There are talented players, and there are supremely gifted players. And then there are those in a world of their own who also want to be the best.
Coaches such as Joe McEwing love that in young players, and he saw it last season in White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada, who graduated from the No. 1 prospect in the majors to major-league player in the second half of 2017.
‘‘His work ethic is off the charts,’’ McEwing said during SoxFest. ‘‘He wants to be good.’’
Moncada’s arrival signaled the beginning of the first wave of Sox prospects ascending to the majors. In his first at-bat against Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda on July 19 at Guaranteed Rate Field, the powerfully built switch-hitter drew a walk after falling behind 0-2 in the count. He received a rousing ovation from the 24,000 fans.
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The walks would become common, but the hits were slow to follow as pitchers peppered him with a steady diet of breaking balls. Manager Rick Renteria liked what he saw during those moments of failure, though, watching Moncada calmly walk back to the dugout processing what happened after many strikeouts. Moncada wasn’t storming back in anger or frustration.
McEwing saw Moncada’s wheels turning, too.
‘‘He’s a very intelligent kid, and he makes adjustments quickly,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘His baseball IQ is off the charts.’’
After carrying a .188 average into September, Moncada hit .276 with a .349 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage in the final month of the season.
‘‘I learned that you have to be more patient at this level, you have to make adjustments and you have to have your plan,’’ Moncada said at SoxFest.
Renteria often refers to Moncada as ‘‘Moncy,’’ and there is a nice ‘‘Moncy in the middle’’ thing developing in the Sox’ chain of Cuban talent. Star first baseman Jose Abreu took Moncada under his wing when Moncada arrived in spring training last year. Now the next big thing in the Sox’ Cuban pipeline is center fielder Luis Robert, 21. And who served as Robert’s guidance counselor at the Sox’ hitting camp last week in Glendale, Arizona?
‘‘Yes, that’s my plan, to be watching him,’’ Moncada said through a translator. ‘‘I’ll be watching how he’s doing in the minors and try to follow him with any needs he might have.
‘‘[Abreu] has been awesome for me. . . . As a human being, he’s an example for me, and I’ve been trying always to follow his example as the guy I want to be. Being able to stay with him here and play the game is a pretty good thing for me.
‘‘I crossed through that process that Luis is crossing right now. Abreu was a big help for me during that process, and I learned a few things that I want to teach him, thanks to Abreu. It’s just the matter of helping another countryman to adjust to this country and adjust to this culture.’’
Moncada’s adjustments to major-league pitching, as well as widening his base to iron out a kink or two in his fielding, have been apparent, too.
‘‘The best thing about it is he takes responsibility for it,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘He’ll come to us about his defense and say, ‘Here’s what I did there.’ We didn’t go to him; he came to us.
‘‘He’s a very special kid, and the more reps he gets over time, he’ll get better.’’
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