When the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox in December of 2016, it was clear that the White Sox were ready to tear it down and embark on a much needed rebuild. In return for Sale, the White Sox received four young prospects that matched up with the White Sox plans of contending down the road. The clear headliner of the group was Yoan Moncada, who was rated as the top overall prospect in all of baseball when the deal went down.
Now, before we dive into Moncada, let’s talk about being a professional baseball player for a second. It’s a hard job. For starters, getting to the Major Leagues is a grind in itself. There’s a continuous need to develop at every level in the Minor Leagues (paired with the tough lifestyle of a MiLB player) and once you make it to the Majors (the chances are slim), you have to continue to develop in order to be an everyday guy.
As you can see, there’s a continuous trend here: development, development, development. This isn’t something that happens overnight and it can take years for a player to reach their full potential. As a top prospect, you are expected to have a “leg up” in terms of development compared to the other players fighting to make it in the MLB, right? Sure, but every player is going to develop differently. Some players will unexpectedly develop quicker while others might take longer than expected.
Yoan Moncada is in the process of learning that success is going to take a little longer than he and most people expected. Being the top overall prospect in the MLB is an incredible achievement for someone who is looking to make their mark on the league. However, it also comes with extra pressure as everyone expects you to make an immediate impact.
Moncada also had the additional pressure from playing in Boston where those fans can be brutal at times. Things didn’t go the way he had hoped with his cup of coffee in Boston. Obviously anyone interested in acquiring a premium talent like Chris Sale would have to give up a lot to earn his services. The Red Sox showed they were ready to do whatever it takes to win by giving up the MLB’s top prospect and more to acquire Sale without questioning it.
Flash forward to today where Yoan Moncada has almost a full season and a half of MLB experience under his belt with his results being a mixed bag so far. Through 211 games in the MLB, Yoan Moncada is slashing .234/.319/.399 with 41 doubles, 8 triples, 25 home runs, 84 RBI’s, 97 walks, and 303 strikeouts.
It’s safe to say that’s a little underwhelming for a guy that was once labeled as the best prospect in all of baseball. However, there has been plenty of flashes where Moncada showed us why he deserved that label. Some of those flashes include showing off the athleticism at second-base with back-to-back Gold Glove plays against the Cleveland Indians, and hitting a game tying home run in the bottom of the ninth and a walk-off single two innings later against the would be World Series champion Houston Astros. Even though Yoan Moncada hasn’t gotten off to the best start with the White Sox, he always shows flashes of his potential and gives White Sox fans reasons to continue to believe that he will reach his All-Star potential.
Yoan Moncada has a ton of tools that will make him a very exciting player in the MLB, we just haven’t seen him put it all together…yet. Even though his stats are nothing to write home about, he’s taken a few steps this year in not just his development as a baseball player, but as a person too that will help provide a boost to his performance for the upcoming season and beyond.
Coming off a 217 strikeout year in 2018, Yoan Moncada knew that something had to change going into the 2019 season. He made an effort to go to Glendale, Arizona before Spring Training so he could watch film and figure out what he can do to become a more effective hitter. That shows a lot of maturity from a 23-year-old kid who wants to be a star in this league and is willing to do whatever it takes to get better. One of the answers to his question of “how can I get better?” involves making a few adjustments to his swing from both sides of the plate.
Let’s take a look at Yoan Moncada’s swing when he was called up during the 2017:
Yoan Moncada takes BP pic.twitter.com/Dacu5rUP1j
— Colleen Kane (@ChiTribKane) July 19, 2017
And here’s Yoan Moncada’s swing entering the 2019 season:
Yoan Moncada’s sweet swing 🔥pic.twitter.com/N3yccsbRTZ
— Baseball Bros (@BaseballBros) February 19, 2019
As you can see, there’s quite a few differences in Yoan Moncada’s swing. He no longer drops the bat down and rests it on his shoulder pre-pitch, and there’s a lot less pre-pitch movement in his stance. His hands placement is a little higher now and he points the knob of the bat more downwards instead of having it point out like he did in 2017. This gives him a quicker, more direct path to get the barrel through the zone and drive the ball more frequently. Lastly, his stance is significantly wider from both the left-side and the right-side of the plate. Pairing this with the less pre-pitch movement in his stance allows him to be more balanced as he gets ready to drive the ball.
Another answer to his question of “how can I get better?” involves him taking a more aggressive approach at the plate. There has been countless times throughout his White Sox career where we saw Yoan Moncada take way too many pitches and he would be down in the count quickly without swinging the bat. This more aggressive approach is something he is displaying in Spring Training and it’s paying off tremendously.
Sometimes the best pitch you will see in an at-bat is the first pitch fastball and Yoan Moncada is showing that he’s not afraid to attack that pitch. His aggressiveness from both sides of the plate has led to him hitting .370 with two doubles, one triple, one home run, and four RBI’s this spring. Spring Training stats can’t be taken too seriously, but for a guy like Yoan Moncada, it means something. This newly shown aggressiveness that is leading to success will give him plenty of confidence moving into the 2019 season.
Aside from having success at the plate, Yoan Moncada is also having success at his new position. Once again, he showed his maturity through his willingness to move to third-base so he can do whatever it takes to help the team. He hasn’t seen a ton of action at third-base this spring, but he’s made the most of every chance he’s had. Whether it was charging a soft grounder or scooping up a ball that was headed for the hole, Yoan Moncada is showing that his athleticism and glove will play perfectly fine at his new position.
During this off-season Yoan Moncada acknowledged the weaknesses in his game and is working hard to turn things around. So far, everything is starting to come together for him. Will 2019 finally be the year of Yoan Moncada? Time will tell, but his eagerness to learn and get better lead me to believe that he will breakout during the upcoming season. He’s ready to take that next step in his career and 2019 will be the year where he starts becoming more of a household name around the MLB.
This off-season has been dark and gloomy for White Sox fans, but an emergence from Yoan Moncada could help bring a ray of light to a fanbase that truly needs it. He has all the tools, is developing confidence daily, and has the maturity to make himself a great MLB player. I believe that the Yoan Moncada we will see in 2019 will be the one we have been hoping for.
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Feature Photo Credit: Sean Williams/The Loop Sports