White Sox top prospect struggling to start career on South Side. Is it too early for fans to worry about the switch-hitting second baseman?
Last week, the White Sox were ending a five-game series against the Minnesota Twins. It was a long series that featured both a makeup game and a double-header but it was actually the ChiSox that not only took three games and the series, but most of the headlines. Even though the team has not been performing well, it’s their promising future that are dominating the team news, as it did most of last week.
Beginning with an afternoon contest of a doubleheader on Aug. 21, Carlos Rodon continued his stellar August with a strong outing where he pitched 6.1 innings and gave up just two earned runs. The nightcap had one of the team’s prized prospects Carson Fulmer start the game on the bump. His outing was not as fruitful and promising, as he allowed six earned in only 1.2 innings pitched. On Aug. 22, Chicago’s “Next Best Thing” Lucas Giolito was called up from Triple-A to start his White Sox career. He didn’t have his best stuff but it was a solid start for his first of 2017.
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Giolito went six innings, allowed four runs on three home runs and did not allow a walk. (Side note: he pitched his second start on Sunday and was brilliant with seven scoreless innings on a mere three hits.) The rest of the series, it was Nicky Delmonico, Kevan Smith and Tim Anderson carrying the load for the Sox. So many of the Sox prospects have already starting producing at the major League level, except for one. Unfortunately for the Sox, it’s their top prospect Yoan Moncada.
Moncada has been baseball’s most promising prospect since last season, but his first two months with the Sox have been extremely underwhelming. He’s currently hitting .188 with 44 strikeouts in 101 at-bats. And while everyone unanimously agrees that he has all the tools to succeed and dominate the game – and it certainly shows at times – he just hasn’t produced.
Many Sox fans are worried that because the team traded their ace Chris Sale for Moncada, among other prospects, the Sox won’t get the return they were hoping for. Sale is currently one of two surefire candidates for AL Cy Young Award this year. Moncada was supposed to be so much more than he has shown and it’s starting to concern many Southsiders. So the question must be asked: Is it time to start worrying about Yoan Moncada?
The answer is yes but wait! The batting average, the strikeouts, and the seemingly ineffectiveness of Moncada’s very slow start in Chicago has many silver linings in between. Yes, the sub-190 average and the +30 percent strikeout rate is extremely alarming. However, if you’ve been watching him play, the skill is definitely there and it’s more likely that he’s a solid player than an underachieving one.
Moncada was starting to pick it up a bit at the beginning of August. He raised his lowly batting average from .100 on Aug. 3 to .215 on Aug. 11. In that span, he went 10-for-35 with a slash of .370/.514/.519 in eight games. Those eight games also included a seven-game hitting streak. However, it wouldn’t last long as he ended up going 5-for-36 (.139) with 19 strikeouts in his next 10 games. It was a case of two steps forward and one step back for Moncada but it was exciting to see him finally excelling for the White Sox.
A note of promise is Moncada’s BABIP (batting average on balls in play). His BABIP is .296, which means that when he does not walk, strikeout or get hit by a pitch, he records a base hit. While he does draw a lot of walks and strikeouts, he just needs to put the ball in play more often to see his batting average improve. Another note of promise is that Moncada walks a lot. Moncada has a walk percentage of 15.6 percent. The only players with a 15% percent walk percentage or higher are Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Matt Carpenter, Aaron Judge and Joey Votto.
However, while the bat has struggled to make the move up to the big leagues with him, his glove hasn’t. Moncada does have four errors on paper but he has displayed his range, his athleticism and his arm on multiple occasions, which is very promising for a versatile player. Many have also said how his speed is such a great advantage for his size at six feet two inches tall. He’s a deceptive speedster who can steal bases and stretch singles into doubles and doubles into triples.
Moncada has all the tools to become a great baseball player but now he has to refine them. It’s not a case of seeing the ball better – because he has a good eye – but it’s more of a plate discipline type of issue. Once he figures out which pitches to swing at and which ones to sit on, things will drastically change for him and the feelings surrounding his early Chicago career. He can run the bases and play second base extremely well, he just has to put the ball in play.
Moncada is currently on the 10-Day DL with a shin contusion but it might be what he needs to take a moment to reflect on a heavy burden, which can be another thing hampering his young career in Chicago. The White Sox are not depending on him to win games or to be the team’s saving grace this year, but the team and the city have the highest expectations of him at the young age of 22.
After being regarded as the top prospect in baseball, on the team with the best farm system, it’s impossible to think it’s not affecting him. For Moncada, this would be the ideal time for him to work and improve his approach at the plate. And with just about a month left in the season, Moncada should be looking to finish off the season with a batting average near .250.
So is it time to worry? Maybe. Is it time to give up on him? Absolutely not. Moncada should end up being a fantastic ballplayer. Getting adjusted to the Major League level is not easy – even for the No. 1 prospect. However, with the tools and the experience he has now, Moncada should start producing just about any day now.