Yoan Moncada’s 2019 debut was exactly what he needed. I’m not sure any of the 24 others can say the same after Thursday’s 5-3 Opening Day loss to the Royals.
Moncada went 1-for-3 with a walk. That kind of line isn’t new to him, but it’s how he went 1-for-3 with a walk that stands out. His pitch chart is beautiful:
Brad Keller isn’t a strikeout machine, so Moncada should have had better luck with his swings. That said, he held off on pitches he couldn’t hit and offered at what he might be able to square up, which is the template for the idea going forward.
- 1-0 (89.8 mph lineout to center)
- 0-0 (99.3 mph lineout to left)
- 1-1 (105.3 mph single through shift on right side)
- 3-1 (walk)
Along with the bat, third base looked natural to him, and not for a lack of testing. He converted a couple of tricky batted balls into outs. Neither of them qualified as highlights according to MLB Advanced Media, but we’ve seen players screw them up before, especially on wet turf.
In the fifth, he charged this Chris Owings chopper and made an on-target throw.
I mentioned this on Sox Machine Live, but I’ve long suspected that this kind of play is easier than it looks, only because it was one of the few plays Mark Teahen could reliably make some years ago. Still, Moncada had no problems making a quick exchange and throwing in stride, which wasn’t always the case at second.
Then in the seventh, he briefly saved a run by cutting down Adalberto Mondesi at the plate. Mondesi had reached on his second triple of the game, but he couldn’t make the last 90 feet this time.
Again, this is the kind of body-gathering Moncada struggled with at second, but everything looked fluid here, from smothering the short hop to an on-target throw after the minimum of steps required to orient himself.
There are 161 more games, so Moncada will make mistakes in the field and get locked up by a third-strike fastball eventually. Still, Opening Day is about hope, and with Moncada showing positive returns early, he leaves open the possibility that he’ll be able to show them often, too.
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As for Eloy Jiménez , his day can be summed up with two charts. They threw him a ton of sliders, and he chased enough of them for the Royals’ liking.
The first pitch he saw in a big-league game was a fastball from Keller, who gave him nothing but breaking pitches over the rest of their first two battles.
First PA: Jiménez chased two of the three sliders he saw after that first-pitch strike for a K.
Second PA: Jiménez swung through a hanging slider, then swung at two of four sliders out of the zone for another strikeout.
Third PA: Jiménez took an elevated outside-corner fastball for strike one, laid off a slider, then chopped another high fastball for his first contact of the night, which resulted in a 4-3 putout.
Fourth PA: Lefty Jake Diekman threw him sliders 80 percent of the time. Jiménez swung over two of them to fall into a 2-2 count, then got hit in the toe for the most unceremonious of first career RBIs.
Unlike Moncada, Jiménez didn’t get a lot of action his way. He was turned around by the one ball hit over him, but he also had no chance on what turned to be Jorge Soler’s rocketed RBI double.
Jiménez chalked up his awkward start to emotions, and he’s probably not wrong:
‘I was too anxious,’ Jiménez said, looking noticeably more relaxed postgame. ‘Today was the first game and I think that’s why I swing at too many balls in the dirt. But I’m going to adjust.’
While he’s a rookie getting his first cuts with the White Sox, Jiménez has some experience with this matter. He’s been The Man in minor-league lineups long enough that he understands what it’s like to be pitched around.
Somebody like Moncada, while touted, could be theoretically retired inside the strike zone at Triple-A (28 percent strikeout rate). Those pitchers weren’t good enough to succeed regularly (.282 average), but they had reason to try. MLB pitchers showed what that strategy looks like with more reliable execution last season.
Jiménez, conversely, batted .337 across Double-A and Triple-A last year and only struck out 15 percent of the time. He’s had plenty of nights where he only sees junk. The pitchers are now better and so is the junk, but he’ll probably be better equipped for the MLB variety of this strategy once he gets a few more firsts under his belt.
Tell myself that it’s just one game – my hopes are that the W Sox can be on the plus side vs divisional foes this year – time will tell. This year’s team seems likeable enough … but daydreaming of the day when the outfield can have some combination of Robert, Basabe, Adolfo, Rutherford, etc. Eloy can DH when that time comes. Madrigal will be on 2nd, catcher will be ? – time will tell.
Given that sparkling 13.2% strikeout rate in AAA last season, I did not put down Eloy’s first two major league at-bats for “two strikeouts against a non-strikeout pitcher”. He looked horrible. Hopefully he can get things on track against the rest of the Royals’ trash before taking on the Cleveland gauntlet.
For me, me other 2 top 5 prospects having a good opening day make Eloy’s debut worse than it really was.
I mean there’s zero chance Eloy Jimenez suddenly develops the pitch selection of Tim Anderson…right? RIGHT!?
In a Q&A, Mayo puts Adley, Vaughn, Witt Jr as the top 3 draft prospects. Doesn’t see any other college bats currently worthy of the #3 pick.
