PHOENIX – There was some big news regarding the White Sox’s infield situation Monday, the first day of full-squad workouts in spring training
It wasn’t huge news – Manny Machado remains a free agent – but it looks as if Yoan Moncada is moving to third base this season.
Moncada played second base for the Sox last season and led the major leagues with 21 errors at the position. He also led the majors in strikeouts (217) and never seemed to be fully engaged.
“I think that playing third might allow him to free himself up, simply because he’s going to have to be more focused,” manager Rick Renteria said. “At second base, you can get a little bit more lackadaisical. I think that it’s possible, and there’s no guarantee, that playing third base rounds out his focus a little bit more on both sides of the ball. At least that’s an expectation or a hope we might have.”
Before taking groundballs at third on another chilly day at Camelback Ranch, Moncada was asked about the possibility of switching positions.
“I feel good at third base,” he said through an interpreter. “I like that position, and with more repetitions I will feel even better. I’m just here to help the team in whatever capacity they give me.”
Moncada bobbled some grounders and made some off-target throws Monday, but the season is just getting started, and he has plenty of time to get acclimated to the new position.
Then again, the 23-year-old infielder has played 21 games at third base during his professional career and made eight errors.
Considered one of baseball’s top prospects for years in the Red Sox’s and White Sox’s systems, Moncada did show some flashes in 2018, his first full season in the majors.
Athletic and strong at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, the switch-hitter was one of only six players in the American League with 30 or more doubles, five or more triples, 15 or more home runs and 60 or more RBIs.
But all of the strikeouts – a staggering 85 looking – and uninspired play on defense and running the bases have left more than a few wondering if Moncada is heading for bust status.
He pushed to come to Camelback Ranch in November to work on his all-around game, a good sign that Moncada is serious about getting his career turned around.
“When I came here, I was trying to fix a few things I was doing wrong during the season,” Moncada said. “When I left Arizona, I was in a good spot, and I kept working. I think I’m in a better position than I was last year. I’ll try to have a better season. That is the goal. I am feeling good.”
Changing positions might be asking too much from Moncada, but Renteria is hoping he benefits from all of last season’s failures.
“I think he has more of a focus factor,” Renteria said. “He is right now talking more clearly, understanding more clearly what he’s supposed to be about, has a clearer vision about what he thinks he should be, what he can be. I don’t see him as an individual who’s putting pressure on himself. I see him as an individual who sees himself a little bit more focused and trying to get the job done.”