It came in high, came in straight and left the yard promptly. Could Yoan Moncada’s home run Wednesday on the first pitch of the game from Mariners star Felix Hernandez have been any more perfect?
It couldn’t have for the purposes of this “Your Turn” column, anyway. I’d been planning to write — and invite others to weigh in — about the 22-year-old White Sox second baseman since Monday night, when, three at-bats into the opening game of the Seattle series, he already had a triple, a double and a homer. This, a handful of days after he ripped the first grand slam of his career in Oakland.
We are beginning to see the greatness in Moncada that made him the No. 1-ranked prospect in all of baseball. Moncada has all the physical tools — and, as Sox-minded seamheads point out with understandable glee, his exit-velocity statistics are like something out of the Johnson Space Center.
“I don’t need exit velocity to tell me that somebody’s hitting the ball well,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The ball tells you.”
That’s kind of the way I see it, too.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ 25-year-old second baseman, Javy Baez, is off to as spectacular a start as anyone in baseball. To look at his statistical prowess — all those extra-base hits, all those RBI, all the runs scored — is to see a soon-to-be first-time All-Star who just might be better than even his most devoted fans believed him to be heading into the season. WAR, that’s what Baez is good for. Not to mention the most breathtaking defense baseball fans here have seen in, hard to say, forever?
It all led me to post a poll on Twitter asking: Which Chicago second baseman would you rather have for the next decade-plus?
More than 1,600 people voted, nearly two-thirds of them for Baez. That didn’t surprise me considering he’s more established, there are more Cubs fans out there and the early season has been a celebration of all things Javy. In hindsight, perhaps it’s a bit surprising that the gap wasn’t even wider.
“Dumb question,” tweeted @CHIBULLS2333, who has a Cubs logo as his avatar.
Really? Remind me to ask the question again when Moncada is 25. I suspect the results will be very different. Remember, the question wasn’t about which player is better right now. It was about essentially the rest of their careers. Hopefully, both players will be in Chicago a long time.
“I believe three years ago at this time, so in 2015, Yoan had yet to play a game in the United States,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. “So I think it’s pretty easy to lose sight of how early he is in his career and that he’s just really scratching the surface of what he’s capable of doing.
“As for what they’ve got on the other side of town, they’re blessed as well — but we’re happy with our guy. Hopefully, we get to the point here in the coming years where we’ll have that debate at multiple positions. [The Cubs] are where we want to be.”
Some voters approached the matter of Baez vs. Moncada armed with statistical evidence.
“First 80 games of his career, Baez had an 0.4 WAR,” wrote @fish_SSchi. “First 81 games of his career, Yoan [has a] 2.1 WAR. Possible chance Yoan is the best defensive and offensive 2B in MLB in a couple years.”
Was @StevesFitz going to take that sitting down? Oh, no. “Baez’s third season was a 3.2 WAR,” he countered. “So we’ll see what Moncada does the rest of the year. Baez today at age 25 is not just putting up best-2B-in-MLB numbers. Baez is putting up best-hitter-period-in-MLB numbers.”
More than one commenter pointed out just how wide-eyed and giddy Cubs fans can come across as when it comes to Baez. A few Cubs backers went to far as to call Moncada a “bust.”
“Don’t get too excited over one game,” @syranas wrote.
These votes and opinions tend to run down rivalry lines, don’t they? It would be naïve to expect it to go any other way. I don’t enjoy these “Your Turn” polls as much for the voting breakdown nearly as much as I do for the wit and witticisms of you, the readers and fans.
I’m talking about @Savy2Smooth and his ilk. They just plain get it.
“The takes on Moncada in this thread are hilarious,” he wrote. “I’ve got Cubs fans already calling Moncada a bust, and there are Sox fans thinking Moncada is already the second coming of Rogers Hornsby.”
One guy’s opinion: That’s what makes it all so much fun.