White Sox: Yoan Moncada ready to arrive fashionably late

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 18: Yoan Moncada
OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 18: Yoan Moncada /

White Sox second basemen having better results as of late after a bad start to the season. Many fans will have to be patient with the youngster.

Yoan Moncada has been the poster boy for White Sox hopes, frustrations, concerns and validation. As troubling as his slumps can be, he can come right back with a series like he just had in Oakland, going 5-for-14 with three extra base hits, two home runs, six RBI, three stolen bases, and his first career grand slam.

Moncada has been the cornerstone of the entire rebuild process. He was the highest prospect the Sox received of all their moves but with that came ample room for scrutiny, speculation and ultimately pressure.

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As Moncada continued to improve on the little things over the past two years, the White Sox organization, as well as analysists, scouts, reporters, players and teammates all around baseball continue to say the same thing about Moncada, as if all were fed the same script: “He has all the tools. He has the talent. He’s going to be an amazing ballplayer.”

And because Moncada is the cornerstone of the rebuild – the first major position player the Sox acquired as well as possibly having the highest ceiling of any prospect – his struggles are amplified more than every other player or prospect in the entire organization. It’s partly because he is inconsistent early on but also because the expectations are so high.

But as this season continues to unfold, the concerns for Moncada’s lack of on-paper production were becoming audible from many fans. He’s not hitting over .200, he’s not getting on base, he’s still striking out, isn’t he supposed to be better?

Then he goes and has a series of games in Oakland to once again silence the naysayers. His performance is definitely on the rise lately and it’s a very-welcomed sight for sore White Sox eyes. But what’s even better is that Moncada is a notorious slow starter before he catches midseason fire. And it’s starting to looks like he’s catching that midseason fire.

When Moncada arrived at Camelback Ranch for 2017 Spring Training, the hype was as palpable as ever, nearly concrete. What followed was disappointing, but it was acceptable. He didn’t and still doesn’t have to be a great player just yet. However, logging three base hits in your first 19 at-bats  (.157 batting average) is not exactly an encouraging sign from a No. 1 prospect.

Then Moncada, like he’s now known to do, caught fire. He rattled off 11 base hits, four doubles, and three home runs in his next 22 at-bats (.500 average). Luckily, he took that hot finish into the regular season with the Charlotte Knights and hit .314 with 27 hits (seven extra-base hits, four home runs) in only 21 games.

After turning in half a season of great production, Moncada received the call to play in Las Grandes Ligas – the Majors. Continuing the trend, Moncada had another slow start in his most recent MLB stint. He went 20-for-135 (.179 average) in his first 33 games with the White Sox with 48 strikeouts. Then continuing the proceeding trend, Moncada started to heat up. From Sept. 9th to the end of the season, Moncada went a cool 26-for-87 (.299 average) with seven extra-base hits, five home runs, 26 strikeouts, and a .365 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage in 21 games.

2018 Spring Training, the saga continued. Moncada goes 1-for-15, seven strikeouts, and a .211 OBP in the first six games. And then for the remaining 13 games, goes 15-for-43 (.348), six extra-base hits, three home runs and nine RBIs. He finished Spring Training with a .271 batting average and an .833 OPS. The only concern remaining were the strikeouts again, but aside from the numbers, the eye-tests and actually watching his plate appearances indicate that he had meaningful at-bats. Moncada leads the team in at-bats with pitch counts of four or more pitches (2-2, 3-1 & 3-2 counts).

And now we arrive at 2018. Moncada’s early season woes begin to appear after going 9-for-49 (.184, .298 OBP) but the same thing is said every time Moncada finds himself a similar slump. “He has all the tools. He has the talent. He’s going to be an amazing ballplayer.”

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And with extreme analytics, Moncada’s potential ceiling looks even more promising.  His exit velocity, his speed, his plate discipline and patience – even his defense that was on display in Oakland – all of it at a closer look just screams ballplayer. So now that Moncada is beginning to look like he’s ready to break through again, will this be the time he takes a drastic step forward into his prime? The White Sox are hoping he is. The AL Central, not so much.