Royals phenom Adalberto Mondesi is going to be a hot topic this winter. By ripping off 32 steals in 291 plate appearances while also popping 14 home runs, Mondesi won quite a few fantasy championships. The hype may have crested yesterday when he was selected 28th overall in the very first NFBC draft of the 2019 season.
I’m going to do something novel (lazy) and just kind of assume we’re all on the same page about who Mondesi is as a player. This isn’t an analysis of his skills. I’ve done been there, done that elsewhere. As a hitter, he compares to one of the top fantasy assets in the league. This same comparable player was a massive resource suck for many years before finally breaking out.
Could Mondesi skip the painful growth seasons?
As Mike the Roto Cop pointed out, we may overreact to the current wave of hype.
I honestly believe the fantasy industry will rag on Mondesi so much this offseason that he’ll eventually become a bargain
— Mike The Roto Cop (@MikeTheRotoCop) October 10, 2018
Mondesi might end of as a bargain. How far must he fall from pick 28 to be a value? Let’s think about the range of outcomes. The following is a hypothetical set of five outcomes with probabilities. This is purely illustrative.
- Barely plays, zero or negative production: 10 percent, undraftable
- Roughly .220/.260/.360, 400 PA, 20 SB, 8 HR: 20 percent, streamable
- Career average over a full season – .238/.273/.406, 650 PA, 35 SB, 15 HR: 40 percent, top 100 value
- Regressed 2018 production over a full season – .260/.295/.460, 650 PA, 40 SB, 20 HR: 20 percent, top 25 value
- Modest improvement over a full season – .280/.310/.510, 650 PA, 55 SB, 25 HR: 10 percent, top 5 value
With our rudimentary solution set, roughly 30 percent of outcomes support the 28th overall ADP. There are plausible realities where Mondesi returns value here. There are realities where he posts a top five player season. However, to take this dive, we have to be willing to completely ignore the mirrored 30 percent of scenarios where he should not even be drafted. And the likeliest outcome includes a pretty hefty loss.
There’s one detail I should have mentioned earlier: the 29th pick. It was Paul Goldschmidt. How’s that for an opportunity cost? Goldschmidt is at least as likely to outperform this draft slot. He is very unlikely to turn in an empty season. If I dummied up five scenarios for Goldy, the outcomes would skew very positive. And not for nothing, first base is a harder position to fill than shortstop. Sounds wrong, right? It’s not.
Rewind to the 2018 preseason. If I subbed out Mondesi’s name for Byron Buxton, I wouldn’t need to change a word of the above. He was roughly the 60th player drafted last spring. The downside was obviously hideous. The upside was first round quality performance. With full hindsight, we know how it turned out. Those who gambled on Buxton rolled snake eyes. And then the Twins shat on the dice for good measure.
I bring up Buxton as a reminder that bad outcomes do happen. It’s easy to get caught up in the unrestrained success of Ronald Acuna and Juan Soto. When prospects immediately adapt to the majors, it feels good to have made that correct call. It starts to feel like prospects are a never ending bounty of free value. No. Sometimes the Twins shit on your dice.
Despite my obvious misgivings about buying high on Mondesi, there are also scenarios when it may make sense to invest. Looking back on Buxton, he was basically on my Never Draft list. And yet I grabbed him 63rd in The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational (TGFBI). Obviously, I would like that pick back. However, at the time, I was confident my targets – Robinson Cano and Masahiro Tanaka – would return to me in the next round. In fact, here are the 12 players drafted after Buxton in the fifth round.
- Billy Hamilton
- Jean Segura
- Justin Turner
- Yoenis Cespedes
- Willson Contreras
- Chris Archer
- Lorenzo Cain
- Wil Myers
- Dallas Keuchel
- A.J. Pollock
- Jonathan Schoop
- Buster Posey
Yuck. Of those, only Cain returned value. I got my Cano and Tanaka targets in the sixth and seventh rounds. None of this worked out in my favor. Buxton and Cano were completely wasted picks. However, the strategy involved was sound.
As far as I’m concerned, this is an example of good process, bad result. I had the opportunity to shoot for a top performer while executing my plan to select boring core performers. Moreover, this served as a diversification of my talent portfolio. I finished third despite these and other botched selections. Imagine if I caught a good outcome from Buxton?
Similar opportunities may occur for picking Mondesi. Even if you have every intention of not drafting him 28th or 45th or even 60th like Buxton, don’t completely shut the door on a serendipitous set of circumstances. Chances are, you’re not jumping into a NFBC draft tomorrow. Take the offseason to assimilate some information before making up your mind.
Don’t fret if you miss out on Mondesi. Keep an eye on where players like Tim Anderson, Mallex Smith, and Jose Peraza are drafted. Anderson is a close facsimile to Mondesi while Smith and Peraza serve as viable, cheaper substitutes.