Over the next few weeks, BP South Side will be reviewing the performance of all 51 players who suited up for the 2017 White Sox. Players whose seasons were particularly noteworthy will get their own standalone article, while smaller contributors or those who were traded/cut will be grouped together. We’ll do our best to summarize and analyze what each player brought to this year’s club, what we learned, didn’t learn, and what it all means for his future with the team.
Yoan Moncada passed his first test.
The 22-year-old top prospect acquired as the prize in last winter’s Chris Sale trade showed more or less exactly what the White Sox hoped they were getting in his debut season with the team. In playing exactly one-third of a full season, Moncada’s full array of tools were on display, even if a cursory glance at his numbers don’t make it entirely obvious.
The biggest question surrounding Moncada’s ability to live up to his potential was and continues to be his hit tool. When he makes contact, good things generally happen, but it’s the making of the contact that’s the question. Moncada’s strikeout rate has never been lower than 28 percent at any stop in the high minors or majors, and that didn’t change upon his arrival on the South Side. He struck out in 32 percent of his plate appearances this season, a rate that would’ve been the fourth highest in baseball if he qualified.
But strikeouts are no career death sentence, particularly in our current baseball environment (Aaron Judge, possible AL MVP, struck out in 30 percent of his plate appearances this season), and the fact that Moncada was a positive contributor even despite the strikeouts makes it easy to get excited about his future.
It would be one thing if Moncada’s strikeout were a result of him hacking away mindlessly with no discernible idea where the ball is going, but on the contrary it seems the exact opposite. Moncada swung at 29.6 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, a rate that would’ve ranked 75th if he qualified. Likewise, his swinging strike rate of 12.6 was on par with the likes of Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton.
Moncada sees the ball well, and his idea of the strike zone is top notch. It’s just that, as Jeff Paternostro said on an episode of The Catbird Speaks at the beginning of the year, he swings really hard.
And the most important caveat in all of this: He’s still taking walks. Despite his high strikeout rate, Moncada still walked in 12.6 percent of his plate appearances in 2017, a rate that would’ve tied him with Freddie Freeman for 21st in all of baseball over a full season.
Moncada was as-advertised for a good majority of his debut season with the White Sox. Even with a batting average of just .231 that can be credited, in part, to the overwhelming patience detailed above, he finished the season with a wRC+ of 104, 18 of his 46 hits went for extra bases, and he was worth a full win despite playing just 54 games. The advanced metrics liked his glove at second base, too, as he was worth 6 FRAA, fourth best among second basemen.
The highly anticipated debut of Moncada was met with excitement but also some degree of trepidation over the possibility that the White Sox star acquisition wouldn’t live up to the hype. We have only one-third of a season to go off of thus far, but so far, he looks every bit the part of a player who will be anchoring the White Sox lineup for the foreseeable future.
Lead Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports