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Why Adalberto Mondesi is Overrated & How to Approach Speed Without Him

Adalberto Mondesi is overrated? What! Yes, you read the title right. This is an article I’ve been pondering for a while. While I’ve always thought Mondesi was being drafted too high every year, this year it’s gotten so bad that I just had to write this article. Yes, the upside is very high with Mondesi, but at this point, the risk greatly outweighs the potential reward, especially as a top-50 draft pick in fantasy leagues.

While the title might say he’s overrated, the purpose of this article is to give you an alternative approach to attacking speed in your fantasy drafts. A much less risky one. If you can get Mondesi at a fair price, be my guest. But using one of your first three picks on a player with this much risk and volatility just isn’t something I can get behind. Here’s why.

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Why Adalberto Mondesi is Overrated & Risky in 2020

Lofty ADP

Let’s first look at Mondesi’s incredibly lofty ADP. As it stands today, his ADP sits at 46.7 on Fantrax and 39.7 on NFBC. Nope, not for me. Hard pass. That’s a 3rd or 4th round price tag in 12 and 15-team leagues. I’m sorry, but with my first three picks, I don’t want high-risk players like Mondesi, even if the reward is potentially high as well. I’m far from risk-averse, but not this early in a fantasy draft. If I want to go a little risky, I’ll take a guy like Yordan Alvarez in the top-3 rounds. You could say he’s a risky choice that high due to his inexperience at the Major League level. But the player himself is far less risky to draft that high as he has far fewer shortcomings when compared to Mondesi.

At the price it cost to acquire him in 2020 drafts, the chances of me landing him in drafts were slimmer than my chances of playing in the Major Leagues. But then one fateful night (last night) in a best ball draft here on Fantrax, Mondesi started falling down the draft board. Past pick 50, 60, and 70 we zoomed with Mondesi still on the board. Then came picks 80 and 90 with still no takers.

Until finally, at pick 92, I did the unthinkable and drafted the player I’ve been most verbally against drafting. That’s right, I, Eric Cross, drafted Adalberto Mondesi. Hitting “OK” on my pick selection to finalize it made me a little queasy, but at pick 92, that was a price I could live with on Mondesi. And honestly, it felt like a steal. While I’m very much against taking him in the top-50, 92nd is even a bit lower than I have him in my 2020 rankings and even in my dynasty rankings.

So if Mondesi falls to you in the back-end of the top-100, pounce. With that said, this was the perfect storm and I highly doubt you see him out of the top-75 often. Even with his contact and plate discipline woes, his speed at pick 92 looks a heck of a lot better than it does in the top-50 or in the top few rounds where he’s often drafted. This type of contact and plate discipline profile isn’t one that belongs in the top-3 rounds, even with the speed it comes along with.

Contact and Plate Discipline

Simply put, Adalberto Mondesi has one of the worst contact/approach metrics in the game. I mean, just look at the filth below.

MetricStatRank (Of 207)

It’s hard to get much worse than that. Bottom-10 across the board and none of this is anything new. Mondesi has always struck out too much and apparently is allergic to drawing walks. In his 249 Major League games, Mondesi has walked 4.1% of the time, down from his still mediocre 6.0% walk rate in the minors. We’ve seen guys like Adam Jones get by with lower walk rates like this (4.5%) in career, but the difference is Jones made more consistent contact and didn’t strike out nearly as often. Not only does Mondesi have a putrid walk rate, but he’s also pushing a 30% strikeout rate in his Major League career as well.

Not only does Mondesi have one of the worst K%-BB% rates around right now, but he also has one of the worst marks of all-time. Mondesi’s 25.5% K%-BB% ranks 30th worst in the history of baseball for players with at least 900 plate appearances. Surely it can’t get worse than that right? Well, 18 of the 29 players worse than him were pitchers, most of whom played before World War II. Take them out and Mondesi has the 11th worst mark in the history of baseball. Am I being a tad harsh here with this stat? Probably. And K%-BB% isn’t everything, of course. But this just goes to show how bad Mondesi’s plate discipline is. And when most of your contact metrics are pushing the botton-10 in the league, that’s not a recipe for success.

Mondesi also struggles mightily against breaking pitches. According to Baseball Savant, Mondesi faced 420 breaking pitches (Curve, slider, knuckle) in 2019. Against those breaking pitches, he recorded a .223 xBA, .286 wOBA, .252 xwOBA, 38.5% K rate, and 48.6% whiff rate.

