Yoan Moncada having one of the best offensive seasons ever for White Sox third basemen

Yoan Moncada painting
Yoan Moncada (Carl Skanberg)

The Chicago White Sox have been around for 119 seasons and in their long history, it always seems that third base has always been a problem with a few exceptions. Pete Ward in 1964 had a 6.3 bWAR season according to Baseball-Reference which is the franchise single-season high mark. Robin Ventura is the all-time leader in bWAR for White Sox third basemen accumulating 39.4 WAR over ten seasons. If not for the 1994 strike season, Ventura was on his way of 4+ WAR seasons stretching from 1991 to 1996 (In ‘94, Ventura had a 3.0 WAR). After missing significant time in 1997 with a nasty leg injury, Ventura’s bounced back with a 5.8 bWAR season in 1998, which was his last year with the White Sox before departing to play for the New York Mets.

More than two decades later, the White Sox have yet to find a third baseman to perform better than Ventura did in 1998. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox have the lowest cumulative fWAR total for third basemen since 1999 at 30.1 fWAR. The St. Louis Cardinals have the highest fWAR the past 20 seasons at 90.0 fWAR.

Sure, Joe Crede had an excellent season in 2006 and is a good “What If?” story if he didn’t suffer back issues. Bill Melton had a terrific 1971 campaign hitting 33 home runs on his way to a 5.7 WAR. For the Sporcle fans, Willie Kamm had excellent seasons in the 20’s posting a 5.1 WAR in 1926.

Despite the highlights, the White Sox only had 65 seasons where the starting third baseman had a WAR of 2.0 or higher (54.6%) and only 36 seasons with a 3.0 WAR or higher (30.2%). The average offensive performance from White Sox third baseman is a slash line of .265/.334/.388.

In 2019, we are witnessing one of those 3 WAR seasons at the hot corner from Yoan Moncada. In his first year at the position, Moncada has made the White Sox front office look very smart moving him off second base. In just 101 games this season, Moncada is having the 25th best season ever in White Sox third basemen history at 3.2 WAR and has a chance to improve that mark with 32 games left in the season. It’s just remarkable progress made by the 24-year old.

What’s more eye-opening is that Moncada is arguably having the best offensive season for any White Sox third baseman in franchise history.

Using OPS+, a metric to formulate offensive production by taking a player’s on-base and slugging percentage while accounting for league and park factors, Melton and Ward shared the honors for the best offensive season before 2019. In 1963, Ward hit 34 doubles and 22 home runs with a slash line of .295/.353/.482 on his way to a 134 OPS+. Eight seasons later, Melton slugged his way to the same OPS+.

Ventura in 1995 hit .295/.384/.498 with 26 home runs for a 132 OPS+ season. Part of the famous South Side Hit Men squad, Eric Soderholm had a 129 OPS+ year in 1977 hitting .280/.350/.500 with 25 home runs.

RkPlayerYearOPS+GAge
1Yoan Moncada201913610124
2Bill Melton197113415025
3Pete Ward196313415725
4Robin Ventura199513213527
5Eric Soderholm197712913028
6Pete Ward196412914426
7Tony Cuccinello194512911837
8Al Smith196112814733
9Robin Ventura199612715828
10Robin Ventura199212715724

If 2019 were to end today, Moncada would best them all. As of August 26, Moncada is hitting .300/.356/.545 with 23 doubles and 22 home runs giving him a 136 OPS+.

His slugging percentage is the best ever for a White Sox third baseman and is 25 points better than what Ventura mashed in 1996. Only 13 White Sox third basemen who played at least 100 games in a season have finished with a batting average above .300. Moncada’s on track for 27 homers in 2019, which would place Moncada eighth-most hit in a season for White Sox third basemen.

The White Sox for a while have struggled to find a long-term solution at third base. Maybe they got a bit lucky by moving Moncada from second base to third to see this type of success immediately after failing to sign Manny Machado. After the season, not only we could witness the best season at third base for the White Sox in the last 20 years, but also begin discussing how Moncada is a Top 10 third basemen in all of Major League Baseball.

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burning-phoneix

Not to mention he’s having a fine defensive season as well, what a stud.

SonOfCron

Unless you go by DRS, which is -6.

asinwreck

Excellent perspective, Josh.

I smell a hot corner Sporcle brewing.

Ted Mulvey

And man, what a sad list it is. Folks are going to get triggered seeing names like

Spoiler
Teahen
.

asinwreck

There’s a reason Rich Lindberg named his history of the team Who’s On Third?

Jim Margalus

I did caution Josh that posting this sets Moncada up for some kind of spinal trauma.

billyok

Great analysis, great Skanberg art, great third baseman. 

Amar

Who needs Machado (and Alonso and Jay …)!

texag10

So is it the difference in defensive measures that is causing the discrepancy because his bWAR is 3.2 but his fWAR is 4.2?

mikeyb

Correct. Both OPS+ and wRC+ love him offensively. But Baseball-Reference thinks he’s been just fine defensively; Fangraphs thinks he’s been basically a top 5 defender at 3B and top 30 overall defender this year.

texag10

I like Fangraphs narrative better

Patrick Nolan

I don’t understand this long-standing narrative about this season:

In his first year at the position, Moncada has made the White Sox front office look very smart moving him off second base.

