White Sox

Fun and fluid: Drill sharpens White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada's defensive skills

Fun and fluid: Drill sharpens White Sox prospect Yoan Moncada's defensive skills

All the tools Yoan Moncada needs to be a good defensive second baseman are already in place. He just needs to learn how to access them more quickly and effectively.

Tapping into those elite abilities is a critical part of the development plan the White Sox have in place for their super prospect, who is currently the top-ranked minor leaguer in baseball according to MLBPipeline.com.

One way the White Sox have tried to unlock Moncada's gifts is by having him participate in a simple batting practice drill designed to enhance his fun and fluidity. The impact of the exercise could be seen Friday night when Moncada --- who also had two hits --- made a pair of outstanding turns on double plays for Triple-A Charlotte and also threw out another runner from deep in the hole.

"Since Day 1 he's gotten better," White Sox player development director Chris Getz said. "He's just another kid that needs to get the reps. He's into it, he's engaged and plays with energy.

"He's a solid defender and put that together with the offensive package and he's got a chance to be a very impactful player at the major league level."

The offensive potential has consistently been on display since the middle of March when Moncada's bat took off. Moncada has an .899 OPS in 68 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte, including four home runs, after he produced a 1.074 OPS this spring. 

"I'm glad he's on our team," Charlotte pitcher Carson Fulmer said.

While the White Sox would love to see a reduction in Moncada's strikeout rate, there's as much of an emphasis on helping him refine his defense. Some analysts and scouts question whether or not Moncada can stick at second base or if he'd eventually need to move to the outfield. But that possibility isn't close to a consideration right now for the White Sox, who think it's simply a matter of repetitions and time needed to clean up Moncada's process.

They've worked with him specifically on being more aggressive to the ball and taking better angles. But to kick his mind into another gear, bench coach Joe McEwing placed Moncada at shortstop during batting practice one day this spring. It's an exercise McEwing has previously used with first and third baseman to keep them more active.

"It was to get his feet moving and have a little fun doing it," McEwing said. "Sometimes at second base our feet can from time to time get stale and we sit back on more balls.

"We wanted to get him off the baseball once it's hit and to be aggressive and using his athletic ability to the maximum potential. He was smiling and jumping around and that's exactly what we want him to feel and do on the other side of the field. It's all the same. Angle may be different, but it's all the same mentally on how we want you to attack a baseball."

Moncada's manager at Charlotte, Mark Grudzielanek, has seen steady improvement from the second baseman. The White Sox like the progress Moncada has made and think more will come with age. Moncada turns 22 next month. Grudzielanek specifically likes how Moncada positioned himself at the bag on a pair of double plays on Friday, which allowed his strong arm to get behind his throws.

"We get him out there on the balls of his feet," Grudzielanek said. "We're tying to get his angles down a little bit. We're tightening him up with his throws. We're keeping him over the base at second base on the turns, which you saw (Friday) were some pretty above average turns even at the big league level. There's not many guys that can make that kind of turn and that do it the right way. He's looking really good out there, he's getting better and he understands what he needs to do and he's getting done."

Moncada said he likes how the BP drill has him more comfortable on the field. He continues to participate in it and feels like he's more fluid.

"(McEwing) just wanted me to have fun at the position, to be more loose with my feet and then because in that way, once I go back to second base, I could be more relaxed and loose with my legs and position my feet in their position when I needed to make a play," Moncada said through an interpreter. "I'm working every day to get better.

"That's something that helps you with your mobility and the moment you go over to second base it makes everything a lot easier."

The enthusiasm with which Moncada has attacked the team's plan has been evident to his coaches and teammates. Grudzielanek noted Moncada's willingness to learn and McEwing said he has seen consistent improvement since the Cuban product arrived at mini-camp in January. Veteran outfielder Jason Bourgeois said late Friday that Moncada also has started to grasp the timing of the game and has begun to figure it out. McEwing agrees that all Moncada needs is time and experience.

"The tools are there," McEwing said. "You see all the God-given athletic ability.

"What you're going to see over time is the process of chipping away at the speed of the game. We can't forget this kid is 21 years old. The speed of the runner, the attention to fundamentals, it takes time to grasp."

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Could the White Sox trade with the Red Sox?

The crew wraps up the final day of the Winter Meetings for the White Sox.

On the latest White Sox Talk Podcast, Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Ryan McGuffey talk about a rumored deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox (2:41) that would move some pieces around.

