Is Mondesi a 70-80 steals guy? An MVP?

September 20th, 2020

In the last two weeks, Royals fans, and even manager Mike Matheny, are seeing why the organization continues to have such unwavering faith in five-tool shortstop .

In his last 13 games entering Saturday, Mondesi slashed .314/.364/.588 with two doubles, four home runs, 11 RBIs and 10 stolen bases. He has also been stellar defensively.

And the more Mondesi, who finished 0-for-4 in Saturday's loss, comes around offensively -- specifically the more often he gets on base -- the more excitement he generates. Despite a miserable slump from late July through all of August, and an unsightly .247 current on-base percentage, Mondesi still leads the Majors with 18 steals.

“There are guys who are fast,” Matheny said, “but there is a whole separate category for guys [like Mondesi]. They know their speed is off the charts and can’t wait to show it.

“No matter how Mondi gets on base, you might as [well] plan that he’ll be on third. I have never had a player like that before. I haven’t seen one like that in a really long time.”

Seeing a confident Mondesi at the plate makes any observer wonder if he would project to steal 70-80 bases in a full season, provided he turns a corner offensively.

“No doubt,” Matheny said. “I’ve watched him, and I’m just now beginning to realize the excitement. Until you see it first hand and witness the whole package, the elite defense at an elite position, that kind of speed ...

“And we’ve seen him hit home runs that are as far as, if not farther, than from some guys who are trying to generate big-time power. You mix all that together, and if you’re not dreaming and projecting what he can be, you’re not watching very close.”

Mondesi’s teammates have been watching for years and know his potential. has been calling Mondesi a Most Valuable Player Award candidate for quite some time.

“I think that’s a fair statement,” Matheny said.

No head first
On a related topic, fans have asked why Mondesi continues to use the pop-up slide while stealing bases rather than going in head-first. The pop-up slide has cost Mondesi some steals because at times he is going too fast to remain on the bag, and through review challenges, has been called out at times after inching off the bag. He is 18-for-24 in steal attempts.

In Spring Training, the Royals’ coaching and medical staff ordered Mondesi not to go head-first on the bases or to dive in the infield. Those orders came down in an effort to protect his left shoulder, which was surgically repaired last fall.

But Mondesi said he has the go-ahead now to go head-first; he just prefers not to.

“It is tough [doing the pop-up slide],” Mondesi said. “I can go head-first, but there’s a lot of guys that block the base so it’s not good for me to go head-first. So I just need to go feet first. ... The last thing I want to do is injure [the shoulder] again, or injure my hands, so I just go feet first every time.”

Gold Glove for Lopez?
Matheny continues to rave about the defense of second baseman , and Matheny is openly on the campaign trail for Lopez to win a Gold Glove Award this season.

“I haven’t seen anyone better,” Matheny said. “And I think the analytics back that up.”

Indeed. Lopez leads all MLB second basemen in Statcast’s outs above average with a plus-5.