Yoán Moncada strikes a balance with the strike zone and stardom

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Yoán Moncada has been in tears in recent weeks. Since the beginning of the month, he dominated home plate even without hitting the ball out of the park. He walks in 25% of his appearances on the set and blisters on the balls he puts into play at an average exit speed of 95.1 mph. This led to five doubles, nine runs scored and nine RBIs in 11 games without a bad game in the peloton. The result is an obscenely heavy OBP line during this stretch: .359 / .519 / .487 with a 193 wRC +.

This is the kind of race Sox fans have been hoping to see from Moncada after a disappointing 2020. It’s also the kind of race that deserves a closer inspection, as there’s reason to believe we’re watching more than a hot streak.

By the time the White Sox acquired Moncada in the trade by sending Chris Sale to the Red Sox, Moncada was considered by some to be baseball’s top prospect and one of the top five consensus prospects in the minor league scouting world. . But he was not without flaws. The scout report said Yoán had a good eye and more power, but critics feared his swing-and-miss tendencies would limit his impact. In 2021, we’re finally starting to see Yoán use his strengths to alleviate his weaknesses and, in so doing, realize his perspective pedigree.

His first partial season and his first full season (2017-2018) were mixed. His approach would probably be best described as passive. He showed a lot of restraint on throws outside the zone (O-Swing%). He also took more hits than average (Z-Swing%). Together, Yoán has swung less than 81% of the league (Swing%).

YOÁN MONCADA MLB FREQUENCY RANK PERCENTILE

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% To balance%
2017 30% 24% 19%
2018 13% 21% 15%

It’s passive in the extreme, and the challenge with this approach is that Yoán has odor issues (SwStr%) in his game. So while he was doing a lot of walking (BB%), he put more pressure on his contact skills by taking strikes. This led to withdrawals (K%). Lots of strikeouts. Only a handful of league players have been retired more frequently.

YOÁN MONCADA MLB FREQUENCY RANK PERCENTILE

Year SwStr% BB% K%
2017 24% 85% 3%
2018 24% 67% 3%

At the end of the 2018 season, there was a lot of talk about Yoán’s passivity. It was clear he had a good eye, but when a third of home plate appearances end in strikeouts, it’s an uphill battle to cram enough productivity into the remaining trips to be a more hitter. And sure enough, Moncada sat right around the league average at plate (wRC +). His league average ISO (slugging minus batting average) and double-digit walk rate weren’t enough to fight a 50% higher take-out rate than the league average.

Yoán Moncada MLB Average
Year BA / OBP / SLG wRC + BA / OBP / SLG wRC +
2017 .231 / .338 / .412 105 .255 / .324 / .426 96
2018 .235 / .315 / .400 97 .248 / .318 / .409 97

In 2019, Moncada went on the offensive. He started swinging more, which resulted in fewer marches and fewer strikeouts. It also led to an improvement in the numbers as his potency increased and we saw the kind of season Sox fans were hoping for from a cornerstone of the rebuild. But beneath the surface there was cause for concern. Moncada swayed more, but his field selection was a problem. He was running. He swung a few more shots (Z-Swing%), but offered a lot more shots out of the zone (O-Swing%). So, although he slightly improved his withdrawal rate, his walk rate fell. Basically he went from a guy with high withdrawal and high step to a guy with high withdrawal and low step. Not ideal.

YOÁN MONCADA MLB FREQUENCY RANK PERCENTILE

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% BB% K%
2018 13% 21% 67% 2%
2019 39% 23% 29% 7%

Swinging on balls and not swinging on strikes is pretty much the opposite of what we call a “good eye.” And it’s not a good tendency to see a hitter who has been praised for his plate discipline as a prospect.

I don’t want to dwell too much on 2020 (period). I don’t think Yoán either. He has essentially returned to his pre-2019 behavior on the plate. The double-digit walk rate returned, but with it came another over 30% take-out rate and league average production. And we were largely at our starting point. In this context, 2019 looks like an aberration.

Year BB% K% BA / OBP / SLG wRC +
2017 12.6 32.0 .255 / .324 / .426 105
2018 10.3 33.4 .248 / .318 / .409 97
2019 7.2 27.5 .315 / .367 / .548 140
2020 12.1 31.2 .225 / .320 / .385 96

Step into 2021 and we’ve finally got the breakthrough we were hoping for – and with the stats behind it to support its sustainability. Yoán’s trim discipline prevails over his contact problems and that makes him a promising profile. His chase rate (O-Swing%) is good for the 16th best in all of baseball, and that’s a stat that keeps company good, with names like Trout, Bregman, Soto, Acuña and Guerrero (Jrs.). He is also for the first time in his career offering strikes at a rate above the league average. That’s right! He basically stopped swinging at locations outside of the area while simultaneously rocking at multiple locations within the area. It’s incredibly difficult to do and speaks to Moncada’s elite talent. It’s a level of plate discipline that allowed him to swing and miss (SwStr%) at an above average pace!

YOÁN MONCADA MLB FREQUENCY RANK PERCENTILE

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% To balance% SwStr%
2021 ten% 62% 8% 54%

All of this results in production almost 40% higher than the league’s average production.

2021 BB% K% BA / OBP / SLG wRC +
Moncada 15.7 26.7 .284 / .407 / .411 139
MLB Average 8.9 24.1 .236 / .312 / .393 97

And while his performance on in-play balls may decline – and his batting average with it (xBA) – he’s likely to see a positive regression in his power numbers (xSLG), where he’s been a bit unlucky until. now this season. In fact, there is a case to be made that its numbers will increase from here (xwOBA). Basically, advanced metrics suggest this is legitimate.

Year BA xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2021 .287 .276 .411 0.477 0.371 .387

All this to say that if Yoán Moncada maintains his new plate discipline, we have an elite hitter for years to come. And while I haven’t touched on his defense (it’s more) or his base run (also more), the total package adds up to the type of player who is an eternal All-Star and could set up some MVP-type seasons.

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