White Sox fans are in uncharted waters – a top rated farm system and a top five overall rated prospect two years running. While Yoan Moncada was the primary topic of conversation in 2017, this year talk is centered on Eloy Jimenez. With expectations for both in the stratosphere our writers took up the task of projecting which one will be the better major league player.
Here’s what they had to say:
The comp I’ve heard most often on Yoan Moncada is Robinson Cano. You’re talking about a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate. In his prime, Cano was posting WAR numbers in the 6-8 range. Baseball Reference lists Hall of Famers such as Joe Torre and Ryne Sandberg amongst his top 5 similar players.
Eloy Jimenez has been compared with Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera, and Carlos Lee. So again you’re talking about MVP level talent with two of the three and a solid middle of the order guy with Lee. In Cabrera you’re putting him in a class with one of the best hitters of this era. That may be a bit over the moon, but it’s hard to draw any real conclusion from those comps.
In my evaluation of a ballplayer, I like to look at the struggle and rebound. You’ve seen this with Moncada, while Jimenez has been on a linear upward trajectory. When Moncada was called up by the Red Sox in 2016, he struggled mightily with an abysmal slash line of .211/.250/.263 and a whopping 12 strikeouts in only 19 at-bats. Yet, he was able to rake at Triple-A Charlotte in 2017 after coming to the White Sox. He went through a rough patch again after injuring his thumb, then played well enough to be called up by mid-summer. His performance declined again at the MLB level until he rebounded with a strong September. I know it’s hard to gauge September numbers, but look at his 2016 performance compared with is 2017 performance and you see remarkable progress.
The ability to adjust is key to becoming a bona fide major leaguer. The only guy I can think of who never faced adversity is Mike Trout, but there are countless guys who tore up the league only never to be heard from again. So it’ll take Eloy persevering through some tough times before I’m convinced he’s going to be highly successful in the long term. Although the jury still out on Moncada, he’s been through this a few times so I feel better about him shaking the prospect tag.
Then there’s defense. Eloy projects to be a left-fielder and still has open questions to answer around his glove work. Meanwhile we’ve seen Moncada make some jaw-dropping plays in his short time at Guaranteed Rate Field. With second base being a more valued defensive position, the edge goes to Moncada, based on the case I’ve just put forward.
This is a hard one to tackle. Anyone can fall victim to recency bias or fixate on the newest toy on the prospect shelf, but Eloy Jimenez isn’t at the top of my mind just because he’s the system’s new poster child. Yoan Moncada was absolutely dripping with tools when he was acquired by the Red Sox. He’s a physical specimen with flare and a cathedral ceiling. That said, there are still questions about the hit tool and while he’s mitigated some swing-and-miss concerns, they’re still present. There’s also much room for improvement from the right side. He’s a really good bet to iron out the flaws, but for Moncada to truly pop off the page as a player, he’s going to need to take advantage of his plus-plus speed. For whatever reason, the White Sox have not done a good job at leveraging this at the MLB level, and to be an All Star Moncada needs to be swiping 30-40 bags a year. I think he has the skill set to do it, but I need to see some execution in 2018 to really buy in.
But this is less about Moncada and more a testament to Jimenez, who offers what I feel is the best pure bat in the system since recent HOF Frank Thomas. His swing is nothing short of explosive, with a quick barrel and whip-like power that (literally) reaches the “light tower” variety the scouting community likes to throw around as top of scale. He’s put up video game numbers since joining the organization and I think the hit tool is a bit undersold. This is a plug-and-play bat who could mash 45 bombs a year and still hit over .280. The defense lags behind Moncada, and the speed obviously does too, but I think the bat provides less risk than his cohort. Moncada might be a .260 guy with 20/20 output from 2B, and is likely much more but Eloy will be the guy everyone wants up in the bottom of the ninth. To be sure, I think both will be All Stars. I think Eloy has the better chance to win an MVP. If Moncada taps into the run tool more, then all bets are off and he’s right there regarding composite value.
