White Sox’ Yoan Moncada set for switch to third base
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GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox more than hinted at a position change for Yoan Moncada since the end of last season. On the first full-squad workout day at spring training, they were all in on it.
“Don’t be surprised if you see him there Opening Day,” manager Rick Renteria said Monday.
But what about free-agent third baseman/shortstop Manny Machado, whom the Sox have pursued for months?
“I can’t worry about who’s not here,’’ Renteria said when asked indirectly about the 26-year-old prize still out there on the Sox’ radar. “I have been focused on the guys who are here. I have to move forward that way. Like any team, you make adjustments as those changes occur — if they occur. Right now, the guys in that locker room are the ones I am most focused on. We’re trying to make sense of how our roster will look with the guys we do have.’’
The expectation among Sox staffers is that Machado would play third base with Tim Anderson at shortstop.
“Moncada can always go back to second,’’ Renteria said.
Moncada worked exclusively at third in morning infield drills, with Yolmer Sanchez playing second. Sanchez, who can play third, second and shortstop, was the starting third baseman last season and looks like the second baseman for now. Moncada played second all year, making 21 errors in 149 games.
Some of Moncada’s miscues stemmed from focus issues, and Renteria said the hot corner will suit him better.
“Playing third might allow him to free himself up, simply because he’s going to have to be more focused,’’ Renteria said.
“And I think that his range factor is huge, his arm is good.’’
Moncada said he’s on board.
“I feel good at third base,’’ Moncada said before taking the field. “I like that position, and with more repetitions I will feel even better.
“I’m just here to help the team in whatever capacity they give me.’’
Moncada played third base when he broke into the majors with the Red Sox two seasons ago. With Nick Madrigal, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, in the wings potentially for a 2020 arrival at second base, a future configuration of Moncada at third, Anderson at shortstop and Madrigal at second might be in the works. The Sox rave about Madrigal’s baseball instincts, which they value highly in the middle of the infield.
The wild card in all of it is Machado. Plugging Moncada in at third had the feel of a team not liking its chances for Machado, but a sense of optimism exists from important corners of Sox camp.
As for his offense, Moncada knows he struck out 217 times to lead the majors last season, prompting him to spend time here in November trying to fix things.
“I was trying to fix a few things I was doing wrong,’’ Moncada said. “I was able to do it with the help of [hitting coach Todd Steverson] and Renteria. When I left Arizona, I was in a good spot, and I kept working. I’m in a better position than I was in last year.’’
In his first full season, Moncada, the No. 1-ranked prospect in baseball and centerpiece of the Chris Sale-for-prospects trade that started the Sox’ rebuild, batted .235/.315/.400 with 17 home runs and 61 RBI. According to Statcast, he was called out on 63 pitches on the edge of the strike zone, the most in the majors.
“I will stick with my approach,’’ he said. “The only difference is with two strikes, I will be more aware of the corners and maybe a little more aggressive on those pitches.’’