Going Deep: AdalbertWOAH Mondesi

Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire

Let’s start this week’s Going Deep with a quick game. Between Players A & B, whom would you prefer?

Last 56 Games HR SB CS BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wOBA
Player A 7 20 5 3.5% 26.2% .266 .295 .448 .317
Player B 11 18 8 2.8% 18.1% .272 .306 .451 .323

I don’t think there’s necessarily a correct answer here. Player A offers better speed and walks slightly more frequently, while Player B has more pop and strikes out less. Their triple slashes are similar, with the edge going to Player B.

My inability to bury the lede suggests that one of these players is Adalberto Mondesi. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that he’s Player A and Starling Marte is player B. Really makes you wonder where Mondesi should go in 2019 drafts, given that Marte is a perennial top 50 pick.

I picked 56 games because that’s all Mondesi has played in the Majors this season. Note that Mondesi doesn’t even play every day: in those 56 games that Mondesi stole more bases than Marte, he had only 202 PAs to Marte’s 282! Extrapolating Mondesi’s SB total to 60 would be conservative, then, because he could get full playing time next season with the lifeless Alcides Escobar‘s contract set to expire at the end of the year. Obviously, projecting based on a small sample size is a dangerous game, but I don’t want to take anything away from Mondesi’s incredible season.

Let’s take a step back. Just 23 years old, Mondesi is the son of former MLB star Raul Mondesi and was once MLB.com’s 38th best prospect overall. He made his MLB debut in the 2015 World Series, but was thereafter suspended for 50 games for testing positive for clenbuterol. Now that the shine has worn off of Mondesi, this post-hype prospect is getting some love again with another extended look from the Royals.

And love does Mondesi deserve. When he plays, which is typically three out of every four games, he bats second for the Royals. His speed is real, with a sprint speed is 30.0 ft/s (tied for 6th in the league). And he plays for a team that is 8th in the league in stolen bases, so having been caught stealing only five times (80% success rate), he’ll likely continue to get a green light in the future. Mondesi also carries 2B/SS positional eligibility, which is significantly more useful than many of his speedy counterparts (think OFs Billy Hamilton, Byron Buxton, Ender Inciarte, Mallex Smith, and Marte). And like I mentioned above, he’s on pace for 60ish steals should he receive regular playing time.

His power is real too. He may not be Aaron Judge, but I don’t think either Billy Hamilton or Dee Gordon can do this:

This season Mondesi has a .182 ISO (above the league average which hovers around .140) and 7 tates, or about 20 when projected over a full season. His power is supported by 7.3 xHRs. In addition, in 166 games across three Minor League levels, he smacked 25 bombs. He also is sporting a 41.4% hard contact rate, 39.4% fly ball rate, and 40.4% pull rate. With those ingredients, I see no reason why he can’t sustain his 13.5% HR/FB rate, particularly given that he’s had elevated HR/FB rates in the past.

Just for some context, Mondesi has a higher hard contact rate and more barrels per PA than all of the other guys I consider to be relevant run-first fantasy assets:

Player Hard Hit Rate Brls/PA
Adalberto Mondesi 41.1% 6.4%
Whit Merrifield 37.4% 3.7%
Starling Marte 34.5% 6.0%
Jonathan Villar 33.0% 3.5%
Trea Turner 31.3% 4.2%
Ender Inciarte 31.2% 1.3%
Tim Anderson 30.6% 3.1%
Byron Buxton 30.2% 1.1%
Jose Peraza 29.0% 1.3%
Mallex Smith 28.8% 0.9%
Jean Segura 26.1% 3.0%
Dee Gordon 20.8% 0.2%
Billy Hamilton 19.1% 0.4%

Sure, Mondesi’s got some pop and a lot of speed, but it would be unfair of me not to mention that Mondesi’s plate discipline is atrocious. He’s managed a 26.2 K%, down from his last two stints in the majors (36.7% and 32.2%), but even that lower strikeout rate isn’t supported by his sky-high 19.1 SwStr%. Oddly enough, with extremely elevated Z-Swing and chase rates of 78.9% and 38.4%, there’s nevertheless hope for optimism. In comparing Mondesi to Javy Baez, Alex Chamberlain put it best:

I used to think if you’re going to swing and miss more than, like, 13% of the time, you better hit for a ton of power. Turns out, if you swing and miss and also just swing at everything, you actually reduce your probability of a strikeout.

In other words, Mondesi refuses to walk and simultaneously suppresses his strikeout rate by swinging at everything. He’d rather hit into an out or make something happen than strike out or take a walk. In fact, his swing rate is at 55.6%, good for 14th highest in the league among those with at least 200 PAs. And his plate discipline metrics are more promising than Baez’s, who, despite his MVP-caliber season, chases 9.2% more often than Mondesi.

Still, I expect Mondesi to regress at least in the batting average category. Projecting his 2018 numbers into 2019 would yield 20 homers, 60 steals, and a .266 batting average. It’s rare that such terrible plate discipline metrics result in a near league average strikeout rate, so he should lose some points there and, accordingly, on his average. Even if Chamberlain’s theory holds and he continues swinging and putting the ball in play at a torrid pace, his .333 BABIP has room to regress as well.

I think a .240 average with 20 homers and 40 SBs is a reasonable projection for Mondesi next season. He has a .245 xAVG after all. That alone would put him in my top 100, particularly given his 2B/SS eligibility. Consider 2B/SS eligible Chris Taylor, who many projected to have a 20/20 season (or slightly worse) with a .260 average, and who had an NFBC ADP of 94 going into the season. I’ll take Mondesi’s lower average accompanied by 20 more steals any day, and a .260 average with 25 homers and 60 steals is even in the cards if everything breaks right. Yet for some reason, Mondesi’s only owned in 17.7% of ESPN leagues. Don’t sleep on him, get him now and reap the benefits for your playoffs, or target him in drafts next year.

Dan Richards

Dan is a lifelong New York Yankees and Giants fan. Though a young lawyer, Dan is better known for aggressively bothering his leaguemates about trades.

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Comments


theKraken

I don’t see why you would compare an established big leaguer’s 50 games to a rookies fist taste of success. Well, I do but I question the value. That first taste of success comes relatively easily! It is probably also worth mentioning that Marte has enjoyed a particularly bad 2nd half. Comparing a bad half to a good half is a bit problematic as well. I think 20/40 is extremely ambitious. Look no further than Byron Buxton to see how projections can go off the rails quickly. That OBP isn’t playable in real MLB games and that is going to prevent him from getting the ABs to get those counting stats… unless he makes some changes. A lot of people were very skeptical that Marte could make it work, but he proved over many years that he could. Sure, there is upside but I wouldn’t pay for it. I get the feeling that he will be quite the trendy sleeper for 2019. I imagine he disappoints the lofty expectations next year and then he will be a good lotto ticket in 2020. I hate comps – don’t take this as much more than that.

Dan Richards

Thanks for the feedback. I think he’s different in kind than Buxton, though I appreciate the comparison. According to the peripherals, Mondesi’s got more pop, he steals more frequently, and while I agree there’s concern with the bottom falling out on the average, I try to address that in the article.

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