The plan heading into the 2017 season on the south side was to develop their top-prospects at the minor-league level, while evaluating their current question marks at the major-league level as well as building trade value for their veteran trade pieces.
That’s still the plan, and White Sox General Manager has made no bones about the fact that the club will not divert from it no matter what kind of success the team see’s in the standings early-on. Yoan Moncada however, is doing everything that he can to make Hahn deviate somewhat from his plans thus far. The 22-year old second-baseman was not expected to be brought up until sometime in July or August the earliest, due in large part to his apparent need for further development after a rough, but brief cup of coffee at the major-league level last September with the Red Sox.
Problem is, Moncada is making Triple-A pitching look absolutely silly right now, and is making his case to join the White Sox roster as soon as May 14 passes. May 14 of course is the magic number that will give the White Sox an additional year of roster control over Moncada, but all bets are off after next Sunday if Moncada has anything to say about it.
In September of last season, Moncada struggled in his eight game stint with the Red Sox, and still showed signs of lacking plate discipline at times during Spring Training with the White Sox this season. Moncada struck out 12 times in 19 at-bats with the Red Sox last season, but lets be fair, he was thrust into a pennant race because the Red Sox had a need at third base, a position outside of his comfort zone as-is.
If you happened to catch the CSN-Chicago broadcast of this afternoon’s Charlotte Knights’ game, you were a witness to how special Moncada is offensively. In his first at-bat of the game, from the left side of the plate, Moncada launched a solo home run over the right-center field fence to put the Knights up 1-0 at the time. The home run was a thing of beauty, a first-pitch fastball, and the swing was as natural and fluid as can be.
In his second at-bat of the afternoon, he smashed a breaking ball into the right-field corner for an RBI-double. In his third at-bat of the game, Moncada singled, and then proceeded to put himself into scoring position again with a stolen base. Moncada would draw a walk in his fourth plate appearance, and eventually fly-out to center-field in his final plate appearance of the afternoon. Three-for-four with a home run, a double, a single, a stolen base and a fly-out on the afternoon for Moncada.
On the season thus far, Moncada is hitting .352 with a slash line of .427/.565/.992 to go along with six home runs, three doubles, one triple, and 11 RBI. Moncada also has seven stolen bases in nine attempts for the Knights this season.
In 123 plate appearances, Moncada has struck out 33 times, giving him a strikeout rate of 26 percent, while drawing 15 walks. Moncada is currently averaging 3.27 at-bats per strikeout, which equates to roughly one strikeout per game if he averages four at-bats per game. To give you a current major-league comp to that statistic, Aaron Judge who is tearing up the major-league level this season, is averaging 3.23 at-bats per strikeout.
Granted, I’m comparing Triple-A statistics to major-league statistics, but the numbers were simply to give you a visual comparison. The benchmark of sorts in relation to the necessary improvement to Moncada’s strikeout rate heading into this season was somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 percent, and he is now comfortably below that at 26 percent.
For what it’s worth, last week Moncada faced Chris Tillman, the same pitcher that went 16-6 for the Orioles in 2016, and shut down the White Sox on Sunday afternoon, and Moncada took Tillman yard.
Look at this home run swing by Moncada in the video below, notice how smooth his swing looks, and how easily he crushed that ball from the right side of the plate, his less dominant side of the two at that.
Outside of his production to this point, one might ask , what are the benefits of bringing up Moncada after the May 14 service time date passes?
Major-League playing time folks. Moncada is going to be much better prepared to play at the major-league level this time around, but he will still need a couple hundred at-bats to become completely comfortable and fully acquainted with the next level, and the sooner the White Sox do that, the better in my opinion. Having Moncada and Tim Anderson get acquainted with each other defensively up the middle is going to be a tremendous need for the team’s future success, and repetitions is the only way to create continuity between the two of them.
As well, Moncada playing next to Jose Abreu is going to help Moncada feel comfortable and play his game. Considering that fact that Abreu’s future with the team is surrounded by the possibility that he may be traded at some point this season or this Winter, Getting Moncada and Abreu together in Chicago for as long as they can should be a selling point as well.
Rick Hahn may have originally wanted to keep Moncada at the Triple-A level when the season began, and that was the correct concept at the time, but Moncada’s absolute dominance of Triple-A pitching is going to make it extremely difficult for Hahn to stick to that plan after May 14.