Yoán Moncada’s old self can help White Sox offense reach new levels

Yoán Moncada’s battle with COVID-19 wasn’t just unrelenting and unpredictable — it was also unresolved. The efforts to manage his visible fatigue ultimately paid off with experience and reps, but not so much in production. He couldn’t deliver the encore everybody hoped would follow his breakout 2019 campaign. He also couldn’t provide a clear idea of whether the aftereffects of the coronavirus would follow him into 2021.

After months of rest, Moncada finally offered an enouraging answer to James Fegan. There’s still a little risk that Moncada’s assessment is more snapshot than stable given the virus’ unpredictable nature, but Moncada sounds like his body is finally as ready as his mind to put everything behind him:

“I took time to rest and feel better and I think that is what helped me to feel like I feel right now,” Moncada said. “I feel strong. The strength was something I didn’t feel during the last season.” […]

“I fully believe that I can do more, that I can be better than what I was in 2019,” Moncada said. “That’s why I’m working hard. That’s why I have a mindset to do the best that I can every day and that is why I’m working with a goal, with a purpose, because I know that I can do much better than what I did in 2019.”

Fegan pointed out that Moncada didn’t refer to the wrong last year, as so many are prone to do in early January. Improving upon that 5-WAR year feels greedy given the obstacles he battled in 2020, but it’s also not out of the question. Even if you thought his strikeout rate might prevent him from raising his ceiling offensively, he still had plenty of room for improvement in terms of durability and defense. COVID-19 affected the first of those, but he still made strides with the latter, improving across the board in metrics and earning a Gold Glove finalist nod for his effort.

Metric20192020*
DRS-4-2.7
UZR4.39.7
OOA48
(*Extrapolated over a full season)

That improvement buoyed his value, which otherwise could have taken a hit because he he struggled to get the bat through the zone with conviction (.225/.320/.385). Holding his gains defensively while recovering even most of his offense makes him easily the most projectable White Sox. If Moncada were somehow able to meet his preseason goal with career bests at the plate in 2021, that’s somebody who might take a run at Mike Trout.

* * * * * * * * *

Because the White Sox made the postseason despite Moncada’s struggles, they can kinda regard him as a secret weapon of sorts. I hedge with “kinda” because he’s not really a secret, and the White Sox have lulled themselves into complacency by treating guys like Carlos Rodón and Nate Jones as midseason upgrades that ultimately never delivered.

Fingers crossed, COVID-19 was a prolonged but unrepeatable occurrence for Moncada, differentiating him from the aforementioned pitchers buried under an avalanche of injuries and surgeries. He’s also different because he managed to contribute despite his compromised state. When you look at the White Sox’s production by position, third base blends in. The idea is that Moncada isn’t supposed to blend in, but given the underlying cause, the Sox could have fared worse. Right field and DH are right there as evidence.

POSPA2B3BHRBAOBPSLGwRC+
C2529014.278.381.519119
1B26216017.314.370.594167
2B227716.302.344.42999
3B2641136.215.314.368106
SS27012111.315.352.500135
LF24815015.305.343.562126
CF2439011.227.296.421102
RF229913.230.284.32482
DH2536013.148.238.35057

What’s encouraging is that the White Sox didn’t need the best of Moncada to function as a unit. The offense finished first in homers, and second in runs, batting average and OPS. Moncada’s bat speed was sapped by COVID-19, but even that had a useful byproduct of increasing his walk rate to 12 percent, which at least contributed traffic to the basepaths.

Still, knowing the White Sox missed out on what Moncada hoped would be a monster year, it made me greedy. What would it look like if Moncada cemented his 2019 standards at the same time of so many other breakthroughs? Here’s how that production looks in 2020’s lineup after prorating them for a 60-game schedule.

POSPA2B3BHRBAOBPSLGwRC+
C2529014.278.381.519119
1B26216017.314.370.594167
2B227716.302.344.42999
3B26715210.301.360.504128
SS27012111.315.352.500135
LF24815015.305.343.562126
CF2439011.227.296.421102
RF229913.230.284.32482
DH2536013.148.238.35057

The difference between 2020’s actual production and 2019’s prorated production is about 11 Weighted Runs Created, which is pretty close to the gap in RBI (nine) plus runs (four) from the position year over year. So let’s use that to take a stab at how a fully functional Moncada could have boosted an offense that was already turbocharged for much of the season.

