White Sox’ Yoan Moncada taking greater expectations in stride

Yoan Moncada is about as cool and calm as they come. If anyone has the look and demeanor of one who would scoff at the pressure or responsibility that comes with a big, new contract like his, it’s the White Sox third baseman.

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“It’s good to be paid for what you do as a professional baseball player, but for me, what I am about right now is just playing baseball,” the White Sox’ Yoan Moncada said.

“It’s good to be paid for what you do as a professional baseball player, but for me, what I am about right now is just playing baseball,” the White Sox’ Yoan Moncada said.

Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Yoan Moncada is about as cool and calm as they come. If anyone has the look and demeanor of one who would scoff at the pressure or responsibility that comes with a big, new contract like his, it’s the White Sox third baseman.

“Signing that contract was good,” Moncada told the Sun-Times in a recent telephone interview through a translator. “It secured the future of my family, and it made me very happy. But the money doesn’t matter. I mean, it’s good to be paid for what you do as a professional baseball player, but for me, what I am about right now is just playing baseball.”

The Sox signed Moncada, 25, to a five-year, $70 million extension in the offseason on the heels of a breakout season that saw him make a seamless transition to third base while batting .315/.367/.548 with 25 homers in 132 games.

Moncada led the Sox in FanGraphs wins above replacement at 5.7.

With his new deal, and with his numbers lining up with his talents, expectations will remain high. The first question posed to him Wednesday on a Zoom call with reporters was, “Are you an MVP candidate?”

“We’ll see,” Moncada said in advance of training camp, which opens Friday. “We need to start playing first and then take it from there.”

In the interview with the Sun-Times, Moncada fielded questions about great expectations like he would a routine grounder.

“The thing for me is do the best I can do, play hard and help my team win,” he said. “That’s what matters. Because I know if I do what I’m capable of doing, all the recognition and awards will come later. But first I need to focus on the things I know I can do. That’s why I don’t think about ‘how good’ or ‘am I the best one?’

“I don’t worry about comparisons. I don’t think about extra pressure.”

As for comparisons of the Sox to their American League Central counterparts, Moncada on Wednesday tabbed the Twins, the defending division champs, as the team to beat. But he said the Sox “have a very good team to compete against them.”

“I see ourselves in a very good position to compete in this division,” he said.

Other takes from Moncada on Wednesday:

• He said he respects players from around MLB who opted out of playing this season “but was ready to play as soon as they told us. It never crossed my mind. This is what I do.”

• He said his training in Miami, in a state where coronavirus numbers are on the rise, was in a “very controlled environment.”

• On playing with no fans in the stands: “It’s going to feel weird because you won’t have the energy that the fans give you every day. It’s going to be a challenge for us to try to do our best to try to replace the atmosphere that the fans bring to the ballpark. But it’s on all of us to try to figure out a way to do it.”

• He was antsy waiting for the shortened season to begin. “I was like, ‘OK, I need to get out of here. I need to play,’ because it’s just that excitement and energy that I have. The season’s going to be good. I’m going to be able to display all the things that I usually do on the field.”

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