GLENDALE, Ariz. — White Sox infielder Yoan Moncada doesn’t want a repeat of 2018.
Moncada realizes his first full major-league season was less than impressive. He led the majors in strikeouts (217) and errors by a second baseman (21). But Moncada said he wasn’t totally disappointed with his performance.
He chalked it up as a “learning season,” and in his unwavering pursuit to get better, the 23-year-old Cuban clocked extra hours this offseason to hone his skills, starting as soon as the ’18 season ended.
In November, Moncada spent several weeks in Arizona and worked with hitting coach Todd Steverson on recalibrating his strike zone.
“I struck out a lot last year, and that was probably the only bad thing about my season,” said Moncada, who’s 10-for-27 this spring with five walks. “I’ve been working on cutting down the strikeouts and trying to put the ball in play more often.”
Another focus in the offseason was his defense. At the start of camp, the Sox put Moncada at third base instead of second. To prepare for the season, Moncada has been fielding balls twice a day.
Second baseman Yolmer Sanchez believes Moncada, who’s starting to feel “really comfortable” at third, has made a smooth transition.
“I’ve been seeing him take ground balls during the game, and he looks good,” said Sanchez, who played third last season. “If I can do something to help him, I’m gonna do it. Sometimes I see something and I say, ‘Hey, I think this is going to help you.’ I know we’re in really good hands at third.
“There’s something about this guy; he’s different. . . . He has all the talent, all the tools to be a superstar.”
Moncada appeared to be on the fast track to stardom before last season, but then he seemed to fall victim to the pressure of being the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
Were the expectations too high?
The always-confident Moncada was adamant that wasn’t the case.
“No, no, not at all,’’ Moncada said. ‘‘To have the status of being a top prospect didn’t affect me at all. I try not to think about that. Things that happened last year happened because of my performance on the field. I usually don’t pay attention to expectations off the field and what people say from the outside.”
Manager Rick Renteria also doesn’t think Moncada crumbled under the weight of outside speculation.
“He’s expected a lot from himself,” Renteria said. “He needs to continue to get more time under his belt. Obviously, we understand his skill set is there. We expect that everything he learned from last season will bolster his upcoming season.”
Moncada doesn’t have any time for doubters. Asked what he would say to people who call him a bust, Moncada said: “I don’t have anything to say to them. I know that I have talent. And I have the ability to play at this level and be a very good baseball player.”
And as Renteria said, “Time will ultimately tell us.”