Good, but not satisfied. That description came from Yoan Moncada, through interpreter Billy Russo, when the 22-year-old second baseman was asked to describe his 231-plate-appearance debut with the White Sox during the 2017 season. Honesty and self-awareness apparently can be added into the wide array of talents for MLBPipeline.com‘s one-time No. 1 prospect.
“But I’m really happy,” Moncada said during a recent interview. “I’m glad to have the opportunity here because I know it’s something that’s going to help me to build for my future. I’m happy to be here with the guys, with [Jose] Abreu, to have the opportunity to play with him and just to be with this organization.
“It’s a very good organization. They have done all they can to make me feel better and to develop me.”
In regard to the “not satisfied” part, Moncada specifically referred to his overall statistics, but more so the stats when he arrived. He started 4-for-38 with the White Sox, and he struck out 44 times over his first 122 plate appearances.
Opposing pitchers went after Moncada with more offspeed offerings, something the switch-hitter didn’t see with as much sharpness as he ripped through the International League with Triple-A Charlotte. He adjusted on the fly by hitting .276 with the White Sox in the season’s last month and finishing with a .231 average overall, eight home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 22 RBIs.
Moncada’s .338 on-base percentage showed an advanced plate approach — even if the results weren’t always there, and even with a total of 74 strikeouts.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily a surprise,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said of Moncada’s solid effort. “It was certainly part of the package we thought we were acquiring: that aptitude, that strike-zone knowledge and judgment along with his ability to barrel up a ball and the exit velocity that came with.
“One of the last elements of his development had to happen in Chicago. He’s 22. He’s going to have some fits and starts over the next few years. But based on everything we’ve seen since he stepped on campus, we continue to project him as a special talent.”
Hahn and the White Sox don’t stand alone in that projection. Moncada has shown the raw ability to be at the center of a championship-caliber rebuild. But after processing all that he learned, he will have to continue adjusting during his first full Major League season coming in 2018.
“Absolutely, I feel like a Major Leaguer,” Moncada said. “I had the opportunity to play almost every day here and just to get comfortable. My confidence level is high because now I know how to perform and how people here handle themselves.
“My plan for this offseason is basically the same as last year — just keep doing my routine. I have more experience and more focus because now I’m going to finish the season at this level. That’s going to give me more awareness about what I have to do to be in better shape and to be in better position for next Spring Training.”