White Sox

As Yoan Moncada closes in on 200 strikeouts, he's actually finishing on a good note

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USA TODAY

As Yoan Moncada closes in on 200 strikeouts, he's actually finishing on a good note

It might not come as much of a comfort to White Sox fans bummed out about how this season will end for the South Siders, but Yoan Moncada has been a lot better lately than his disappointing 2018 campaign would lead you to believe.

Moncada is almost surely going to finish this year with the 11th 200-strikeout season in major league history. His .224/.304/.391 slash line can only get so much better with 17 games remaining on the schedule. And while these are examples of the to-be-expected growing pains of a still-developing young player, Moncada's recent status as the top prospect in the game and one of the biggest names of the White Sox rebuild have made him fall drastically short of fans' expectations of him in his first full big league season.

But for those looking for something positive to focus on heading into the offseason, Moncada's numbers as the season has wound down have been significantly better than they were earlier in the summer.

Following Tuesday night's loss to the Kansas City Royals, the second baseman is slashing .263/.333/.408 with 20 hits, six extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in his last 21 games. Additionally, he's racked up only 19 strikeouts during that span.

Those numbers might not exactly leap off the screen, but compare them to what came before it, and you'll notice a sizable difference. In the 22 games prior to this current stretch, Moncada slashed .145/.250/.241 with only four extra-base hits and a whopping 40 strikeouts.

Interestingly, though perhaps not very meaningful, Moncada's stretch of increased success came after a day off and started with Michael Kopech's major league debut against the Minnesota Twins on Aug. 21. He homered that night, too.

And, as a quick aside, Moncada has only committed five errors since the beginning of July. So that's five errors in a two-and-a-half-month span after he committed 13 in the season's first three months. He still ranks fourth in baseball with 18 fielding errors on the year.

What about, though, the area of Moncada's game that the White Sox remain so high on, his eye at the plate? The team keeps talking up Moncada's mastery of the strike zone, using it as a kind of explainer for the high strikeout numbers. But are there walks to go along with that good eye?

Over his last 21 games, Moncada has walked eight times in 84 plate appearances. That includes a pair of bases on balls Tuesday night, one of which came with the bases loaded and forced in a run during an interesting ninth inning. In the prior 22 games, he walked 12 times in 97 plate appearances.

Before jumping to any conclusions from that, though, perhaps the smallish amount of walks could be Moncada doing what the White Sox want him to do and being more aggressive at the plate. That would be, maybe, a good sign that the strikeout numbers won't be quite as high in 2019.

General manager Rick Hahn was asked about Moncada's high strikeout total earlier this month and had this to say:

"That’s part of his game. And we try to evaluate players holistically, for lack of a better word, and that being based on everything they bring to the table and not just one element. I’m not going to tell you this guy is an impact player simply because he has power. And we’re certainly not going to disregard what a player can bring, in his case a substantial ceiling, simply because of strikeouts.

"Is the number higher than we would like? Absolutely. It’s higher than he would like. One encouraging part of it, though, is as you guys have seen him repeatedly take pitches on the borderline, some of which have gone against him despite their location, the kid knows the strike zone and that’s a tough thing to teach. If we have to teach him to be a little more aggressive earlier in counts when he gets hittable pitches that he’s looking for, we’ll take that challenge.

"This kid’s got a world of hitting ability, blessed with fantastic tools, power. The plate discipline’s one of the things that’s tough to teach, and he already comes with that. So the things that we do have to teach in order to decrease those strikeouts a little bit down the road, that’s a workable project."

Should Moncada's final 17 games look like his last 21, he probably won't break baseball's single-season strikeout record of 223 punch outs. He probably won't break the franchise record of 222, either. (In case you were wondering, that's Adam Dunn's record, set in 2012.) But he's still probably going to strike out at least 200 times during his first full season in the majors. The White Sox are confident such a campaign won't write the script for the remainder of Moncada's career, and there's plenty of recent precedent from some of the game's best young players to back that up.

A lot of strikeouts would probably be more palatable if Moncada's other numbers looked better. It's possible, should he keep this up over the campaign's final weeks, that his last roughly 40 games will make that a bit of a reality.

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

Luis Robert leaves Arizona Fall League game with injury

White Sox prospect Luis Robert headed to the Arizona Fall League to get more playing time after injuries limited to 50 games in 2018.

He just got hurt in the Arizona Fall League.

Robert is playing with the Glendale Desert Dogs in the AFL and left Friday's game with an injury.

It's not clear what the injury was, but Robert walked off on his own power. He also has pulled out of the Bowman Hitting Challenge (a modified home run derby) that will take place Saturday.

Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect and No. 44 overall prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was 1-for-3 in Friday's game before exiting. He has hit safely in all four games in the AFL, going 5-for-17 (.294) with a walk and three strikeouts, but no extra base hits.

The 21-year-old is the third youngest player on the team and the AFL is a respected offseason league for prospects. A good showing from Robert would be a sign that he is beginning to develop his talent into playable tools.

The injury could be minor so no need to ring the alarm bells yet, but the AFL season is barely more than a month long. Even a short-term injury could prevent him from making up for some of the lost playing time from the 2018 minor league season.

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

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USA TODAY

Sonny Gray is available: Could he be a one-year stopgap for the White Sox?

The White Sox have a hole or two to plug in their starting rotation. Could Sonny Gray be an answer?

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Friday that he's looking to trade Gray away from the Bronx this winter.

Gray isn't as attractive an add as he was a few years back, when he was coming off a sensational 2015 campaign that saw him post a 2.73 ERA and log 208 innings. He went to the All-Star Game and finished third in the AL Cy Young vote that year.

Since, he's been less successful. He made just 22 starts with the Oakland Athletics in 2016 and had a 5.69 ERA. The following season, he started with a strong 3.43 ERA in 16 starts for the A's before the midseason trade that sent him to the Yankees, where he made 11 starts with a 3.72 ERA. This season didn't go too well, earning Gray a move to the bullpen. He finished with a 4.90 ERA in 30 games, only 23 of those being starts. He threw just 29.1 innings over his final 10 appearances of the season, three of which were starts. He had a 5.26 ERA with 50 walks in 113 innings as a starter in 2018.

Those numbers won't leap off the page (in a positive way) for anyone, but there's no doubt that a potential deal for Gray would be a low-risk move for the White Sox. For a team looking to add 40 percent of a starting rotation, being able to do so cheaply — be it from a dollar or prospect standpoint — would be a good thing, especially if the strategy ends up being to simply add one-year fill-ins while Michael Kopech recovers from Tommy John surgery and Dylan Cease makes his way to the major leagues.

However, Gray's 57-walk total from the 2018 season could be something the White Sox would want to stay away from. After all, White Sox pitchers led the AL with 653 walks this season. They also had five of the top 21 walk-issuing pitchers in the Junior Circuit: Lucas Giolito led the league with 90, James Shields was third with 78, Reynaldo Lopez was fifth with 75, Hector Santiago was 15th with 60, and Carlos Rodon was 21st with 55. Gray slotted in right ahead of Rodon.

But Gray has obviously produced results in the past, and whether the White Sox are looking to simply plug the holes in the 2019 staff or potentially find a sign-and-flip candidate for the 2019 trade deadline — he's slated to hit free agency after the 2019 season — Gray could fit that bill. One thing's for sure: He's available.