Projecting Royals Call-Up Raul Mondesi

Raul Mondesi’s calling card has always been his shortstop defense, while his hitting — or lack thereof — left something to be desired. He hit .243/.279/.372 in his age-19 season at Double-A last year, and was similarly underwhelming in the lower levels of the minor leagues. In fairness to Mondesi, he was always exceptionally young for his level. But still: sub-.300 OBPs are never good.

Despite his paltry batting lines, scouts always maintained that Mondesi’s tools suggested some offensive upside. Here in 2016, he’s finally begun to tap into that upside. He slashed an encouraging .259/.331/.448 in Double-A around a 50-game PED suspension, and followed it up with a .304/.328/.536 mark in two weeks at Triple-A.

Mondesi’s demonstrated significantly more power this year than ever before, and has walked at an average-ish clip for the first time since he was a 16-year-old in Rookie ball. His strikeout rate is still a concern — especially given his middling power. But his offensive package looks like it should be good enough given the value he’ll provide in the field and on the bases. My new-look KATOH model is a fan, projecting him for 5.6 WAR over his first six seasons by the traditional method and 6.0 WAR by the method that integrates Baseball America’s rankings.

To put some faces to Mondesi’s statistical profile, let’s generate some statistical comps for the slick-fielding shortstop. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis Distance between Mondesi’s Double-A and Triple-A numbers this season, and every season at those levels since 1991 in which a shortstop recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues. A lower “Mah Dist” reading indicates a closer comp.

Please note that the Mahalanobis analysis is separate from KATOH. KATOH relies on macro-level trends, rather than comps. The fates of a few statistically similar players shouldn’t be used to draw sweeping conclusions about a prospect’s future. For this reason, I recommend using a player’s KATOH forecast to assess his future potential. The comps give us some interesting names that sometimes feel spot-on, but they’re mostly just there for fun.

Raul Mondesi’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Mah Dist KATOH+ Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Donnie Sadler 0.92 5.6 0.1
2 Pokey Reese 1.12 8.6 6.4
3 Jhonny Peralta 1.55 4.7 10.4
4 Jimmy Rollins 2.05 8.6 19.1
5 Gookie Dawkins 2.10 3.9 0.0
6 Asdrubal Cabrera 2.19 8.6 13.3
7 Anderson Machado 2.26 4.5 0.1
8 Joel Guzman 2.54 7.9 0.0
9 Felipe Lopez 2.62 4.6 7.9
10 Damion Easley 2.70 4.4 9.1

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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Gooky Dawkins and Pokey Reese are the answer to the trivia question: what young players were the Reds unwilling to part with when trading for Ken Griffey, Jr? In the end end the Mariners received Mike Cameron, so they didn’t do half bad.