Still just 21, Raul Mondesi has proven advanced at one skill: bunting

Raul Mondesi has been known to lay down a bunt.
Raul Mondesi has been known to lay down a bunt.

Raul Mondesi is a 21-year-old rookie with an offensive game that could be described as a work in progress. Some days are better than others. Entering Saturday, Mondesi was batting .212 (11 for 52) with one double, one triple and one walk in 16 games since being called up from Class AAA Omaha on July 26. In 56 plate appearances, Mondesi had struck out 17 times.

None of this has been a major surprise. Mondesi’s offense has often lagged behind his other skills during his days in the Royals’ minor-league system, in part because of his age. Mondesi turned 21 on July 21. Club officials expected some growing pains as a top prospect adjusted to big-league pitching.

But in a small sample, the switch-hitting Mondesi has proven especially adept at one aspect of offense: bunting.

In his first 16 games, Mondesi recorded three bunt singles and racked up another three sacrifice bunts. As he settles in against major-league pitching, his speed has allowed him to retain a modicum of offensive value.

“In the minor leagues, you got to work on everything,” Mondesi said. “It was something where they asked if I could do it, and I started working and learning.”

Mondesi flubbed his first bunt attempt on Saturday, popping up with runners at first and second in the fifth inning. But as a switch-hitting middle infielder, Mondesi possesses the ability to bunt from both sides of the plate — and in different ways. He can push or drag from both sides of the plate. In some ways, he added, he never thought his bunting ability was all that special.

“It’s easy,” Mondesi said. “Bunting is not that hard. You got to work at it a little bit.”

For Mondesi, though, it’s also been a critical part of his game in the minor leagues. As a runner, Mondesi earns an “80” grade from scouts, the highest score possible. He has been clocked from home to first at around 3.7 to 3.8 seconds, a number that would put him among baseball’s best in the category. In short, Mondesi has the speed to beat out even an average bunt.

“He’s in that (Jarrod) Dyson range,” Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

For now, Mondesi is working on polishing his offensive game. The goal, he said, is to first have better at-bats and the results will come. On Friday, he doubled to deep right-center and scored a run. He also struck out twice, which gave him seven strikeouts in three games.

“I’m working on some little stuff,” Mondesi said. “I’m getting better. We’ll see what happens.”