Royals’ Mondesi could be first MLBer to debut in World Series
Raul Adalberto Mondesi has never appeared in a major-league game. In fact, he has not yet played above Double A. But in a stunning move, he is on the Royals’ roster for the World Series.
Mondesi, a switch-hitting middle infielder and speedy runner who turned 20 on July 27, replaced outfielder Terrance Gore, who did not bat in either of the first two rounds and has only three at-bats since rejoining the Royals on Sept. 1.
The rules allow the Royals to add Mondesi, the son of former major leaguer Raul Mondesi, because he was in their organization on Aug. 31. The Royals cleared a spot on their 40-man roster for Mondesi, who has been playing in Instructional League, by designating right-hander Joba Chamberlain for assignment.
The unexpected addition of Mondesi is fascinating on any number of levels, starting with the fact that no player has ever made his major-league debut in the World Series, according to STATS LLC.
Mets infielder Matt Reynolds, an injury replacement for Ruben Tejada in the Division Series, could have beaten Mondesi to that distinction. The Mets, however, left Reynolds off their Series roster in favor of Juan Uribe, who is returning from a chest contusion that has sidelined him since late September.
Uribe gives the Mets a late-inning threat off the bench, one who could prove especially valuable once the Series moves to New York’s Citi Field and is played under NL rules. Though Uribe is 36, he hit 14 home runs in 360 at-bats this season. Mets officials believe he can handle velocity, even in right-on-right matchups against the Royals’ powerhouse bullpen.
The Royals have a similar player for such a role — outfielder Jonny Gomes. But they did not include Gomes on their Series roster, going instead with Mondesi, who would be the youngest active player in the majors if he appears in a game.
Gomes, who turns 35 on Nov. 22, joined the Royals in an Aug. 31 trade, but batted only .167 with a .469 OPS in 34 plate appearances in September and was not on the team’s roster for either of its first two postseason series. Still, Gomes would give the Royals a right-handed power threat off the bench in New York (Kendrys Morales, the team’s DH, also will be on the bench while the series is played under NL rules.)
The argument for Gomes over Mondesi and Gore was fairly obvious – Gomes leads the majors with seven pinch-hit home runs the past three seasons. The Red Sox went 10-1 with him in their starting lineup during the 2013 playoffs. Gomes batted only .167 with a .557 OPS in 48 plate appearances, but one of his hits was a decisive three-run homer off a right-hander, Seth Maness, in Game 4 of the World Series.
Without Gomes, the Royals’ bench in New York will consist of Morales, Mondesi, outfielders Paulo Orlando and Jarrod Dyson, infielder Christian Colon and catcher Drew Butera.
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.
Gomes could have started against Mets left-hander Steven Matz in Game 4, but likely would be removed for a defensive replacement after two or three at-bats if the Royals took the lead. He could have received pinch-hit opportunities in the other games in New York, but the Royals preferred the additional options and balance that Mondesi could provide.