What if Moncada doesn’t work out?
It’s something no White Sox fan wants to even momentarily consider. But it’s out there, looming like an enormous gray rain cloud over an idyllic picnic in the park. The face of the White Sox rebuild, fair or otherwise, is Yoan Moncada. In the first big move of the rebuild, Moncada was the signature player (the #1 prospect in all of baseball at the time of the transaction) on his way to Chicago, as one of the best left handed pitchers in baseball, Chris Sale, left for Boston.
I read comparisons to Robinson Cano and Bo Jackson. I read all about his five tools. I read all about his athleticism. Yet, I also read rumors that the White Sox were more interested in Andrew Benintendi, who had a short but successful stint in the majors in 2016. Also a highly touted prospect, Benintendi was not going anywhere as far as the Red Sox were concerned, so Moncada and fellow Top 100 prospect Michael Kopech would have to do as the headliners of the package coming back to Chicago in exchange for Sale.
Now here we are, with an enormously gifted athlete putting up a line of .184/.289/.306 in the first 12 games of a very important season for him. He has 24 strikeouts in 57 plate appearances. It appears he’s always looking for his perfect pitch, while taking strikes that other more aggressive hitters would drive into the gaps or the outfield bleachers. He looks confused and off balance against off speed pitches, often flailing and way out front. You wonder how long Ricky Renteria will put him in the lead off spot. You wonder if the dreaded demotion to Triple A to get his head in the right place will be considered if his struggles continue. Rick Hahn has to be extremely uncomfortable considering the notion that Moncada might not work out.
Jared Mitchell. Keenyn Walker. Courtney Hawkins. Trayce Thompson. Joe Borchard. Brian Anderson. Aaron Poreda. Lance Broadway. Kyle McCullough. There is a long list of great athletes and/or high draft picks that haven’t worked out for the Sox. The jury is still out on much more recent picks like Zack Collins (current Double A line: .059/.292/.059) and Carson Fulmer (5.59 ERA as the Sox fifth starter). Yet, Moncada not working out would be more significant than all of the names mentioned here. Sale was the biggest trade chip the White Sox had to start the rebuild. Moncada was very recently considered a future superstar. If he doesn’t work out, how far does that set the rebuild back? Additionally, does this mean Hahn simply mined for Top 100 prospects in other organizations when considering trade acquisitions? There are a boatload of good major league players that were unearthed by savvy GMs and seasoned scouts. If the Sox miss on the big prospects, what does that say for the secondary prospects acquired to buttress the rebuild like Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo, Luis Alexander Basabe, Ryan Cordell, and A.J. Puckett? Does the team’s talent evaluation come into question if your signature prospect acquisition doesn’t succeed? It’s obvious Moncada is a great athlete. Winning organizations determine if superb athleticism will translate to Major League Baseball success.
I completely understand I am being glass half empty here. I am playing the What If game. Yet, if you’ve watched the Sox games like I have, you’re probably having the same reservations as well.