Spring training stats aren’t worth paying attention to, but spring training performance certainly is, on a day-to-day basis. Each day, we here at FanRag Sports will be singling out one player who had the best performance of the day, and what it might mean going forward.
Sunday’s Player of the Day honors go to one of the newest members of the Chicago White Sox, top prospect Yoan Moncada. To end the week, he went 3-for-5 in Chicago’s win over the Angels with a home run (his third of the spring), 2 doubles and 4 RBI.
Moncada faces, perhaps, the most pressure of any young player in baseball. Still just 21, he’s been considered a can’t-miss prospect since before signing a deal with the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent that paid him a $31.5 million bonus. He is a consensus top-5 prospect in baseball, with several publications naming him the top prospect in the game. And now, on top of the seemingly impossibly-high expectations already on Moncada’s plate, he has the added bonus of having been traded from his first team for one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Moncada was always going to have high expectations as a top prospect being paid good money and playing in a market like Boston. Chicago isn’t much easier a market to play for, and now he’s not just “that highly-touted prospect,” he’s “that highly-touted prospect we got for Chris Sale.” Some of that burden will be shared by Michael Kopech (perhaps even more of it as he’s a much easier comp to Sale), but it’s still a lot for Moncada to live up to. With Brett Lawrie since released, it seems the White Sox don’t plan to wait long for Moncada to take a hopefully-permanent place in the White Sox infield.
It’s almost impossible to know how good Moncada will be. Our own Bernie Pleskoff scouted him as a 65, meaning “consistent All-Star.” MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo said he could be like “Robinson Cano with more speed.” That would be seven-time All-Star, four-time top-5 MVP finisher Robinson Cano. As cliche as it might be, the sky truly is the limit for Moncada.
But with any prospect, there’s always risk. Even those who seem as safe as Moncada flame out. His first taste of MLB action (a small enough sample that the stats aren’t worth mentioning) still was not good, and he appeared to need more time to get up to facing major-league pitching. More time in the minors for a team that is going to lose a ton of games is only going to add pressure to both Moncada and the team to give fans a taste of things to come.
Moncada has plenty of time to turn sky-high potential into an actuality. That he’s been hitting well of late in spring training only adds to the optimism. But eventually, that potential needs to translate to a major league field. If he can ignore the weight of his expectations, and the added weight of being “the guy they got for Chris Sale,” he’ll be just fine. If Sunday was any indication, he may just do so soon.