Back in 2016, Yoan Moncada was a part of one of the biggest trades in recent memory. The White Sox sent Chris Sale to their red counterparts for Moncada, Michael Kopech, and others. Moncada was one of the most hyped prospects I can remember, but that quickly died off after he made it to the bigs. He spent half the 2017 season in the bigs and all of 2018 yet he struggled at the plate, striking out too much and only hitting .235. It didn’t seem hard to write off this top prospect who hadn’t even turned 24 yet. We saw what he could do in the majors already. Why would he be poised for a better season than say Eloy Jimenez? But of course, hindsight is 20/20.
This season, Moncada has proven he was a top prospect for a reason. With last night’s performance of 2-3, 2 R, 2 2B, RBI, 2 BB he is now slashing .308/.363/.546 with a 139 wRC+. Notably, he’s cut his strikeout rate by almost six percentage points. Last year he had a problem taking too many pitches and getting called third strikes. He’s swinging much more across the board, making great contact. His exit velocity is up about three MPH, pushing his hard hit rate five percentage points higher than last year. Additionally, a specific area of great improvement is how he’s handling lefties increasing his wRC+ from 64 to 112. He’s also handling righties better as well but he was always at least good against them. He did have a rough month of May after a great start to the season. He had started striking out more and hitting more ground balls. Pitchers may have started to make some adjustments against him. However, Moncada was able to bounce back and adjust himself, delivering a June just as productive as his April. Overall, he’s been able to make great strides from his struggles last year and in May of this year, showing signs of maturity with his bat skills. He’s still a very young player despite us hearing his name forever. And he still has room to improve.
Colin Moran (2B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-5, 2 R, 3 RBI. Moran’s been hitting the ball better and better as the season has progressed. He’s mostly a softer-hitting line-drive hitter. That will get you plenty of hits, but won’t do many favors in the home run department. With his free-swinging, high-contact approach, Moran is able to generate many balls in play and with his batted ball profile that will mean plenty of hits and plenty of RBI opportunities hitting fifth.
Kevin Newman (2B/SS, Pittsburgh Pirates)—4-5, R, HR, 3 RBI. A few days ago, when Newman’s hit streak came to a close, Van Burnett published a Going Deep on Newman’s successes so far. He’ll give you far more detail than what I can provide here. There was a small rough patch of five games where he delivered only two hits, but last night he was right back to his hitting shenanigans with a homer and three singles.
Yasiel Puig (OF, Cincinnati Reds)—3-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Puig’s monthly improvements have been nice to see. I can see moving to a new city and team could make for a rough transition, especially when it’s Puig’s personality in LA moving to Cincy. His wRC+ from April, May, and June were 43, 88, and 139 respectively. He’s crawled back to putting up almost the numbers he did last year in 125 games, in only 81 games. With the pace he’s on he may be in for the best season of his career. No one would have said that in May.
Francisco Lindor (SS, Cleveland Indians)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 2 RBI. Despite the late start to his season, Lindor is looking to still have a full season’s worth of counting stats. It wouldn’t be crazy to predict he’ll still finish close to 30/30. Interestingly, Lindor has been hitting a few more grounders and a few less fly balls which has helped boost his average about 20 points from the last couple of seasons. And he’s also been able to maintain a similar slugging. If there was any worry about how he’d do after he injury, those worries can be tossed away.
Roberto Perez (C, Cleveland Indians)—4-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. With yesterday’s game, Perez has matched his games played total from last year. Looking at these two seasons side by side is fun. Two homers versus 16, .168 average versus .256, 40 wRC+ versus 124. The funny thing is, his batted ball profile and plate discipline numbers haven’t changed drastically. Of course his HR/FB is 30 percentage points higher, but his hard hit rate and fly ball rate have remained the same. The confluence of the two just has been perfect. His barrel rate is at 14.2%, up eight percentage points from last year.
Travis d’Arnaud (C, Tampa Bay Rays)—3-4, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI. d’Arnaud played hero last night against the Yankees, delivering a walk-off, opposite-field shot. His recent play has been outstanding and the Rays have given him more and more playing time slotting him at first base every few games. Since June 6th, he is slashing .296/.346/.592. And he hasn’t been that lucky either: It’s all right in line with his expected statistics.
Aaron Hicks (OF, New York Yankees)—3-5, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Hicks has enjoyed a nice little hot streak, delivering his second dinger in two days and his eighth extra base hit in 10 games. Despite this, his year so far has been a bit different than his previous few. His hard hit rate is much lower and he’s striking out a bit more as well. This may be due to his back injury that kept him on the IL to start the year, but that is just speculation. Regardless, he didn’t have the full spring training he would normally get.
Jeimer Candelario (3B, Detroit Tigers)—2-5, 2 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI. Speaking of hot streaks, Candelario has been on one since his return from the IL a couple weeks back. In those 10 games, he’s slashing .378/.452/.784. Of course it’s just 10 games for now, but he has been crushing the ball. Keep an eye on him as he’ll certainly be keeping his spot in the lineup for the time being.
Paul Goldschmidt (1B, St. Louis Cardinals)—2-4, R, HR, 4 RBI. Maybe some light at the end of the tunnel for Goldschmidt owners? Only about a week ago, Tim Jackson wrote up a Going Deep on Goldy. Give it a read! Over the past week, Goldschmidt’s been hitting the ball well, swinging at less out of the zone, and hitting the ball in the air more. It’s given him four extra base hits in four games including two homers. A corner may be getting turned.
Pablo Sandoval (1B/3B, San Francisco Giants)—2-3, 2 R, HR, 3 RBI. I’ve really had no idea this Sandoval resurgence has been going on. He’s played 80 games so far this year and will certainly break 100 played for the first time since 2015. But most importantly he has a 127 wRC+. He found some power again with a .282 ISO on the year. He’s back to hitting the ball harder and hitting more line drives and fly balls. He has been striking out more often, but the contact he does make has improved drastically in quality.
Jake Lamb (1B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks)—2-3, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. Last night was Lamb’s eighth game back from his quad strain that kept him out since the beginning of April. His injury has allowed Christian Walker to step into the role at first, so Lamb has been back at third. This was his first homer of the season and with that, hopefully he’ll step into the player we thought he could be before the season began.
(Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire)
Moncada is a switch hitter. I think a lot of people don’t know that. Its the reason his splits are so all over the place and a reason that we should expect slower development. He is just much better from the left side. He also was dominating early in 2018 and he torched the minors – this isn’t really some out of nowhere development. He is the best of all the Cuban prospects and I don’t think it close. I don’t think people that follow him wrote him off, but a bunch of people saw his K rate and did. I can’t count how many times I tried to explain that he takes strikes as opposed to having swing and miss issues but a lot of people didn’t want to hear it. Moncada is a great example of stats not telling an accurate story. Moncada’s swing from the left side is one of the better ones in baseball. I wouldn’t bet on him to hit .300 but he could certainly hit 40 HR at some point. The bad is that Moncada is hurt a lot and players that are as physically mature at a young age as him usually don’t age well. His upside is elite but I kind of doubt that he ever puts it all together because I think the clock is ticking. I don’t think he is very young by any standard that matters.
Re: Sandoval – I just realized he is having a good season as well. I thought he was done a few years ago… that’s the 2019 Giants for you I guess. That division is a dumpster fire to the point where non-competing teams are hanging around .500. That used to be the NL East, but now it is the West.
Yeah I definitely agree with that. Also for Moncada switch hitting, I am curious if teams ever have a cutoff for developing a player to try and make them stop switch hitting if they consistently struggle from one side of the plate. I am curious how Moncada would perform just hitting lefty.