Rick Hahn speaks for the final time in San Diego and the guys react to his comments.

Later, they debate why fans are disappointed with the White Sox and the outcome for the team at the end of the Winter Meetings.

Listen to the episode here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

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USA TODAY

White Sox reportedly 'in play' for David Price, but how much sense would a trade make?

SAN DIEGO — David Price on the South Side? Maybe.

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Boston Red Sox have had trade conversations involving Price with at least five teams, and the White Sox are “in play” for the veteran left-hander.

Boston is trying to shed salary, and getting rid of the $96 million remaining on Price’s deal over the next three years would be a good way to accomplish that goal.

The White Sox, given their financial flexibility, are a team that could absorb that kind of money in a trade. While much discussion of Rick Hahn’s statement in February that “the money will be spent” has focused on high-priced free agents, the general manager said Wednesday that such fiscal positioning could be beneficial on the trade market, too.

“Absolutely,” he said during his final media session of the Winter Meetings. “You’ve seen over the years us use our financial flexibility to acquire some contracts. I think back to the (Joakim) Soria trade with the Dodgers. The thing we brought to the table there was the ability to absorb some contracts. That flexibility doesn’t always have to be spent on free agents.”

But here’s the thing. ESPN’s Jeff Passan got this whole Price conversation going when he reported the interest of multiple teams on Tuesday, and he suggested the Red Sox might be able to ship Price out of town if they included a “player of value.” A young player with affordable club control would sweeten any such deal, and speculation latched onto outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is under team control for three more years.

That’s the kind of deal — before we hear what it could cost, obviously — that would look like a good one for the White Sox.

Well, another nugget in Feinsand’s report throws that idea out the window.

“One scenario that has been floated in recent weeks would have the Red Sox attaching a young player — Andrew Benintendi's name has been mentioned often — to Price in order to dump the pitcher's contract.

“A source said that concept has not been considered by Boston's front office — nor will it be, especially not with Benintendi.

“‘That's not going to happen,’ the source said.”

If that’s the case, if the Red Sox are talking about a Price trade that doesn’t involve a young, controllable player coming back, is there any reason for the White Sox to consider such a move? Is there any reason to trade for Price alone?

The White Sox do need pitching, quite badly, as a matter of fact. Their quest for two arms to add to the starting rotation has yielded no additions yet, with their high bid for Zack Wheeler spurned in favor of a lower offer from the Philadelphia Phillies. Price would be an upgrade to the White Sox rotation, and they could potentially get him without having to give up any of their prized prospects (a trade involving someone like Benintendi might cost a high-level prospect, in addition to salary relief).

After turning in some memorable performances during the Red Sox championship run in 2018, Price got off to a great start in 2019, with a 3.16 ERA in his first 17 starts. But due to a cyst in his wrist, he made only two starts over the season’s final two months. He finished with a 4.28 ERA, second highest of his career.

Considering the White Sox are heading into 2020 with just three rotation spots spoken for, they could do a lot worse than Price from a production standpoint. But the veteran lefty doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation as a clubhouse presence. NBC Sports Boston’s John Tomase listed several red flags in a recent piece: “He's no longer a 200-inning pitcher. His elbow could blow. He considers himself a great teammate, but he consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse, which multiple rival executives have noted warily. He's too expensive. He hasn't made an All-Star team or earned a Cy Young vote since 2015. He's past his prime.”

Do the White Sox need those headaches? Aren’t there options out there, via trade or free agency, that would bring in similar levels of production without all that other stuff? It doesn’t seem like a young team that is developing what appears to be a very positive culture needs someone who “consistently brings negativity into the clubhouse.”

Now, if someone like Benintendi — or, for example, the large contract of designated hitter J.D. Martinez — comes along with him, maybe it’s a pill you’re willing to swallow. Of course, that would require other unpleasant possibilities, such as letting a recent first-round draft pick like Nick Madrigal or Andrew Vaughn go. Hahn talked about the team’s unwillingness to deal away its prized prospects for a short-term gain. The White Sox lost a combined 195 games to end up with the draft picks that produced Madrigal and Vaughn. That was an awful lot of suffering just to trade those guys away.

A potential Price trade has its upsides, but ones contingent on other aspects of such a deal. If those aspects go by the wayside, acquiring Price doesn’t make quite as much sense.

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