I have a controversial opinion: Yoan Moncada is good at baseball. I have an equally controversial opinion: Yoan Moncada was expected to be more than what he has been to this point. Both of these statements can be true, but within the Chicago White Sox fan base, there seem to be very few people willing to give rational perspectives on the young, Cuban third baseman. Perhaps it's just all the noise on Twitter dot com, but it's time to make sense of this.
You have loud, obnoxious mouth breathers that believe that because he ranks 19th in home runs amongst qualified third basemen since assuming the position, that he is overrated. You also have members of the fan base that are over-reliant on WAR that want to proclaim him a superstar in the face of his deficiencies and inconsistent play. Do I think Yoan Moncada has the skillset to be a superstar? Of course; there was a reason he was ranked the No. 1 prospect in baseball when the White Sox acquired him.
Yoan Moncada was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December of 2016, officially kicking off the White Sox rebuild. Fair or not, Moncada's prospect status, and the fact that he was traded for a pitcher that was on a Hall of Fame trajectory at the time, caused expectations for him to be sky high when he arrived at Spring Training in Glendale for the 2017 season. Jim Callis of MLB.com, one of the most respected prospect evaluators today, had this to say of Moncada when the Sox acquired him:
“He’s the best or one of the very best prospects in baseball. The upper praise the guys have been saying about this guy since he signed is Robinson Cano with more speed. You don’t even need the more speed when it comes to Robinson Cano. That’s a nice little bonus.”
- Jim Callis on Yoan Moncada
Yoan has been a good player since donning a White Sox uniform. However, outside of his monster 2019 season, I think it's fair to say he hasn't met the expectations behind Callis' analysis. Again, that isn't to say that Moncada hasn't been a useful, quality player, he just hasn't provided the consistent superstar play that many anticipated.
In fact, he brings a very important skill set to this team that they sorely lack. Moncada possesses a sound plate approach that allows him to work counts and draw walks, aiding in extended innings. He and Yasmani Grandal (another player that the fan base seems to not like because they're still caught in a 1950s mindset of focusing on batting average) are really the only two players on the roster that bring this dimension to a lineup that can be exposed at times.
The Good with the Bad
Since shifting to the hot corner for the 2019 season after Jerry Reinsdorf was too cheap to acquire Manny Machado, Moncada ranks eighth among qualified third basemen with a 124 wRC+. In addition, he ranks sixth in OBP at .363 and ninth in BB% at 10.8%. These are, in fact, good numbers for a Major League player. Getting on base, and having a quality plate approach, contribute significantly to a team's ability to score runs and *checks notes* win baseball games.
Additionally, Moncada has been a net positive player defensively since moving to the hot corner. He ranks 14th according to StatCast's defensive measure, Outs Above Average, with +2 since 2019. Additionally, he ranks seventh according to Defensive Runs Saved at +1. That might not seem that impressive, but Moncada is one of only seven players to rank positively according to the metric since 2019. Some notable third basemen that rank below Moncada in this measure include Anthony Rendon, Rafael Devers, Eugenio Suarez, and Justin Turner. So, the moral of the story is that Moncada is making positive contributions on both the offensive and defensive sides of the equation.
But it's not all rosy, if we are being honest. His offensive output has been roughly league average in three seasons since he joined the Sox (2017, 2018, and 2020). Truth be told, I have a hard time slapping a superstar label on that. Since coming up to the big leagues, Moncada has slugged over .412 just once in his career, that being his superstar caliber 2019 season in which he slugged .548 with 25 home runs. That was the player I believe most of us assumed we were getting when Chris Sale was shipped up to Boston. Was the 2019 slugging output a function of the super bouncy ball that was leaving parks all across the league that year? It's hard to say, but it is fair to want more slugging output from the young Cuban infielder.
One of the more frustrating aspects of the Yoan Moncada experience is the extremes of his performance. When he is going right, he looks like a top 10 player in the sport. When he slumps, as he did during July and August of this past season, he looks lethargic and disinterested. This, unfortunately, causes many to question his desire to play, which I think is overstated greatly. However, these stretches give his detractors the ammunition they seek to lay claim to his status as being overrated. Unfortunately, due to the swing-and-miss nature of his game, he can be prone to these stretches at times.
Be Real Here
Let's be real for a second, Yoan Moncada is a good player that is an important part of the White Sox future. Calls for him to be traded are simply absurd and shouldn't be dignified with any serious consideration. I say that, not because he is untradeable, but because there is no viable replacement option that would result in the White Sox being better. You aren't going to get Jose Ramirez, Alex Bregman, Rafael Devers, Manny Machado, Nolan Arenado, or any of the other third basemen you think are better than Moncada.
He's been a casualty of lofty expectations that preceded his arrival at 35th/Shields, and that comes with the territory. But, stop saying he isn't good. Would I personally love to see the power output increase? I absolutely would, and I believe that would truly elevate him to superstar status. Even if 2019 proves to be the outlier in terms of power production, this is still a useful player that brings a valuable skill set both offensively and defensively and is an important cog in the team's future plans.
It's okay to want to see more out of a player that was the No. 1 prospect in baseball. Hell, I want more out of him and think some of the critiques of his performance as being underwhelming in certain aspects have been fair. But, going to the extreme to say that he should be traded when there isn't a viable alternative that would make the White Sox better is lunacy.