Yoan Moncada’s development is one of the most important things at the major league level during this rebuilding, developmental season.
Fortunately for the White Sox, he’s having a fine season at the plate overall. He came into Wednesday’s game against the visiting Baltimore Orioles with a .262/.345/.469 slash line to go along with six homers, 10 doubles and 16 RBIs.
But as good as that might be, Moncada is not a finished product. Remember, this is a guy who was baseball’s top-ranked prospect a year ago, and there are expectations that he will be one of the best players — if not the best player — on the next championship-contending White Sox team.
And so there are obvious things that he needs to keep working on. Most noticeable to fans and observers is that high number of strikeouts. He’s got 55 in 166 plate appearances (one of the 10 highest totals in the American League) and will almost surely shoot past his 74 strikeouts in 231 plate appearances in 2017.
Another area of interest in Moncada’s development is what he’s doing against left-handed pitching, which quite frankly isn’t much.
Rick Renteria moved Moncada out of the leadoff spot against lefty starters some time ago, and the numbers don’t look good overall. As a right-handed batter against left-handed pitching, the switch-hitting Moncada is slashing .154/.244/.231 with three extra-base hits and two RBIs. That’s opposed to a great .302/.383/.557 line as a left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers.
But Renteria is seeing some growth from Moncada, who batted right handed against a lefty reliever during Tuesday’s eighth-inning rally. He didn’t get a hit, but he drove in the game-tying run with a sacrifice fly, progress in Renteria’s eyes.
“I’ll tell you this, the right-handed at-bat yesterday against the lefty was, for me, a real impressive at-bat because that’s the side he’s been trying to work on a little bit more against the lefties,” Renteria said. “To be able to drive the ball and create the sacrifice fly to drive in that run was really big.”
What’s the key, then, to getting at-bats like that against left-handed pitchers on a consistent basis from Moncada? According to Renteria, it’s just a matter of Moncada seeing more left-handed pitching. And when that happens, the skipper added, we could see more pop from Moncada from that side of the plate than we do from the left side, where he’s hit 12 of his 14 career homers.
“He doesn’t have as many at-bats (from the right side) just because he doesn’t face that many lefties,” the manager said. “You need a larger amount of at-bats against lefties to get a sense of where you’re going to ultimately be.
“I still think that he probably has the ability of having more power, even though he has power from the left side, I think he has the ability to have more power from the right side. It’s just a matter of him trying to manage that side of the box without trying to be the same as he is on the left-handed side.
“Very few switch hitters are the same from both sides of the plate. Some show more power from one side, and some show manageability of the barrel. He happens to have manageability of the barrel left handed and power. And I think he can have more power, maybe not as much manageability of the barrel from the right-hand side, but more power and more contact.
“But that’s going to continue with more at-bats against lefties, as many opportunities as we can give him.”
As with most things during this rebuilding season, Moncada remains a work in progress. Strikeouts, hitting from the right side, these are some of the things that he’s working on in a season that because of its disappointing win-loss record affords him the time and opportunity to develop.
White Sox fans are pretty happy with Moncada right now. But they could see a much different — and potential much better — player by the time the rebuilds hits its apex and that contention window opens up.