Yoan Moncada's late-season surge reminding quick-to-react fans that calling him a ‘bust' is a horrible idea


Yes, Yoan Moncada leads baseball with 207 strikeouts. Yes, Yoan Moncada ranks fourth in baseball with 19 fielding errors. Yes, in no way did Yoan Moncada live up to the ridiculously high expectations that came with his first full season in the major leagues.

But in no way is Yoan Moncada a “bust.”

Quick-to-react White Sox fans across the social-media landscape have voiced their frustration with what has undoubtedly been a disappointing campaign for the guy who just last year was the top-ranked prospect in the game. Some have taken to making outrageous declarations on the 23-year-old’s career, dubbing him a “bust” of a prospect. A number of frustrated Twitter-using fans have used the terribly uncreative “Bustcada” nickname.

But Moncada, whose prospect ranking and rather visible tool set have made him a focal point of the White Sox rebuilding effort, is giving those quick-trigger fans reason to rethink their statements here in the final stretch of the 2018 season.

In his last 25 games entering the second of three against the Crosstown-rival Cubs on Saturday, Moncada slashed .320/.371/.443 with nine extra-base hits including seven doubles, 14 RBIs, 12 runs scored and eight walks. That includes a trio of three-hit performances in a week’s time.

The numbers at season’s end will still be below those sky-high preseason expectations, but these last few weeks have shown why the White Sox, despite all those strikeouts, still have sky-high hopes for Moncada’s long-term success.

“This is my first whole year in the majors. I learned a lot,” Moncada said through a team translator Saturday. “I think if I keep applying the things I learn every day I can improve and I can be a very good player. I’m pretty confident I can be that baseball player that everybody thought I can be, and the great baseball player I know I can be.”

The most surprising improvement of all, perhaps, has been Moncada having success batting right-handed. The season-long numbers against left-handers are not good: a .213/.289/.305 slash line with two homers and 10 RBIs. But in that last-25-game span, 11 of his 31 hits have been against lefties, with a .379 batting average against southpaws.

“In reality, I’ve been feeling really comfortable hitting from the right side,” Moncada said. “Just having more repetitions, facing more lefties, getting better results, has helped. I feel very, very comfortable from that side. I’m just trying to work every day. I credit that success the last couple of weeks to work I’ve done all season. When you work harder, sooner or later, the results are going to be there. I think that’s the big key.”

Of course, the No. 1 reason no one should be giving up on Moncada’s ability to turn into a star is time.

Moncada is just 23, and like many of the White Sox young major leaguers, he’s still developing, not yet a finished product. The lack of results during much of this, again, first full season in the majors can be chalked up as to-be-expected growing pains. We’ve seen the same kinds of things from Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Tim Anderson, and those three have shown their own flashes of brilliance as they work toward reaching the level the White Sox envision they can.

And while some Twitter-using fans have found a way to heap pressure on the young Moncada from the outside, the truth is that there’s no rush for any of these youngsters to start playing at an All-Star level. The team’s ongoing rebuild allows them all the time they need to develop at both the major league and minor league level.

After all, in three years, what will it matter that Moncada struck out a lot or didn’t hit as many home runs as anticipated in a losing season that was expected to be a losing season? It's what he does when the team shifts from rebuilding mode to contention mode that will matter.

The White Sox and Moncada have the blessing of time as they develop into what they hope to be in the future.

“He’s still young,” manager Rick Renteria said. “He’s still learning how to play the game. He’s still becoming a baseball player.”

With the better results at the plate over the last month, Moncada’s strikeout rate has also declined, meaning the most glaring negative aspect of his season is unlikely to reach an all-time level of negativity. Moncada entered the White Sox last nine games of the year with 207 strikeouts, 16 away from matching baseball’s single-season record of 223 (and 15 away from the franchise single-season record of 222, set by Adam Dunn in 2012).

There was a time this season when striking out 16 times in nine games was a very real possibility. But Moncada struck out 28 times during the 25-game stretch discussed throughout this writing, putting him on pace for about 10 or 11 the remainder of the season.

“I never thought about that,” Moncada said. “I just tried to play my game, enjoy the game, do the things I can do to help us win games. I don’t like to strike out but I never thought about that record.”

Fans and observers alike will surely latch on to Moncada’s strikeouts this offseason, and this isn’t to say they’re nothing to worry about at all: He’s probably going to have one of the top-five highest single-season strikeout totals in baseball history.

But the way he’s finishing this season — and if you look around, many young White Sox players are finishing their seasons in similarly positive fashions — is a great sign that development is happening, that the waiting game is paying off, even if it's in small doses, for those who have exhibited the necessary patience during this rebuilding process.

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