Baseball

As we continue our trip around the diamond for the Sox this year, we now come to the hot corner which is manned by the most important player on the 2020 White Sox. Sure, you can make the case that other players like Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert need to have breakout seasons, but if the White Sox are going to be good in 2020, Yoan Moncada is going to need to be their best player – again. That may even be true of the years beyond. Let’s just get into this because I am ready to lose my gord over this man.

2019 Stats

.315/.367/.548, 25 HR, 79 RBI

5.7 fWAR, 4.6 bWAR, 5.1 WARP

7.2 BB%, 27.5 K%

.379 wOBA, 141 wRC+ .915 OPS

-4 DRS, 5 Outs Above Average

Last Week On Nitro: Yoan went on a full blown Fuck You Tour in 2019, telling every White Sox fan and baseball analyst that started to doubt him after his rough 2018 campaign exactly where they could put their concern. From the very beginning of the season, Moncada looked like a new player. He was hitting higher in the lineup every day, playing a new position, and was more aggressive at the plate, and all of that led to huge success from jump. He was mashing enormous dingers in big situations right away, which is great for us all because he has the best home run swing in all of baseball. If you don’t enjoy watching this man hit a baseball 450 feet and admire his work with incredible swagger and charisma, you are a joyless human being. Along with the huge homers, he also ripped 34 doubles and 5 triples, and while his walk rate dipped a bit from 2018, you take that trade off for the significantly lower K-rate and the more aggressive approach that led to a .915 OPS.

The only problem with Moncada’s 2019 outbreak is that it’s simply undeniable that his .406 BABIP is not repeatable and is destined to regress. With that being said, when you go across his Statcast profile and look at all of his numbers, the BABIP is the only thing that really sticks out as a red flag. His wOBA of .379 was barely above his xwOBA of .362, and given the fact that he hits the living shit out of the ball as well as anyone in the game – he was 7th in average exit velocity (97th percentile) and 19th in hard hit percentage (92nd percentile) – a high BABIP is going to be a natural occurrence. It certainly won’t be over .400 again, but it’s still reasonable to think he can keep it up around .360-.370, and that’s still going to result in a near-.900 OPS. Aaron Judge is routinely among the leaders in exit velo and hard hit percentage, and and he’s had BABIP’s around .360 every year of his career so far, so there is your comp and reassurance for Moncada’s future.

Along with the offensive outburst, Moncada took to playing third base extremely well, registering in the 87th percentile for outs above average. He also is still one of baseball’s faster runners, though he didn’t steal a lot of bases, totaling just 10. But if BABIP and SB’s are the biggest issues from a 2019 season that saw him register the 16th best fWAR in all of baseball – higher than the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto despite playing less games than either of them *sips a huge cup a tea* – then we are just being nitpicky.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): As I said in the open, Moncada is going to have to be the Sox’ best player again if 2020 is truly going to be a year that sees the Sox contend, and to that end the best case for the Sox is that Moncada gets even better this year than he was in 2019. And even with the natural BABIP regression, I think it’s possible. The .367 OBP (or similar, obviously, as I’d be a fool to predict it’ll be exact) could be repeatable if he is able to bring his walk rate back up a bit, and while it may be wishful thinking to think that the K-rate will fall at the same time, obviously that would help things. On top of that, continuing hit the piss out of everything in site while enable the power to stay up and he can easily slug in the mid .500’s again – again, the batted ball rates compare nicely to Judge, who has a career low SLG% of .528.

If all of the above happens, I think it’s easy to envision Moncada slashing something like .270/.360/.540, which would obviously be incredible. If he stays healthy – which has admittedly been an issue for him so far in his career – he could easily hit 30-35 homers and 40 doubles in the process. In terms of the peripherals, Moncada has already been outspoken about wanting to steal more bases, so if he can even raise from 10 steals to 15 in 2020, that is going to boost his wRC+ and WAR numbers. And I think he can get even better defensively as well, although as long as he doesn’t get significantly worse he will be fine over there. If all of this comes to fruition, I think we are talking about 6 win player, and if the Sox are able to reach their ceiling, that will be good enough to make Moncada a dark horse MVP Candidate.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: I have to be honest – selfishly, I don’t even want to entertain the thought of Moncada falling off a cliff. I am clearly biased, but an all out collapse that indicates 2019 was nothing but a blip on the radar does feel extremely unlikely, but baseball is a cruel game. I don’t think he’d fall so far as to be at 2018 levels again, but if the BABIP was truly the main driver behind his 2019 success, then it’s not all that unrealistic to think he could crash back down to being closer to a 3 win player. And while that would still qualify as a perfectly fine MLB regular, that would be a huge disappointment in terms of the expectations that the Sox and their fans have for Moncada. That’s all I want to say about this because trying to speculate numbers too much could just get depressing.

