Royals’ young rising star Adalberto Mondesi gained confidence with last year’s finish

Adalberto Mondesi, Royals got off to strong start in Cactus League opener

Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi went 2-for-2 with a double in his first spring training game of 2019 in Surprise, Ariz.
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Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi went 2-for-2 with a double in his first spring training game of 2019 in Surprise, Ariz.

As long as he’s able to stay on the field, the Royals believe Adalberto Mondesi can grow into one of the most impactful players in Major League Baseball. There hasn’t been a lot of coyness about that belief.

Really, there hasn’t been a lot of reason to try to temper the 23-year-old shortstop’s potential. Anyone who has seen him play regularly for even a short period of time recognizes the talent and athleticism.

He’s a 6-foot-1, 190-pound switch hitter with a wiry, explosive body and elite ability with a mitt or bat in his hand who also runs like a trackstar. It’s undeniable.

“Adalberto Mondesi is the player who has the best combination of speed and power, maybe, of any player in our division or in the league,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said prior to spring training. “There’s a player that can dominate at times with speed and power production.”

Mondesi, the five-tool phenom who could be poised to breakout nationally this season, waited until the bottom of the first inning of the Royals’ spring training opener Saturday to show off his difference-making ability.

He started off by smacking the first pitch he saw for a single, and one batter later he sped around the bases to score from first on a double by Alex Gordon. Mondesi recorded a 2-for-2 day that included a double off the left-center field wall and a pair of runs scored before he exited at the top of the fifth inning.

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His performance lasted just long enough to provide excitement as well as a twinge of concern for those anxious about his injury history and therefore on heightened alert about any potential for him to over-exert himself. After all, injury is the one sure-fire thing capable of stifling everything he might become.

Scoring from first on a double in the first spring game? Overly concerned eyebrows likely raised.

“I came ready,” Mondesi said. “I worked out in the offseason so I know what I can do and what not, so I saw the ball was hit pretty good — to the wall — I know I’ve got to score.”

The Kansas City Royals started Cactus League play on Saturday after the sun warmed up a cold morning, followed by a 9-1 Royals spring training win against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona.

Injuries plagued Mondesi throughout the minor leagues, and he started the 2018 season on the disabled list because of a shoulder impingement that hampered him last spring training.

“It’s not a secret. Everybody knows what happened to me last season,” Mondesi said. “I just stay on top of my body and I know everything is going to be good.”

Mondesi’s injury history even prompted manager Ned Yost to tread lightly when it came to playing Mondesi every day last season. He checked in with him regularly until Mondesi told him it wasn’t necessary and reassured his skipper he’d play every day.

Mondesi played in 48 games in August and September. He finished the season having batted .276 with a .306 on-base percentage and a .498 slugging percentage. He also stole 32 bases and hit 14 home runs and 13 doubles in 75 games.

Staying healthy may have meant almost as much as the performance.

“That’s more confidence for me, knowing that I can help the team win every day,” he said.

Mondesi has played just 147 games in the majors, but he’s done enough to let Yost know what he’s got in the young budding star. Mondesi will likely take a game off for each one he plays, at least at the start of Cactus League play.

“For me he’s such a rare player because every one of his tools are every bit as impressive as the next,” Yost said. “He doesn’t have a tool that’s just so-so impressive. He’s got power. He’s got power from both sides. He’s got speed. He’s got range. He’s got arm. He’s got it all.”

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.