As the middle of the MLB offseason raged on…well, sort of…the Kansas City Royals looked as if they were on their way to a full rebuild. Fan favorites like Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Eric Hosmer looked like they were going to be on their way out. The players that we have all come to love would be wearing new colors next year, and and our beloved team would look very different in 2018.
Even though it will sting, there is a sense of excitement, the fans will be introduced to a new wave of Royals that we will come to love. Even with the farm system being decimated over the long playoff runs, there are still many players who will be a big part of the future successes of this team. So naturally, with the biggest names from our World Series team gone, one would think that the Royals would turn to the youth movement. A move that would allow them to develop players at the major league level.
Whether a player hits well in the minors, they aren’t getting the reps off the best of the best that the MLB has to offer. When that time comes, for a player to get called to the big club, there is inevitably going to be a struggle at the plate. Many fans expected new faces added to the lineup for the upcoming year. Replacements at CF, 3B, 1B, and SS, however, on January 26th a report comes out that the Royals and Alcides Escobar have agreed to a 1 year 2.5 million dollar contract. As I looked at my phone, my face went from shock to anger. The reason for the anger is the fact that the Royals just blocked their most promising and intriguing player from playing everyday.
Adalberto Mondesi, the player that has topped the Royals prospect list for years, was now out a spot in the lineup. In a year where the Royals are not projected to be anywhere close to the playoffs, they choose their old friend Esky. I’m sure there are people that like Escobar, and I do appreciate the durability and stability he has brought to the Royals, but now its at the expense of Mondesi’s development.
Listen, I understand that Mondesi has struggled at the Major League level, but he also doesn’t have much left to prove at the AAA level either. Last season in Omaha, Mondesi had a slash line of .305/.340/.539 while adding 13 HRs and 21 stolen base attempts in 24 attempts. In a very small sample size at AAA in 2016 Mondesi slashed .304/.328/.536.
At age 20, the Royals played Mondesi in 47 games. In those 47 games, he had 149 PA and a slash line of .185/.231/.281. Not a good go around for Mondesi, and last year we saw a very short leash with him, playing in 25 games with an even worse line at the plate. I was not mad that the Royals had sent him back to AAA. The last two years the Royals have been contending for a playoff spot..kind of, but I get it. When you have a special group of players like Cain, Moose, and Hoz you want to give them another shot at it. Mondesi was still young and had much to prove at the plate. Esky was part of the group that had captured our hearts. He deserved to be given one last push with the rest of the core.
Now that the entire core is gone, this is where the frustration sets in. There was nothing holding the Royals back from giving the SS reigns to Mondesi. Escobar was finally in the rearview mirror, and we would now get to see how comfortable Mondesi looked as the everyday SS. Finally being able to play everyday at your natural position is much different than playing second base. The pressure of having to be perfect would’ve been off. He would’ve been given a longer leash to tap into that potential. He hasn’t even been able to produce well in the majors, and fans still want to see him. When a team is entering a rebuilding year, when have you ever seen a team block a player with this much talent?
I understand if a team wanted to re-sign their veteran shortstop if they were in contention for are a playoff spot, but us Royals fans understand that won’t be the case this year. The fact that the Royals have come out and said that Escobar is a lock in the lineup is a slap in the face to Mondesi. We aren’t talking about a perennial all star shortstop that is getting penciled into the lineup. We are talking about a shortstop that flashed a 0.0 WAR last season. A shortstop that saw his stolen bases drop to single digits (4 SB, 7 CS) for the first time in a full season at the major league level.
Jeffrey Flanagan, the beat writer for the Royals, asked Dayton Moore about pursuing Mike Moustakes if Hosmer were to go elsewhere, and Moore’s response was “That period of time, that phase of who we are, is over. We need to move on.” Well Dayton I think thats how a lot of fans feel about Escobar being the everyday shortstop. MOVE ON. In a year where the Royals have the luxury of letting a young player go through the everyday growing pains of being a major league player, the Royals didn’t move on. So as we sit and watch our team struggle through the year, just remember that we could maybe tap into that Esky magic one more time…or we could move on toward the future.