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Why Chicago White Sox need rejuvenated Yoan Moncada to win in 2022

Sportsnaut
Sportsnaut
 2021-10-21

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The Chicago White Sox’ first American League Central division title since 2008 and second consecutive playoff appearance concluded with them running into a wall. That wall was the Houston Astros, who beat them in four games in the American League Divisional Playoffs .

Moving forward, the White Sox have the bedrock of a World Series contender. They’re uber-talented around the diamond, have a stout starting rotation and an overall reliable bullpen. All that said, there was an oomph missing from their offense this season. That’s where the 26-year-old Yoan Moncada comes into play.

Here’s why the Chicago White Sox need a rejuvenated Yoan Moncada to win the American League in 2022 and the seasons that follow.

Yoan Moncada has regressed at the plate for the Chicago White Sox

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Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago, it appeared Moncada figured it out at the plate. Previously a featured element of the trade package that went to the White Sox from the Boston Red Sox for ace left-hander Chris Sale, Moncada was expected to be a franchise infielder for the White Sox. He was becoming that in 2019 while making a transition from second base to third base.

Moncada finished 2019 with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go along with 25 home runs to his name. He was slugging at an elite level, getting on base with frequency and took a 180 in his production tendencies; Moncada went from totaling a league-high 217 strikeouts in 2018 to logging more hits than strikeouts in 2019.

He followed up a highly encouraging 2019 with a yawning campaign in the condensed 2020 MLB season. Whatever, it was a bizarre season for all involved. The issue is Moncada didn’t bounce back this past season, either.

  • Yoan Moncada stats (2021): .263/.375/.412, 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 157 strikeouts across 520 at-bats

The lone bright spot for Moncada over the last two seasons is that he’s working the count and getting on base via base on balls more often. At the end of the day, though, he went from presumably breaking out to performing along the lines of a respectable but little more player in a season where the White Sox had attainable World Series aspirations.

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Yoan Moncada’s struggles affected Chicago White Sox’ 2021 offense

If one were to list the premier players in Chicago’s offense one year ago, Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada would be the first three players that come to mind. Although Anderson and Abreu remain potent hitters and Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez missed the bulk of the regular season due to injuries, this has become a Chicago offense that is underachieving a bit.

With essentially everyone present, the White Sox’ offense was an enormous letdown in the postseason. Most of their offense came in a 12-run outburst on their home field in an elimination Game 3. In the other three games of the series, all of which they lost, the White Sox totaled a combined six runs. That’s two runs per game. This order is too talented and individually impactful for that to happen.

If Moncada was firing on all cylinders, their offense would’ve been more lethal in both the regular season and postseason. Regardless of where he hits in the order, Moncada is someone whose compact swing can generate offense from both sides of the plate. Moncada is a versatile fielder, as he has held his own at both second and third. All the while, he has shown an ability to flat-out rake.

Yes, Moncada’s 2021 campaign was actually his second-best MLB season at the plate, meaning one could argue that he’s more the player the White Sox received this year than two seasons ago. On the other hand, Moncada made strides to the point where he was performing at an All-Star-level and then regressed.

To be clear: from a talent and production standpoint, the White Sox have one of the best offenses in MLB. Simultaneously, Moncada isn’t playing up to his billing when it comes to being an offensive pillar for manager Tony La Russa’s order .

Yoan Moncada is the key to the Chicago White Sox getting over the hump

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Contenders in both the American and National League have multiple high-level hitters who are consistent forces. Sticking with the 15 teams in the former, the White Sox are experiencing the difficulty that comes with trying to win the AL.

The AL East had four teams win 91-plus games this season including the Toronto Blue Jays, who are centimeters away from being a player for the AL pennant. Out West, the Astros are a perennial World Series threat while the Seattle Mariners just won 90 games and the Oakland Athletics are usually a playoff-caliber team.

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It’s a safe bet that the White Sox repeat as division champions with a couple of teams looking for a direction (Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins) and a pair of rebuilding teams (Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals) present. At the same time, them being the clear-cut best team in their division can create a sense of complacency while bringing into question the legitimacy of teams in the AL Central. In fact, an AL Central team hasn’t won a playoff series since Cleveland won the 2016 AL Championship Series. How is that even possible?

Abreu is a force to be reckoned with. Anderson is a contact machine. Robert and Jimenez have flashed tremendous power. Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets flashed power themselves this season. Yasmani Grandal is one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Leury Garcia is a contact hitter.

This offense can be as good as any in the sport, but it collectively didn’t show up in the playoffs. When push comes to shove, they need that oomph to put them over the top. That comes from within, more specifically with their third baseman serving as an independent run-creator.

Yoan Moncada has to be an impact player for the Chicago White Sox.

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