Most of our dynasty coverage of the second basemen rolled out yesterday and I’m here to close it out with a Tale of the Tape between a former top prospect who graduated during his age-21 season and the position’s best non-Moncada minor leaguer. Mondesi and Happ are the 20th and 22nd best options according to Bret’s dynasty rankings and their risk profiles are as far apart as the ranks are close.
The Cubs’ latest first round college bat hit .279 across two levels in 2016. He wore out the Carolina League with his advanced offensive game before advancing to Double-A, where his batting average slipped by 34 points. Happ struck out north of 20 percent of the time at each stop and I think he’ll do the same when he reaches the bigs, but he has the approach to work himself into favorable counts and possesses enough bat speed and control to an asset in this category despite moderate swing and miss. After making his major league debut in the 2015 World Series, Mondesi opened 2016 in Double-A and stayed there until early July, a period of time that included a 50-game PED fort taking a Dominican cold medicine that helped him hit .250/.304/.462 prior to the forced layoff. The Royals decided he was ready for a full-time gig in the Show 27 games into his return, spread across three levels, during which he registered a 32-to-9 K:BB ratio. I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn, then, that Mondesi stuck out in 32 percent of his 149 plate appearances as a Royal, walking six times on his way to a .185 batting average and .190 TAv. There are tools here—bat speed, a line-drive stroke that could theoretically help run an above-average BABIP, speed to leg out infield and bunt singles—but they are forever away from actualizing. Instead of retreating to the minors where he belongs, it appears Mondesi will be asked to continue his development against major league pitching. Not ideal. He deserves some slack for having been among the youngest players at every level he’s played, but it requires a substantial leap of faith to project the bat playing anything close to a league-average given his approach at present. Advantage: Happ
Mondesi has drawn 118 walks as a professional to Happ’s 108. If Happ can somehow manage 10 walks in his next 1,189 plate appearances, they’ll have the same professional walk rate. Advantage: Happ
Happ smoked 15 bombs last season, split almost evenly between the two levels at which he played. He has much more game power from the left side, evidenced by the 12 he hit against northpaws versus three against lefties. If you’re gonna have a split as a switch-hitter, that’s the right one to have. I think Happ settles in as a high-volume doubles hitter, but he’s strong enough muscle out 18-22 a year. Mondesi set a new career high with nine home runs in 2016 and he too exhibited a significant split; he slapped all nine dingers against righties on his way to an above-average .453 slugging percentage, versus a positively atrocious .227 versus lefties. For some context, no qualified major -eaguer posted a mark lower than .278 against lefties in 2016. Mondesi will run into a few, especially if pitchers aren’t afraid to challenge him in the zone, but this isn’t realty a contest. Advantage: Happ
Mondesi is a nine-hole hitter until the bat takes a step forward. Happ has the kind of skillset that fits in the front third of a batting order. He wouldn’t slot in there if he makes the majors with his current organization. If he survives the next trade deadline or two and does arrive in Chicago, he’d be part of a run-scoring machine for which lineup placement matters far less than the average club. Advantage: Happ
Mondesi is a true burner with legitimate 40-steal potential if he can reach first base enough times to utilize his most important fantasy skill. Hell, he pilfered nine in the majors last year despite a .231 on-base percentage, so maybe his speed isn’t as dependent on his performance at the plate as you might think. Happ has shown some proficiency on the basepaths, swiping 26 bases in 32 professional attempts. He’s thoroughly outclassed here though. You didn’t think it was gonna be a clean sweep did you? Advantage: Mondesi
Mondesi injured his back in the first game of the 2015 season, which caused him to miss a month right out of the gate then another couple weeks in mid-summer when re-tweaked it. He was fully healthy in 2016. Happ had double hernia surgery prior to his junior season, then slashed .369/.492/.672 and has been fully healthy as a professional. There’s no real reason to be concerned with either player’s injury history. Advantage: Draw
Insofar as we know anything about prospects, we have a pretty good idea about who Happ is. He lacks an elite skill but he’s a polished hitter who does everything well. On the other hand, the range of outcomes for Mondesi is impossibly wide. It’s not that hard to envision a scenario where his bat is so poor it limits or negates the value of his speed and renders him irrelevant in standard depth leagues. If, instead, he makes good on the years of glowing scouting reports, Mondesi could be a top-of-the-order hitter with a league-average hit, double-digit homers, and a league-leading stolen base total. It’s a long shot but I do recognize it as a possibility. Happ has no reasonable path to that kind of impact. Advantage: Mondesi
Estimated Time of Impact
Mondesi will start 2017 in the majors. Between the limited experience at the upper levels and the loaded and flexible Cubs roster, it’s hard to see how Happ gets more than a cup of coffee until 2018. Advantage: Mondesi
This is a straightforward call for me. Mondesi’s approach is too big a limitation. I have no confidence he’ll fundamentally change who he is as a 21-year-old everyday major-leaguer. Without some significant progress on that front, the hypothetical positives in his game will be overwhelmed by the batting average and on-base sinkholes. I can be guilty of over-valuing proximity and I understand the worth of high-volume basestealers in today’s game, but Mondesi’s downside is too severe for my taste.
And the winner is… Ian Happ
Thank you for reading
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