MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Chicago White Sox

South Side Morning 5: What to do About Yoan Moncada

1. White Sox affiliates saw their fair share of great prospect performances over the weekend. In Charlotte, both Reynaldo Lopez and Carson Fulmer made starts in which they impressed. Lopez fired 5 ⅔ innings of two hit, two run ball on Saturday. He registered seven strikeouts, but he also walked five batters. Fulmer had a different but somewhat just as successful start on Sunday, going six innings while giving up three hits, one run, and striking out four while walking just a single batter. Not all the news was good, however, as Dane Dunning lasted just 2 ⅔ innings in his Winston-Salem debut. He gave up three earned runs on five hits while striking out six and walking three.

2. The prospect who had the best weekend of them all, however, was Yoan Moncada. He’s been hitting well all season long, but his performance over the weekend was outstanding. Naturally, questions have been raised about when he’s going to get brought up to the big leagues. He’s hitting .337/.412/.519 on the season with five home runs. He’s also striking out at a clip of 26.6 percent. The contact rate and ability to handle certain types of spin are certainly relevant and concerning, although he has cut the strikeouts down considerably in the last few weeks. Even so, the power and hitting ability are clearly there as well.

Financial considerations cannot be so quickly ignored, either. In order to gain an extra year before Moncada reaches free agency (i.e. Moncada reaches free agency in 2023), the White Sox would have to wait until after May 15 to call him up. At this point, there is absolutely no reason to not wait until that date. Where things get a bit dicier is in the possibility of Moncada avoiding becoming a Super Two player. That would require waiting until after the All-Star break to call him up. The benefit for the White Sox would be another year in which Moncada’s salary is fixed rather than going to arbitration. The gains from such a decision may not be obvious in comparison to the desire to see Moncada at the big league level. That’s completely fair. However, the White Sox have made it clear that they’re an organization very much interested in spending as little money as possible.

If they are going to compete for a long enough window to win a championship, keeping the core players at a controlled cost will be vitally important. Despite his slump, having Tim Anderson locked up for the next six seasons is a good start. It’s unlikely that Moncada signs a deal similar to Anderson’s because he’s already earned much more money from his initial contract with the Red Sox. In that sense, the ability to avoid arbitration for an extra season could potentially lead to an extra free agent signing that puts the team over the top.

When the financial considerations are mentioned, the tendency is to put blame on the team for exploiting young talent. Perhaps that is and will be partially true about the White Sox treatment of Moncada. However, the White Sox made it clear before the season began that they would take things slow with the newly acquired prospects for reasons that had nothing to do with money at all. Recent memory haunts most White Sox fans when thinking of prospects precisely because they weren’t patient with hitters.

Moncada is still having struggles with striking out to go along with his monstrous power. That is concerning. Purely for baseball reasons, the contact issues might indicate more time is needed. Even though the White Sox are technically competing in the division for the time being, the bottom line is that they are a rebuilding team without any intention of winning ballgames. They don’t need Moncada right now. While the financial considerations have and will play a role in Moncada’s stay in Charlotte, the baseball reasons are still enough to argue that he should spend more time in Triple-A. With such a small amount of experiences in the higher levels, the failures of his time in Boston, and a concerning strikeout rate the White Sox have good reason to take it slow with Moncada. That is disappointing to hear as a fan who wants to see fun baseball. It’s great to hear as a fan who remembers the failures of prospects past. The White Sox have one shot to get this right. They shouldn’t be in a rush to possibly ruin the best talent they’ve seen in their minor league system for a long, long time.

3. The White Sox had a no good, horrible, very bad weekend in Baltimore. The pitching performances left quite a bit to be desired, but the offense didn’t show up at all. That led to an easy three game sweep for the Orioles.

Avisail Garcia’s hot start to the season has been chronicled and pondered over since a week or two into the season. The general consensus has been that, for many reasons, he’s likely to decline at least a small amount. His BABIP is at an unreal mark of .418 mostly because of an inordinate amount of infield hits. There’s also the fact that everything we’ve seen from Garcia thus far indicates there isn’t going to be a sudden jump in production. Everything seems to scream regression is coming.

Perhaps that time has started. In the first month of the season, Garcia went hitless just five times. A week into the second month of the season, he’s been hitless twice. While that isn’t super meaningful, his 2-for-12 performance in Baltimore is even more indicative of the fall that he’s slipping into. Extend the time constraints to the entire road trip (nine games) and you see that he’s gone 10-for-36, which translates to a .278 average. While that isn’t horrible, it’s certainly a fall from how he has been hitting. His BABIP has also dropped considerably, as predicted. It could just be a small slump for the White Sox right fielder, but it also might be the start of what we’ve been expecting for a while now.

4. Jose Quintana’s start to the season is starting to be a little more troublesome. While no good scout is allowing a few bad results change their mind about a pitcher who has been very good over the last four seasons, there is growing concern about the market for Quintana. He’s shown troubles in the early parts of games only to settle in and pitch enough innings to remain valuable. That’s worrisome. However, it’s not time to panic yet.  It’s not encouraging that Quintana struggled to put away hitters once he had two strikes on them on Sunday, but he also got zero good luck on weak contact against a quality offense.

The White Sox appear to have passed on some subpar trade offers for Quintana during the offseason. The bad news is that they didn’t take them and Quintana proceeded to have a poor start. The good news is that they have Quintana under team control for another three-plus seasons. In the same way that Garcia never performing in the past tends to indicate he won’t suddenly be amazing, the fact that Quintana has only shown success in the past, and his peripherals don’t show reason for decline, indicates that he hasn’t suddenly dropped into a bottomless pit of despair. The worries about Quintana are growing, but White Sox fans should remain at ease about the White Sox ability to get high end talent for the young lefty.

5. Jose Abreu has been as hot as they come in the past week or so. His start to the season was icy cold, so this certainly bodes well for both Abreu and the White Sox. He has three home runs in the past five games. Over the past week, he has an OPS of 1.074 and ISO of .407. Those numbers can be somewhat misleading in a small sample size, but the point is generally just that he’s hit the ball really well lately. If that continues the White Sox are in a great position to move him at the deadline or keep him around as a valuable veteran presence.

Lead Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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