For me, this is a question of depth versus breadth of tools. I’m a sucker for the better likely future hit tool that Eloy Jimenez possesses. But the reality is that Jimenez has one monster tool (power), one very good tool (hit), and then projects as average (or maybe even below) in corner defense, arm and speed. Moncada carries a little more risk on the hit tool, but has nearly as much power potential, and then has 60 or 70-grade speed and athleticism to lean on. His defense is still loose at second but he has a plus arm and the right ingredients to get good or better at an up-the-middle position defensively. In short, Moncada can balance across a multitude of plus tools that give him both more ceiling room and a safer floor. Sure is nice to have both in the system though.
Since being signed out of Cuba, Yoan Moncada has dominated the minor leagues while flashing across the board average to plus tools. Built more like a NFL linebacker than a second baseman, Moncada has blazing speed, a quick bat, plus power, and developing defense. It is no surprise that with that type of package of skills, he was consistently ranked among the elite prospects in baseball and was a true centerpiece that White Sox GM Rick Hahn was seeking in return for Chris Sale. However, I do have some concerns about his hit tool, especially from the right side, where he has consistently struggled against AA, AAA, and major league lefties. Can he make enough loud contact to let his power and speed play? Then there are some lingering questions about his defense at second base; he flashes great range and highlight type plays, but still has strides to make.
For this exercise, I am going to place my bet on the unreal carrying power and hit tool of Eloy Jimenez. No one is going to mistake Jimenez for Willie Mays in the outfield and Moncada could literally run circles around Eloy in a foot race, but nobody is going to care when he steps into the batters box. Jimenez absolutely rakes and his raw power displays have drawn comparisons to fellow monsters like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. If everything clicks for Moncada he may have a higher ceiling than Jimenez, but I’ll give Eloy the slight edge based on his special bat. For the record, I believe both players are going to participate in multiple All Star games, which is what makes this question truly difficult and fascinating to answer.
Having to choose between Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez is a tough task and I’m downright giddy that we don’t have to choose for real. I will say immediately that I believe both players are future All Stars and fixtures on the next great Chicago White Sox team. Jimenez has a hit tool that separates him from many guys. He doesn’t just possess legitimate light tower power. He is an offensive force of nature that has been compared to Manny Ramirez with a straight face and the terms “mutant” and “superhero” are often uttered in conjunction with him. Eloy is going to be a star in my opinion. He is loaded with charisma and should be ready to handle the load of being one of the primary run producers on a winning team very soon. He is expected to hit, hit for power and walk frequently. There are some minor blemishes however. His outfield arm is only average and he employs below-average speed. He may end up in left field due to some of the limitations but his bat should still allow him to become a superstar regardless.
Moncada is a toolshed and the former #1 overall prospect flashed some of his gaudy potential in a small sample with the White Sox last season. The primary return for Chris Sale, Moncada is expected to become a household name almost immediately. Yoan has earned comparisons to Mariners 2nd sacker Robinson Cano but that sells him short in the speed department. Moncada possesses plus raw power and plus speed. He has a pretty left-handed swing and also switches it up to bat right-handed as well. Most of his offensive struggles have taken place as a right-handed hitter and there have been calls from some to scrap hitting from that side from his repertoire altogether. Moncada has always posted a high strikeout rate but he walks a ton which helps compensate for some of the strikeouts. He has shown a good eye for the strike zone at times, and the strikeout rate should decline once he starts becoming less selective within the zone. He’s raw at 2nd base as a defender but he’s built like an NFL linebacker and projects to be at least average at 2B with more seasoning.
Jimenez could be an absolute monster and fan favorite in the middle of the White Sox batting order. He’s very valuable. Defense and base-running matter though. While Eloy will enjoy much of the credit once the ball gets rolling I suspect that positional value will play a role in Moncada becoming the more valuable major league regular when both are in their prime.
If you’re counting (and we are) that’s 3 votes for Moncada and 2 for Jimenez. So that’s a decisively indecisive verdict for the second baseman out of Cuba. The bottom line is the White Sox are blessed to have two players with such high ceilings. If both players reach their ceilings, your looking at a duo on the level of Toews/Kane, Bryant/Rizzo, or dare we say Jordan/Pippen. And all of those names have championships attached to them. Factor in the pitching prospects and it’s obvious why White Sox fans are thinking about multiple parades beginning around 2020.
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