Despite what sources like MLB Network's 'The Shredder' have to say about Yoan Moncada, his 2019 breakout campaign was among the best in baseball, and many believe that he's just scratching the surface of his ultimate potential.
After striking out at a sky-high (33.4%) rate in 2018, his first full MLB season, Moncada made a conscious effort to... swing more?
To the out-of-town mind, or even some of the more average fans of the White Sox, swinging more to reduce an insanely high strikeout rate doesn't seem to make much sense, but Moncada's initial struggles derived from his perception of the strike zone and getting rung up on called strikes.
In 2019, Moncada came to the plate with the mindset that when an opposing pitcher offered him something that he could get the barrel of the bat on, he was going to do just that.
A nearly-six percent reduction in his strikeout rate and a massive uptick in nearly every offensive category for Moncada.
On Sunday morning at Camelback Ranch, Moncada made it clear that he's employing the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach in 2020 and staying with what worked for him during his 5.7 fWAR 2019 campaign.
“I’m going to keep the same approach that I had last year,” Moncada said through team interpreter Billy Russo. "I got very good results with that and I’m not planning on changing that. If I see a good pitch to hit, I’m going to swing at it."
That approach saw Moncada slug 25 home runs in nearly a hundred fewer at-bats than his 2018 season while posting a 141 wRC+ and slashing .315/.367/.548/.915. His .315 batting average was third-best in the American League behind teammate -- and batting champion -- Tim Anderson, and DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees.
While Moncada isn't looking to change his approach at the plate in 2020, he is looking to make his game more well-rounded, and in particular, he wants to steal more bases.
“With what I did last year, it was a good step forward and this year I’m just hoping to keep going forward with my game," Moncada said. “I want to steal more bases, that’s an area that I want to improve.”
Moncada was billed as a threat on the basepaths when he was acquired from Boston in the Chris Sale trade, but he has only stolen 25 bases in 335 games with the White Sox.
Moncada acknowledged that his past hamstring issues have limited his ability to be more active on the basepaths, but said that he worked hard on that this winter and his legs feel better than they have in the past.
"I feel much better than the last couple of years, my legs are stronger now, I’ve done a lot of work to get more flexibility and enhance my legs."
Moncada has missed time in both of his two full seasons with the White Sox due to nagging hamstring ailments and other lower body issues, but he's confident that he's in a better place this year and plans on playing in every regular-season game and beyond.
“I’m feeling pretty good right now, hopefully I’m going to be 162-plus games this year."
That comment would indicate that Moncada plans on his legs carrying him -- and the White Sox -- into some Postseason baseball in 2020. When asked specifically about the possibility of playoffs, Moncada sounded optimistic about their chances.
“We have a good team, I think there’s no secret about that.”
Moncada said that if everyone on the club does their job on a day-to-day basis and the team can perform to their expectations and potential, they'll be in a pretty favorable position to make the playoffs come September.
Moncada's sentiment has been a prevailing theme during week one of camp for the White Sox, having been echoed in some form by everyone from Yasmani Grandal to Ricky Renteria this week.
It's one thing for the fans and pundits to believe that the club has an outside shot of ending their decade-plus playoff drought, but it's another thing when the clubhouse believes it. A team that has this much confidence that they're just as likely to make the playoffs as any of their American League Central counterparts could be a dangerous group.