Adalberto Mondesi

And when you compare a lot of the metrics we’ve discussed to the rest of the league, you can see that Mondesi is well below the league average in many categories.

Adalberto Mondesi

To take it a step further, Mondesi has the 38th worst OBP of the 21st century with the vast majority of the players worse than him being journeyman backup catchers. As some wise person once said, one must first get on base to steal a base. It’s like baseball’s equivalent of “wax on, wax off”. Just imagine how many steals Mondesi would have with even a .330 OBP.

Out of all players with 400-plus plate appearances in 2019, Mondesi needed the 9th highest BABIP (.357) to even record a .263 batting average. Yes, elite speed can often lead to a slightly inflated BABIP, but are we really going to bank on that again in 2020? Some regression there, which I would bank on, and Mondesi is down in the .230-.240 range. Far less appealing than his .263 mark. We also have to wonder how well he’ll swing the bat after a substantial shoulder injury and subsequent surgery.


Durability & Shoulder Injury

Just as concerning as Mondesi’s contact metrics and approach is his durability. Over the last two seasons, Mondesi has combined for just 177 games played and 690 at-bats. His combined stats over that time are downright sexy with 23 home runs, 99 RBI, 105 runs, and a whopping 89 steals. But again, that’s over two seasons combined. Mondesi has done nothing to prove he can remain healthy and play 150-plus games in a season. Let’s take a quick look at his injuries over the last two seasons,

  • March 2018 – Right Shoulder Impingement Syndrome – 10 day IL
  • June 2018 – Groin – 10 day IL
  • July 2019 – Shoulder – 10 day IL
  • September 2019 – Shoulder – Surgery to repair torn labrum

That last one was obviously the big one that caused Mondesi to need surgery to repair the torn labrum in his shoulder.

As noted above, the recovery time was anticipated to be 5-6 months. Six months puts us right around opening day. If Mondesi has any setbacks at all in his recovery, there’s a high probability that he starts the 2020 campaign on the 10-day IL. That could also mean Mondesi misses all of April if the Royals decide to play it cautiously with their speedy shortstop. That’s not good news for a top-50 draft pick. In all reality, Mondesi’s recovery could go 100% fine and he’s ready for opening day. But the risk surrounding that is one of the reasons I’m downgrading him for 2020.

Regarding Mondesi’s shoulder injury and surgery, I consulted with Dr. Jesse Morse, a Doctor of Adult and Sports Medicine and writer for The Fantasy Doctors. He offered the below on the injury and how it might affect Mondesi in 2020 and beyond.

“Mondesi underwent a labral repair in his shoulder. Depending on the location of this tear my level of concern ranges from mild to concerning. This injury reminds me of the Mets Michael Conforto, who suffered a similar injury a couple of years ago. As you now know he has grown into his power and there are no concerns about his shoulder. While I fully expect Mondesi to struggle in 2020 getting acclimated to this injury/surgery I think by the end of the year and heading into 2021 he will start to blossom. Age is on his side and it sounds like the team responded appropriately. The other comparison that is mildly concerning is Miguel Andujar who had a similar tear of the labrum and underwent surgery but his projections may be a little different.”

Let’s focus on “while I fully expect Mondesi to struggle in 2020.” Because, after all, this article is focusing on Mondesi’s 2020 value, not future value. Dr. Morse brought up Michael Conforto above, and while the injuries weren’t 100% the same, they were both significant shoulder injuries that required surgery. Conforto wasn’t nearly the same hitter in the first few months after his surgery, posting a .317 slugging in April and .366 for the first half of the 2018 season.

As you can see, once he got further and further removed from the surgery, the power trended back up to what we expected from Conforto. But the big difference with Mondesi is that his raw power isn’t even close to the level of Conforto’s. Even a 100% healthy Mondesi is what, an 18-20 homer bat at best? Add in this shoulder issue and likely power struggles to begin the season and we’re probably looking at a 10-12 homer bat in 2020 to pair with a low AVG/OBP. We’ll get more into his speed in a second, but a .240/10 profile is awfully difficult to get behind in the top-50 picks, regardless of the speed upside.

