Batter’s Box: You’re the Yoan that I Want

Fantasy owners were understandably frustrated with Yoan Moncada (2B, Chicago White Sox) after he struck out at an unreasonable 33.4% rate in 2018, but because of his walk rate, pedigree, and power/speed potential, many bought back in 2019 (albeit at a lower price). Players with the ability to post a .330-plus OBP along with 20-plus home runs and steals don’t exactly grow on trees, and if the former No. 1 prospect can pull back on the swings and misses, he may be able to realize that potential sooner rather than later.

Wednesday’s performance was a perfect example of the Moncada who tantalized scouts and fantasy players in the past, as he went 2-3 with a home run, a double, 2 RBI, 2 R, 2 walks, and most importantly, 0 strikeouts. While it may feel like Moncada has been around for quite a while because of to the never-ending hype train that followed him from Boston to the South Side, 2018 was just his first full season in the majors, so there’s no reason to give up hope yet. As we saw in 2018, the White Sox are committed to giving him all the time in the world to adapt to major league hitting, and there’s really no one who can push him off the keystone on the White Sox bench. So if you waited for draft a second baseman on draft day and ended up with Moncada, this was a promising sign that your patience may be rewarded.

Randal Grichuk (OF, Toronto Blue Jays) 3-4, 2 HR, 2B, 3 R, 2 RBI: The free-swinging outfielder continued his power binge with three more extra-base hits. His overall line won’t look too impressive yet thanks to his 0-15 start to the season, but aggressive hitters such as Grichuk are famously prone to hot and cold streaks. In his past two starts, he has five extra-base hits including three dingers, so it’s safe to say that he might be in the early stages of the “hot” side of the action. Any league that requires four or more outfield starters should take notice.

Wilson Contreras (C, Chicago Cubs) 3-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI: On draft day, he was one of, if not the, first catcher taken after the two elite options fell off the board thanks to his 20-plus home run power. Of course, it was the same back in 2018, and he disappointed in a big way with only 10 home runs and a sub-.400 slugging percentage, but hopefully we can write that poor season off as a fluke. His owners certainly hope so, as there is virtually no chance that they’ll be able to find anywhere close to that kind of upside in the dismal catchers available on the waiver wire in most leagues.

Alex Gordon (OF, Kansas City Royals) 2-4, HR, R, 4 RBI, BB: Yeah, he’s still not a desirable fantasy asset in 10- to 12-team mixed leagues, but for those playing in the deep 15-team or AL-only formats, there’s value in the 35-year-old thanks to his patience at the plate and the fact that SOMEONE has to hit in the three spot for Kansas City. Another double-digit power output should be in the works, along with eight to 10 steals, just be ready for a .230 batting average and no more than 60 runs or RBI.

Nomar Mazara (OF, Texas Rangers) 2-4, HR, R, 2 RBI: It’s hard to see him getting back to the 101 RBI mark he hit back in 2017, but if he stays healthy and gets to 145 games played, a fourth consecutive 20-homer season can certainly be counted on. Speaking of health, he left this game with tightness in his quad, so you may want to make alternate weekend plans if good news doesn’t come out on Thursday or Friday.

Willians Astudillo (C/3B, Minnesota Twins) 3-5, 2B, 2 R, RBI: WOOOO! LA TORTUGA, BABY! Through 11 plate appearances, he still has zero walks and zero strikeouts and a 3.9 swinging-strike rate. He’s finding playing time because of the injury to Miguel Sano, but if he keeps performing like this, they’ll have to find time for him wherever they can. Interestingly, he moved into the outfield during this game, which I really wish I could have watched.

Mitch Garver (C, Minnesota Twins) 3-4, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI: Speaking of playing time for the Twins, Garver is one of three catchers on the major league roster, along with Astudillo and Jason Castro. If you’re bargain shopping for a second catcher in deep leagues, Garver is a name to throw on your watch list in the event that playing time breaks his way. I wouldn’t add him anywhere right now, though, unless you have the time to check lineups every day (and even then, I still probably wouldn’t).

Enrique Hernandez (2B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) 2-3, HR, 2B, 2 R, RBI, BB: Kike find himself leading off against left-handed pitcher for the Dodgers thanks to his career 130 wRC+ against them. There’s decent pop in his bat that also comes with a 10% to 12% walk rate and a .250 to .260 batting average. His real value, though, is in the damage he does to southpaws. He’s spent most of his career toward the bottom of the batting order, so it’s nice to see him get boosted up against lefties. He’s a great DFS option when the Dodgers face a southpaw and is even worth platooning in 12-team leagues and/or as a bench bat thanks to his flexibility.

