SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Yoán Moncada has got his groove back, and that statement has nothing to do with another hit single to follow up his popular debut, “Desastre Personal,” which now also serves as his walkup music.
The White Sox third baseman is referring to his rhythm as a hitter.
“Last year was a very difficult year,” Moncada said through interpreter Billy Russo during a Wednesday Zoom press conference. “Not just because of the virus, but because I wasn’t able to produce at the level I’m used to. It had to do with my rhythm.
“I had to really battle to find my rhythm at home plate, and I can say I didn’t get it throughout last season. This year, I’m in a better rhythm, and I think that’s something I’m going to be able to maintain throughout the season. That’s my goal.”
Moncada was an American League Most Valuable Player-caliber player during the '19 season with a .315/.367/.548 slash line, 25 home runs, 79 RBIs, 34 doubles and 83 runs scored. Those numbers dipped precipitously in ’20 and not just because Moncada played 80 fewer games, with the switch-hitter finishing with a .225/.320/.385 line along with six homers and 24 RBIs.
After testing positive for COVID-19 during the Summer Camp intake process, Moncada was never able to regain his full energy due to the virus’ after-effects. There were times he would get tired from taking infield reps. In a game during the final week of the regular season in Cleveland, Moncada looked exhausted on the bench after scoring from first on a double. The White Sox were worried he wouldn’t be able to stay in the game.
That lack of strength in his body influenced Moncada’s overall rhythm at the plate. He wasn’t reacting the way he usually did because his body felt tired.
“There wasn't anything I could do about it,” Moncada said. “I tried everything, but I couldn't find a solution for that.
“This year, the difference is that my body feels good. I feel strong, and I've regained my strength, my energy. And then I'm able to react easily or the way that I used to. That's the big difference from last year to this year with my rhythm at home plate.”
Tuesday’s contest at Camelback Ranch marked Moncada’s return to third base defensively. He had not been throwing at the start of camp due to arm soreness not unusual for the 25-year-old at this time of year.
“I’m feeling much better now. I’m very close to being 100 percent,” Moncada said. “But it was definitely something I have to keep working on. I really believe that this is going to be a very good season for me overall. That’s why I am working hard on all aspects of the game.”
Part of that work deals with his legs, with Moncada running well at the start of camp. He swiped a base in the first inning of Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Brewers and wants to increase his stolen base total in ’21, which was a target of his at this time last year. He had 22 stolen bases combined in his previous two seasons, but didn’t attempt one in ’20.
Moncada finished the '18 season with 217 strikeouts, becoming a victim of his great eye at the plate by working too many deep counts and getting called out on too many close pitches. He adjusted in ’19, trying to go after his pitch whenever it came up in the count, and wants more of that same philosophy to go along with his good feel of the bat.
“I'm going to have the same mindset that I had in 2019,” Moncada said. “Taking pitches, but at the same time being aggressive with the pitches that I like.
“That got me success in 2019, and I think that's going to help me also this year. I'm not saying I'm going to put up the same numbers, because we don't know that, but I'm definitely sure that's going to help me to be a more productive player, and that's my goal.”