Then he doesn’t know the Sox’ amateur scouting department.
“With the third pick in the 2019 MLB draft, the White Sox select… am I reading this right? Colston Braun, from the University of West Fargo?”
Zack Zachary, University of Louisville.
Cannot rec this comment enough for articulating Peak Hostetler.
Nope. No University in West Fargo. North Dakota State University in Fargo. You know them from such hits as Carson Wentz and getting their ass kicked by Duke last weekend
Yeah, you gotta believe that those are going to be the top 3 unless something changes in the next couple of months. Hopefully, KC or Baltimore is enamored with Witt enough to take him. I don’t trust the Sox developing his skill set. That would most likely leave Vaughn. Can we finally get a middle of the order bat in the draft?
It would be nice to get something out of a first round pick?
“Angst” is something.
How does Abrams compare to Witt? I’ve seen a lot of mocks that have him going 4th.
Lefty, better pure hitter, much faster, A LOT less pop, and may end up in CF instead of SS.
I’d say he has a higher floor. He could also end up at 2nd.
I would ask Mr. Mayo, “It’s been 16 weeks since you updated your draft board,…. WTF???”
a concerned fan
He said updated top 100 list not coming out ’til end of April.
Well then I would ask him “If Shea Langeliers is the fourth best prospect, why aren’t you mentioning him?”
Yoan looked very comfortable out there across the board. Guessing he makes a leap this year to a 3-4 win player, and is probably fine with Eloy handling the young savior role on a daily basis.
Other question I’m fairly sure I don’t want to know the answer to is why we’re throwing developmental at bats in the toilet with the whole Leury leadoff thing? If you have no power, a sub .290 obp against either side, and are not part of any plan, why the hell is that guy hitting there? That’s a 9 hitter, everyone else move up one spot. The other thing his presence does is serve as a reminder of that position not being addressed at all. Not that they’re trying to win it all this year but damn even if the Joc trade happened that changes how the lineup looks every day.
My hope is that that is Jay’s spot when he gets back.
That’s what I’m thinking. Also, Renteria might not subscribe — or think his players don’t subscribe — to the idea that order can be so easily disregarded. Specific to this case, if they thought that part of Moncada’s passivity was due to leading off last year, they might not want to reintroduce that to his thought process.
I think the way to solve that is by being super-flexible with batting order to underscore the “just be yourself” message, rather than just stuff the leadoff spot with fodder, but that’s what I’m guessing is in play right now.
Totally forgot about him, and yeah that makes sense. Had already resigned myself to a depressing Leury/Engel timeshare where they’d both hit leadoff despite being bad. Jay can at least give a major league at bat the majority of the time.
I think yesterday gave me a flashback to some period last season when they seemingly had a never ending string of #9 hitters and the lineup seemingly never turned over.
Anybody see the Pirates Opening Day lineup? At least the Sox aren’t starting Melky Cabrera and JB Shuck in 2019.
Eloy was visibly too anxious to do something big. In his second AB he got a hanging slider in the zone on the first pitch and whiffed. Stone commented on the broadcast that this was not something he is going to miss when he gets more experience under his belt. I agree, just clearly over-swinging there. Once he gets his first few hit I would expect him to calm down and then we can actually get a sense of the type of hitter he is.
I think this article was linked to in a post a while ago. Moncada showed great plate discipline last year – one of the best in the league in that department (excluding Joey Votto, who is in a league of his own). The big news is that he is swinging at (and making contact with) hittable pitches early in the count.
I also think he has put himself in a better position to get to some of those pitches in the zone. His swing is a little bit more fluid and has looser hands at his load, allowing him to adjust his swing path without contorting his body as much.
May not hit the ball quite as hard every time he squares it up but should be able to handle the high fastball and change up a little bit better.
Baseball America on Reynaldo this Spring:
The one-time top pitching prospect acquired from the Nationals a few years ago in the Adam Eaton trade, Lopez looks to be putting everything together. The overall numbers don’t jump out at you this spring, but what jumped out at me in the game I saw was the fastball velocity. He sat 95 mph for the first few innings and worked in the 92-96 mph range overall. He also showed quality movement of his fastball, although that movement is inconsistent. He had heavy sink at times and showed the ability to get a nice, tight rotation with hop at the top when he was ahead in the count. Lopez also flashed two above-average secondary pitches—a slider with late and true, two-plane break in the 83-85 mph range and a very solid changeup that showed quality movement. He was able to get both righthanded and lefthanded hitters to swing and miss when he sold his changeup effectively.
Lopez showed enough stuff that he is at least a solid, league-average starter right now. His command, however, was inconsistent, and he definitely wasn’t precise to spots. He wasn’t wild, but he was also not always in the zone and not economical with his pitches. There’s upside for him to be an above-average starter given his youth, but with current 40-grade command of all his pitches and an inconsistent release point, he’s only a mid-rotation guy for me right now. I would compare him to a righthanded version of Francisco Liriano, which means plus stuff with inconsistent command.