CHICAGO – White Sox fans not fully up to speed with rebuilds might be envisioning a string of World Series championships once top prospects such as Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease and Nick Madrigal arrive.
There’s nothing wrong with daring to dream, but Yoan Moncada is living proof that success is never guaranteed and is most often slowed in the early stages.
The first blue-chip prospect to join the Sox – Moncada was added to the roster midway through the 2017 season – his bar was set at instant stardom.
The 23-year-old second baseman might one day rise to that height, but Moncada is struggling in his first full major league season.
“Some plusses and minuses, obviously,” said Sox manager Rick Renteria. “On one end, he’s been very effective hitting all balls in the strike zone. Doing very, very well. It’s borderline pitches and things of that nature that he seems to be having a problem with, both sides of the plate.”
More often than not, Moncada has been taking close pitches for strike three and quietly walking back to the dugout.
The switch hitter seems to be caught in between. In Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to the Yankees in 13 innings, Moncada was 0 for 5 with four strikeouts. That raised his major league-leading total to 161, and a 1-for-25 (16 strikeouts) slump dropped his batting average to .217 heading into Wednesday’s game against New York.
Two of Tuesday’s strikeouts were looking. Two were swinging.
He rarely shows frustration and keeps a tight lid on his temper, but Moncada realizes something is way off.
“Right now, I’m not feeling as good with my approach at home plate,” he said through Sox interpreter Billy Russo. “That’s probably one of the reasons that I’ve been striking out more than I want to. I can’t just pick out one thing. It’s more like a feeling. I don’t have that feeling right now. I have to keep working to regain that feeling again, to feel comfortable.”
Moncada does have a good batting eye, which is rare for such a young player. He consistently works deep counts, but the key is being more aggressive swinging the bat when it’s 3-2 and 2-2.
“At some point you hit a point of frustration where you say, ‘Man, I have to pull the trigger on particular pitches,’ ” Renteria said. “I think he’s finally reached that point. So now it’s about getting over that and seeing him defend and battle and put balls in play and fight pitches. He has a great eye on balls for everything in the zone.
“Now, it’s about battling tough pitches in certain situations. To be honest, this is good for him. He’s going to start to understand there is another phase to hitting beyond having a good eye.”
Although he has been a strikeout machine, Moncada ranks third on the Sox with 20 doubles and 45 RBIs and fourth with 14 home runs.
“I think my confidence level is high,” Moncada said. “It’s there. Hopefully, I’ll be a more successful player from this point forward. There was a time a few weeks ago I was being aggressive, and I got good results.
“I lost that aggressiveness. Now that is what I’m fighting through, to regain that aggressiveness and to start producing at the level I know I can produce.”