In December of 2016, the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox made a deal that was great for both teams. The Red Sox acquired Chris Sale in a blockbuster deal. He went on to win the World Series with them in 2018. The White Sox acquired four players and two of them are now big keys to the White Sox success.
Those two players were pitcher Michael Kopech and infielder Yoan Moncada (the other players in the deal with pitcher Victor Diaz and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe). According to MLB.com, at the time, Kopech was the number 30 overall prospect while Moncada was the top guy. The ability to land both players, especially the number one overall Minor Leaguer, was a coup for general manager Rick Hahn.
While Kopech is showing signs of being a force out of the pen right now (and is not being rushed into a projected starting role following Tommy John surgery), Moncada has been a good performer but has not lived up to the billing tagged to him when he arrived several years ago.
At the time of the deal, Red Sox general manager Dave Dombrowski knew he had to give up something to get something and considered Moncada to be a budding star. As a 19-year-old, he was compared favorably to other middle infield prospects such as Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, and Francisco Lindor.
The Chicago White Sox need Yoan Moncada to be the best version of himself.
In 2019, Moncada had himself a year that made people take notice. He posted a slash line of .315/.367/.548 to go along with 25 homers and 79 RBI. Unfortunately, Moncada couldn’t capitalize on that last season as he ran into an issue with COVID-19 that left him physically weak totaling a line of .225/.320/.385. On the plus side, he was a Gold Glove finalist at third base.
Since his MLB debut in 2016, his comparables have not exactly been the type reflective of a player whose ceiling was considered very high. Baseball-Reference.com has the likes of Junior Spivey, Brett Lawrie, and Tim Naehring as similar batters.
What seems to be an issue for some White Sox fans is the fact that the team failed to sign Manny Machado when the opportunity presented itself. The five-time All-Star has three Gold Gloves to go along with 244 career homers, .280 BA, and 722 RBI. That type of production had fans salivating, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Still, Moncada has provided steady defense this season and has been a solid contributor offensively. He currently leads the team in walks (63) and is second in RBI (48) while sitting third in doubles (20), runs scored (49), and hits (92). The numbers are not eye-popping, but everyone has found a way to contribute and the success of the team has come from the sum of its parts as opposed to one person carrying the squad.
That is why Moncada could be a key player in any success the Southsiders have this year. As he showed in 2018 and 2019, he is capable of being a force both offensively and defensively. Should he find the stroke he had during those two years, the offense will only become more potent and take some pressure off the pitching staff as they head to October.