Mondesi activated, set to move to third base

September 2nd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- rejoined the Royals on Wednesday, when the club brought him and starter Jackson Kowar up as rosters expanded from 26 to 28 players. But Mondesi’s role won’t be the same as it once was.

Penciled in as the Royals’ everyday shortstop back in Spring Training, Mondesi has played just 10 games this season because of three injured list stints (oblique strains and a hamstring issue). In his absence, Nicky Lopez has thrived as the everyday shortstop, and Whit Merrifield has been one of the better second basemen in the league. Both have played themselves into the Gold Glove conversation, and Lopez could potentially be a finalist for the second straight year -- at a different position. He was a second-base finalist in 2020.

Rather than halt the rhythm and consistency those two have built, Mondesi will get the majority of his defensive playing time at third base, thus moving Hunter Dozier to right field and giving Emmanuel Rivera some days off. Mondesi was the designated hitter on Wednesday, and he will also have scheduled off-days in an effort to keep him on the field through the end of the regular season.

“What Whit and Nicky have been able to do, you've got to respect the consistency and what they’ve been able to accomplish,” general manager Dayton Moore said. “We want them to finish strong at those positions, and they’ve earned it.”

Mondesi was understanding of the situation, according to Moore and manager Mike Matheny, and he wants to get as much defensive work at third base as possible. He didn’t get any reps there during his rehab assignment, but the Royals are confident in his ability, and they want him to stay on the left side of the infield.

“We were very upfront and transparent,” Moore said. “Mondi’s a winner. He’s a happy kid. We all feel really bad for him, and for us, that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. We want to enjoy his talent, enjoy watching him play.”

The Royals have started to make plans for Mondesi’s offseason training to make sure he can stay healthy in 2022. They’ve had conversations with him about being smart while playing, too, to prevent injuries.

“All the various departments that have input are discussing things and coming together to formulate the very best plan to make sure that Mondi’s ready to go,” Moore said. “We’ll see where we are. We’ve got a long way to go between now and then. Everything we’re doing from this day forward, as it pertains to Mondi, is geared toward 2022.”

As far as what the Royals will do at shortstop in 2022 and beyond, Moore reiterated that the club has three capable defenders in Mondesi, Lopez and top prospect Bobby Witt Jr.

Moore has said before that the Royals can’t build around Mondesi as their everyday shortstop, but if he can stay healthy, he will be in the conversation.

“The thing to focus on is, we have three really talented shortstops that are Major League producers or close to being Major League producers,” Moore said. “That’s a really special place to be as an organization. With that type of talent and athleticism, all three guys have the ability to hit in the upper part of the order. It’s our job and Mike’s job to figure out how to mix and match to put the best team on the field each night. That’s the takeaway.”

Roster limits Witt Jr., other prospects

Perhaps fans were waiting for Witt Jr.’s name to pop up on the transaction log when rosters expanded Wednesday, but the limited rosters severely impacted the Royals ability to bring up the No. 3 prospect in baseball, as well as other top prospects like Nick Pratto and MJ Melendez, who are raking in Triple-A.

Instead, Kansas City lengthened its lineup with Mondesi and added to its pitching staff with Kowar, who started Wednesday.

“I wish we could bring up more guys," Moore said. "We’ve always appreciated that flexibility for a number of reasons, but the rules are what they are. We have to respect that and make it work.”

In the past, teams could call up their entire 40-man roster if they wanted to. That allowed teams who weren’t in playoff contention to call up prospects and give them Major League experience. But this year, the Minor League season runs through the end of the month, so players can still get everyday at-bats there. And the Royals don’t have to put Witt Jr. on the 40-man roster until they have to, with plenty of roster decisions looming this offseason.