Let’s Relax About Moncada

Yoan Moncada is going to strike out somewhat often. If he had one central flaw when he was signed by Boston, it was his swing and miss potential. Nevertheless, Moncada was a productive player in 2017 despite his 32% strikeout rate, and as this season progresses, chances are he will remain a net positive at second base.

In 2017, Moncada got his first extended look at the Majors (Boston rushed him in 2016, but he only saw 20 late season plate appearances). It took a couple of weeks for him to get in a groove, but from August 1st through the rest of the season, Moncada slashed .261/.357/.447 for the White Sox, which resulted in an .804 OPS, comfortably above the league average of .750. I, generally, am not a fan of omitting data points to make a player’s numbers look better or worse, but in the case of Moncada, a 22 year old Cuban acclimating to his new team and league, I believe that allowing him a 2 week, 46 plate appearance adjustment period is acceptable. Clearly, once he got comfortable, Moncada was an above average hitter in 2017.

Defensively, Moncada showed exceptional promise in 2017. According to Fangraphs, Moncada ranked 5th among all MLB second basemen with 6 defensive runs saved. Sure, he only played in 54 games, but, like home runs or RBIs, defensive runs saved (DRS) is not a rate stat. The more you play, the more chances you get to improve it. In other words, it would be very difficult for somebody to rank in the top 5 of a statistic like DRS in just a third of a season unless the player in question were quite skilled defensively. With Moncada’s range and arm strength, his defensive ceiling is enormous.

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As of now, the White Sox have played 11 games in the 2018 season. Therefore, it is still far too early to look at anybody’s rate statistics (average, OBP, OPS, wRC+, etc.) and attempt to gather any meaning from them. Many fans are worried about Moncada’s 21 strikeouts so far (he also has 8 walks, which helps to lessen the blow of that figure). However, Moncada’s average exit velocity of 97.6 MPH suggests that he hits the ball hard, but has been unlucky so far in terms of results. As the season progresses, his rate stats will thus improve.

Most Sox fans that I have talked to accept that Moncada is a solid defender who has been unlucky offensively in 2018. The only major gripe that they seem to have now is with his strikeout rate, which (WARNING: small sample size alert) is currently at 39.6%. Stated differently, when Moncada makes contact, he looks great, but he is not making enough contact. To this, all I can really say is that Yoan is 22 years old. It is common for young, highly touted players to put up respectable offensive numbers despite a high strikeout rate. Mike Trout and Kris Bryant are prime examples of this.

Moncada’s strikeout rate will almost certainly fall from its current percentage down to the low or mid 30s this season, but as long as he continues to take walks, play above average defense, and make great contact, he will once again be an above average player. If he continues to do this in the coming years while reducing his strikeout rate, much like Trout and Bryant have done, then the White Sox will have a star. With Michael Kopech likely about a month away from his White Sox debut and Luis Basabe turning heads in Winston Salem, the return for Chris Sale is looking as promising as ever.

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