When teams draft a player, in most cases they hope he doesn’t slow down too much as he matures. Generally, 18-year-old high school draftees and especially 21-year-old college draftees are physically mature enough that you’re not going to see significant improvement in speed during their career. If they’re fast, they’re fast. If they have average speed, they’ll likely remain an average runner.
Those rules do not apply for 16-year-olds signed out of Latin America. As players get stronger and enter into pro training regimens it’s not all that unusual to see an average runner as a 16-year-old turn into an above-average runner as an 18- or 19-year-old. Even with that being the case, what Royals shortstop Raul Mondesi has done is somewhat surprising.
When Mondesi signed with the Royals as a 16-year-old, he was viewed as a tick-above-average runner. From the left side of the plate, you could get him turning in anywhere from a 4.15 to a 4.25-second time to first base. But every year since he’s been with the Royals, he’s gotten faster. Now, he’s flirting with top-of-the-scale speed. In spring training, Mondesi was turning in 4.0-flat times from the left side, equivalent to a 70-grade on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
On Thursday in the Wilmington Blue Rocks’ opener, Mondesi was even faster, showing a 3.5-second time on a drag bunt single. He ended up on second thanks to an error. Now, hitters should be significantly faster when bunting than when swinging away because they are getting a head start on their jump. But 3.5-seconds is getting into rarefied air. When you add his defense at shortstop, and hitting and power potential, the youngest player in the Carolina League is one of the most fascinating prospects in the game.