Yoan Moncada

Yoan Moncada has gone from 'strikeout heaven to impactful bat heaven'

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada has gone from 'strikeout heaven to impactful bat heaven'

Yoan Moncada is finishing off a breakout season and he has gotten there with a different approach at the plate.

When Moncada came up through the minors and even in his first two years in the majors, he was known for drawing plenty of walks. At every stop of the minors and in each of his first two seasons with the White Sox, Moncada walked in well north of 10 percent of his plate appearances.

This season, which is inarguably his best in the majors, he has 39 walks in 510 plate appearances. After Moncada added three hits in Sunday’s 11-10 loss to the Mariners, he is now hitting .308/363/.537 with 23 home runs, 72 RBIs and 75 runs scored.

Sunday's 3-for-5 game added to his red-hot September. Moncada is hitting .436/.492/.636 in 14 games this month. He's not the only White Sox hitter on fire this month.

Before the game, White Sox manager Rick Renteria talked about Moncada’s different approach.

“He’s going to be a 30-homer type guy,” Renteria said. “I think his on-base percentage is good. I think people look at the numbers in terms of the base-on-balls, the total numbers that are down, but he’s gone from strikeout heaven to impactful bat heaven, so to speak, and I think there’s going to be a balance in between where he’s going to continue to have those walk numbers, on-base numbers and be a pretty significant impactful player as a third baseman.”

That strikeout heaven Renteria referred to is another big difference for Moncada this year. After striking out in 32 percent of his plate appearances in 54 games with the White Sox in 2017 and whiffing a whopping 217 times last year (33.4 percent), Moncada has cut down on that number. He has 139 strikeouts this year, which is down to 27.2 percent.

So the strikeouts have gone down along with the walks. Moncada’s overall numbers are clearly better so it appears the tradeoff has been worth it.

“I think he’s taking into account more situational type things,” Renteria said. “Instead of taking that borderline pitch that they would call a strike, for example, he might be more inclined to create a productive out and drive in a run and put the ball in play.

"It’s more baseball-oriented, not just numbers wise. It’s a baseball situation in which he is now understanding a little bit more, I have a chance to impact this in a positive way. (If) I don’t swing the bat, it’s a called third strike, I’m walking into the dugout and my guys are still out  there on the bases. I got a pitch I can handle, I can still manage. Put the ball in play, score that run and we score another point, it puts us in a better position. Ultimately it’s about scoring runs.”

Renteria emphasized that he didn’t want Moncada chasing pitches as he tries to be more aggressive. However, going after borderline pitches that are hittable instead of trying to work a walk as one of the most dangerous hitters on the team isn’t always the best approach.

“If you look at his at-bats, he’s not a chaser,” Renteria said. “He doesn’t put balls in play that are a foot (outside), he doesn’t do that. There are balls that are manageable, hittable, things that he can either get a base hit out of or put in play to create a particular run. It’s more situational awareness that he’s become better at, which I think has helped him improved some of his numbers offensively.”

In other Moncada news, he got hit by a throw after stealing a base in the seventh inning .The throw bounced and hit Moncada in the side as he was sliding into second. After being in obvious pain, Moncada stayed on the bases, later came around to score and finished the game.

 

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The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

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USA TODAY

The biggest pieces of the White Sox rebuild are on absolute fire in September, great news for 2020

“The 2020 season, it starts in September.”

Jose Abreu said that before August was even over, looking toward the final month of yet another losing season, yet another season without a playoff appearance on the South Side. Of course, everyone involved with this organization is hoping that changes in 2020, and with his sights on that campaign, Abreu talked about using the last month of this one to get ready for next year.

Well, if this month is really the first month of what’s next, the guys who figure to play the biggest roles on that 2020 team — in this rebuild, in general — are off to a heck of a start.

Friday night, it was the quartet of Abreu, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez powering a high-scoring win over the Seattle Mariners. The four combined to go 8-for-18 with two home runs, two doubles, a triple, seven RBIs and six runs scored.

It was a nice microcosm of what’s been happening all month.

In the dozen games the White Sox have played in September, Abreu, Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez have combined for a .363 batting average, a .431 on-base percentage, a .687 slugging percentage, 13 home runs, 18 doubles, a triple, 42 RBIs and 40 runs scored. They’ve accounted for more than 58 percent of the runs the team has scored and more than 61 percent of the runs the team has driven in.

Considering Anderson, Moncada and Jimenez are three cornerstones of Rick Hahn’s rebuilding effort and the elder statesman Abreu, with his constant declarations of his desire to remain with the team, seems a safe bet to be back in black for 2020, this is the core of this lineup moving forward playing at an extremely high level.

It’s exactly what the White Sox and their fans want to see.

Anderson is going to be dominating the headlines the rest of the way as he chases a batting title. He woke up Saturday with the best batting average in baseball, a .334 mark for the 2019 season. In September alone, he’s hitting .400.

Moncada has steadily had the best all-around offensive season of anyone on the team, quite the transformation from a year ago, when he struck out 217 times in a disappointing first full campaign as a major leaguer. In September, he’s hitting even better than Anderson, with a .435 batting average to go along with an insane .500 on-base percentage.

