Similarity scores bode well for White Sox’ Yoan Moncada

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The White Sox’ Yoan Moncada runs the bases after hitting a home run in spring training last month against the Cubs in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It’s far, far too early to draw any conclusions, but you can’t blame a White Sox fan for watching Yoan Moncada and thinking, ‘‘That’s what I hoped he’d be.’’

Moncada, who was 6-for-13 with a home run and a double in the opening series against the Royals, was regarded as one of the top prospects in baseball when he came to the South Side from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade near the end of 2016.

With eight homers in 54 games in 2017 and 17 in a full season in 2018, he has shown power potential. But he has lacked consistency, hitting .231 and .235 with OPSes of .750 and .714 and a major-league-leading 217 strikeouts last season.

But Moncada showed he could compete against major-league pitching at ages 22 and 23, and players who can compete so young are potential breakthrough candidates.

For examples, we can turn to similarity scores, which are listed at the bottom of player pages at Players with the most similar numbers through age 23 include some intriguing players, including Twins infielder Jonathan Schoop and Cubs infielder Javy Baez.

To calculate similarity between two players, you start with 1,000 points, then subtract one point for each difference of 20 games, 75 at-bats, 10 runs, 15 hits, five doubles, four triples, two homers, 25 walks, 150 strikeouts, 21 steals, .001 in batting average and .002 in slugging percentage.

There also is a positional adjustment. Each position is assigned a number of points. Second base, where Moncada played until moving to third this season, is 132 points and shortstop is 168. The difference is 36, so if Moncada were compared to a shortstop, you’d deduct 36 points.


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Using that method, the Moncada-Schoop score is 977.9 points, topping Moncada’s list through age 23. Next is Baez at 967.1, followed by Rickie Weeks, Pedro Garcia, Jeff Blauser, Don Money, Felipe Lopez, Rico Petrocelli, Dale Sveum, and Alex Gonzalez — the former Cub, not the Alex Gonzalez who came up with the Marlins in 1998.

Through age 23, Schoop was a .238 hitter with 32 homers, 203 strikeouts and a .677 OPS. Baez had hit .244 with 24 homers, 227 strikeouts and a .680 OPS. Moncada is in the same ballpark at .234, 25 homers, 303 strikeouts and a .727 OPS.

It’s what happened afterward that’s intriguing.

Schoop became a full-time regular for the Orioles at age 24 in 2016, hitting .267 with 21 homers and a .752 OPS. He then followed with .291, 35 homers and an .841 OPS.

Baez had a nice age-24 season in 2017 at .273, 21, .796, then was the runner-up in National League MVP voting at 25 with .290, 34, .881.

The weakest link was Garcia, who never improved from his .245, 15-homer rookie season. Among the others, all the retired players had major-league careers of 10 years or more.

Not all had breakthrough seasons, and there are no Hall of Famers on the list. But nearly all were valuable regulars for long careers, and that’s not a bad place to start.

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