Category20192020
BA.261 (2).270 (1)
OBP.326 (5).330 (3)
SLG.453 (1).469 (1)
OPS+.779 (2).799 (1)
Runs/game5.1 (2)5.3 (1)

There are a whole host of reasons these specific values might fail under basic scrutiny — standard butterfly effect stuff, an unequal amount of chances even after prorating, a whole different schedule and competition — but the bigger errors seem to sit on the conservative side. Besides the fact that some of Moncada’s superior 2019 counting stats would be bolstered by better hitters around him, making him a potentially bigger figure in runs scored, he also would’ve helped offset the White Sox’s acute issues against right-handed pitching.

Here are Moncada’s lines against right-handed pitching year-over-year:

  • 2019: .322/.377/.569
  • 2020: .226/.308/.396

And here’s what 2019’s line would have added to the White Sox’s team performance against righties:

  • 2020 w/Moncada’s 2020: .254/.315/.434
  • 2020 w/Moncada’s 2019: .263/.320/.449

The White Sox were fine against all right-handed pitching, but the general lack of plate discipline leaves the lineup vulnerable against right-handed pitching that kills same-sided hitting. That came to a head in the postseason series against Oakland, where Chris Bassitt essentially had five scoreless innings to redeem because he could throw pitches with movement from a three-quarter slot (he ended up throwing seven of ’em).

These numbers are all but a thought experiment, but a telling one. If 2019 Moncada could markedly improve even an offense as capable as the 2020 White Sox version, then it would be just as effective in helping a 2021 team absorb some setbacks. José Abreu probably isn’t winning the MVP again, the next backup catcher won’t hit like James McCann, Luis Robert looks likely to run hot and cold for the foreseeable future, and everybody will have to face pitching tougher than what the Central divisions provided last year.

The Sox aren’t staring down the barrel of regression, though. They have multiple ways to make gains thanks to the youth of their hitters , and they should have the resources to add more than Adam Eaton. But even if Rick Hahn finds a DH and bench bat to provide depth, Moncada offers the potential to deliver a more jarring improvement than any outside solution, so it’s outstanding to hear that he’s physically capable of getting ready for it.

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Jim Margalus
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: 3714
51 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Josh Nelson

Damn. Those are significant jumps in team production with 2019 Moncada in tow.

knoxfire30

2019 Moncada would be great and I expect his arrow to point up with a few others, which is important because I don’t think its fair to ask for another MVP type performance from Abreu.

This is why added depth is so important, in 2020 the sox offense was very good despite weaker then expected outcomes for various reasons at 3rd, DH, and RF. The podcast yesterday brought up Ozuna a lot but I still think the OMG move that terrifies the rest of the division about the sox offense would be giving Nelson Cruz a big 1 year deal.

HallofFrank

The average wRC+ by position for a version of the 2020 Sox with Nelson Cruz and ’19 Moncada would have been 124.66. That includes Mazara pulling down with all his might and more than half a season of Danny Mendick.

Last edited 1 year ago by HallofFrank
knoxfire30

#mercy

roke1960

Yes, indeed. A top 7 of:
Timmy
2019 Moncada
Abreu
Cruz
Eloy
Grandal
Robert
is absolutely scary. Good luck trying to pitch thru that gauntlet! Then, when you’re done with that, a couple of speedy pests at the bottom of the order.

roke1960

$18 million for 1 year, then a $12 million option with a $2 million buyout. That’s $20M for one year or $30M for 2. Do you think he’d take it?

knoxfire30

I think that’s his floor… he will sign that type of deal a week out of spring training…

Greg Nix

I’d be very surprised if he gets that much money.

roke1960

I tend to agree, Greg. After all, he will be 41 years old during the season. I think my above quoted price would get it done now.

peanutsNcrackerjack

Cruz money will be impacted by whether the NL will have the DH this year. Anyone hear when that decision is coming?

denman

I know Cruz crushed White Sox pitching over the past two seasons but I don’t think the enthusiasm to acquire him is justified. He bats right-handed and I’ve no idea how he fares against those right-handed pitchers with especially tough motions. Also, he is strictly a DH. Michael Brantley doesn’t have Cruz power (assuming Cruz continues to defy time) but: he’s the epitome of the “professional hitter”; he bats left-handed with a strong OBP; he’s “only” 33; and, he can still take the field in a corner outfield spot. He’s the guy I’d add. The problem, I’d guess, is that he’s likely to want at least 3 or 4 years guaranteed and we’ve a Vaughn/Abreu/Jimenez/Grandal/Collins? DH option that becomes more likely for 2022 and beyond.

