Yoan Moncada needs to improve a lot in 2019 for the White Sox to get a good return on the massive investment they made by trading Chris Sale in 2016.
In December 2016, the White Sox traded their staff ace and possible future Hall of Famer Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, betting on the return of four prospects. Arguably the best pitcher in baseball was traded in the middle of his prime on a team-friendly contract, so the returns should have been enormous.
So far, they have been completely underwhelming, and with Michael Kopech out for the 2019 season after having Tommy John surgery, it is up to former top-billed prospect Yoan Moncada to get some value back in the trade for 2019, and not leave White Sox fans scratching their heads wondering why the team didn’t trade for anyone actually good like Andrew Benintendi or Mookie Betts. If you’re trading a near seven wins above replacement player, you’d better get something similar in return.
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Not too long ago, Moncada was the number one prospect in baseball. However, for most of 2018, he looked a lot more like Gordon Beckham than a future star player. And that’s without counting the fact that Beckham had an excellent rookie season in 2009.
A lot of things went wrong with the play of Moncada’s game last year. He didn’t steal bases, he wasn’t good in the field, he didn’t hit for average and he didn’t hit for power. He did get a decent amount of walks (67), but that was in part due to the fact that he didn’t swing the bat as much as he should have, especially with two strikes.
The biggest thing Moncada can do to make himself a valuable player is to make good hard contact. Amazingly he had 200 more strikeouts (217) than home runs (17). If a player is going to strike out that much, he’s going to have to hit for power. With the other numbers he put up, Moncada would have had to hit 27 home runs to be a decent player and 37 home runs to be a good one.
A good goal for Moncada this year would be to bring his strikeout total down to 180 or less while hitting at least 25 or more home runs. He needs to put the ball in play more to take advantage of his above-average speed, and if he’s going to swing for the fences he needs to reach them a lot more than he has been.
Moncada was also mediocre at second base last year due to poor range, so he would need to put up at least a .800 OPS to be valuable, whereas he finished 2018 at .714. The White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado means they are unlikely to move Moncada to third base, so he will have to become a better second baseman who gets to the ball a lot more often.
Moncada is key to the White Sox rebuild, and a lot of people have been counting on him. But Moncada’s success is not necessary for the White Sox to continue on as a team. If the White Sox sign Machado to play third base and Nick Madrigal proves to be a capable middle infielder, two years from now Moncada may either have lived up to his stated potential or find himself without a position and be traded to another team. This would be a better move than the Sox giving him endless chances to become good as they did with Beckham.
We’ve heard about how talented Moncada is, and how scouts were so impressed with his many tools. Unfortunately, we heard the same thing about Brian Anderson, Beckham, and Avisail Garcia. Moncada needs to show a lot of improvement this year, specifically by cutting down on his strikeouts and making more hard contact.