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Kansas City Royals Roster Preview: Shortstop

The Kansas City Royals boast a strong trio of shortstop options at the major league level, led by potential superstar Adalberto Mondesi.

The shortstop position has become controversial for the Kansas City Royals this offseason after the Royals made the decision to move top prospect Bobby Witt Jr. from shortstop to third base. The Royals have some of the best options at the top infield spot in the entire MLB. Between, Adalberto Mondesi, Nicky Lopez, and Bobby Witt Jr. the Royals have a “good” problem in trying to find a place for all of their stars to play every day.

Last season, between Nicky Lopez, Adalberto Mondesi, and others the shortstop position hit .293/.353/.396 for Kansas City. The power numbers were lacking, but the on-base performance was a welcome sight for a Royals ball club that has struggled to get on base for…well…forever. The position’s 87 strikeouts were the fewest of any position for Kansas City. Here are the major contributors entering 2022:

Adalberto Mondesi

I’ve been beating the drum for Adalberto Mondesi for years now. Every time, I’m met with chuckles and scoffs. I’ll say it again: Adalberto Mondesi, when healthy, is the best player in the Royals’ entire organization and one of the very best players in all of baseball. He’s an MVP Candidate like Kansas City has never seen before. Therein lies the exact problem with Mondesi: “when healthy.” Mondesi has played in 100 games or more just once in his 6-year MLB career. He struggled with strikeouts early in his career. That has improved. Then he struggled with consistency and cold streaks. That seems to have improved as well. The last hurdle for Mondesi remains his health.

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Royals’ Legendary journalist Jeffrey Flanagan has profiled Mondesi’s MVP Potential. Alec Lewis of the Athletic profiled the Royals’ offseason regimen for Mondesi in hopes to improve his season-long health. Things are lining up nicely for Adalberto Mondesi to finally reach his MVP potential this season and post his first full season of work in his career. What might that look like? In the second half of 2018, he hit .286/.318/.517. The second half of 2020 saw him hit .286/.336/.521. September 2020 saw Mondesi morph into the best hitter in all of baseball. Over the season’s final month, he hit a scorching .356/.408/.667 with an otherwordly 187 wRC+.

If Mondesi puts together a full season of health, there’s no reason to expect he can’t reach .300/.350/.500. I’m absolutely not buying the low ZIPS Projection.

2022 ZIPS Projections : 94 G, .248/.285/.434, 12 HR, 90 wRC+

Nicky Lopez

An injury to Mondesi could certainly see the Kansas City Royals move last year’s breakout star, Nicky Lopez, back to the shortstop position. Lopez became the first Royal shortstop to ever hit .300 in a season. This, while playing near gold glove defense at the sport’s toughest fielding position. Lopez brings the position back to its roots, playing elite defensively and getting on base. He steals bases, gets on base, and hits for average. He doesn’t hit for much power like the modern-era shortstops in baseball. That’s just fine for the Royals, who have shown a renewed emphasis on on-base percentage and hitting for average in the Mike Matheny era.

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2022 ZIPS Projections : 147 G, .272/.334/.359, 4 HR, 91 wRC+

Bobby Witt Jr.

Bobby Witt Jr. has officially made the Royals’ Opening Day major league roster. He’s set to man the hot corner to start the season for Kansas City but was notably drafted out of high school as a shortstop. He played there for the majority of his time in the minor leagues for the Royals. It’s possible the Royals move Witt back to shortstop in the future, as discussed by new GM J.J. Picollo this Spring:

If there’s an injury to Mondesi, it’s possible that Witt’s move to shortstop comes even sooner. Personally, I expect the Royals to keep Witt at third as long as they can this season. We’ve seen other top prospects struggle once reaching the major leagues, such as Jarred Kelenic last season for the Seattle Mariners. If the Royals want Witt to be successful, it makes sense to keep him at one position rather than adjust at the plate in the majors at the same time he transitions back to shortstop. Either way, he still proves to be a depth option at the position entering 2022.

Clay Dungan

Clay Dungan provides the Royals additional depth at the shortstop position. Dungan played primarily shortstop and second base last season for AA Northwest Arkansas. There, over 108 games, Dungan hit a robust .288/.357/.405 with 30 extra-base hits, 28 steals, and 40 walks. He struck out just 73 times. Dungan brings a strong hit tool, with solid defensive versatility and outstanding on-base skills. He was drafted out of Indiana State in the 2019 MLB Draft and is already entering his age-26 season (he turns 26 in June). He should get the chance to start the season in Omaha for the Triple-A affiliate Stormchasers. Don’t be surprised if he makes his way to Kansas City as a bench option and utility man for the Royals this season.

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2022 ZIPS Projections : 103 G, .266/.314/.360, 6 HR, 84 wRC+

Organizational Depth For Kansas City Royals

Behind the four at the top, the Royals have strong depth up the middle throughout their farm system. Nick Loftin, who we profiled as a center field option for the Royals, was drafted 32nd overall by the Royals in the 2020 MLB Draft. He’s still just 23-years old and posted an outstanding .374 on-base percentage in 90 games at High-A last season.

Brady McConnell has often been forgotten in Royals circles. McConnell was drafted second in 2019, behind Bobby Witt Jr in the Royals’ draft class. McConnell struggled with depression early in his minor league career and has not progressed much through the Royals system. He’s still just 23 after he was drafted as a sophomore from the University of Florida. He should reach High-A Quad Cities to start the season and will get a chance to make his way up the organizational depth chart this season. We’re hoping for the Brady Bounceback.

The remainder of the Royals’ organizational depth at shortstop lies in a group of five international free agent signings. Maikel Garcia (2016-Venezuela), Enrique Valdez (2017-Dominican Republic), Wilmin Candelario (2018-Dominican Republic), Omar Florentino (2018-Dominican Republic), and Daniel Vazquez (2021-Dominican Republic) make up the group. Garcia is the furthest along of the group, reaching High-A in 2021. He’s also the oldest at 22. He hit .281 with a .351 on-base percentage last season.

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Read our previous Positional Previews below:

Written By

I'm a life-long Chiefs and Royals fan from Liberty, MO. I've since moved to Seattle, WA. I love the west coast life with my wife, two beautiful children, a german shepherd, and chihuahua. It's my pleasure to grow Stadium Rant as Director of Content, but I still love writing as well about what topics I'm passionate about.

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