Jimenez has had an up-and-down rookie season, but he’s closing in on 30 home runs after smashing No. 27 on Friday night. He’s definitely in the midst of one of his better stretches right now and owns a .694 slugging percentage with five homers in September.

Abreu has been criticized by certain segments of the fan base for the noticeable dip in his on-base percentage this season. Thanks to a hot finish, it is higher than last year’s at the moment, but if the season ended today, it would be lower than the figures he posted during his first four seasons in the big leagues. But what those critics aren’t focusing on is one of the most productive seasons of Abreu’s career. He also homered Friday and is up to 33 bombs on the season, three off the career high he set as a rookie in 2014. And he’s blasted past his career high in RBIs from that same season, up to 116, which leads the American League. He's got five September homers and a .784 slugging percentage on the month.

In a season judged from the outset based on the development and performance of the team’s core players rather than its win-loss record, that’s all spectacular news for the organization moving forward into 2020. Combine all that with the strides made by Lucas Giolito and James McCann, the arrival of Dylan Cease, the expected return of Michael Kopech, the expected arrivals of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, plus what’s expected to be an active offseason, and this team is shaping up to have a very promising outlook for 2020.

“I’m expecting that this is it,” manager Rick Renteria said after Thursday’s game, asked if he believed the White Sox string of sub-.500 seasons would end next year. “We are trying to win. I think we talk about it, we are going through it. I know there’s still refining to do, but I’ll be honest with you. We are finishing this season, we are talking about coming into next season ready to battle, period, exclamation point. That’s what we are looking to do.”

If these four guys keep swinging the bats like this straight on into next March, that would go a long way toward proving their manager right.

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The Eloy and Yo-Yo Show: Airing for the next decade on the South Side

The Eloy and Yo-Yo Show: Airing for the next decade on the South Side

In the first inning, Eloy Jimenez flexed his oppo power with a grand slam, the first of his career, into the visiting bullpen. In the seventh, Yoan Moncada blasted a ball into Thome Territory, a two-run shot that challenged some of Jimenez’s distances this season.

Get used to it.

The Eloy and Yo-Yo Show will be airing for the next decade on the South Side of Chicago.

“I hear that was the first game Moncada and me hit a home run in the same game,” Jimenez said, his typical beaming smile on display after their long balls launched the White Sox to a win over the visiting Royals. “That is really good.

“That is the first for many to come.”

Indeed it was the first game in which both young members of the White Sox core homered in the same game, a slugger giving reporters a stat for a change.

And it’s exactly what the White Sox and their fans want to see. As another sub-.500 finish approaches, another October sitting on the couch watching rather than playing postseason baseball, the White Sox will hang their hats on the progress of their star youngsters. That progress has been easy to notice, with Moncada going from 217 strikeouts in 2018 to the team’s best hitter, Lucas Giolito going from the worst pitching numbers in baseball to an American League All Star and Tim Anderson going from a .240 hitter to the AL’s batting leader with just a couple weeks remaining in the campaign.

Jimenez is certainly part of that group, even if his rookie season has seen as many growing pains — and physical pains that have sent him to the injured list — as it has eye-popping moments like Tuesday’s. But those moments have been in ample supply. Every time he’s scorched a ball out into the foliage on the batter’s eye in center field, White Sox fans got a glimpse of the future.

Tuesday night, it was Moncada sending a ball that way. And while his merely landed near the top of the greenery rather than bouncing on the stairs of the Fan Deck, like Jimenez’s most memorable homer of the year did, it was still enough to have White Sox fans seeing stars — and to make Jimenez go “Wow!” in the dugout.

“I think he got more than me,” Jimenez said before being informed that he’s still got the longest bomb between the two this season. “Yeah? Well, I don’t know. He’s still swinging hard and put that one almost in the scoreboard.”

This has been the vision all along for Rick Hahn’s front office, Moncada and Jimenez driving the ball into the night sky and driving in runs in a power-packed win. Jose Abreu added a double Tuesday night, and though Anderson couldn’t pick up a hit to raise that league-leading average, he walked in the first inning and scored on Jimenez’s grand slam. James McCann added a double, too, and Zack Collins flashed his on-base skills with a first-inning walk.

Was it all the pieces finally coming together? It’s hard to say that with this team 16 games below .500. But the pieces are starting to fall into place. Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal won’t be too long in joining this core. Coincidentally, yet fittingly, power-hitting prospect Andrew Vaughn was on hand for Tuesday night’s Home Run Derby, all 10 runs scoring on via the long ball.

Who knows whether Vaughn will reach the majors in time to be a member of the first contending White Sox team in years. But the plan is for him to be a part of this lineup one day, too. When he gets here, The Eloy and Yo-Yo Show is still scheduled to be must-see TV.

“It's nice that they're going to be in the lineup, hopefully, for the next 10 years,” White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said.

Fans are getting the previews now.

“It’s going to be fun,” Jimenez said. “Let’s wait for that.”

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