Yoan Moncada’s work ethic ‘off the charts,’ White Sox coach Joe McEwing says
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HOUSTON — If it makes you feel better about Yoan Moncada, White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing wants you to know the 23-year-old second baseman is getting after it.
Don’t be fooled by body language that would project nonchalance. Moncada cares about his craft, wants to be excellent defensively and is doing what Sox coaches are telling him to help him get there.
‘‘His work ethic is off the charts,’’ said McEwing, who works with infielders and has a special project in Moncada. ‘‘The perception often is when a player is struggling, they’re not working hard. If they’re excelling with the same body language, oh, it’s fine.
‘‘But not every individual is going to be fiery. Looking from the outside in, you could easily say he’s lazy, not getting after it, but that is the farthest from the truth. He works his tail off.’’
Generally regarded as the No. 1 prospect in baseball when the Sox acquired him from the Red Sox as part of the trade for left-hander Chris Sale in December 2016, Moncada has made 13 errors at second. But he has had a good road trip with the glove (eight errorless games in a row), and he also had two singles Saturday against the Astros to extend his hitting streak to six games.
The success of the Sox’ rebuild hinges on many elements, with player development at the major-league level high on the list, and McEwing is encouraged. He says when coaches break down video with Moncada and show him what needs to be corrected — in his case, getting in better position with his feet and hands — he responds.
‘‘He went through a rough patch on plays he should have made,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘A lot of the miscues happened when his feet stopped, when he locks himself out. We constantly try to keep him moving, so he doesn’t get still and locked out with his body. Lately he’s been moving his feet, not getting flat-footed in his pre-pitch [positioning], to get better off the ball.’’
McEwing also wants Moncada to get lower when fielding the ball, but he said it’s not uncommon for Latin players to field grounders while bending at the waist rather than at the knees. Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar, to name one, was more than good at it.
‘‘That’s kind of my natural style,’’ Moncada said through a translator. ‘‘But Joe says it’s better to lower your body than bend. It’s difficult to adjust from the natural style, but you can progress and add it to the game. It takes work. You have to work more.’’
There will be blips. Manager Rick Renteria called Moncada out for a lack of focus and for not going 100 percent from third to home on a play last weekend in Texas. When the Sox were in Boston last month, Moncada was so determined to get behind a ground ball far to his left that he ‘‘busted it’’ getting over, tried to use two hands when he should have used one and didn’t make the play.
At least the intent was there.
‘‘It’s just the process,’’ McEwing said. ‘‘He’s seeing a lot of things happen for the first time.’’
The struggle has been rough enough at times that executive vice president Ken Williams and Renteria recently were asked whether they had considered sending Moncada back to Class AAA Charlotte. Williams answered with a ‘‘not today,’’ and Renteria had a similar response. Both said it hasn’t been a consideration, though.
‘‘There are moments where he shows well and moments when he doesn’t,’’ Renteria said. ‘‘You have a lot of conversations with the young man to make sure he deals with all aspects of it, whether it be energy level, hustle, fielding ground balls. He’s working very, very hard.’’