has 60 strikeouts against just 17 walks in 231 plate appearances, a ratio that’s going to be even more extreme in the Majors.
The upshot is that Raul Mondesi is not ready to face big league pitching. While his defense and his baserunning remain excellent, Mondesi will have to hit at least a little to be valuable, especially if the Royals plan to stick with the offensively anemic Alcides Escobar at shortstop and an overachieving Cheslor Cuthbert at third. Indeed, between the loss of Mike Moustakas to injuries and Alex Gordon’s prolonged slump, these Royals have way too many holes in their offense at this point. They already are dead last in the American League in scoring, and a flop by Mondesi will only make matters worse for them, while also potentially compromising his long-term development.
This isn’t the answer. It can’t be the answer for a team that still wants to be in contention. Raul Mondesi may be the future, but he’s definitely not the present. And if the Royals don’t solve their problems on offense soon, their reign as champions will soon be a thing of the past.