“Moving from second to third, that’s kind of tough to do, but that speaks on how much of an athlete he is,” Anderson said. “He’s going to continue to be good, and he’s going to be a superstar.”To be the answer to Machado, to be the superstar hoped for since he debuted in 2016, Moncada’s learning from past errors has to extend beyond a good first month. But the right signs are all there.“Last year was last year. I passed through many different things, and it’s in the past. I learned from them,” Moncada said. “I learned from all the experience I had last year, and now I’m just enjoying this moment and just enjoying this season.” MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNIt took until the 20th game of this season for Moncada to take a called third strike.“I’m feeling very, very comfortable. I learned a lot last year, and I’m still learning,” Moncada told Sporting News through a team interpreter after a two-homer night on April 16.Growth of any kind usually comes in small increments, so it’s not hyperbolic to say that Moncada’s growth from last season to this one has been dramatic. A month into the season, his OPS is up by 250 points, and he’s cut his strikeout rate by 8 percent.“A lot of swag. A lot of confidence. A lot of himself. And just loose, man,” shortstop Tim Anderson said of his teammate. “You can see it. You can see it in the way he walks, the way he talks. He’s got the jewelry out. You know, a lot of swag.”It’s more than just swag, though Anderson is not wrong. Talking to reporters after hitting a pair of solo home runs against the Royals, Moncada’s diamond-studded necklaces with his initials — one necklace for “Y” and one for “M” — caught the glare of the TV cameras gathered around him.“It feels good,” Moncada said when asked about his start to the season. “I worked a lot during the offseason and during spring training. When you work hard, you are able to see results and have the success.”Moncada did well in 2018 with not letting it show, at least outwardly, that racking up so many strikeouts bothered him. But not long after the season ended, he went to Arizona to work with White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson. One of the things that had to be changed was his grip on the bat. As manager Rick Renteria told fans at the team’s SoxFest in January, Moncada was “over-wrapping” his hands and thus limiting his flexibility and ability to reach pitches on the outer parts of the strike zone. Both his homers against Kansas City last week came on pitches away, and in general Moncada’s contact rate has improved, rising to 74 percent this year after sitting at around 68 for the past two seasons. It helps too that his exit velocity has increased almost 6 mph from his 2018 average of 90.6.Along with that, one of Moncada’s strengths had too often worked against him for the past two seasons. He has a good eye for the strike zone, which meant that he took a lot of borderline pitches and thus a lot of called third strikes. In 2017, Moncada averaged 4.21 pitches per plate appearance. In 2018, 4.11. So far this year, that’s down to 3.86.“That was one of the adjustments that I made, especially during spring training, and combining that with my usual approach. I think that’s been the key for me,” Moncada said.RIVERA: “Baseball is baseball”: An inside look at the independent Somerset PatriotsRenteria said Moncada has been better at attacking earlier in the count and defending late. His first-pitch-swing percentage is up slightly, from 24.8 percent last year to 25.3 percent in 2019. And defending late has not meant that Moncada is expanding his zone. In fact, his batting average on pitches in the zone is up about 100 points from the .265 he posted in 2018.“He’s not necessarily chasing out of the zone late, he’s putting balls in play that normally he might just take,” Renteria said. “They’re manageable, hittable pitches, so he’s now trusting that he can do something with that pitch that may be borderline.”With such a good eye, it would seem like it might be difficult to see fewer pitches and swing earlier in the count, but Moncada said it hasn’t been a problem.“That’s an advantage for me because my pitch recognition is very good, and I can see the pitches and work on being more aggressive,” Moncada said.In his first two seasons in the majors, Moncada played only second base, a position that he said requires a lot of attention. During his brief time with the Red Sox in 2016, he played third, and in late February this year the White Sox moved Moncada back to the hot corner. It’s a move Moncada said has helped him at the plate and one that Renteria bought into quicky.“He told me he was the best third baseman in Cuba, so I’m starting to believe him,” Renteria said. “I actually believed it before anyone else did.”If Moncada can realize the potential that made him a top prospect in Boston’s system years ago and was enough to merit trading Chris Sale for, fans on Chicago’s south side might soon forget that the White Sox spent most of the past winter courting Manny Machado. It’s possible they had their own version all along. CHICAGO — Early in spring training, Yoán Moncada was listening to music in hopes of picking a new walkup song for the 2019 season. When he heard El Chulo’s “Aprender del Error,” he liked the rhythm right away, but it was the song’s message that made him decide to use it. The title translates in English to “learning from error,” and Moncada knew he had a lot of that to do.Moncada’s first two at-bats of 2018 were probably an omen. He led off for the White Sox on Opening Day and looked at the third pitch of the game, a changeup from Danny Duffy, for a called third strike. In the third inning, his at-bat was six pitches, but it ended with him watching another third strike. In all, he would strike out a league-leading 217 times in 2018, and 85 of those were looking.
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