Adalberto Mondesi poised to thrive as middle-of-order bat for Royals

Sprinter speed that makes Adalberto Mondesi extremely dangerous on the bases as a threat to steal or turn anything hit in a gap or down the line into a triple. That might not even be the aspect of his game opponents should fear the most.

One of the side effects of Nicky Lopez’s addition to the Royals’ everyday lineup was that it pushed Mondesi down to the third spot in the batting order. A switch-hitting extra-base hit machine with still-developing power, Mondesi figured to land in that spot sooner or later.

Whit Merrifield and Lopez hitting in front of Mondesi should only create more chances for Mondesi to show off. This season, he’s been an even better hitter when in position to do significant damage.

“When runners are on base, I just want to do my job whether it’s move them or drive them in,” Mondesi said. “Right now, I just want to stay short to the ball. I’m working on that. Sometimes I get too big with my swing. I’m still working on that. I know it’s going to get better.”

Along with leading the American League in stolen bases (17), triples (six), Mondesi’s 36 RBIs ranked third in the league and tied for seventh in the majors entering Saturday night’s game in Anaheim against the Angels. Four of his six triples have come with runners on base.

He’s also tied for the fourth-most multi-hit games in the AL (15).

Mondesi claims he’s not consciously changing his approach at the plate drastically when runners are on or in scoring position. If he locks in anymore in situations where he can drive in runs, it’s not because he’s taking other at-bats for granted.

He’s taken the same basic goal up to the plate throughout the season.

“When I’m hitting, I just want to hit the ball hard,” Mondesi said. “It goes where it goes, but I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and do damage.”

Of his 21 extra-base hits through his first 44 games, 13 have come with runners on base. The numbers so far suggest that with runners on base Mondesi can almost smell fear on an opposing pitcher and attacks.

His overall batting average of .277 this season jumps up to .333 with runners on base. His average takes another leap with runners in scoring position, from .333 to .370. His slugging percentage follows suit. Overall this season, he’s slugged .486. With runners on base, that moves up to .640 and with runners in scoring position that becomes a .696 slugging percentage.

It doesn’t appear that pitchers have taken a vastly different approach to Mondesi as a hitter with runners on base, although it certainly doesn’t hurt that Alex Gordon has had his own offensive revival this season while batting behind Mondesi.

“I just think it might be a little heightened focus and concentration with runners in scoring position right now,” Royals manager Ned Yost said of Mondesi. “He’s learning how to be a complete offensive player, and he’s still just scratching the surface of what he’s going to be able to do offensively. He’s 23 years old. You look at his numbers, and he’s at the top of the league in a lot of different categories.”

Mondesi also had the 10th-highest RBI ratio among AL hitters with an RBI every 4.9 at-bats. He’s also had more sacrifice flies than any other hitter in the AL.

“He’s starting to figure out what it takes to be a successful run producer,” Yost said.

Royals hitting coach Terry Bradshaw attributed Mondesi’s knack for doing damage in run-producing situations to an understanding of situations as well as what needs to be done in those type of at-bats. It’s something the staff has continually preached with all of the hitters.

Bradshaw also pointed to Mondesi’s daily approach, the time put in before games and off the field, as a big part of the results he’s seen so far this season.

“The approach, the planning, the attention to detail between him and Pedro (Grifol) going over the pitcher that night,” Bradshaw said. “He’s really done a really good job of that. I think that has a lot to do with it, just the focus and concentration that it takes to be an everyday major-league player.”

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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.