In 2017, my pal Marty and I made a guess. A number of scorching younger prospects had been making their option to the present and Marty is a giant Crimson Sox fan. He was satisfied that Andrew Benintendi was the subsequent large factor, whereas I used to be adamant that honor belonged to a rookie the Crimson Sox had traded to the White Sox who hadn’t actually gotten fairly pretty much as good of a glance but: Yoán Moncada. The phrases of the guess had been easy. I had Moncada, he had Benintendi, and the perfect participant could be decided by whichever participant put up probably the most WAR (FanGraphs WAR, after all) over the subsequent three seasons. The loser owed the winner dinner on the restaurant of their selection. Benintendi’s 5.9 WAR from 2018-20 is nothing to sneeze out, however Moncada’s 9.2 takes the cake. Which jogs my memory, Marty nonetheless owes me dinner.
If Marty had requested me to guess on who would win the AL Central this 12 months, I’d have put my dinner cash on the White Sox. Chicago’s American League group is operating away with a weak division, however they aren’t doing it the way in which I’d have predicted. The large story on the South Facet of Chicago is the accidents they’ve weathered on their option to a 54-35 report. Hitting phenom Eloy Jiménez tore a pectoral muscle trying to rob a home run in spring coaching, and hasn’t seen a serious league pitch in 2021, although he hit a house run within the first at-bat of his rehab project earlier than moving to Triple-A on Tuesday. Luis Robert performed all of 25 video games before he tore a hip flexor. Contact stalwart Nick Madrigal had season-ending surgery after a severe hamstring tear a month in the past. Because the clock ticked in direction of the Midsummer Basic, catcher Yasmani Grandal (who was having quite a strange season at the plate) had surgery on a torn tendon in his knee. Fortuitously, that harm isn’t anticipated to be season-ending.
Grandal isn’t the one participant on the White Sox having a little bit of an odd 12 months. Moncada is placing collectively a sneakily good bounce again season even with a profession low .118 ISO. Regardless of the ability outage, he’s constructing on his breakout marketing campaign from 2019, the place he put up a .315/.367/.548 triple slashline. That season additionally noticed Moncada put up a 140 wRC+ and a .379 wOBA on his option to 5.6 WAR in 559 plate appearances. That was good for the ninth-highest WAR amongst place gamers within the AL. After a disappointing 2020 that noticed these numbers decline significantly to a wRC+ of 96 and a wOBA of .309 (he additionally handled the lingering effects of COVID-19), Moncada seems to be again heading in the right direction. By 334 plate appearances in 2021. he’s slashing .272/.401/.390 with a 126 wRC+ and a wOBA of .357. He’s additionally the White Sox’s place participant chief in WAR with 73 video games left to play:
White Sox Place Gamers with >= 1 WAR in 2021
The query I discovered myself asking is simply how Moncada has maintained his run manufacturing whereas struggling an influence outage? To search out out, I dug into Moncada’s method on the plate. First, he has improved his contact in opposition to breaking and offspeed pitches significantly in comparison with 2020, though it’s value nothing that step ahead appears to have come on the expense of the standard contact he had made in opposition to fastballs prior to now. His energy numbers are down relative to his profession highs except breaking balls. Beneath you may see Moncada’s batting common and slugging in opposition to fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed pitches since 2019 in response to Statcast knowledge:
Moncada Outcomes by Pitch Kind & Yr
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
2019 was an outlier for lots of gamers by way of energy so it isn’t stunning Moncada’s thump is down relative to the season he slugged 25 residence runs. That flash of elite energy was possible an anomaly that may in all probability be chalked as much as the house run atmosphere. However Moncada isn’t normally a beneath common energy bat, both. His profession ISO is a good .177 in 2,025 main league plate appearances, significantly higher than what he’s proven in 2021. The truth is, a have a look at his exit velocity and barrel charges from 2018 to now signifies one thing else is happening:
Yoán Moncada Statcast Knowledge 2018-21
|Yr||BBE||Max EV||Avg EV||Barrel %|
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
James Fegan at The Athletic has reported that Moncada is playing through “nagging soreness” this season. If among the group’s stronger hitters had been wholesome, he might have taken time without work by now, however the White Sox haven’t had that luxurious this 12 months. Whether or not it’s because of harm, league-wide results like the brand new ball, or some mixture of each, Moncada has tailored to his decrease energy output rapidly. Whereas a lot of the league has seen its strikeout fee improve, Moncada’s has fallen to a profession low (extra on that in a second). Extra importantly, whereas his 128 wRC+ and .357 wOBA are off the tempo of his career-best 2019 numbers, they nonetheless symbolize a powerful second-best season within the majors. He’s additionally steadily improved his stroll fee since 2019. The result’s a 2021 OBP of .401, good for third within the AL amongst certified batters:
AL OBP Leaders – Certified Hitters
If Moncada is coping with “nagging soreness” as Fegan famous, it may at the very least partially clarify the ability outage and new struggles in opposition to fastballs. Nevertheless it looks like the important thing motive Moncada’s general offensive output hasn’t collapsed is improved selectivity on the plate. His chase fee is at a profession low, however earlier than celebrating that feat, we have to dig just a little deeper. Ben Clemens famous in January that Moncada has historically been at his worst when he’s overly passive. Particularly, Moncada swung at extra pitches within the zone in 2019 than he did in 2020, significantly with two strikes.
So, how is Moncada placing up the second greatest season of his profession whereas being much more selective? Effectively it seems Moncada took at the very least a few of Ben’s recommendation from January, as a result of he’s not watching strike three cross him by within the zone anymore.
Beneath is Moncada’s 2020 warmth map displaying his swing share in two-strike counts:
In 2020, Moncada swung at pitches within the coronary heart of the zone 87% of the time. He swung at pitches within the zone 50-94% of the time relying on their location. Now let’s have a look at 2021:
What a distinction a season makes. Now Moncada is swinging at two-strike pitches within the coronary heart of the zone 100% of the time. He nonetheless doesn’t love the low inside nook of the zone, and solely swings at 59% of the pitches there after two strikes, however even that’s an enchancment. Most significantly, nearly each a part of the zone has seen an elevated swing fee with two strikes. That change in method is probably going one of many causes behind Moncada’s improved productiveness relative to his 2020 marketing campaign. He’s not feasting on fastballs for energy this season and he’s nonetheless extremely selective about when he swings, however he’s doing sufficient injury to be productive for the White Sox just by swinging at extra strikes.
The house runs and elite exit velocity might not come again earlier than Moncada can relaxation no matter is ailing him, however he’s performed an distinctive job of adjusting his method to work round that within the meantime. In doing so, he’s improved significantly over his 2020 marketing campaign — his line drive share is a profession greatest 30.5%.
Moncada Plate Self-discipline and Batted Ball 2019-21
SOURCE: Baseball Data Options
Admittedly, absent accidents, a few of Chicago’s higher recognized stars might have surpassed Moncada this season. Nonetheless, the White Sox haven’t had that luxurious. What they’ve had is Yoán Moncada. The pandemic-shortened season interrupted loads of gamers who had simply come into their very own. Witnessing what Moncada may have performed in a full, wholesome 25-year-old season after his breakout in 2019 is excessive on the checklist of issues I want followers had been capable of see. However even with that lull, Moncada has arrived. The changes he’s made this season could be spectacular even when the remainder of the White Sox line up was wholesome. Main the harm riddled White Sox to the highest of the AL Central within the first half is exceptional, and proof his breakout that started in 2019 has rebounded in a giant manner in 2021.