White Sox’ Yoan Moncada not satisfied with breakthrough season
The third baseman — among the best in baseball — will keep working this offseason. ‘‘I still think I can be better,’’ he said.
It worked before, so he’ll do it again. But you would cut Yoan Moncada some slack should he choose to chill this November rather than go to the White Sox’ spring-training facility in Arizona to work on his craft.
After all, Moncada is having a breakthrough season at age 24. He has made the transition from second base to third without incident, ranks among the top all-around third basemen in the majors and was batting .297/.353/.540 with 22 home runs and 63 RBI going into the Sox’ game Wednesday against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The premium piece in the Chris Sale trade appears to have arrived.
To his credit, however, Moncada won’t take that mindset into the offseason. And that’s a good thing.
‘‘I’m planning to repeat and to start with the plan that I had last year,’’ Moncada said through a translator. ‘‘I’m planning on going to Arizona for two or three weeks and continuing the work that I did last year. Try to figure out ways to improve because I still think I can be better.’’
Moncada plans to keep the same routine throughout the offseason, probably because it worked.
After striking out a Sox-record 217 times last season, Moncada — at the urging of coaches and teammate Jose Abreu — tried a more aggressive hitting approach. He also went to work at third after playing all of 2018 at second.
‘‘I’ve felt very comfortable there,’’ said Moncada, who converted two backhanded stops on ground balls into outs in the third inning. ‘‘At first it was more adjusting and trying to fix a few things there. But I like to play that position.’’
Moncada expressed a willingness last season to move to third. But if the Sox signed, say, free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon this offseason — a big if for big, big money — Moncada said he’s open to helping the team in any way he can, even if it means moving again.
‘‘[But] I think third base is going to be my position for a very, very long time,’’ he said.
He’s probably right.
‘‘As far as I think all of us are concerned, Yoan is our third baseman moving forward,’’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘‘Doing a great job. He’s probably one of the best in the league.’’
According to FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, Moncada (4.2) ranks behind only Alex Bregman (5.9), Rendon (5.8), Rafael Devers (5.4) and Matt Chapman (5.2) at the position. Only five position players age 25 or younger — Cody Bellinger, Ketel Marte, Bregman, Devers and Ronald Acuna Jr. — have higher WARs than Moncada.
Moncada was playing in his sixth game Wednesday since missing the first three weeks of August with a strained hamstring. The three-game hitless streak he took into the game — which ended with a single in the fourth inning — was his longest of the season, a testament to his consistency.
Moncada was batting .319/.375/.610 with 13 homers and 31 RBI in his last 49 games, and his 93 mph exit velocity was tied for sixth among all major-league hitters.
‘‘The move to third base helped me to concentrate more on my offense because I don’t need to be overwhelmed with my defense and thinking about a lot of different things when I’m on the field,’’ Moncada said. ‘‘That’s an advantage for me, but I also worked hard during the offseason to improve my offense. Those two things this year are coming together for me.’’