Right Size Wrong Shape

The other problem is that Brantley has historically had trouble staying on the field.

denman

Brantley managed over 600 PAs in both 2018 and 2019. He played in 46 of the 60 games last season. There is some injury history with Brantley but I’d bet he’ll play as many game in 2021 as will the 41 year old Cruz.

Right Size Wrong Shape

That’s fair, but 3 or 4 years for Brantley would give me pause. I’d do a 2 year deal for sure.

denman

I agree. I’d guess, just as last year with EE, the Sox will sign a short term deal late in the off-season for a DH. I’d love it if it were Brantley. I think he’s a near perfect fit. But I fear, at 33, Brantley’s likely seeking a multi-year deal of at least 3 yrs. So maybe Cruz after all.

HallofFrank

I don’t know, if Kyle Schwarber gets $10m from an NL team… if NL does have the DH, I have to think Cruz gets his 2 year deal.

Eloytes

Frankly, my preference is to offer Marcel Ozuna a copy of the Hendriks contract and solve DH for our window.

roke1960

I don’t think Ozuna takes the Hendriks money. You probably need to get 4/$72M to get Ozuna.

dwjm3

The problem with that is Hahn really can’t evaluate guys like Cruz. He is incapable of determining how much a guy like Cruz has left in the tank. (ie: Edwin, Adam LaRoche)

Furthermore, Steamer projects Cruz to be replacement level. We could easily get burnt signing Cruz.

MrStealYoBase

I think Jim wrote an article on this a couple years ago but the biggest commonality between all of the DH’s who have come to the White Sox and failed is more HR than 2B (Edwin and LaRoche both qualify here). Seems to indicate an “all-or-nothing” approach that can easily become just “nothing”.

Cruz has hit 57 HR to 32 2B the last couple years. But he’s also been a .300 hitter (something previous failures couldn’t claim). Just from watching him hit against the Sox, he seems to be able to adjust his approach and hit opposite field singles in a way a lot of power hitters of his ilk don’t or can’t.

In short, I’m torn. I can see both how it goes well and how it succeeds. The other thing I think has to be a factor is that getting Cruz means he’s not in Minnesota’s lineup for the 19 matchups next year. It would suck to get burned by Cruz if he signs with the Sox and collapses, but it would suck even more if he stays in Minnesota and continues to rake against Sox pitching.

Trooper Galactus

The trick is determining what year everything falls off, though. Cruz hasn’t had a season with more doubles than homers since 2012, and 2010 was the only other full season in his career he did it. Encarnacion hadn’t had a season like that since 2008. Conversely, LaRoche had done it for his entire career before 2012, and was younger than either EE or Cruz when he fell off the proverbial cliff. I don’t think it’s something you can look at the stat line and foretell doom by, but it’s another indictment of their professional scouting staff that they keep running into this same thing over and over again.

MrStealYoBase

Yeah, I don’t think it’s an indicator of impending doom. It’s more to answer the question of “is this player’s aging curve going to be a graceful slope or a sudden cliff?”

Amar

When was the last time the Sox offense had a season OPS of 0.800 + ?! 2006 probably …

PS – Jim, Josh, the shirt arrived at my doorstep 2 days ago, thanks!!

Josh Nelson

HUZZAH! First International shipment a success.

asinwreck

I really hope Moncada is past the virus, just for his sake. In terms of baseball performance, I would not be surprised to see him put up a 7.5 WAR season if healthy. May we be able to experience that.

mikeyb

It’s been a while since I went into a White Sox season thinking the Worst Case Scenario for the overall roster is that they perform as well as the prior year. Last year, with all of the young guys getting action, I had no idea what the floor for the team was. This year, I would have major concerns about a return to earth from Abreu and Anderson, plus questions at #2 Catcher and DH.

