The growth of Yoan Moncada in 2017

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“It was kind of difficult for me, but it wasn’t my decision to make.  It was their decision and for me to accept it.’’

Everyone knew that Yoan Moncada wasn’t the most pleased with the White Sox decision to option him to their AAA affiliate, the Charlotte Knights. However, the young second baseman clearly took it in stride and used the opportunity to improve at every part of his game that he could.  He wanted to prove the hype surrounding him wasn’t just hype.  The young 21-year-old knew that he had a lot to prove to his new organization after being dealt for ace pitcher Chris Sale in a blockbuster trade.  Moncada set out to prove the White Sox front office he could reach his potential.

Yoan Moncada was being groomed to fill the void at second base for the White Sox in AAA Charlotte.  He took his first start for his new organization on April 6th, 2017.  The young second baseman started off hot in the first month and a half as he hit his way to a .331/.401/.504 slash line for a .905 OPS. The hot streak came to a screeching halt when Moncada was placed on the minor league 7-day disabled list due to a sore left thumb on May 18th.  The young prospect was activated 8 days later, but something just didn’t seem the same with the second baseman.  Moncada struggled to hit the same way he did before the thumb injury, but the #1 overall prospect continued to improve on his ability to see pitches and work a count.  Before the injury, Moncada struck out 27.4% of the time while drawing a walk 10.8% of the time. He was able to increase his walk rate to 15.7% after the inury. His strikeout rate also went up by 1.5% in that time frame, but that comes with the power potential of Moncada.

Chicago White Sox fans had a burst of joy on July 13th, but that lasted all of an hour.  Rumors spread quickly across social media about Yoan Moncada being called up to the majors. It wouldn’t have surprised anyone since it was right after the All-Star Week.  The rumors were shut down quickly by the White Sox as they stated it was just a clerical error.  The excitement faded quickly for White Sox fans, but it wasn’t long before they were able to watch the rising star with the Major League club.  The White Sox traded Todd Frazier, Tommy Kahnle, and David Robertson to the New York Yankees on the evening of July 18th, which opened up a roster spot for Yoan Moncada.

The debut of Yoan Moncada in a Chicago White Sox uniform was officially set for July 19th against the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The starting pitcher for the Dodgers was Kenta Maeda. Any White Sox fan that was lucky enough to catch the first at bat for Moncada will never forget it.  Maeda worked quickly to put the young rookie into an 0-2 hole, but Moncada battled back to a 3-2 count.  On the ninth pitch of the at bat, Moncada took a pitch off the right side of the plate and drew his first walk in a White Sox uniform.  It wasn’t the most exciting conclusion to a rookie’s debut, but Sox fans were happy with the result after hearing about the young phenom’s ability to work the strike zone.

Yoan Moncada was put into the lineup every day and fans enjoyed watching the top ranked prospect day in and day out.  Yoan Moncada endeared himself to the fans even more after crushing his first home run off of Cubs’ righty Jake Arrieta on July 26th.

(video courtesy of MLBAM)

Not only did he flash potential at the plate, but in his defensive ability as well, as shown in the video below from July 29th against the Cleveland Indians.

(video courtesy of MLBAM)

Unfortunately, White Sox fans weren’t going to have the smoothest time enjoying their young prospect. A couple of nights later, the front office and fan base suffered a major scare on the night of July 31st when Yoan Moncada collided with outfielder Willy Garcia and was left clutching his knee.

(video courtesy of MLBAM)

News flew quickly about the collision and the original fear was that Moncada had torn his ACL, which would have effectively ended his season.  However, the fear quickly subsided as it turned out that Willy Garcia had suffered the worst of the collision.  Yoan was able to play a couple of days later, but landed on the disabled on August 25th while dealing with shin splints.  During that time, the young second baseman was only hitting .188 while walking 15.6% of the time and striking out at a clip of 36.1%.  It was known the rookie had some issues with swings and misses, but the White Sox were still happy with what they have seen from Moncada, even if it wasn’t the hottest start to a career.

The young prospect was then activated from the disabled list on September 5th and was able to finish out the 2017 season on a strong note.  Over the last month of the season, Moncada put up a slash line of .276/.349/.469 with 5 home runs, 11 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. He walked 9.2% and only struck out 27.5% of the time.  The switch-hitting second baseman finished the 2017 season with with a .231/.338/.412 slash line with 8 home runs, 22 RBI, and 3 stolen bases.  During that stretch of games, Yoan Moncada benefited from the veteran experience of fellow Cuban Jose Abreu, who suggested that Moncada use a lighter bat and purchased it for him.  The lighter bat seemed to allow Moncada to adjust his hands easier midswing.

Fans may be concerned with how much Moncada swings and misses, but he never looked lost at the plate, which is the most important thing.  The fact that he knows where his zone is, how to work the zone to his advantage, and is able to make pitchers pay for their mistakes shows that he belongs in the majors.  Moncada only swung at 26.8% of pitches outside of the zone, which is 3 points below league average.  A lot of the second baseman’s struggles came from making contact at pitches inside the strike zone, with a contact rate of 70.6%, which is 17 points below the league average.  The contact rate will improve for Moncada the more he faces Major League pitching and learns what to expect in certain pitch count situations.

It wasn’t the smoothest introduction for White Sox fans to what potential Yoan Moncada holds, but the excitement shouldn’t be any less than the moment that he arrived.  Yoan Moncada didn’t put up the best overall stats, but thanks to the struggles and small injuries, the young prospect learned how to handle the ups and downs that occur during the grueling MLB season.  The young second baseman will turn 23 during the 2018 season on May 27th, so there is still plenty of time for the switch-hitting prospect to learn what it takes to become a top player in Major League Baseball.  The White Sox still have a long road to go before they are ready to compete for a World Series, but Yoan Moncada and his development is paramount to the success of the Chicago franchise.

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