When the White Sox decided to tear it all down, the front office started with the trade of then Sox ace Chris Sale. The transaction featured a haul of four prospects from the Red Sox, including the then number one overall prospect in baseball, Yoan Moncada. Moncada, starting pitcher Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Basabe, and another arm in Victor Diaz. When the trade went down, Moncada was considered by many to be a true five-tool player. He would play about 80 games in the minor leagues for the Charlotte Knights before being added to the big league roster in Chicago.
When Moncada arrived in Chicago, the Sox were still clearly in the early stages of the rebuild which meant he would be given the necessary time to adjust to the major leagues. As a rookie in 2017, Moncada would play in 54 games for the Sox to get better acquainted with the big leagues. In those 54 games, hewould slash .231 / .338 / .412 with eight home runs and 29 walks. Moncada took his lumps at the plate in 2017 with a whopping 74 strikeouts. While the Sox continued to struggle, he was looking to grow offensively and defensively and he struggled to hold down second base as much if not more than he did at the plate committing eight errors in 54 games.
Moncada would continue to struggle defensively in 2018 at second base where posted a league-worst fielding percentage for second baseman of just .963. Things were not improving much at the plate either where he also led the league in strikeouts with a whopping 217 strikeouts. The one consistent for Moncada was a father figure like teammate in Jose Abreu. Abreu never wavered in his trust and support of Moncada through his struggles. While sometimes it proved to be difficult, if you continued to watch and support the Sox, you could see Abreu constantly teaching, mentoring, and supporting him.
So what were the Sox going to do with a struggling young ballplayer with a ton of talent and not much help around him? The Sox decided to move Moncada to third base permanently. While we cannot say for certain that this triggered Moncada’s surge, it certainly was timely. YoYo had his best year as a pro in 2019 slashing .315 / .367 / .548 with 25 home runs and 79 RBI with an OPS+ of 140. Moncada was even involved in MVP talks during the 2019 season. While Moncada showed huge progress towards becoming the player they traded for, the rest of the Sox were coming along. If the 2019 version of Yoan Moncada was what he actually is, the Sox would be happy with that part of the Sale trade.
All systems were go towards contending in 2020 and beyond for the Sox and they surely felt confident in the player Moncada had become. Having third base locked down for the foreseeable future was a comfort for the Sox coming into 2020 and then covid-19 happened. Moncada contracted the virus shortly before the beginning of the season and tested negative twice per protocol before returning to the team in time to begin the season. Moncada had publicly stated that his symptoms were mild and consisted of basically losing his sense of smell and taste.
Unfortunately, the 2020 season would prove to be a tough season for Moncada. While his teammate Jose Abreu was busy winning the American League Most Valuable Player in 2020, Moncada regressed to the pre-2019 player struggling at the plate. 2020 had a shortened 60 game season due to the pandemic so it was a small sample size but Moncada’s slash line looked bad at .225 / .320 / .385. This was a far cry from Moncada’s numbers in 2019 and a reason for concern for the Sox moving forward. Was he suffering long-term effects from the Covid infection? Was this a small sample and a result of a plethora of differences from the normal 162 game grind? No fans in the stands, quiet ballparks, and a quiet bat summed up 2020 for Moncada it what I can only hope was simply a lost year.
While Moncada did have an improved year in 2020, he was still not the 2019 version of himself. Moncada stayed relatively healthy in 2021 playing in 144 games. The slash line looked better at .263 / .375 / .412 with an OPS+ of 117. While these numbers are vastly improved from 2020 they are a far cry from 2019. So who is Moncada? Is he just wildly inconsistent?
The future of the White Sox is still bright, but they need Moncada to produce. While 2019 may have been lightning in a bottle, they need more consistency from him. He does not have to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 plus runs, but in order to live up to what he was as a prospect, the Sox need to get more from him. Moncada has solidified himself as the third baseman of the title window for the Sox and if they plan to compete for and win titles in the coming years, he needs to produce at least closer to the 2019 version.
Moncada has all the tools to be a consistent .290 hitter with 20 plus home runs a season. While the power would be nice and he has it in him, the important part for Moncada in my opinion is the on-base percentage. Moncada seems to have a great eye at the plate and typically does not chase many wild pitches outside the strike zone. Using this to his advantage, Moncada could see his on-base percentage settle in at or around .350 to .375. What a great sign that would be for the Sox and it may lead to getting better pitches to hit and an increase in the power numbers.
With Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu leading this team towards serious title contention, Moncada needs to get on board quickly. 2022 could be the most telling season of his career and the Sox desperately need him to compete. With the flashes we have all seen of his power, speed, and discipline, Moncada could and should be a major contributor to this squad. Time will tell if he jumps in headfirst and produces like the prospect we were all excited to get in the Sale deal.
There are rumblings among fans and White Sox Twitter to move Moncada back to second to fill that void and let Burger play third going forward. That would be detrimental to Moncada and his career in Chicago. Thankfully, the Sox do not appear to be taking this approach. La Russa and company need this to work and hopefully, for Sox fans everywhere, it will.
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