Yoan Moncada is becoming a pretty good major league player for the White Sox. In a Red Sox' uniform? Well, he's come a long way.
Moncada continues to be somewhat of a work in progress for the White Sox, which is understandable considering the kid is still just 23-years-old. And while his totals since being traded from Boston to Chicago are just OK (.246 batting average, .743 OPS, 31 homers, 17 steals in 27 attempts) he has seemingly taken a pretty big step in the first month of the 2019 season.
Heading into Friday night's game with his old team Moncada is hitting .299 with a .894 OPS and six home runs. And, most importantly, the switch-hitter is swinging and missing appreciably less than his previous two seasons, coming in at 25.4 percent after totaling whiffs on 31 percent of his swings the previous years.
He has already come a long way. Anybody who witnessed his only month with the Red Sox in 2016 can attest to that.
In case you forgot, even though we were talking about a 21-year-old at the time everyone was holding their collective breath for Moncada's big league debut. The Red Sox had already allocated $63 million to the Cuban star's signing bonus (half went to him). And he already had $500,000 worth of cars with his own logo, to boot.
But it was the glimmer of potential Moncada showed during his 187 minor league games, particularly on the basepaths where he stole 111 bags in 134 tries. And even though most of his work had been done while playing second base, the Red Sox saw Moncada as a possible solution for what they were viewing as a growing need, third base.
Starter Travis Shaw had gone into a two-months slump for July and August, totaling a batting average of .204 with an OPS of .672. All of a sudden it was proclaimed that Moncada would be called up starting Sept. 2. It was the beginning of a three-game set in Oakland. Not only was the rookie going to be on the team, but he was already classified as the new third baseman.
This obviously didn't sit well with Shaw, who got the start for that first game in Oakland while the Red Sox were letting Moncada adjust to big league life. He sent a message that night by going 3-for-6 with five RBI and a home run. With the game out of hand, Moncada did get in, drawing a walk and scoring a run to along with a strikeout.
On the WEEI Red Sox Radio Network's postgame show after the 16-2 win, Shaw was not shy in his quest for a competition at third. Still, it wouldn't be the final game of the following series that the former starter got another start, going 2-for-3 with another home run in San Diego.
By the time the Red Sox left their series with the Padres things had already taken a turn for the worse for Moncada. He had come out of Oakland having gone 4-for-9 in his two starts, but the next two resulted in strikeouts in each of his seven at-bats.
Moncada wouldn't get another start with the Red Sox after leaving Petco Park.
On the final leg of the road trip Moncada's role was shifted to that of a pinch-runner. It was still perceived as a possible niche for the speedster considering the Red Sox might be looking for some speed on the basepaths heading into the postseason. The problem was that he wasn't good at that either, forgetting the outs on a two-out pop-up by Mookie Betts after coming to pinch-run for David Ortiz. It was just one of a few baserunning miscues over the week's worth of games.
Moncada played one more time that season, getting a meaningless at-bat against the Orioles on Sept. 12. He struck out. It would be his final at-bat as a member of the Red Sox, finishing the stint with nine straight strikeouts.
When it was all said and done Moncada had gone 4-for-19 with 12 strikeouts, swinging and missing on 53.3 percent of his offerings. Less than three months later he was a White Sox.
"Last year, I wasn't expecting to play in the majors," Moncada told ESPN.com upon returning to Fenway Park as a White Sox for the first time. "I think I wasn't ready."
To Moncada's credit, he certainly seems ready these days.