By Rich Arleo
CBS Local Sports, in our 30 Players 30 Days spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.
Raul Mondesi Jr., Shortstop, Kansas City Royals
2015 season (Minors): 81 G, 304 AB, .243 BA, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 19 SB, .651 OPS
The Kansas City Royals are the defending World Series champions for a number of reasons, but at their core, they are a roster of homegrown position players that has developed together to the point where they have close to All-Star level talent at almost every position. Their depth chart is basically set for 2016, with the exception of second base, and there are no players on that depth chart really waiting to break out — they basically all have already.
So we turn to Kansas City’s top prospect, shortstop Raul Mondesi Jr. The son of outfielder Raul Mondesi, who hit 271 home runs in 13 big league seasons, Jr. is a shortstop who isn’t going to mash the ball like his father but has a ton of speed and line-drive power.
Mondesi is still only 20 years old, and actually hasn’t even made his Major League debut, even though he had one at-bat in the World Series (the first player ever to play in the World Series before ever playing a regular-season game). Mondesi Jr. hasn’t even played a game at Triple-A yet, and that’s where he’ll begin this season.
The biggest part of his game is his speed. Mondesi has stolen 71 bases in 366 Minor League games (four seasons) and also managed 26 triples. At the plate, he is a switch-hitter with a line drive stroke, so while he isn’t going to hit a ton of homers, he could develop into a 15-homer a season player at shortstop while contributing 40-plus steals, a good chunk of triples and stellar defense. At only 20 years old, he has yet to show the plate discipline necessary to have success at the big league level, having managed just a .293 OBP in the Minors.
With Alcides Escobar entrenched at shortstop, his path to the bigs is currently blocked. But the Royals do have a hole at second base. Omar Infante (34 years old with a career .272/.309/.389 slash line) and the light-hitting Christian Colon, a 26-year-old with a low ceiling who at his best could just hit for average, are competing for the second-base job. Neither has done much of anything early on in Spring Training, and the Royals may eventually get tired of having a drain in their batting order. Mondesi profiles as a shortstop, but if he is tearing it up at Triple-A while Infante and Colon are swatting flies in the big league lineup, a temporary move to second base is absolutely a possibility. A potential Escobar injury is also another obvious potential route to the Royals for Mondesi.
Ranked as the Royals’ No. 1 prospect and baseball’s No. 33 overall prospect by MLB.com, 2016 could be the year Mondesi joins the young shortstop core that emerged last year (Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor). He is going to spend a good chunk of time in the Minors, as the Royals want to at least season him a bit in Triple-A. Mondesi is going to have to bring the average and on-base percentage up a bit this year, but the raw ability may be too intriguing for the Royals to ignore should he light it up in the Minor Leagues.
Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo.