Yoan Moncada’s Approach Is Actually Working

On Wednesday, Yoan Moncada hit a grand slam and stole a base. Those were the notable accomplishments for the White Sox’ 22-year-old second baseman in Chicago’s game at Oakland. In a less remarkable but still relevant development, Moncada recorded his 300th plate appearances for the White Sox since his debut with the club last June.

Three years ago today, Moncada had yet to play a professional game in the United States, and while he came with considerable hype and pedigree, his play thus far has mostly lived up to the lofty expectations. Here’s his line with the White Sox since his promotion last season.

Yoan Moncada with the White Sox
Name PA HR BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
Yoan Moncada 305 11 12.8 % 33.8 % .187 .331 .229 .336 .416 106 3.7 6.1 1.5 1.8

A combination of good patience, decent power, and solid speed have allowed Moncada to mitigate the effects of his one real weakness (swinging and missing) and permitted him to produce solid numbers. And while we can’t simply double the numbers here to arrive at a full-season forecast for Moncada, our Depth Chart projections nevertheless call for an average offensive performance and roughly three-win season in 2018.

If there’s a number that jumps out, however, it’s the one caused by his aforementioned weakness: Moncada has struck out more than a third of the time with the White Sox overall and in just under 40% of his plate appearances this season. That number is scary high. While Moncada has incredible tools, it could be difficult for him to capitalize on his immense talent if he fails to discern strikes from balls.

Fortunately, at least from the scouting perspective, it doesn’t actually appear to be plate discipline that’s Moncada’s problem. In Kiley McDaniel’s chat earlier this week, he was asked about Moncada’s strikeouts. This was the exchange:

Turk: Does Moncada have bad plate discipline, or just bad bat to ball skills?

Kiley McDaniel: Pitch selection is fine, most of what he does is well above average. Bat control is below average.

Eric Longenhagen said the same thing in his evaluation of Moncada prior to the 2017 season:

His bat control is mediocre right now, and I think this is part of why he has struck out so much (30% of the time at Triple-A, 60% in a short big-league stint) during his career.

It’s worth exploring what this means statistically and to find how similar hitters have fared. Here are Moncada’s plate-discipline numbers during his time with the White Sox relative to those produced by the league in recent years:

Yoan Moncada Plate Discipline
Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Moncada 24.9 % 64.6 % 42.4 % 55.4 % 77.4 % 70.1 % 44.0 % 58.4 % 12.7 %
League 2015-17 30.3 % 66.8 % 46.6 % 63.9 % 86.1 % 78.2 % 44.8 % 60.5 % 10.2 %

Moncada swings at fewer pitches outside the zone than the average major leaguer. When he does swing, though — whether in or out of the zone — he also misses more than most. That lends credence to McDaniel’s eye. Moncada does a decent job determining the pitches at which he should swing; he just manages to miss a fair amount. 

To determine how hitters with similar profiles have fared, I looked at all players with at least 1,000 plate appearances from 2015 to -17 and examined their plate-discipline numbers. First, I looked at the 58 players with swinging-strike rates within two percentage points of Moncada’s 12.7% mark to create a reasonable cohort. Here were those averages.

Yoan Moncada Plate Discipline and Free Swingers
Name O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Moncada 24.9 % 64.6 % 42.4 % 55.4 % 77.4 % 70.1 % 44.0 % 58.4 % 12.7 %
Comps* 31.8 % 70.7 % 48.8 % 59.1 % 83.4 % 74.5 % 43.7 % 60.6 % 12.4 %
*Comps are those players with at least 1,000 PA from 2015-17 and swinging-strike rates within two percentage points of Moncada.

Players with swinging-strike rates similar to Moncada tend to swing more often than he does. Even though they have high swinging-strike rates, though, they still make more contact than Moncada.

What’s interesting about Moncada’s out-of-zone mark is that almost no one in the league who swings and misses like Moncada also swings at pitches out of the zone with such little frequency. From 2015 to -17, only one player, Matt Joyce, had an O-Swing% lower than Moncada’s with the White Sox and a similar swinging-strike rate. Among the group of similar whiffers, here are the 12 hitters who swing outside of the strike zone the least.

Yoan Moncada Combines Whiffs and Discipline
O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
Matt Joyce 21.4% 67.9% 42.1% 55.9% 81.2% 74.1% 44.7% 55.9% 10.9%
George Springer 24.9% 72.0% 46.0% 61.3% 80.1% 74.5% 44.7% 60.5% 11.7%
Jason Castro 25.2% 68.0% 45.2% 53.0% 78.3% 70.8% 46.8% 59.3% 13.2%
Luis Valbuena 25.3% 69.3% 44.7% 62.4% 82.3% 76.0% 44.0% 56.1% 10.7%
Brandon Belt 25.6% 78.6% 47.7% 60.0% 82.8% 75.7% 41.7% 57.3% 11.6%
Domingo Santana 25.6% 68.2% 44.5% 49.2% 79.4% 69.8% 44.4% 60.7% 13.5%
Justin Upton 25.7% 67.0% 44.3% 55.8% 78.3% 71.2% 45.2% 57.4% 12.7%
Mike Napoli 25.8% 64.9% 43.3% 56.6% 79.6% 72.0% 44.6% 56.0% 12.1%
Jonathan Villar 26.3% 67.3% 44.9% 58.4% 81.2% 73.9% 45.3% 59.4% 11.7%
Joc Pederson 26.4% 64.4% 42.2% 56.4% 81.3% 72.2% 41.5% 56.4% 11.7%
Steven Souza Jr. 27.1% 70.1% 46.3% 51.7% 77.7% 69.3% 44.6% 64.6% 14.2%
Mark Reynolds 27.6% 68.8% 45.6% 52.1% 80.2% 70.6% 43.7% 57.4% 13.4%
AVERAGE 25.6% 68.9% 44.7% 56.1% 80.2% 72.5% 44.3% 58.4% 12.3%
Yoan Moncada 24.9% 64.6% 42.4% 55.4% 77.4% 70.1% 44.0% 58.4% 12.7%

When it comes to plate-discipline numbers and swinging strikes, these are the hitters Yoan Moncada resembles most. If you were looking for the player closest in numbers to what Moncada has done, that’s probably Justin Upton. That seems like good news for Moncada. Here’s how these players have fared in terms of results…

Yoan Moncada Plate Discipline Pals
Name BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wRC+
George Springer 11.1 21.8 .208 .272 .364 .480 132
Brandon Belt 13.6 24.0 .206 .268 .371 .474 131
Justin Upton 10.2 27.5 .230 .256 .336 .487 120
Domingo Santana 11.6 30.9 .212 .265 .358 .477 120
Joc Pederson 14.0 26.6 .218 .223 .345 .442 116
Luis Valbuena 11.5 23.7 .216 .226 .318 .442 108
Steven Souza Jr. 10.7 31.9 .189 .238 .327 .426 107
Matt Joyce 13.8 22.0 .199 .225 .337 .423 107
Jonathan Villar 9.6 27.0 .153 .269 .339 .421 101
Mark Reynolds 10.6 27.8 .188 .261 .342 .449 101
Mike Napoli 11.5 29.7 .217 .220 .317 .438 99
Jason Castro 10.6 29.9 .156 .221 .308 .377 88
AVERAGE 11.6% 26.9% .199 .245 .339 .445 111
Yoan Moncada 12.8 % 33.8 % .187 .229 .336 .416 106
Numbers from 2015-17.

All the hitters here have performed in a very similar fashion in terms of walks and power. The strikeouts are high and the batting averages low. The on-base percentages tend to compensate for the low averages due to walks, though. The combination generally produces an above-average hitter.

It has worked well for Moncada thus far. If he could cut down his strikeouts just a little bit and lock into his somewhat untapped power, his baserunning and at least average defense would turn him into an All-Star. With no improvements, he’s already an above-average regular in the midst of just his age-23 season. If the strikeouts get higher and the BABIP or ISO get lower, Moncada could fall below average, but given his immense talents and performance thus far, improvement seems more likely than staying the same or getting worse. Moncada isn’t all the way there yet, but his potential is starting to show for the White Sox.

We hoped you liked reading Yoan Moncada’s Approach Is Actually Working by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Joe Joe
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Joe Joe

Thanks! This is something I’ve been following as he is such an extreme player.