I still maintain that moving him off of second base has little-to-nothing to do with his 2019 success. That decision looks more justifiable now than it did at the beginning of the season, but just because Nick Madrigal seems to have rewarded whatever faith the decision placed in his ascent.

Yolmer

Well, if you believe Fangraphs, he is much better at third base than second.

Patrick Nolan

I believe he has dramatically more range than most third basemen, because he is a second baseman.

The other component of this, and something I’m finding fascinating, is that 3B make a LOT more errors than 2B, league-wide. Moncada’s error rate has actually INCREASED since moving to third base, but not by anywhere near as much as the league-wide increase in errors between 3B and 2B. It may be a better fit than I anticipated from this perspective.

jose robcada

honestly that doesnt surprise me considering that because of switches on lh hitters you see a descent amount of moncada (and probably all 3b) playing close to what would be a ss starting spot where he consumes the left side almost by himself, not to mention the increased throwing distances and velocity required

on a side note last year i always felt like 2b was a waste of his strong arm, even if its not elite for 3b its still a pretty good one

Yolmer

They don’t call it the hot corner for nothing. The hard hit rate to 3rd probably leads to more errors. Moncada was a decent second baseman, but he is probably an above average third baseman. It seems to me the Sox are maximizing his value with Moncada at third.

I agree with this, as far as it relates to his offense. The narrative that he hits better because he’s more comfortable at 3B seems wrong to me. I think in time he would have been a good 2B too, but he’s already really good at 3B. I would have been happier with Machado at 3B and Moncada growing at 2B, though.

humberpie

Been trying to fill the Herbert Perry shaped hole in the infield for almost two decades.

Trooper Galactus

A piece of the rebuild that has panned out, to be sure, and looks like it’s sustainable performance no less! Now if only they can surround him with a good collection of talent and not more Yonder Alonsos.

jose robcada

i actually think the lineup looks pretty legit when you replace engel with robert and sanchez with madrigal for next year… hopefully we can get a good sp for next year in fa tho at the least, not saying it has to be cole but hopefully one of the top 5 guys and i think we should be a pretty nice team

texag10

Whose your DH? Do we just rotate Collins and McCann between catcher and DH? Is it Mercedes? Do we get another OF and let Eloy split time between the field and DH? That to me is one of the bigger question marks on this team and Rick is doing a piss poor job of finding out if any of the interesting guys in Charlotte can actually hit in Chicago.

jose robcada

i mean i would assume it would be a rotating spot based on who needs rest from the field with collins prolly getting a ton of time there when not catching until either sheets/vaughn push abreu there or maaybe one of the outfielders finally show out and push eloy there… didnt say its perfect but i dont think there is a team in the league with a perfect 1-9 (maybe the astros, dodgers obv dont use dh) just meant it looks like a legit, potentially scary lineup and excited for next year

also i would be very surprised if collins doesnt come up in september whether it be right away or after knights get eliminated from playoffs

Neat_on_the_rocks

Yep. Even if you insist on placing Robert/Collins/Madrigal towards the bottom of the order – the lineup is a LOT more deep even before free agent signings

1. RF Leury Garcia
2. 3B Moancada
3. 1B Abreu
4. LF Jimenez
5. C Mccann
6. CF Robert
7. SS Anderson
8. DH Collins
9. 2B Madrigal

Trooper Galactus

Your #3 hitter IS a free agent signing.

lifelongjd

Call up Collins and Mercedes after DFA’ing Wellington. Have a three man platoon with McCann for DH and Catcher spots for the last month.  I see all signs pointing to them re-signing Abreu, so maybe this could be the solution you roll with until Vaughn is MLB ready. Or go find a bat that suits your needs in the offseason. Either way, let’s see what Mercedes and Collins new swing can do. 

yinkadoubledare

The lefty bat free agent options are for the most part lousy enough that they should probably consider using Collins as the lefty half of a platoon there next year with some occasional 1B and emergency catcher duty. Really do not get the sense that he’s a catcher you want actually catching all that much.

Yolmer

If they go for it next year, they should consider a full time DH on a one year deal like Encarnacion or Nelson Cruz. Collins can back up McCann with Mercedes and Zavala behind him if he falters.

Just sign Wheeler, Ozuna, and Cruz and win the Central, Rick. Easy as pie.

mikeyb

That lineup would be like the 6th best lineup in the AL. This team is still pretty far away.

Trooper Galactus

If you have enough pitching (and, yeah, they don’t) you can certainly get away with having the 6th best offense.

Tweaky

Would OPS+ take into account the 2019 baseball?

joewho112

It compares players to the rest of the league so since everyone is using the same ball, yes.

asinwreck

Looks like the Royals are about to be sold for a billion dollars to a non-Wal-Mart executive. Could mean higher payrolls in Kansas City.

Also, if the Royals are worth a billion dollars and the Marlins have already sold for $1.2 billion, surely the White Sox are worth a bit more. It’s probably still more profitable for Jerry Reinsdorf to continue to run the team with a ridiculously low payroll than to sell, but I hold out hope the family could say “hey, let’s cash out.”

marquettepark

I didn’t realize that David  Glass is 84. The prospective buyer, John Sherman,  is a minority owner of the Indians.  Interesting factoid, Sherman, a KC native is a board member of the Ewing Kauffman Foundation. Hopefully he’s tight like Dolan, Glass or Jerry. Heaven forbid we have a free spending owner in our division harkening back to the Mike Ilitch’s ownership of the Tigers.