Where Junior fits
I should be working on this big piece for tomorrow about the ’75 World Series, but instead I just can’t stop thinking about Raul Mondesi.
Yeah, the 25th man on the Royals’ World Series roster. Instead of Terrance Gore this year, it’s Raul Mondesi.
Why Mondesi? From Ken Rosenthal’s story about the Royals’ decision-making process:
Mondesi, however, gives the Royals more flexibility than Gore or Gomes. As a second infielder, he could prove valuable if manager Ned Yost makes multiple double switches. And though Mondesi is not as fast as Gore, he also could be a base-stealing threat – he was successful in 19 of 25 attempts at Double A during the regular season. Stolen bases could be valuable if, as expected, the Series features a number of close games.
Does Ned Yost even know how to double-switch, though?
Of course he does. I kid Ned Yost because I love him. The Royals played 10 road games against National League teams during the regular season, and Yost double-switched in two of them.*
* I was also shocked upon noticing that in an August game against the Cubs, he batted his pitcher eighth! Didn’t know he had that in him, but Dyson was in the lineup, batting ninth. Some managers just like having a fast guy there, supposedly giving the lineup "two leadoff men."
So, yes: In the event of double-switching, Mondesi gives Yost more flexibility that Gomes or Gore would. That is, instead of one backup infielder (Christian Colon) and three backup outfielders, Yost now has two of each. Which, again, does allow for more double-switching possibilities.
But double-switching is fundamentally about pinch-hitting, and in the Royals’ case it’s almost entirely about pinch-hitting for pitchers, since Yost is constitutionally opposed to pinch-hitting for anybody else.
Which might be okay, except he doesn’t have enough good hitters on the bench and Mondesi certainly doesn’t help there. Mondesi’s regarded as an outstanding shortstop, but he spent this season in Double-A and posted a .279 OBP. He showed some power, but he would be relatively helpless against anybody the Mets might have on the mound.
So what does Mondesi really bring to the table? I think it might be about this more than anything else: "A fleet-footed shortstop, Mondesi also gives the Royals protection in the middle infield if second baseman Ben Zobrist goes on paternity leave. His wife, Julianna, is pregnant."
If this happens, I believe it would be the first time in history that a player’s missed a postseason game because of a birth. And what I suspect is that Zobrist has told the Royals if his wife does go into labor, he has to be there. Which would presumably mean Colon starting at second base and — in the absence of Mondesi, that is — not a single backup infielder.
There’s been a lot of speculation about Mondesi becoming the first major leaguer to make his debut in the World Series. My guess is it won’t happen unless Zobrist’s wife does go into labor on a game day or Yost is desperate for a pinch-runner at some point. Because otherwise there’s just no obvious reason to use him.