White Sox fans, you’re welcome. I did it. I fixed Yoan Moncada.
Well, not really. But a month ago I did write some advice for Moncada to follow, and so far he has.
Here’s what I wrote on Mar. 26:
“It’s difficult to teach a player to swing more, just like it is to teach them to swing less, but again I think some progress can be made. If Yoan can get his Swing% up to 44%, he’ll reduce strikeouts and consequently see a bump in on-base percentage from the extra pitches.”
It turns out a lot more than his on-base percentage would go up, but the point still stands. This season, Yoan Moncada is a much more aggressive hitter at the plate, and it’s paying dividends. Specifically, it’s resulted in a beautiful slash line of .314/.366/.593, complete with six home runs in just 21 games.
While I hoped for the 23 year-old to raise his Swing% to 44%, he’s actually done more than that. So far, Moncada has bumped it up from 41.1% all the way to 45.0% (Fangraphs), a significant increase. It’s apparent that Moncada’s rise in swings is the result of an intentional change in attitude. He’s simply more aggressive. In doing so, Moncada puts himself in a position to attack the ball, rather than letting the ball attack him. In fact, he has taken just one strikeout looking thus far, miles better than his pace last year.
We’ve also seen a dramatic improvement in another facet of Moncada’s game. Right now, Yoan’s wFB/C, a Fangraphs statistic measuring average runs created on fastballs, is at 2.15, in comparison to last year’s 0.41 mark. The equivalent measure for change-ups has gone up from 0.05 to 3.84. In my mind, these advancements correlate with the aggressiveness, as fastballs and change-ups are easier to expect and jump on than breaking balls.
So, how does Moncada keep this up? The simple answer is to keep doing what he’s doing. However, there is one concern I have, and that’s how Moncada will react to his first slump in 2019. For young players, it can often be extremely difficult to get out of a rut, and the struggles may push a player to change his ways. It’s imperative that Moncada does not alter his approach in the batter’s box when these circumstances arrive. What he’s doing right now is clearly optimal, and so his best strategy in a slump is to stay the course, remain confident, and hit his way out of it. Having that mental toughness required to conquer a slump will be a huge benefit to Yoan throughout his career.
Lastly, I’d like to address Moncada’s fielding performance during this current season. While the narrative over the first two weeks was that he looks like a natural, gifted third basemen, the numbers say that Moncada has room to improve. In addition to two errors, the advanced fielding metrics grade him as a below-average fielder (-2.1 UZR), but the sample size is small. Still, whatever opinion Moncada has of his own play at third base, he should not get complacent. With his hitting output on the upswing, Moncada should devote some time to refining his skills at the hot corner.
So, yes, Sox fans, our former number one overall prospect’s breakout season doesn’t seem to be a fluke. Rather, it looks like Moncada has figured out a successful system of swinging the bat. However, as always, there will still be challenges ahead, and I’m excited to see how the young star handles them.