Yoan Moncada fit for leadoff spot more than other White Sox

Roster lacks alternatives with enough plate discipline and speed, Leury Garcia aside

Last year, Yoan Moncada was the rare White Sox prospect whose problems on offense stemmed from passivity, not overaggression. It didn’t take long for pitchers to discover that they could back him into a corner by throwing strikes, because he hadn’t figured out how to swing his way out of them.

That gave him a team-leading walk rate over his first 1½ months, but at the cost of a lot of other dead plate appearances.

He eventually wrestled his strike-zone judgment numbers into a working arrangement during his successful September …

  • July: 13.0% BB, 34.8% K
  • August: 17.1% BB, 36.8% K
  • September: 9.2% BB, 27.5% K

… because when you look at his frequencies of swinging at pitches inside and out of the zone, it paints a picture of a guy who figured out how to get pitchers to come to him a little.

This development cost him a team lead in walk rate. Among White Sox hitters with a meaningful amount of playing time, he fell behind Todd Frazier, Nicky Delmonico and Omar Narvaez. Moncada can get back there as long as he can prove he’s dangerous over a prolonged amount of time. Plate discipline without works is dead, as Zack Collins is learning.

Given that it’s still all tenuous at this point, I like Rick Renteria’s idea of batting him leadoff at this juncture.

“He likes the leadoff role (and) he likes hitting second,” Renteria said. “It gives me another option. If I can find someone who’s really comfortable in that situation and if he can manage that situation maybe we’ve found a guy we can use there. It’s only one time through the lineup that you’re ultimately a leadoff hitter but if you can … put yourself in the best situation early through that first round of at-bats and possibly score early, maybe it gives you some type of advantage. We’re going to use him a little bit more in that slot this spring … and we’ll see how it develops.”

It’s partially due to a lack of other candidates, especially if Leury Garcia isn’t going to be an everyday player. Garcia had surprising success at the top of the order before his injuries, batting .312/.376/.481 over 83 plate appearances before the first DL stint. He had the combination that you want to see out of a guy who hasn’t typically been leadoff material — getting on base enough, and doing enough once on base.

The guys on the rest of the roster who have one of those don’t have the other. Narvaez has the Sox’ best batting eye, but he’s 412th out of 451 in sprint speed. It’s fun to watch Tim Anderson and Adam Engel run, but they don’t round first base enough.

Moncada aside, I’d be cool with more Garcia in this role to start. Improved contact was the secret to Garcia’s turnaround, and that’s carried over to the spring so far (three strikeouts over 17 plate appearances). The more I look at Garcia’s numbers, the more it seems like his role will be the first pet cause of the Second Sox Machine Era. I understand why Renteria and the Sox want to keep his infield skills sharp, but I’d rather Garcia bonk his head on his ceiling with close-to-everyday work. If that work is almost entirely in center field, so be it.

But bringing Moncada back into it, it seems like a good way to introduce him to a full season’s work. There might come a time where batting Moncada with fewer RBI opportunities wastes his power, but leadoff duties take advantage of his patience while minimizing the harm from his contact issues. If you need some time to get used to this idea, you can start with today’s webcast:

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Default image
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

Articles: 3416
16 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Right Size Wrong Shape

“Plate discipline without works is dead.”

Excellent as always.

The word was the right size, just the wrong shape.

Patrick Nolan

I just don’t want him to feel like he’s being cast in a “role”. He should be trying to be the best hitter he can be, and that involves attacking strikes. Leadoff hitters generally have more of a “just get on base” mentality and I don’t want him to watch fastballs right down the pipe because he has an impetus to “see a lot of pitches”.

Then again, batting him second creates (in Renteria’s mind anyway) an impetus to “move the runner over”, which I don’t like either.

I’d rather see Leury Garcia lead off because he thrived in that role and we aren’t hanging the future of the rebuild on his shoulders.

PauliePaulie

This. Leury at least against LHP. Don’t see Yoan as a lead-off hitter long-term. The chance of Ricky stunting development by asking him to conform to what he believes the job of a lead-off hitter should be seems high.

PauliePaulie

Hope so. But Hahn has often distanced himself and the FO when it comes to in-game stuff. And, the bunting.(which I count as stunting development through reps and mindset)

Patrick Nolan

Last year’s bunt binge suggests otherwise, but I am willing to wait and see on this.

PauliePaulie

Does that stat include bunt attempts, or just successful sac bunts?

gibby32

I am confused by the “at least against LHP.” They’re both switch hitters, although obviously their respective proficiency is not necessarily equal as to both.

PauliePaulie

Happily, rumored interest in CarGo and Moose reportedly “overblown”.

Trooper Galactus

I figured as much. Neither makes much sense given where the team is at.

katiesphil

Yoan taking it seriously today. 2 PAs, single, walk, SB, 2 Runs so far.

katiesphil

And just now another single.

Trooper Galactus

Of all the things there are to worry about with the future of this team, I’m not worried about Moncada being a viable major league starting second baseman. Whether he’s a star or not remains to be seen, but I’m confident he’s a 2-3 WAR player at a minimum.