BAH GOD, THAT’S MONCADA’S MUSIC: Well, I kinda lost my gord a little early here. I tried to stay measured and not just go “WELL THE BEST CASE SCENARIO HERE IS HE BECOMES BETTER THAN MIKE TROUT MY FRENDT” in the TOO SWEET section, but in the process I think I dipped a bit too much into what I am actually predicting will happen. Maybe my 6-win player idea is a bit much, largely because that could depend on him staying healthy, but overall I really think that what we saw in 2019 was a sign of things to come for Moncada. The guy is really fucking good at baseball, and he is going to be really fucking good for a long time. And that is wall I have to say about that.

Oh wait, one more thing – extend him now, Rick!

Baseball

vs.

 RECORDS: Nationals 69-57   Cubs 69-58

GAMETIMES: Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: ABC Friday, NBCSN Saturday, WGN Sunday

THOSE CLOWNS IN CONGRESS: Federal Baseball

While the Cubs have been scorching at home since the break, the challenges in front of them wouldn’t exactly be called daunting. The Pirates, Reds (as annoying as they’ve been), and Padres are all at bottom halves of cycles at best. The Brewers are most definitely stuck in neutral, and the Giants are probably more neutral than they are despite what they’ve convinced themselves. Only the A’s are genuine playoff contenders, and the Cubs did manage two of three from them. That will get tuned up again this weekend, as the Nationals have been one of the better teams in baseball in the past couple months.

And these teams mirror each other in more than just record. They have very good rotations. They have offenses that are capable of needing geiger counters to measure them, but can also go the other way on you for little reason. And both watch their bullpens from the safety of a panic room.

Still, the Nats have harnessed that to the tune of a 45-24 record since June 1st, which was about the time everyone was fitting them for a toe-tag and telling Dave Martinez to get his resume ready. Since that date, they have the second most runs in the NL behind the Braves, the second best average as a team behind the Rockies, and third-best slugging mark. It’s not hard to figure out why, because there are weapons at almost every spot. Juan Soto has become a mutant at age 20 and is having one of the best age-20 seasons in history. Anthony Rendon is gong to make himself very rich this winter…or he would in a market that made any sense. Adam Eaton and Trea Turner, two players who have battled injury or ineffectiveness/learning curve, have joined the fun. Howie Kendrick has mashed, which is a thing he’s done for a decade now. Asdrubal Cabrera showed up off the waiver wire and in 11 games has hit .327, for god’s sake. It’s a little obscene.

The Nats will roll up having scored 84 runs in their past nine games. And while racking up runs against the Brewers and Pirates isn’t all that hard, they did it to the Reds too and you’ve seen what their pitching can do.

Combine that with Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Max Scherzer, and you get this stretch, even with Scherzer missing some time. The Cubs will catch a break in that they’ll miss Scherzer and Corbin, though they’ll get Strasburg on Sunday. Anibal Sanchez has been able to dodge the raindrops again, three years after it seemed like he was finished.

Ah, but the bullpen. It was ever thus. And this one will show up with closer Sean Doolittle on the IL. Other than him, the Nats have had nowhere to go. No heavily used reliever has an ERA below 4.00, and they’re currently trying to survive with excavations Daniel Hudson, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland. It’s worked on a limited basis, but there’s a reason these guys were covered with sand and dust when the Nats found them. You’d like to think in the non-Strasburg starts, the Cubs will find some joy in the later innings if they need them.

Their offense has been an Earth-mover. The Cubs have won five in a row. Immovable objects and irresistible forces and all that. Except when the bullpen doors open on either side.