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Champ or Chump: Adalberto Mondesi and Daniel Robertson


This column usually examines players in the midst of a breakout or slump and tries to determine if it represents a change in a player's baseline. This time, let's do something different. Let's look at two candidates to break out in the second half, before they become hot waiver wire commodities.

Both of the names below have 2B and SS eligibility in most formats and a combined ownership rate of 10%. The first is Adalberto Mondesi, who you may remember from the 2015 World Series as Raul Mondesi Jr. The second is Daniel Robertson of the Rays, who seems like an empty OBP play but might mimic Max Muncy and Brandon Nimmo in the second half.

If you need a breakout or two to get back in the hunt, adding these two before they become household names could pay big dividends.

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The Fantasy Jury Is Out

Adalberto Mondesi (2B/SS, KC) - 1% Owned

The first thing you're probably wondering about Mondesi is why he changed his name. His real name is and always has been Raul Mondesi Jr, but he apparently went by his middle name (Adalberto) growing up in the Dominican Republic and signed his first professional contract as such. He switched to his real name upon reaching the majors, but then his father was sent to prison for embezzling funds as mayor of his village. That may or may not have influenced his decision to use his middle name again.

Regardless, Mondesi is a toolsy 23-year-old with plenty of raw talent but little in the way of MLB production thus far (.187/.227/.287 with four homers and 18 steals in 252 PAs divided between three seasons). A brief look at his MiLB career demonstrates why fantasy owners should care about him.

Playing for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in 2015, 20-year old Mondesi slashed .243/.279/.372 with six homers and 19 SB (six CS) in 338 PAs. That prorates to about 10 HR and 30 SB, numbers that would be extremely fantasy-friendly. His raw power was meh (7.3% HR/FB), but he hit enough fly balls (37.8% FB%) to be a reasonable HR compiler at the highest level. His plate discipline wasn't the greatest (5% BB%, 26% K%), but that can be overlooked for a 20-year old getting his first taste of Double-A ball.

Mondesi returned to Northwest Arkansas in 2016, slashing .259/.331/.448 with five homers and 17 SB (one CS). At first glance it appears that he merely repeated his previous season, but he put up those numbers in only 131 PAs. His plate discipline improved dramatically (9.9% BB%, 22.9% K%), as did his raw power (15.2% HR/FB). The latter mark is impressive considering that Northwest Arkansas does not give up home runs easily (0.928 HR factor from 2014-2016). If you prorate his counting stats, you get 20 long balls and nearly 70 SB. Are you listening yet?

Unfortunately, Mondesi's momentum was derailed by a PED suspension that had something to do with cough medicine. He made his regular season MLB debut later that year, but it was largely a lost season.

The Royals promoted him to Triple-A Omaha for 2017, where he slashed .305/.340/.539 with 13 HR and 21 SB (three CS) in 357 PAs. His plate discipline went backwards against the more advanced competition (5% BB%, 24.1% K%), and his .373 BABIP was probably unsustainable. Still, the season prorates for 20 HR and roughly 40 steals. Notably, he kept his raw power gains from the previous campaign (14.6% HR/FB).

This season, Mondesi slashed .250/.295/.492 with five homers and 10 steals (zero CS) in 133 PAs for Omaha before being summoned to Kansas City. Again, the stats prorate to 20 homers and 40 steals. He also improved his plate discipline slightly (6% BB%, 22.6% K%) and hit a ton of fly balls (48.9% FB%). Omaha favors hitters (1.283 HR factor, 1.021 hits) and his BABIP crashed to .291, but this profile should be generating a lot more buzz in fantasy.

Mondesi's current .214/.233/.357 line with a homer and four steals won't send anyone rushing to add him, but at least he's striking out less often than he usually does (25.6% K% vs. 32.1% career). His Statcast Sprint Speed is elite (29.8 ft./sec, eighth in MLB), and his success rate on the bases is solid (18-for-22, 81%). If nothing else, Mondesi should be Billy Hamilton with MIF eligibility.

Unlike Hamilton though, there's still a chance Mondesi will learn how to hit. His average exit velocity on grounders is a reasonable 83.5mph so far this season after pathetic showings in 2017 (68.2mph) and 2016 (73.5mph). With his wheels and even a little oomph, he should have no problem besting his career .213 BABIP on ground balls moving forward.

Likewise, Mondesi lifts the ball often enough (36.3% FB% career) to approach the reasonable power numbers from his MiLB career. This year's 91mph average airborne exit velocity is okay, but was actually higher in both 2017 (92.4mph) and 2016 (93.2mph). His rate of Brls/BBE has been fairly consistent (6.3% this year, 5.7% last year, 6.5% in 2016) too.

Mondesi is currently playing short, relegating Alcides Escobar and his 37 wRC+ to a utility role. He's hitting ninth, a slot that probably needs to improve for Mondesi to reach his upside. Still, how many waiver options could hit 10 homers and swipe 20 bases in the second half?

Verdict: Champ

 
Daniel Robertson (2B/SS/3B, TB) - 9% Owned

Robertson has slashed .268/.391/.426 with seven homers in 253 PAs this season, numbers that probably justify ownership in every OBP format even if he just maintains his current pace. However, his MiLB career bears a striking similarity to 2018 breakouts Brandon Nimmo and Max Muncy.

Prior to 2018, both Nimmo and Muncy had strong eyes, reasonable contact ability, and little power to speak of. Robertson slashed .274/.363/.415 with four homers in 347 PAs for Double-A Montgomery in 2015. He rarely struck out (16.7% K%), often walked (9.5% BB%), and didn't show much power. Sounds like a candidate to benefit from the livelier MLB ball.

Robertson was promoted to Triple-A Durham in 2016 and did more of the same: .259/.358/.356 with five homers in 511 PAs. He walked (11.4% BB%) and struck out (19.6% K%) more often, but the general profile was still intact.

Robertson's plate discipline went awry in his first exposure to the majors last year (11.4% BB%, 28.7% K%), but things are back on track in 2018 (15% BB%, 22.9% K%). His 23.4% chase rate suggests that the walks are real, while his 38.5% Swing% is low enough to perpetually strikeout more often than his 8.7% SwStr% suggests he should.

Robertson's 14% HR/FB is already higher than last year's mark (9.4%), but he'll probably need to increase his FB% (currently 32.9%) to reach Nimmo and Muncy territory. His .306 BABIP on ground balls and 19.7% LD% suggest that his .338 BABIP isn't sustainable for the long term, so he'll need to join the fly ball revolution to provide anything in fantasy besides empty OBP.

Thankfully, players seem to be more aware than ever before of the benefits of airborne contact. He bounces all over Tampa's lineup, but has generally occupied one of the team's first five slots lately. Add in eligibility at 2B (24 games this year), SS (25), and 3B (13), and you have somebody worth keeping an eye on.

Verdict: Champ




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