But that is all easily offset by nearly guaranteed improvements from Moncada, Robert, and whatever the RF setup ends up being. Certainly there’s the possibility that facing pitchers outside of the AL/NL Central will add to the difficulty level, but there’s no doubt that this team in 2021 is clearly superior to the 2020 version. That is fun, and it’s not something I’ve felt certain about in quite a while.

Eagle Bones

Definitely hoping for a rebound. I don’t typically have “favorite players” anymore, but I think I have the most emotional attachment to Moncada of anyone on the team. Just love his game, the left-handed swing is so damn aesthetically pleasing when he gets a hold of one. And of course he seems like a great guy. Hope he’s fully recovered and feeling no ill effects as they head into the season.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Moncada’s my favorite too.

jhomeslice

I had the same thought about Moncada and their record last year vs right handed starters. Even though I think the Eaton signing was disappointing, Moncada is quite capable of making a big difference, and being an addition in that sense. I still think they could land Rosario without breaking the bank, and that he is very under-rated. His numbers last year were identical to Eloy in homers/rbi’s, and he had great numbers in 2019 as well. Both he and Ozuna hit right handed pitching very well, and have played some RF in their careers. They are not ideal for the position but could play some right, some left, some DH. I think Eloy is going to have to settle for a part time role in left, I can’t see sticking him out there every day just because he likes it out there. It’s not so much that his fielding hurts the team, I don’t think it makes a big difference actually, but they need to protect him from injuring himself. He does not need to play more than 100 games in left, if that. The Cubs did a good job rotating players that way.

Anyway nice article, hopefully their record vs righties will be better even without the hitting additions that people are hoping for. Even though whoever replaces Encarnacion/Mazara won’t necessarily all be left handed (Vaughn/Engel/Eaton/?), the production from those 2 last year was so bad vs all pitchers, that their replacements will likely improve the hitting of the team vs right handed pitchers by itself (along with Moncada). Hopefully their sub-.500 record vs RHP in 2020 will prove to be an aberration.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice
denman

Rosario was my guy to fill the void in right. I can only presume that the Sox didn’t trust his fielding as an everyday right-fielder and/or Rosario wants more years than the Sox (who knew they had the younger Cespedes and still harbor hope for BRuth and Adolfo) want to give.

texag10

Rosario has about as many innings in RF as Eloy had in LF in 2020 and they grade out about the same based on DRS. UZR is more favorable to Rosario. Seems like its a terrible idea to play Rosario in RF.

roke1960

With Rosario and right and Eloy in left, Robert is going to have to be superhuman to cover all the ground he would need to cover.

GrinnellSteve

We could play 6 infielders and just let Robert play pole to pole.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Good thing he is.

denman

I’m in Minnesota and unless memory fails, Rosario didn’t play right at all in 2020. He’s only played right in 67 games during his 6 year career and half of those were during his rookie season. The Twins seem to think he’s shown he can’t handle the position regularly. One of the reasons I’m not especially negative about the Eaton signing is that I see a benefit of going with an experienced, “dependable” right-fielder on a one year deal while Cepedes, BRuth, Adolfo and other options are evaluated.

jhomeslice

Rutherford and Adolfo have shown almost nothing in the minors, not even enough for false hopes. There is no way either of them is going to be the answer, it’s Eaton or Engel for right now. If that’s not good enough, they will have to look elsewhere.

Trooper Galactus

I’ve been simultaneously amused an annoyed at how optimistic some people got about Rutherford again just because Chris Getz raved about how good he looked in Schaumburg.

denman

I understand your skepticism. But it is Getz’s job to evaluate and oversee the development of prospects. If he’s “raving” about a prospect who had thus far struggled, I don’t see that his evaluation should be dismissed out of hand. BRuth was a top 20 first round pick and the Yankees seem to scout well. He slashed .307/.364/.404 with an OPS of .769, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 77 SO, and 29 BB over the final 76 games of 2019 in spite of his continued struggles against lefties. If he was hitting lefties at Schaumburg and displaying signs of the power he’s previously lacked there may be very good reason for raves and optimism. With no minor league competition in 2020, every team will have a challenge determining the progress of its prospects. That will especially be the case for prospect that had underperformed prior to Covid.

Last edited 1 year ago by denman
Trooper Galactus

The Yankees seem to scout well? Take a look at their first round picks of the last decade. Outside of Aaron Judge it’s a minefield of outright busts.