David Freese (1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers) 1-2, 2B, R, 2 RBI, 2 BB: This is more noteworthy for DFS players than for seasonlong players, as Freese doesn’t have the skills or playing time to be relevant in all but the deepest of NL-only formats. However, like Hernandez, he does have a strong career split against lefties (134 wRC+) that gets him slotted right into the heart of the Dodgers’ lineup in those matchups. He logged 116 plate appearances in the top five spots in the order against lefties in 2018 and slashed a magnificent .356/.414/.567. The Dodgers noticed, and you should too.

Ramon Laureano (OF, Oakland Athletics) 1-4, HR, R, 2 RBI: It’s nice to see a positive stat line come out for the young outfielder, who had considerable hype coming into the year. If you drafted him, don’t drop him he has potential for 15 home runs and 25 stolen bases, and that probably isn’t present on your waiver wire. If an impatient owner in your 10- to 12-team league DID get frustrated and cut him, go throw some FAAB at him.

As a final note, come see us on April 6 for the Pitcher List staff and community meet up! I’ll be there, as will many other writers and contributors whom you might actually WANT to meet, so don’t be a stranger and come on out.

(Photo by Juan DeLeon/Icon Sportswire)

Scott Chu

Scott Chu has written about fantasy baseball since 2013. In addition to being a writer and content manager at Pitcher List, he creates content with Friends with Fantasy Benefits. If you want to chat about baseball, fantasy curling (featured in WSJ), sports in general, deaf culture, being a twin, or the oddities of having Irish and Korean ancestry, Chu's your guy.

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Comments


MrMojoRisin

” and if the former No. 1 prospect can pull back on the swings and misses” Actually if you look at last seasons stats, Moncada didn’t have an elevated swing and miss profile. His problem was watching a lot of called strikes. He has committed to being more aggressive with good pitches and it’s starting to show. I think with his elite skillset, he’ll finish the season as a top 5 at his position (2B…3B might be a little more crowded)

Scott Chu

While it is true that he had a an INSANE number of called strikes, his 12.2 swinging strike percentage was still 33rd highest among 140 qualified batters. He also had the 12th worst zone contact rate. I’d like to see both numbers trend in a positive way, which would help that batting average get pulled up to the .250 range.

I like the bold prediction, though. 2B is one of the weaker positions in fantasy, and a 20/20 season with a .250 avg would probably do the trick.

theKraken

The numbers rarely tell a very complete story, but they do provide a good starting point for analysis. If you were to survey people that watch Moncada and are qualified to make some kind of judgement, I think they would agree that swing and miss isn’t exactly the problem – which is good… kind of. If he ever figures it out, then he will hit a lot better than .250 – no reason to cap it there. He isn’t some kind of Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger type that embarrasses themselves on half of their swings. Nor is there much reason to cap the HR at 20 as he could exceed that by a lot. I wouldn’t bet on 20 SB attempts even though he is a plus runner – he doesn’t like running and I think I can say that with some certainty. His offensive upside is an MVP candidate IMO. People forget he is a switch hitter, which possibly explains some of the struggles. Personally, I think has one of the better left-handed swings in baseball and the whole right-handed thing is possibly the source of some of those bad numbers. Plate disc stats based on handedness is not something I know how to dig out – it may or may not be true, but it might be a factor. I really like Moncada as an example of where sabermetrics is a complete failure to capture the actual player – every projection I see undersells his ceiling miserably. For example, FG says he might be able to become a top 75 pick in the future… he has all the tools to be top 10, but I think it becomes less likely every day. Yes, I am a Moncada fanboy and I admit it.

theKraken

In addition to the 1 HR yesterday, Moncada smashed a bullet high off of a 20 foot wall to center field for a double. He very nearly had 2 HR. Swings and misses have never been his problem – his problem is that he takes too many strikes and takes a ton of close pitches in 2 strike counts. There are many paths to Ks and his is not wild swings which is usually the problem for most players. I would like to think that Moncada can fix that, but I am not sure. The White Sox have traditionally been extremely poor at developing plate discipline, so that doesn’t help at all. On a negative note, Moncada got off to a blistering start last year as well but that quickly became a distant memory. Maybe this is the year.

Scott Chu

As I mentioned to MrMojoRisin, Moncada does still have a swing and miss issue, even if his strikeout rate was somewhat inflated due to his propensity for taking close pitches (which is the same trait that boosts his walk rate). He has a 12.3% swinging strike rate since getting the call to the big leagues, which is well above league average (the league-wide average was 10.7% in 2018), which gives him very little margin for error in terms of batting average. It’s difficult to succeed in the majors with that kind of whiff rate, especially when you have very low zone contact rates and take as many pitches as Moncada does. I still really like him of course, but there’s more to his story than his willingness to take a close pitch, and his strikeout rate could still stay in the upper twenties even if he gets gets rid of the called strikes.

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