Yoan Moncada has emerged as the face of the Cuban national team during the 2023 World Baseball Classic. In his first 19 at-bats, he is slashing .421/.522/.737, which is good enough for a 1.259 OPS. He near single handily carried the Cuban offense through the first round.
Against Panama, he went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and a walk. Then in a crucial game against Chinese Taipei, he went 3-for-4 with a home run, double, and two runs scored. For his final act in round-robin play, he delivered a two-hit, two-walk performance, including a double and a run scored to help Cuba advance to the semifinals.
The World Baseball Classic is electric. The combined passion displayed by the players and fans is unmatched by any other level of professional baseball around the world. While the WBC gives fans an exciting appetizer before the MLB season begins, not everyone is in favor of players from their teams participating. The threat of injury hangs over the tournament like a black cloud.
For Met’s fans, those fears were realized when their closer, Edwin Diaz suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee while celebrating Puerto Rico’s victory against the Dominican Republic. He will miss the entire 2023 season as a result. This is a sight that is all too familiar to White Sox fans.
The White Sox have already lost their closer, Liam Hendriks, for the foreseeable future to a recent cancer diagnosis and are no stranger to season-ending injuries to their star players. The last two seasons have been riddled with devastating injuries. For that reason, I was in the camp of people who were less than thrilled when it was announced that seven members of the major league roster would participate.
You cannot fault the players for wanting to represent their country. You get an unmatched sense of pride by having the privilege of playing for your flag. You also can’t fault teams for allowing their players to play on the world stage. This tournament wouldn’t be what it is without MLB players. It is excellent for growing the game. However, that can’t stop White Sox fans from watching with bated breath as Eloy Jimenez dives after a fly ball.
What we see from Yoan Moncada is one of the benefits of the tournament. Moncada is gaining his confidence back, which will pay dividends for the White Sox down the road.
Few players on the White Sox roster are more talented than Yoan Moncada. He has a Gold Glove-caliber glove and can hit the ball hard from both sides of the plate.
Unfortunately, few are also more frustrating to watch on a nightly basis. When Moncada is playing with confidence, like he was during the 2019 season in which he hit .315 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs, he looks like an All-Star. When he loses faith, you can tell by his body language and the box score.
When the going gets rough, he gets frustrated. His demeanor is an excellent reflection of the 2022 White Sox—unquestioned talent, high expectations, inconsistent, at times unlikeable, and ultimately disappointing.
He constantly looks like he is moping around in the dugout, and there have been times this season when it seems like he takes plays off. During a critical game against the Guardians in September, he could be seen staring down at his feet during extra innings, already signaling defeat.
That’s not to say that he is lazy. We can’t see the work he is putting in off the field. But he gives up very quickly. If he boots a ground ball, he dwells on it instead of moving on to the next play. If he chops a ground ball into the dirt, he jogs to first base, pissed at himself, instead of forgetting about it for a moment and gunning it down the line. After his breakout 2019 campaign, he has failed to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him. That can weigh heavily on a young man, especially in a big media market like Chicago.
There was a built-in excuse for COVID-19, which undoubtedly affected his poor play. Moncada never looked like himself. He bounced back in 2021, posting very productive numbers. The 26-year-old had a career-high in walks with 84, and despite a dip in power (14 home runs), he made up for it with a .375 on-base percentage and solid defense at third base. It looked like he was trending in the right direction and building back up to the star that everyone envisioned him to be.
It was so disheartening to see him fall off a cliff in 2022. He was not just bad but frustrating to fans and coaches alike. Every player goes through rough patches. However, Moncada compounded matters with foul body language that signals to everyone that he doesn’t care.
The WBC has been a different story. Moncada is showing emotion, playing with a purpose, and has looked very engaged. His success at the plate is growing his confidence with each at-bat. This is something Spring Training games in Arizona don’t provide. When Moncada returns to the White Sox, he figures to be in a much better place than when he left.
Trade moncada now!