How to Win Speed Without A Player Like Adalberto Mondesi

Alright, I haven’t even really discussed the one area that gives Mondesi most of his upside: speed. When healthy, Mondesi has the type of elite speed that can basically single-handedly win the speed category for you. It’s true. Even I’ll admit that. Numbers don’t lie folks and Mondesi has a sprint speed in the 99th percentile. But when you put all of your eggs in that basket, a very frail basket, and that basket breaks, then what do you do? Relying on one player to keep you competitive is a risky strategy in general, especially when that player is a walking injury concern like Mondesi.

In his career, Mondesi has averaged 53.6 steals per every 150 games and was on a 150-game pace of 63 last season. The efficiency has been high as well with an 84% success rate for his career. All of that is incredibly valuable, especially with speed down across the Major Leagues and in a four-year decline. There aren’t as many elite speedsters as there used to be with the focus now gearing more towards getting on base and hitting for power. Whether you agree with the changing landscape of baseball or not, it’s how it is now. We have to accept it and adapt accordingly in the fantasy baseball world that we live in.

In 2019, only eight players stole over 30 bases with just three in the 40-steal club. Mondesi was one of those three. If you draft Mondesi and he stays healthy, 50-plus steals could be the reward which would likely guarantee you finish at least in the top half of the stolen base category in your league as long as you have at least some speed around him. Mondesi staying healthy is a big if though. And if Mondesi goes down and misses a big chunk of time, for lack of a better phrase, you’re screwed.

Spreading out your speed has been the strategy I’ve gone with since I was a wee lad just starting to play fantasy baseball back as a teenager. You’ll have to take me at my word on this but it has ALWAYS worked for me. In the hundreds of leagues I’ve been in over the last 15 or so years, I’ve always finished in the top-half in the stolen base department by spreading out my speed. If one guy gets hurt, losing 15-20 SB is a lot easier to withstand than if you lose 40-50. Having a big speed guy like Mondesi is fine if you have several other SB options to keep you afloat if/when Mondesi goes down, but you’ll never see me drafting a few big SB guys and then nothing else.

While the number of top-end speedsters has dwindled, there were a whopping 33 players that stole between 15 and 25 bags in 2019. That’s the land I live in. Now, I’m not saying you need to get some speed element with every single offensive draft pick you make. But if you draft several of these guys while adding one or two 25-plus steal threats, you’re going to be in good shape.

This type of draft strategy can be done throughout a fantasy draft too. Here are the current Fantrax ADPs of the 33 players I mentioned that had between 15 and 25 steals in 2019.

PlayerPosition2019 SB2020 ADPRound
(12 Team)
(15 Team)
Cody Bellinger1B/OF154.811
Mookie BettsOF165.611
Francisco LindorSS228.811
Trevor StorySS2311.911
Fernando Tatis Jr.SS1617.622
Jose Ramirez3B2421.422
Bryce HarperOF1526.932
Starling MarteOF2539.343
Ozzie Albies2B1548.344
Whit Merrifield2B/OF205554
Tommy PhamOF2574.975
Yasiel PuigOF19111.5108
Tim AndersonSS17113.2108
Danny Santana1B/OF21123.5119
Oscar MercadoOF15130.6119
Amed RosarioSS19139.51210
Garrett Hampson2B/OF15163.21411
Tommy Edman2B/3B/OF15166.11412
Scott Kingery3B/SS/OF151831613
Adam EatonOF15188.31613
Shin-Soo ChooOF15201.31714
Lorenzo CainOF18205.61814
Kolton Wong2B24211.91815
Kevin NewmanSS16214.51815
Jon BertiSS/3B/OF17232.22016
Wil MyersOF16240.62117
Dee Gordon2B22281.72419
Kevin KiermaierOF19330.32823
Manuel MargotOF20332.92823
Leury GarciaOF15364.33125
Delino DeshieldsOF24411.43528
Billy HamiltonOF22505.34334
Tim LocastroOF17575.24839

There’s a lot of diversity there, both in ADP and position. You could realistically just draft guys on this list and dominate speed without having a 30-steal player on your roster. As I mentioned before, you don’t need to get a little speed with every pick, but if you grab a bunch of medium speed threats, you’ll likely end the season fairly high in the stolen base category. This is a lot less risky than putting your eggs in the Mondesi basket.

Media Credit: Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire, Baseball Savant, Dr. Jesse Morse, Alec Lewis, Statcast

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