Yoán Moncada looked like Yoán Moncada in Pittsburgh

It’s too soon to declare the nadir of Yoán Moncada’s post-COVID-19 malaise because he’s not out of the woods, but the clubhouse leader might be the botched rundown against Minnesota back on Sept. 2. The White Sox’s execution lacked in many ways, but at the center of it was a Moncada who couldn’t summon the effort to run after Miguel Sanó. Had José Abreu known that Moncada lacked the necessary acceleration, he might not have gotten rid of the ball so soon.

A day later, Moncada assigned words to what we’d been seeing — a general fatigue that saps the upper-edge athleticism that allows him to make an impact in so many ways, be it baserunning, exit velocity or, in this case, middle-infield speed applied to a corner spot.

Moncada still found ways to contribute during this time, relying more on his above-average batting eye to keep the line moving, and his hands to take care of all the makeable plays in the field. But in terms of what he could bring to the table, expectations had to be lowered from “MVP candidate” to “the good Conor Gillaspie season,” with others picking up the slack.

The White Sox are in better position to compensate in 2020, but to pick up on yesterday’s conversation, they are feeling the lack of his full-strength left-handed bat against right-handed pitching. It’s a big drop from last year’s production.

  • 2019: .322/.377/.569
  • 2020: .252/.331/.409

There’s some sunlight, though, because Moncada’s 2019 self surfaced during the Pittsburgh series. The sequences that involved starting, stopping, lunging and contorting didn’t pain him over the two games. Here’s a single that’s as noteworthy for its exit velocity (106.3 mph) as it was for his ability to stretch it into two bases after Gregory Polanco fumbled it.

If exit velocities were temperatures, Moncada wouldn’t have registered even a mild fever over the course of the previous two weeks. His hardest-hit ball was a flyout to right against Pittsburgh’s Trevor Williams that clocked in at 98.6 mph on Aug. 26.

Moncada hit five balls harder than that over the course of the two most recent games in Pittsburgh:

A few innings after that single-turned-two-bagger, he made this charging, barehanded pickup and cross-body throw to get the relatively speedy Kevin Newman by more than a step.

It’s great to see the old Moncada for numerous reasons, starting with the well being of the individual. There’s also the idea that it’s fun as hell to watch him play at full strength. Luis Robert knocked him down a peg when it comes to the most physically impressive White Sox, but Moncada has already experienced several years of refinement, allowing him to more regularly showcase those strengths.

The White Sox would also love to see this version of Moncada Prime hang around, if only because he gives Yasmani Grandal company as a left-handed bat that forces managers to consider their presence. I don’t see Nomar Mazara turning that corner until he figures out how to get those back-foot breaking balls up in the air. He’s seeing a career high in sliders, and he’s pounding them into the ground. Beyond Mazara, Yolmer Sánchez is a defensive specialist, and Zack Collins remains more theoretical than actual.

Rick Renteria has to strike a balance between excitement and expectations for everybody, and he said rests will still be part of Moncada’s program as the White Sox embark on 17 games in 17 days to close out their season.

“We saw the guy you guys have been used to seeing for a while,” Rick Renteria said Wednesday. “He’s still working. The trainers did a great job in trying to manage, strengthen his legs and control the irritation that had occurred with him.

“We still have to monitor his playing time, so whatever we can do to keep him out there and allow him to continue to move forward, that’s what we’re going to do. A great play on a slow roller coming in, it was a big play. He looked very good (Wednesday).”

For the time being, Moncada’s uprising in Pittsburgh offered support for the White Sox’s management of his condition thus far. Given the unpredictable nature of his post-COVID fatigue, time on the injured list could end up in the Sox missing out on Moncada’s upswings, just to get him back in time for another downturn. There are no more compelling options for his playing time, so they may as well keep his eyes, brain and hands engaged in the game to seize the days where the rest of his body is cooperating.

(Portrait of Yoan Moncada by Carl Skanberg)

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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.

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Willardmarshall

This is one diabolical and unpredictable virus — hope Moncada has clear sailing ahead….

Elena

Always love the Carl Skanberg player portraits, but I sure would love to see some Skanberg White Sox cartoons again. His stuff is hilarious. What he did with the late Ozzie-led Sox was sensational.

iowasox1971

That play to get Newman by more than a step at first was awesome. I have seen many good third baseman, including Ventura, fail to make that same type of play on numerous occasions over the years.

Moncada has incredible talent, but the Sox need to play it smart the rest of the regular season and make sure he is ready for the playoffs. They probably should just play him in about half the games prior to the postseason.

I hope I’m wrong about this and Mazara hits three homers in his next game, but I would put Engel in right field on a regular basis going forward. Engel does so much more for the team when he plays that it doesn’t make sense to keep him on the bench if Mazara isn’t going to produce any power at the plate. Mazara has had 101 plate appearance and has not hit a homer. He’s not getting it done.

dwjm3

This Yolmer acquisition may turn out to be a bad thing if Ricky keeps starting him over Mendick.

I also wonder what is up with Grandal? Encarnacion over him at DH seems a little odd against a right handed pitcher.

mikeyb

Curious as to why you think that. Yolmer seems to be a better hitter, a better fielder, and a better baserunner. Danny had a really fun few weeks, but we’ve seen him drowning lately. I don’t think either of them are meant to be everyday players, but I think I would rather have Yolmer than Mendick in basically any situation.

As Cirensica

I think the difference between Yolmer and Mendick are negligible. Not enough to make a fuss about it.

The White Sox has bigger problems such as pitching depth and the black hole we are trotting everyday in RF.

dwjm3

Yolmer is a solid fielder but is a non entity at the plate.

Mendick did fail lately but that isn’t uncommon. I would like to see how he adjusts to the adjustments the pitchers made.

Some of this I guess comes down to how the organization views Mendick within this window of contention. If the organization views him as a useful utility player for this window I think we need to continue to develop him.

Right Size Wrong Shape

I think Mendick is fine, but nothing special. He doesn’t excel at anything. At least Yolmer is a plus defender at two positions.

mikeyb

Fair enough. To me, I think of Yolmer as basically Mendick’s 75th percentile outcome, so I would rather just have Yolmer play things out in a contending season. But it’s such small potatoes that I don’t particularly care either way.

asinwreck

As if he is reading this and vociferously agreeing with you, Yolmer is the guy who broke up Mize’s no-hit bid..

Oddvark

Encarnacion did hit a HR the first time he faced Mize.

dwjm3

I do recall that. One thing I did forget is Yolmer is another lefty bat against Mize

Michael Kenny

Man, this team really needs another lefty bat. Dibs on Michael Brantley in the offseason plan.

lil jimmy

I’m leaning Jackie Bradley Jr.