I’m not dismissing Rutherford completely as a prospect, but until I see something out of him in actual games I’m not getting excited about him when he’s shown next to nothing to date. If he comes out of the gates on fire, then it will give Getz a LOT of credibility, but until then, it just rings a bit hollow to me. Gavin Sheets had a scorching hot triple slash in June and July, but my expectations are still plenty tempered for him.

asinwreck

Welcome back to White Sox radio, Connor McKnight. From Robert Feder:

Chicago sportscaster Connor McKnight has been hired as host of Chicago White Sox baseball pregame and postgame shows on WMVP 1000-AM, the Good Karma Brands ESPN sports/talk station and the team’s new radio home.

The former midday co-host on Entercom sports/talk WSCR 670-AM joins a broadcast team that includes play-by-play announcer Len Kasper and color analyst Darrin Jackson.

As part of his new deal, announced today, McKnight also will call play-by-play with Jackson in the radio booth when Kasper fills in on NBC Sports Chicago.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Good deal! I thought Connor did a nice job before.

dongutteridge

This is great news! I believe that Moncada will have his best season yet this year and it will be huge for the Sox.

MrStealYoBase

I have an unrelated question that I’ll just pose to the crowd: how urgent is it for the Sox to sign a real backup catcher?

If the Sox want to give Collins some run to start the year, it’s not a move that I would trash. He hasn’t shown much but he also hasn’t had any consistent playing time to speak of and he did have a .951 OPS in AAA in 2019. (Yes gopher ball, but the league average was .791, so he was still significantly better)

Best case, he’s passable for 30-40 games a year behind the plate and is an .800 OPS bat against righties that can be deployed strategically. That’s a useful player or decent trade fodder.

Worse case, he sucks and you trade for Jason Castro in June. It’s not like the price for half a season of a backup catcher is that high and there are always guys like that available.

roke1960

I’d still prefer to have a proven major league catcher to backup, just in case something happens to Grandal. Castro or Flowers or Kurt Suzuki are 3 that come to mind. If Grandal goes down for even a couple of weeks, having Collins and Mercedes or Zevala would be bad news.

denman

I hear you on Collins. There’s a risk is attempting to contend for a championship with an unproven back-up catcher. But, at some point, you’ve got to find out if he can handle catching defensively and if he’s a Major League hitter. Still, a defense first veteran back-up catcher (maybe even one signed to a minor league deal) should be easily affordable insurance. I’m all for starting the season with Collins as Grandal’s back up til it works or it doesn’t.

Last edited 1 year ago by denman
Trooper Galactus

I’m not a believer that Collins can be even league average in pretty much any metric on either side of the plate, and I don’t think it would be wise to punt on giving the pitching staff a credible, proven framer/blocker/thrower at a minimum just to save $2-4 million. Collins did well enough in AAA but he couldn’t touch MLB pitching and opposing teams ran roughshod on him. He was also a disaster behind the plate, which didn’t help.

Last edited 1 year ago by Trooper Galactus
Trooper Galactus

It’s astonishing how badly the White Sox have done out of the DH position in the last two years (really, the last decade overall, but particularly the last two years). They are dead last in fWAR at the position by a comfortable margin with -4.2; the Nationals are 29th with -1.2. Only two other AL teams managed negative value over that time, the Tigers and the Indians (is it an AL Central thing?). Only the Diamondbacks produced a worse wRC+ in that time than the White Sox’s 62. I mean, it’s just been next level pathetic. They’ve been nearly as pathetic in right field, but the Pirates have somehow managed to be even more so.

asinwreck

It is as if the team does not want to offend Jim Thome with a competent replacement for his mashing services. He’s under contract, so maybe he should break camp as the 2021 DH.

asinwreck

I have mentally assigned the Giants as the team that will sign Carlos Rodón. That might still happen, but they have now signed Alex Wood as the high-ceiling starter who has been hindered by injuries.

I suspect Rodón will have to settle for a NRI this spring given how slow the market is and how many available starters with more impressive recent performances remain available.

Trooper Galactus

I always had Rodon pegged for the Dodgers as their next Rich Hill type; a guy who only pitches a very limited number of starts and innings but generally dominates in them.

asinwreck

Yep, that kind of role, which ex-Dodger GM Zaidi seems to value. Given available rotation spots on his current team, I figured Zaidi may pursue Rodón.